In the video game Darktide, you and your friends blast away at the enemies of the human Empire, in the style of Left 4 Dead. It’s set in the Warhammer 40K universe.
It’s the 41st millennium. Humanity is locked in a perpetual war with the forces of Chaos, Tyranid, Orks, and Eldar. The great Emperor united the beleaguered humans under one banner, and now sits on his golden throne on Earth, trapped between life and death, using his powers to keep the warping magic of Chaos at bay. And the rest of humanity has one goal: survive the endless wars. Well, that’s the Warhammer 40K wargame, anyway.
Darktide is set in this 40K universe, but it does not feature Tyranid, Orks, or Eldar. Or the Emperor. It’s about fighting chaos on one planet.
You are a prisoner, out in the depths of space, when you’re drafted to fight for the Empire that imprisoned you. But that’s really just a backdrop. Basically, you and three others get to do missions to fight humans turned by chaos.
As noted above, Darktide is a game in the style of Left4Dead. This means you play in first-person view, looking through the eyes of your character, and have to survive through a mission with your friends. In Left4Dead you have to survive the zombie apocalypse, in Darktide you fight Chaos ‘zombies’ in the name of the Emperor. The missions play out on a limited set of maps, where you travel from one end to the other, trying to achieve an objective (scan this stuff, remove this demon infestation, destroy this refinery). Sometimes a big monster pops up, or a random larger wave of enemies.
A Warhammer game like this might ring a bell. And yes, this is not the first such game. The developers of Darktide released two Warhammer Fantasy games with the same basic gameplay: Vermintide and Vermintide 2. Those two games are like this one, but with a fantasy theme.
There are notable differences. Vermintide featured less ranged combat. Darktide has guns, guns, and more guns. Vermintide is medieval fantasy, and Darktide grimdark scifi. But under the hood they’re very alike.
How is it?
Darktide is fun. I’ve played a lot of Vermintide, and this is equally fun. However, Vermintide 2 had a kind of campaign of different missions. I spent my time running around forests, snowy mountains, through cities, and even in different dimensions.
Darktide, on the other hand, has you running around Grimdark places, and I can’t really keep them apart. Some are blue-ish drab, some yellowish-drab, and some…. brownish-drab. It’s a veritable feast of drab scifi settings. And, yes, I mean that sarcastically. The maps are good, and they play well, but they all feel the same. I would have loved some space stations staring out over a planet. Or a stint in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Maybe I shouldn’t demand too much, but I miss some distinguishing vistas.
On the weapon and player character side the differences are equally meager. Vermintide had a cool burning wizard, dwarves, knights, and other cool characters. In Darktide I can barely keep most of my friends apart. I’m a large Ogryn, so that’s cool, but the rest are drably dressed humans. And we could expand the clothes by buying them — the game is riddled with shops — but my friends and I already paid multiple times for the game, so screw that.
So in short, Darktide is a cool game, but Vermintide 2 was far better. Darktide gets boring, because it lacks variety in weapons, characters, and settings. The levelling is also slow, and doesn’t really change anything about your character. Even a year in, the game has only 1 extra map — drab brown this time! — and that’s a shame. There’s a cool game in there, but it feels like half is missing.