Fatshark are back this year with a new action title designed for up to four player co-op. Most recently, the studio mixed in Warhammer – Verminide 2 (in the check) the approximate Left 4 Dead– Knitting patterns (rather linear levels with safe zones between stages, large hordes of standard enemies paired with more dangerous super enemies) with a motivating dose of looting and leveling, including unlockable classes for the five playable characters. This is what awaits you now Warhammer 40,000 – Darktidebut instead of skaven, undead and chaos warriors, the hordes of the chaos god Nurgle now want to overpower.
On one mission, I teamed up with two other members of the press and a developer. We made our way through a refinery-like environment. Already in the loading screen, Fatshark charms the new group of heroes. It shows the four of them sitting in a glider, with my giant Ogryn counting on his oversized fingers in great concentration. I also really liked the dynamic squabbling between the characters appropriate to the situation (sometimes Ogryn apologizes because he ran into a comrade’s line of fire…). However: Aside from my striking giant and the zealot calling on the Emperor at every turn, the other two buddies didn’t make a special impression on me. The characters in Vermintide 2 differed more clearly for me – also visually. In fact, in Darktide you now have many more options to customize the appearance of the characters. So my ogryn didn’t look anything like it did in the trailers, but wore a uniform and a mighty twisted mustache. Since several variants of the same character in a team don’t look too strange, it has been ensured that there are plenty of party banters when several players field the same character, as the developers confirm on request.
Since we had a member of Fatshark on the team, he usually walked in the right direction and drove us through the level so quickly. I pulled out my large gun, which looked like a grenade launcher but was more like a semi-automatic rifle. I ask if I should keep ammunition together and in fact, despite the jump from Warhammer Fantasy to Warhammer 40,000, we are mainly involved in close combat. It’s only when massive hordes arrive that I’m advised to unpack the gun. I hold the right mouse button, whereupon I grab the weapon with both hands and fire the volleys into the running human figures with unhealthy skin even more precisely (and feels faster). As in Vermintide, avoiding being surrounded and also knocking enemies out of the way is essential, but doing so consumes stamina, similar to quick dodges. Blows with my giant knife, on the other hand, don’t get me out of breath.
What is new is that the figures have a regenerating shield á la Halo own, arguably because there are more default enemies that shoot projectile weapons. Healing isn’t that easy. We do find a medical station, but it lacks juice and we can’t find a source of energy – it was easier with the potions in Vermintide 2. When our fellow Fatshark player tries to help a comrade against a special opponent, he is caught flat-footed and dies before he can be revived. This noticeably slowed our progress in the dark corridors. At a bottleneck we were then attacked by a mutated ogre. As in Vermintide, teamwork is important to take down these mid-bosses with manageable health losses. Unsurprisingly, our weakened and disorganized bunch came to an end at this point.
In the end, I was surprised that the gameplay in the new scenario didn’t seem to differ a little more from Vermintide 2 (although I mainly played the ranger, who already relied more on ranged combat there). At the same time, however, it can be said: The massive melee action and the flow when crossing the level was as fun as I know it from the indirect predecessor. The models and environments were also graphically convincing – but in my opinion the level wasn’t the best choice for a first impression. The refinery seemed rather dull compared to the fields, streets and hillforts of Vermintide 2, which also had its duller mining and sewer sections. Darktide will be set entirely in the Chaos-infected Hive city of Tertium, and I hope it doesn’t lack beautiful views and the Empire’s signature cathedral style for all its stealth phobia.