Warhammer 40,000: Darktide – Test, Shooter
In the darkness of the distant future there is no peace
Anyone who knows my Necromunda: Hired Gun review knows that I’m a big fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Whether it’s novels, games or tabletop miniatures: the darkness of the 41st millennium has done it to me. In a bleak vision of the distant future, xenos, mutants, and heretics threaten the brutal Imperium of Mankind – a gargantuan clerical-fascist war machine led by their God-Emperor, embedded in the Golden Throne of Terra, who has ruled the destinies of mankind for tens of thousands of years. The superhuman Space Marines and the Imperial Guard are the sword, the Inquisition and the fanatical fighters of the Adepta Sororitas the shield of humanity, which is being wiped out from all sides by existential threats such as the all-consuming Tyranid swarms, warmongering Orcs or the hordes of Chaos threatens.
In Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, for once, the focus is not on the ceramic-armoured superhumans of the Space Marines. In the depths of Tertius Prime hive, I instead fight for my honor and my life as a convict – after the troops of Chaos boarded the dungeon ship where I awaited my execution. The Inquisition uses the former prisoners as expendable shock troops in the darkness, because Tertius Prime is afflicted by chaos. Corruption lurks in the darkened streets: mutated poxwalkers and half-rotten cultists bear witness to the presence of the Chaos God Nurgle. And of course that betrayal must be extinguished with the fire of righteousness.
Atmosphere without end
You may notice: The setting and the premise of Warhammer 40,000 Darktide once again has enormous potential, which the developer Fatshark can only scratch once again. The atmosphere of the co-op shooter is extremely successful: the streets and abysses of the macropolis, with their claustrophobic corridors and gigantic halls, their smelters, cathedrals and slums are fantastically staged. When hordes of poxwalkers come at me from all directions, or the traitors open up machine gun and lasgun fire, Darktide Atmosphere bleeds. And the opponents in the street, when chainswords screeching into bodies and energy beams shatter mutated skulls.
Whether auspex, servitor or servo skull, laser gun, bolt gun or psychic sword: Fatshark consistently hit the mark with the look and sound of the 40k world. As a fan, that naturally excites me, because many of the well-known tabletop models such as poxwalkers, cultists and Nurgle demons are implemented with phenomenal precision. And the violence is also right when I slash my way through hordes of enemies from the ego perspective and maggot-eaten skulls, arms and legs become independent. Overall, the shooter also makes a solid impression: Although the melee combat could be a bit more powerful, the weapons feel heavy and crisp and offer brute hit feedback, which creates a decent overall gaming experience. Also the idea of the split life energy with additional toughness that regenerates like a shield and the wounds that are reduced on death is conclusive. If you lose all wounds, you will be “captured” after a cooldown and can be rescued by the team. If all fellow combatants die, the mission is canceled and a partial reward is distributed. But that’s all about Darktide that really appeals to me. And that quickly becomes a motivation problem.
Vermintide with laser guns
In the end, Darktide is not much more than Vermintide in the 40k universe: In teams of four, I start cooperatively in missions in the depths of Tertius Prime, which are divided into five levels of difficulty. Here I have to fulfill different objectives – sometimes I have to eliminate high-ranking targets, sometimes I have to steal ammunition, sometimes I have to hack a few consoles to loot data. At the start of the game I choose from one of four classes, ranging from the former veteran sniper of the Astra Militarum to fanatical preachers and psykers to the ogryn, powerful mutants with a penchant for close combat. The classes each fulfill a more or less special role, but can start out as a motley crew, so that even two ogryns and two veterans can go into battle together.
Each class has special abilities, so the Veteran Sniper can deal more damage for a short time and the Psionicist can explode their enemies’ heads. In addition, there are special weapon classes for each warrior, the veteran relies on classic military equipment from the Astra Militarum, while the cleric uses a flamethrower and chainsword in the armory of the Adeptus Ministorum. Overall, however, each fighter stands for himself – although there are advantages and disadvantages for close and long-range combat, the classes are more of an all-rounder. The reasonably extensive character creation, which, in addition to a visual editor, also defines origin and important turning points in life, has almost no effect on the character’s abilities. A first small disappointment, but it will run like a red thread through the game.