Darktide’ could be the co-op game of the holiday season

Darktide’ could be the co-op game of the holiday season

Fatshark deserves more recognition for what it has done. Over the past decade, the Swedish studio has identified a franchise that deserves more love in “Warhammer” and married it to a genre that worked surprisingly well within the fantasy setting.

The vision was the successful “Warhammer: Vermintide” series, and it revealed that first-person online co-op games could work within the context of swords and sorcery. The developer showed how creativity can still squeeze out a great time in a genre that “Left 4 Dead” popularized and still dominates.

Now Fatshark is turning its sights on an even bigger franchise in the Game Workshops stable. With “Warhammer 40,000: Darktide,” the developer takes the years of work put into “Vermintide” and adapts it to the sci-fi universe.

The online co-op game takes place in the hive city of Tertium on Atoma Prime. Players take on the role of inmates who forced to conscripted to fight in the area after an attack by the Admonition Chaos Cult and the Moebian Sixth Regiment’s treacherous support. As underlings of the Inquisitor Lord, players start out with fairly poor equipment and must gain levels and trust in the Imperium’s secret police.

Warhammer 40k Darktide environment
Players will encounter all types of environments in the hive city of Tertium in “Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.” (Fatshark)

This is done by tackling a series of missions and investigating the mysterious events on Tertium. Players can choose from four classes: Veteran Sharpshooter, Zealot Preacher, Psyker Psykinetic and Ogryn. Players can choose where their character was born and key moments in their story, including why they were imprisoned in the first place.

From there, they are let into a common area where they can visit shops and other facilities. But to actually access these, players need to level up, also known as gaining trust, and to do that, they need to run through quests.

Fatshark advised players to start off easy because combat in “Darktide” can get out of hand very quickly. The campaign missions will have some enemies scattered around, but players will run across scenarios where zombie-like creatures, rival space marines, and even mutated creatures will descend on the squad.

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Warhammer 40K Darktide battle
“Warhammer 40,000: Darktide” has a large and varied selection of enemies that players will face. (Fatshark)

With such a wide range of enemies, it’s good to bring a diverse team of players who know how to fill their roles. The veteran sniper leans heavily on marksmanship mechanics and is ideal for shooting snipers and assisting frontline classes. The downside is that players are dependent on ammunition and it can be few and far between.

Zealot Preacher is the melee fanatic. They wade into the hordes and hack and slash away, though health can be an issue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Psyker Psykinetic is the space wizard of “Darktide” who is capable of massive damage. It’s a glass cannon type, which means it’s for advanced players who are comfortable with a high-risk, high-reward style of play.

Finally, the Ogryn Skullbreaker are the tanks of the group. If the Zealot is offensive minded, the Ogryn is all about taking punishment and drawing the enemy’s attention so that other members of the four-man squad can dish out damage.

Warhammer 40k Darktide hammer
Each class in “Warhammer 40,000: Darktide” has its own unique weapons. Zealot Preachers have access to two-handed thunderhammers and flamers. (Fatshark)

Each character has a special move that needs a cooldown time after use. The Zealot rushes forward and covers a lot of ground, with the first blow delivered being a guaranteed critical hit. It’s good for dealing with elites or bosses. Ogryn rushes forward in a straight line, striking down enemies left and right. It’s a good way to control the crowd if the group is feeling overwhelmed.

With Volley Fire, the Sharpshooter enters a shooting stance, which allows the character to deal more damage, while automatically detecting Elites and Specialists as priority targets. Finally, Psykinetic’s Wrath resets the hazards of the warp meter and checks enemies in front of you.

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In addition, each class has a specialized grenade that leans into the forces and each role has its own set of unique weapons. They are further differentiated with iconic perks from each class, which provide a boost in stats or powers suited to their roles. For example, the tanky Ogryn has excessive power, which gives them a +25% melee stagger; Loyal Protector, which allows them to revive or aid allies without being interrupted by damage; and Thick Skin, which gives the class +20% Toughness Damage Reduction and +20% Health Damage Reduction.

Finally, characters have an Aura ability that works out of unity, a concept from the original board game. In “Darkness”, coherence works differently in that units are enhanced with auras when they are within a certain distance of each other. With Psyker, the aura increases attack power while Zealot increases toughness, which is essentially a regenerative shield that each character has.

Warhammer 40K Darktide cover
Cover is important in “Warhammer 40,000: Darktide”. It’s especially important when you’re facing enemies that carry long-range weapons. (Fatshark)

Each of the missions I played in the closed beta took anywhere from 20 minutes to just under an hour. It all depends on the difficulty with the higher levels taking more time. Players will have to deal with tougher enemies and larger swarms of enemies. I mostly played quickplay, which resulted in some unusual team combinations. I rolled with two Ogryns while another time I was with three Zealots and a Psyker. It is better to be versatile and have a group with a diverse set of skills so that players can handle any unexpected situation.

As for the level layout, players have to get from point A to point B. Along the way, they will find winding routes that open up the possibility of ambushes. Players will also come across situations where they will be besieged by a flood of enemies and teams will have to coordinate carefully. The closing final is usually the toughest scenario. I had to deal with a boss who yelled at swarming hordes as his shields went down. In another mission’s finale, my squad had to collect batteries and put them in a carrier. It’s a feat easier said than done when rival space marines and hordes swarm players. In fact, it’s a bit frenetic.

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