The Xbox Games Showcase revealed yet another anticipated title to be featured on Xbox Game Pass sometime next year. Warhammer 40K: Darktide is the next four player cooperative experience from developer Fatshark. Known for the excellent Vermintide games, the studio has mastered visceral melee combat and is looking to transition it into the futuristic 40k setting. The trailer featured four imperial guardsmen trodding through dark, oppressive, gothic architecture similar to the setting seen in 2016’s Space Hulk: Deathwing. The squad encounter a horde of Poxwalkers, undead cursed by the plague god Nurgle, one of the four gods of chaos. Setting the stage for another epic battle for survival here is what to expect from Warhammer 40k: Dark Tide.
This is Fatshark’s third entry in the Warhammer Universe but the first one set in the futuristic 40k era. Taking place on Atoma Prime in the Hive city of Tertium there are no cursed Northlanders or Skaven to come together to bring the end of times. This time the plague lord Nurgle has taken control of a chaos cult known as the Admonition that has ravaged the city, cursing it’s undead citizens and creating the abominations known as Poxwalkers. Players of Vermintide 2 will likely recognize the effects of the plague lord on the local population as they are incredibly similar to the curse Nurgle placed on the Northlanders as they entered a pact with the Skaven. The result is a hivemind of mutated undead warriors directly in the path of Darktide’s protagonists, trapping them inside the Hive city.
Players are tasked by the inquisition to destroy the Admonition’s forces of chaos and cleansing the city of their corruptive influence. Returning systems from the Vermintide franchise such as five distinct classes and multiple careers for each class are to be expected, as well as weapon drops of different rarity for completing missions. Fatshark has confirmed that a new focus on ranged weapons is intended to bring it up to par with, not detract from their acclaimed and gritty melee combat. Their goal, as it was in Vermintide, is to bring accessible combat to lower difficulties while retaining an incredibly high skill ceiling when playing on elite difficulties. The only difference is they are now offering the same level of mastery to ranged weapons that made the melee in Vermintide 2 so special.
Along with the special melee combat, the addictive gameplay loop of Vermintide 2 will also likely return. With five different characters and three careers with varying abilities per character, Vermintide 2 supported divergent playstyles and each of them only had access to certain weapon types, making grinding for optimal builds enjoyable and fulfilling. To increase chances at better loot, every level included Grimoires and Tomes to collect that took the space of valuable healing and offensive items. Grimores also reduced players’ total health by 25%, allowing players to attempt a mission with only a quarter of their usual health, if the team decided they were up for it. These unusual difficulty modifiers are unprecedented in how flexible they allow gamers to mold their experience and when combined with traditional difficulty settings, Fatshark understands how to foster communities that continually chase the ultimate challenge.
Four years ago another game similar in style to Darktide released to mixed reception- Space Hulk: Deathwing. While the aesthetic and formula may be similar, the game received criticism about its flat, unchanging tone and stupid A.I., as well as uninspired enemy archetypes. Those unfamiliar with Fatshark’s work on Vermintide may be left cautious about the announcement of another Warhammer 40k four- player cooperative FPS. Fatshark has an uncanny understanding of the tone and world of Warhammer and manipulates it to great effect. From the witty banter between uneasy allies to lore about locations and rival factions, Fatshark understands how to convey emotion and information about the Warhammer universe player’s inhabit while also feeling natural and true to it, unlike other games attempting to emulate the formula. As a fan of their work in the Vermintide franchise, Fatshark’s history of work is enough to quell skeptics after the release of Space Hulk: Deathwing.