I used to love Vermintide 2. This first introduced me to Warhammer lore, and battling endless hordes of human-like rats in his semi-steamy place was attractive to me and my friends. Sadly, the last time we played our party fell apart when two members completed the Skittergate mission without our resident Sienna and I. This betrayal can’t be beat and so Vermintide 2 has been gathering dust in my Steam library ever since.
So when I got my hands on a Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, I wondered if it would wake me up with the same interest in being a 40K as Vermintide did with Warhammer Fantasy. I was not disappointed.
I got into my seat and put on a match with three other players. Just by chance, the character Psyker was given. My peer Ogryn was completely unmissable on the battlefield and I suspect that I inadvertently cast spells on his most eminent blocks than the hordes of Nurgle encountered.
I immediately felt a sense of familiarity. It looked like Vermintide 2. Darktide was well known, right down to the character Psyker, who has a chance of “exploding” like Vermintide’s Sienna if you let the bar reach a certain stage, very reminiscent of Sienna’s “overheating” mechanic in Vermintide 2.
While my peers were walking around the starting area fiddling with the controls, I sped across the level looking for problems; We only had 30 minutes to play and I wasn’t going to spend it refining the key bindings – there was a cosmic god of decadence to thwart him! My Psyker had a kind of sword for melee combat and a team that could fire magic bolts (or magic bolts, to be more scientifically accurate). Psyker’s ultimate ability is a giant wave that wipes out many enemies, and was very effective in crowd control when faced with large waves. As we progress through the level, we’re primarily faced with hordes of Poxwalkers – the zombie-like fodder you’ve seen running on player characters in the trailer.
Also on our way there were well-armed vigilante characters which Darktide co-authored by Dan Abnett confirmed to be members of the Moebian Sixth, a traitorous regiment of the Astra Militarum. It was a rough time, both within the chaos of the kiosk and within the game. Of course, they would drop easily individually in front of my psychic powers (and maybe my teammates helped a bit), but in true “tidal” fashion, the sprint is all about strength in numbers and once you increase those numbers it gets serious. .
The level we played on was a filthy industrial complex where we were constantly slipping into ever greater depths. We battled hordes of Poxwalkers in narrow corridors, clearing empty rooms with enemies entering through windows as we delved deeper. The choppy lighting and constant sharp turns added a moderate level of anxiety but realistically it’s Darktide, it’s hard to fear when it’s an unstoppable killing machine. My companions and I advanced with little difficulty through the corridors and floors of the dilapidated factory precinct.
I was surprised how effective it was to communicate with just the ping system. I heard voices speaking French floating above the screen, but language wasn’t a hindrance to our inherent synergy (apart from the familiar phenomenon of your character being threatened on the floor for thirty seconds before anyone realized it). We progressed rapidly until we encountered a wretched mess in all its afflicted glory. Although the giant beast proved more like a bullet sponge as it pursued individuals, we were able to eliminate it without casualties. Soon after our time was up, we had to stop playing at the intermediate level.
My very short time with the game has led me to believe that Vermintide fans would be delighted. It’s shorthand to say “it’s more of the same” from Fatshark because they change a lot of systems and rule from game development blogs, and put their full efforts into adaptation. While the general appearance of the game is very similar to its predecessor, there are some notable differences. Fatshark has improved on their systems, the AI seems more powerful, and the movement feels sharper. Lots of changes will come via new content, and there will be more focus on loadouts and long-range weapons in Darktide. However, since I entered the game with a preset loadout, this was not the content that I was able to explore with my work. Darktide will feel like Vermintide 3 – but that’s not a bad thing.
If all goes according to plan, Darktide will release on November 30 this year. I, for example, am looking forward to jumping. who knows? Maybe I’ll bring the old Vermintide crew back together? The scars of infidelity heal – at last.
Next: Ken Levine talks about politics in games and how to correct it