Generally, I suck at PvE horde-based games. Left 4 Dead? Never quite got a handle on it. Back 4 Blood? I actively disliked anything past the first few levels because of the difficulty. But, after a fleeting hour with Warhammer 40:000 Darktide at Gamescom earlier this year, I am already convinced that I will stick with it for longer than its rivals. Why, exactly? It’s all down to the game having the most interesting toolset I have seen in any game in this genre.
Thanks to being able to pull inspiration from Warhammer’s extensive lore, there are a host of spells, abilities, and magical attacks you can do with the game’s classes. What immediately stood out to me when playing Darktide was that the classes feel far more distinctive and vital to the gameplay. Each one plays its role in the whole team’s survival during a mission.
There’s the Psyker’s reliance on magic to wipe out enemies and act as crowd-control support, the Veteran’s focus on traditional long-range shooting, the Ogryn’s tankiness, and the Zealot’s melee weapon. All feel completely unique and have a distinct place within a team. They aren’t the same template at all.
However, playing as both the Psyker and Veteran, one thing that I realised very quickly was that I suck at Darktide. As someone with limited experience (and enjoyment) of the genre, I found it super hard to adjust as a veteran as I wanted to shoot and fire bullets consistently up close, but that wasn’t what the class is best at.
My second run as a Psyker though was a lot better than the first, as I found the crowd control and ability-focused role much more suited to my tastes than having to shoot from a long range. I also loved the risk and reward with the class, as you can’t use your magic too much without expelling the energy, effectively, overloading yourself, causing your brain to fry and body to fall to the ground dead.
Although I absolutely sucked at it and got nowhere near finishing the mission by the time the hour was up, I left my Darktide demo excited to play more. It felt like I had only really scratched the surface of what was possible with not only my class but in terms of strategy when it came to approaching the missions you take on in Darktide.
The lack of any instant gratification is something to get adjusted to with Darktide, but from what I gathered from the team at Fatshark, a lot of the satisfaction will come over time. It will come from learning your class, improving your gear, working better as a team, and really nailing strategies for taking on tough minibosses and enemies.
That promise of long-term growth as a player has me intrigued to see if Darktide can actually get its claws into me come the game’s release in November on PC and shortly after on Xbox. The lack of growth is what made me turn my back on Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood, as I need something keeping me hooked, whether it is progression tracks, new gear, or simple things like trophies and achievements.
But, if the game is able to properly lay the groundwork for how to get better or better strategise as a team, then Darktide could very well be one of the better horde-mode games, whether you are a Warhammer fan or not.