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Warhammer 40K: Darktide? More like Warhammer 40K: Barktide!

Misery loves company

Chaos corrupted Imperial Guardsmen lurk in the shadows of hive city Tertium in art for Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Image: Fatshark
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

In Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, you and three allies are all that stands between an army of Chaos-infested mutants and the destruction of a massive sci-fi hive city. It’s a compelling premise that plays out in Left 4 Dead-style missions, and the current pre-order beta shows a ton of promise. One of the best parts so far? Watching the four heroes — well, no one’s really a hero in 40K — bicker and banter among themselves.

Darktide has four classes: Psyker, Zealot, Veteran, and Ogryn. Players also get to choose their origins and life paths — along with a few inciting incidents throughout their path — which lead to a much wider array of personalities. In fact, there are 21 voice-over and personality combos at launch... and boy howdy, there are some big personalities on display here.

The Zealot is a holy warrior wielding the God Emperor’s wrath, but the other classes often deride them as being either obnoxiously loud or straight-up delusional. The Veteran can be a jocular guy supporting his team with some “just walk it off” wisdom, or an embittered, battle-hardened husk who hates everyone around him. No one really likes the Psyker, since in Warhammer 40K lore, demons sometimes erupt out of these guys’ foreheads.

The most friendly and charming class already appears to be the Ogryn, a big, bulky warrior who charges into battle and takes up an inordinate amount of the dropship’s cramped space. Most Ogryn I have encountered so far clearly understand the assignment. They’ve usually picked a name like “Krunt” or “Gort,” and if you’re lucky enough to get two of them in a match, they’ll spam crouch while facing each other in the dance of their people.

a brawny man holding a grenade launcher in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide Image: Fatshark via The Game Awards/YouTube

Barks (short snippets of dialogue that convey important bits of information, like an ally being out of ammo or a nasty enemy showing up) are surprisingly tough to nail in multiplayer games. Go too elaborate, and the info can get muddled. Go too simple, and it can get very repetitive. (At least once a month, I think about the Division looters who always scream, “They got Alex!”)

So it’s a delight to see how well Darktide handles these lines. They’re loaded with world-building while remaining snappy. In one instance, my Psyker snarls at a Zealot she’s saving from certain death: “Against both our instincts, allow me to help.” The Veteran sighs with relief when I ping ammo for him. “Ammo, a soldier’s best friend.” At one point, an Ogryn helps me up from a fight and is oddly gentle as he tells me not to worry.

There are also tons of great longer lines that play out in elevators and quarantine zones. Zealots and Psykers are usually at each other’s throats, bickering over the sins of the Imperium. The characters will have philosophical debates in between waves of Chaos monsters, and occasionally a character will interrupt with a line like “There’s a right answer, and an answer that gets you shot.”

It’s a fine line to dance on. It’d be easy to go too far and have the cast be a bunch of unlikable chumps, but I’ve grown quite fond of many of my companions. We’re all in the muck together, climbing through sewers and escaping death by the skin of our teeth. But none of us are a chosen one or a protagonist. We’re all just a bunch of losers, strung together by fate and Fatshark’s queue, and I’m just enjoying the ride.