The meat and potatoes of Warhammer 40,000: Darktide have always been solid. It’s a blast to delve into the Hive City of Tertium as a psyker, veteran, zealot, or ogryn. The game’s combat is brutal, visceral, and deeply satisfying; the soundtrack is an absolute banger and I love the chats between each character class. But the game struggled to maintain post-launch momentum due to the systems outside of each match, like weapons upgrades, character progression, and late-game variety.
Darktide’s most recent patch, which was released Oct. 3, could change all of that. I’ve been digging through the depths of Tertium, giving each class a spin, and I’m impressed with how much more dynamic each character feels. The four classes each have new major tools – for instance, the psyker can be a long-ranged glass cannon who pops special enemies with a brain burst, a protective friend who throws up shields around their allies, or a Sith Lord with all sorts of deadly projectiles who shreds groups of foes.
Adding depth to Darktide
In order to compensate after putting all these exciting new tools in players’ hands, Fatshark has buffed up the enemies too. Snipers, Trappers, and Chaos Ogryn have always felt like a threat, and they’re even meaner now. Even humble bad guys who previously served as road bumps now have a little more kick to them, like the Scab Shotgunner. The end result is that matches feel more fraught and dangerous — especially on higher difficulties. The maps and music are the same, but the strategy has more nuance; the game now feels like Darktide 2.0.
Here’s how the changes work in practice: Each character has a grenade, a class ability, and an aura. As an example, the ogryn gets to choose between throwing a rock, throwing a box of small grenades, or throwing one big grenade. Each option has its pros and cons; one might be great at eliminating a big specific target, while the other options are good at eliminating small groups of specialists or a giant horde of swarming poxwalkers.
Each class can choose between three new class abilities, including one that’s a much stronger, upgraded version of their original ability. The other two dramatically change the way the class plays out in-game. The veteran can use their ability to highlight enemy specialists and volley fire from afar, or they might choose the option that allows them to duck into stealth. Finally, the auras give the rest of your party a boost in a valuable stat like toughness or cooldown reduction.
These abilities are linked in a talent tree web; the big headline choices are accompanied by smaller stat boosts and utility abilities. My big critique of the new system is the full talent tree structure is overwhelming. Choice paralysis settles in fast, especially coming to it as a player with multiple level-30 characters. It’d be nice for Fatshark to further emphasize which choices matter most, and to clarify the intent of each talent path a little more. Once I got over my uncertainty and started making some decisions, I had a lot of fun experimenting with all the fun new toys in the cabinet.
A fresh coat of paint
This update makes Darktide’s class roster feel much bigger. There were always variations within each class, but now each archetype feels like it has three distinct varieties. The veteran is now a marksman, a squad leader, or a short-range shotgunner who uses stealth. The ogryn can be a big boy with a mini-gun, a shield-wielding tank with an AOE taunt, or a brute force brawler.
The changes go deeper than just the talent tree upgrades: there are new cutscenes around the Mourningstar quest hub that are a huge improvement over the few story cinematics that players could unlock at launch.
Some plot threads seemed abandoned, but this patch picks them back up. There’s a bad guy in the tutorial who taunts the player, then vanishes – in this update, he shows back up to harass the rejects over comms. As for the traitor who the player helps uncover by leveling to 30, it turns out they’re still on the Mourningstar … as a lobotomized servitor vendor. Very grim and dark!
Darktide has always had some of the best dialogue and barks in the field, and there are tons of new interactions that play during matches. While playing over the last couple of days, I’ve experienced several matches with exclusively new dialogue added from this patch. Even though I know each map like the back of my hand, everything still feels new, and the added dialogue is a big part of that novelty.
I was excited for Darktide when it was first released in 2022, but Fatshark has taken the time since then to respond to fan feedback and go back to the drawing board. Things have been quiet for a while, but this new update shows that Fatshark’s update hiatus was for good purpose. Darktide is deeper, and it affirms its spot as one of the best Warhammer 40K games on the market right now.
Darktide is now available on Xbox Series X; the game is also marked down on Steam, where it’s currently on sale at 35% off.