Team PC Gamer must have collectively killed at least 50,000 poxwalkers to date. My Ogryn’s big hands are messy, but once I start swinging his giant combat knife, it’s hard to stop. We played a lot of Warhammer 40K: Darktide during its pre-order beta, which ends with the game’s full launch on November 30. And we had a good time, but that was to be expected. – up to Vermintide 2, which we praised for its “stellar combat and level design”.
Vermintide 2 has gotten even better in the four years Fatshark has supported it, thanks to free and paid DLCs and a gigantic free roguelike mode. So when we first started playing Darktide, we weren’t comparing it to 2022’s Vermintide 2, not the game that launched in 2018. It has a lot going for it.
Now that we’ve had over a week to battle Darktide’s 40K hordes, we’ve put together a Venn diagram (but in paragraph form) of how these two co-op games stack up against each other. Darktide doesn’t do everything better than Vermintide, but melee combat is still the best of the best, and firearms? *chef’s kiss*
Courses and progress
Sean Martin, Guides Writer: Maybe it’s because I’m a bigger fan of 40K than Warhammer Fantasy, but unlocking new weapons as I level up and seeing them spawn in the Requisitorium is a real kid in the game experience. confectionery. I love seeing Ogryns running around with riot shields or veterans wielding plasma guns – those weapon unlocks are one of the best parts of Darktide right now.
That said, from the pre-order beta, progression seems a bit lackluster compared to Vermintide 2. I pushed all the way to level 30 and there wasn’t much beyond a few cutscenes, and no all the features required for buildcraft, there is no real endgame yet either. However, I do appreciate that the campaign casts you as an expendable Reject who moves up the ranks to become…a slightly less expendable Reject. This seems very much in line with the human reality of the 40K setting.
I think it’s important to recognize that Darktide is Fatshark’s first live service game in many ways, and it won’t have a full narrative at launch like Vermintide 2 did. It’s not so strange to imagine progression moving alongside the developing story in Tertium. The classes we have are in pretty solid shape, although there are fewer than Vermintide 2, and I think Fatshark has to play around with who can use which weapons.
The fact that all classes – except Ogryn – can use a laser rifle, belittles the veteran a bit in my eyes. I get that they want to give every class a way to deal with every situation, but making those kinds of compromises compromises characters with specific roles defined by their class. I think it’s good that classes have limits or have to come up with inventive solutions to survive.
One thing I’ve noticed is that ranged combat seems to be the meta for the highest difficulties, and that bothers me as a player who prefers Zealot. I don’t envy Fatshark the task of balancing, but it’s still early days, and the devs have said new classes are one of the first things they want to add after launch.
Philip Palmer, editor: It’s downright weird looking around Darktide and seeing what everyone looks like when I’m embarking on a new mission. While locking down a particular character to a player like Vermintide isn’t ideal either, there’s something special about knowing your cast more intimately like we did in the fantasy side of Warhammer.
While I love some of the voices (in particular, the veteran sniper’s “professional” voice sounds like he’s mumbling lines from the exhilarating Imperial infantry intro in his sleep), the personalities characters and the seamless weapon selection make me feel less attached. I had strong feelings for my beloved Victor Saltzpyre and Markus Kruber.
Design and history of the mission
Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor: Vermintide 2 has a linear story that unfolds over a sequence of missions, but encourages you to switch to quick play mode for a better chance of scoring decent gear. If you do that, you end up experiencing the story all mixed up, sometimes thrown into mid-game missions.
I played Vermintide 2 solo for the first time in the campaign, only trying out the quick play afterwards. When I came back to Vermintide 2 in quarantine with friends who hadn’t played it, they all wanted to do the missions in order too.
Darktide seems to circumvent this by telling its story in leveling-unlocked cutscenes. The beta missions are not tied to specific plot beats and the dialogue focuses on the characters. It turns out that the Inquisition agents spend a lot of time gossiping about the support staff, sharing their feelings about the tech priest. Vermintide 2’s procedurally generated Chaos Wastes DLC is similar, and I think it’s a better way to structure a multiplayer game designed for pick-up-and-play.
Wes Fenlon, Editor: For repeat play, I really dig Darktide’s mission board; the way it mixes and matches side objectives with missions I’ve done before adds some welcome flexibility and randomness over the linear Vermintide missions Jody describes. I have to say, though, as amazing as I think Darktide looks – its lighting really helps keep everything from being a dull gray and the same – I’m already really missing the sense of journey I had from Vermintide 2. In this game, I went through abandoned cities, forests, bogs, villages, castles and stopped to admire a panoramic view in almost every mission. Right now Darktide environments lack that memorability for me.
I really hope a DLC down the line takes us to the surface or an entirely different world where I can see the skies and the whispers of a space battle unfolding thousands of miles above me. Most mission locations are just a little too anonymous.
Jodie: There’s a moment in the Darktide prologue where you see a wax seal floating over an air conditioning unit. That’s when I knew they had nailed the decor. This mix of industrial sci-fi and old world baroque – the idea that there’s an imperial security inspector out there whose job it is to check those air conditioning fans and dab them with wax like s wrote a letter to the king – is perfectly Warhammer 40,000.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Fatshark also nailed it with Vermintide, which has Warhammer’s sense of humor and love for doomed last fights. Warhammer is in good hands with Fatshark.
Sean: Perhaps an unpopular opinion: I miss the end of Vermintide chests and mission dice. The Warhammer setting is rich in omens and fate, but also soldiers and vices – people trying to find a way to escape the horrible reality the Chaos gods have conspired to create for them. Having some sort of luck-based or game-based reward system has always felt very Warhammer to me, and I think it would work perfectly in Darktide. Not that I’m advocating loot boxes that cost real money, of course.
Philip: I’m definitely with Sean – it feels like heresy to miss what passed for loot boxes in Vermintide, but the nature of risking it for just one more Grimoire in hopes of additional forbidden loot exudes great energy Warhammer. I really hope bigger rewards of any kind are in the cards for the future, just to add that extra spice in some missions.
Melee and ranged combat
Sean: At first, Darktide lulled me into a false sense of security. Hitting enemies over the head with a shovel felt a lot like Vermintide 2’s melee combat, and it made me think I had the game figured out. But for every Vermintide player, I think there’s a moment in Darktide where you suddenly find yourself facing a company of soldiers armed with laser rifles or an Ogryn Ripper. They are there, and you are here, and as you are downcast, you realize your pride. For me, the combat feel was what I stayed in Vermintide 2 for, and Darktide absolutely has that. I will lodge my heavy chainsword in heretical faces for years to come.
We s: I agree that the combat is sublime. Melee is as good as it was in Vermintide (maybe even better?) and every weapon I’ve tried on my Ogryn so far has kicked and roared like a caged demon in steel. One place where Darktide seems a bit weaker to me, however, is the list of “special” enemies. As in Vermintide, these are basically riffs on Left 4 Dead’s hunter, smoker and boomer etc. than in Vermintide – and they’re a little less menacing than I’d like too. I’m sure I’ll get used to it (and get my ass kicked on higher difficulties) but I think Fatshark had a chance to improve Vermintide in this area and didn’t quite get there .
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Philip: Playing as a veteran sniper really immersed me in the depths of Darktide’s new ranged combat focus, and at first it was a bit frustrating. As Wes said, the most dangerous sniper enemies on Darktide’s roster aren’t always telegraphed as clearly as Vermintide’s, and I found myself regularly being shot down by snipers or gunners whose I had no idea, and was frustrated with what felt like punishment for not having cyber eyes. But over time, I got better with my veteran sniper, liberally using his tactical ability to “spot” enemies instead of just taking on the ones I had already seen (this highlights them). It really set things up.
While I’m still a bit concerned about the higher difficulties with the higher volume of ranged combat, Fatshark at least gave me a sigh of relief as it’s already been confirmed that there isn’t either more friendly fire there.