A Guardsman's revved-up chainsword in Warhammer 40k Darktide
A Guardsman's revved-up chainsword in Warhammer 40k Darktide Fatshark


  • The "Darktide" closed beta test featured only a small portion of the game's content
  • Combat — both ranged and melee — is extremely satisfying
  • The game's problems so far are mostly on the technical and networking side

Fatshark's take on a "Warhammer 40,000" FPS is perhaps the best the IP has seen in a long while. The "Darktide" closed beta test showed just how passionate these developers are when it comes to capturing the grim darkness of the far future.

The "Darktide" CBT didn't completely represent the entire game — only a small portion of the full content was made available to testers. However, the content that was present was plentiful enough to set some solid expectations for the game's release version.

The experience wasn't perfect by any means. There were some issues in both the gameplay and technical departments, but cutting through hordes of Poxwalkers and exchanging lasgun fire with squads of heretics was so fun that it made said issues mostly tolerable.

Setting and Environment

"Darktide's" setting is respectful of both the overwhelming "40K" lore and the people who may not be familiar with it. Franchise fans and first-timers alike will have no problem acclimating to the game's world.

To keep things simple, the game is set in the gigantic city of Tertium, which is populated by billions of people. It is currently being attacked by followers of the Chaos god of disease and decay, and they have caused what is essentially a zombie apocalypse with extra steps.

Darktide CBT - Walkers
Enemies in Darktide include normal citizens in varying stages of demonic corruption Darktide CBT

Through each level, players have to complete objectives while fighting through hordes of space zombies supported by demons, mutants and members of the planet's own military forces who have turned into traitors.

The environmental design in "Darktide" is somewhat of a mixed bag. There are places that are stunning and extremely well-detailed, while some feel generic and boxy.

Ironically, this style of blandness fits the game's world as the Imperium of Man has always preferred practicality over beauty – so long as it involves plenty of gothic and church-like imagery.

Darktide CBT - Environment
The final area of the Logistratum mission in Darktide gives players a glimpse of Tertium's scale Darktide CBT

The music also deserves a special mention due to how well it captures the very soul of grimdark science fiction. The combination of dark synth with religious choir singing and heretical chanting is one of composer Jesper Kyd's best works.

"Darktide" Combat

"Darktide" has somehow struck an interesting balance between ranged and melee combat, which are both staples in the "Warhammer 40K" universe.

One minute, the squad could be pushing back a horde of melee swarmers with axes, swords, shovels and hammers. The next minute could involve an intense shootout with an organized squad of riflemen supported by snipers, shotgunners and grenadiers. Sometimes, players will have to deal with both at the same time.

Thankfully, the game doesn't force players to adhere to these situational requirements as long as they understand that the core gameplay loop revolves around using both of their weapons.

As for the moment-to-moment combat, it can only be described as a bone-crushing good time. Melee combat is brutal and visceral – attacks are hefty, impact effects are crunchy, the gun sounds are powerful and punchy, and overall, the general feel of slashing and shooting is almost perfect. It's very hard to think of a bad thing to say about how the combat feeds back into the player.

Darktide CBT - Combat
Darktide involves fighting against both melee and ranged enemies simultaneously Darktide CBT

Progression and Grind

This is where things become divisive. Like its predecessors, "Darktide" is a grindy game. Every match rewards players with character XP and currency for unlocking class perks and weapons respectively. Not everyone will like this sort of progression, but some may find the combat fun enough to make the grind enjoyable.

Darktide CBT - Weekly Vendor
A special vendor offers high-tier weapons for players who complete weekly challenges Darktide CBT

The game also has a weekly bounty system that rewards unique currency for buying weapons. The challenges involved in this system range from blocking a specific amount of damage to completing a certain number of matches.

Additionally, there's a weapon upgrading system in "Darktide" that was not present in the CBT. This could take some of the grind away, but as of the beta, there was simply no way to tell.

Graphics and Performance

"Darktide" looks amazing in terms of both graphics and visual design. However, the developers have a lot to work on in terms of optimization.

Admittedly, I only managed to play the "Darktide" beta with an old NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU and a Ryzen 5 3500 CPU with 16GB of system RAM. On low settings, the game averages about 50 FPS at best and 30 FPS at worst, with painful dips to around 25 FPS whenever there's too much blood, smoke or fire on the screen.

Even folks with RTX 2000-series cards reported that their frames would drop to 60 or below when the action was getting too intense.

Darktide CBT - Flamer
A Tox Flamer's stream of corrupted fire Darktide CBT

Other Issues

Performance woes aside, "Darktide" (as of the CBT) also has some annoying bugs and smaller quality-of-life stuff that could use some work.

For one, the weapon display screen only shows vague information about a weapon's performance. Stats like damage and stability are represented by bars and not actual numbers. Some weapon perk effects are also poorly communicated – I once received a Sapper Shovel that had a "+10% charging time bonus (stacks 3 times)" effect, but it didn't say how to gain stacks for it.

Darktide CBT - Shop
The quartermaster screen aboard the Mourningstar shows a variety of weapons for sale Darktide CBT

The game doesn't explain what the Finesse, First Target and Mobility stats on melee weapons do. It doesn't say what the difference is between an Infested and Flak-Armored Enemy or if certain effects stack against Flak-Armored Infested enemies. The list goes on.

As for bugs, enemy animations would sometimes not play, resulting in Poxwalkers just sliding around. Fire would sometimes cause visual artifacts to pop up, and there were times when "Darktide" would just outright crash randomly.

Disconnection was also a very frequent problem during the CBT. This is expected of the beta as part of the developer's stress testing, and it should be fixed when the game is released.


"Warhammer 40K: Darktide" is shaping up to be the best FPS in the franchise so far, but just like the Imperium of Man, rotten elements hiding behind the gold and grandeur might hamstring its success.

The game releases on Nov. 30, assuming that it doesn't get delayed again.

An Ogryn's heavy automatic shotgun in Warhammer 40K Darktide
An Ogryn's heavy automatic shotgun in Warhammer 40K Darktide Fatshark