Darktide is here! Kind of. Fatshark’s FPS follow-up to Vermintide 2 is technically out November 30, but anyone who pre-orders the game between now and then can jump in early to play a pre-launch beta, which currently has four somewhat randomized missions. offers over four somewhat-random levels, known as ‘zones’. So it’s not the full game, but you can play all four classes and level up and unlock weapons with no restrictions.
Now that we’ve had a day to position ourselves, here’s what we think of Darktide so far – and the changes since the October beta.
How do the lessons feel?
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: I’ve mainly played a Psyker and while I really enjoy Darktide in general, I’m less enamored with the class. It was hit with a big nerf and now feels a bit bumpy as a result. That said, I still find myself grinning like a maniac every time I pop a brain or send a horde of enemies reeling thanks to my psychic shockwave. Even if I chop up a hundred smallpox runners with my goddamn sword, I’ll have a good time. And it feels just different enough from Vermintide that I don’t feel like I’m treading old roads.
However, judging by the heavy-handed changes to the Psyker, the balance still feels very much in flux at the moment. The tutorial and tooltips haven’t even been updated to reflect all the latest changes. So yeah, still very much a beta. Fatshark has already warned players that changes are to come, and couldn’t promise there won’t be any wipes, so don’t get too attached to a build.
Sean Martin, guidebook author: While the start of the beta has proven to be a sad time for Psykers, it only reinforced the love I already had for the Preacher class. I know I’m just playing Slayer all over again, but the joy of chasing pesky ranged units through dimly lit hallways and ventilation shafts as they try to escape me is sublime. The whole breakthrough-and-bright Preacher playstyle of hurling a stun grenade and attacking a stronghold of ranged enemies to dismember them feels like a new iteration of what the Slayer was, and I’m all for it.
Wes Fenlon, editor-in-chief: I’m having a lot of fun with my big Ogryn boy so far, but I’d like to try a Psyker too – just not before Fatshark has had some time to tweak it. from Fraser Guide to Darktide Classes provides a good overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each at launch. I like my survivability as a giant, but I admit I was a bit disappointed by the limited options in the character creator. I wanted to make a beautiful boy out of Ogryn – a real 40K Gaston– but the bunch of chubby faces and ragged haircuts didn’t give me much to work with. Still, I chuckle every time there’s a cutscene and my character has to take a knee to be eye level with whoever’s talking.
Progress is slow at first
Wes: One of the major changes Fatshark made from Vermintide 2 is the character creation route, instead of five preset characters. I’m excited about the change – I loved the banter of Vermintide 2, but I like that this approach frees us up for a bit of role-playing and more personally created characters. I assume Fatshark will do a lot more with cosmetics and customization for the first few years than in Vermintide 2; but from the start I kinda miss the simpler approach of that game. I’ve played Darktide for three hours and I still don’t have a single piece of cosmetic gear to show off.
Why am I still decked out in my level four prisoner suit? Why can’t I at least buy a skull baseball T-shirt for my big ogre? In any case, every character in Vermintide 2 looked cool from the start.
I can’t equip Curios, the stat-buffing accessories like Vermintide’s trinkets, until level eight. Completing missions gives me a bit of cash to spend at a shop on slightly better gear, but the options just give me choice paralysis. I didn’t like Vermintide 2’s loot chest system, which relied on it finding specific items in every mission to get decent gear, but those chests just gave me stuff to mess with once I started playing, and it felt good to have some incremental upgrades and weapons to try without the risk of a bad investment. These complaints will probably be disproved after spending more time with Darktide, but it kinda sucks to play a game with a cosmetics system and not get any cosmetics for hours.
There are also some beta issues that make progression more confusing: currently none of the missions I can select seem to have secondary bonus objectives. I think those are just… broken, now? Or are they simply not added yet? At this point I’m not sure what features are missing from the beta that I don’t even know about.
Performance and stability are still raw
phraser: Even with my 3080 Ti, I’ve only been able to get acceptable performance by kicking ray tracing to the curb, which is a shame, because that’s why I got the card in the first place: all those lovely reflections. My older CPU is partly to blame, but not exclusively. However, it is definitely better than during the last beta.
Wes: Trying to play with a friend last night was a bit fraught. The first time we launched a mission, her game immediately crashed. When she came to… crashed again. We thought drivers could be the culprit so after she updated to the latest version of Nvidia we tried again… and mine game crashed, breaking the microphone input from Nvidia Broadcast. And I was already on the latest drivers. Finally our third match worked, and neither game crashed, which felt like luck more than anything. I have a feeling that between now and November 30 there is a lot of hectic work to do in terms of crash repairs.
Performance was pretty good on my 3070 with RTX on low and DLSS enabled – well above 60fps at 1440p – but I’ve seen a lot of complaints from other players. We’ll be sure to talk more about performance during the beta.
Sean: I had a few disconnections due to crashes, but one thing I have to say is that I managed to rejoin every game I dropped out of, and that certainly wasn’t the case in the previous beta. However, Darktide has its fair share of bugs right now, like when an attacking mutant tackled my teammate through a wall and kept running indefinitely.
40K vibe check: It’s as grim as I hoped
Tim Clark, Brand Director: Because of yesterday’s PC game show I only managed to play just past the prison break prologue, but Fatshark hit the 40K setting much better than most Games Workshop licensees. Not a surprise given the quality of Vermintide’s take on the fantasy version, but Darktide feels like it’s going to be the sort of true triple-A game us geeks always crave. From the shuffling animation of the pox runners as they run (disturbingly fast) toward my face to the satisfying CRAAAK of my Veteran Sharpshooter’s welding gun, it feels instantly Turn right. I hope the campaign will be like being transported to a Black Library novel with special fight porn.
It’s also no surprise that the melee combat feels better resolved than the ranged model so far. By which I mean, this feels like a game from a studio that specializes in slashing through babbling waves of enemies. The first gunfights are a bit basic. I’m also not entirely enamored with how clumsy and heavy my character feels. Chances are that’s because I’m thousands of hours too familiar with the bounce of Destiny 2’s double jump, but I’m curious to see if that weight changes as I unlock more skills and weapons.
But honestly, for now, I’m just excited to spend this weekend exploring such a beautifully bleak and detailed 40K world. Plus, the head chopping technology is truly *chef’s kiss*.