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The Undeniable Attraction of Chaotic Combat in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide

How controlled mayhem is the key to hooking players into the city of Tertium

With the wide breadth of content available in the Warhammer world, it can be hard to stand out. That hasn’t stopped the folks over at Swedish developer Fatshark though, with the attention now turning towards the upcoming release of Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Among all the bells and whistles, it is clear the team’s take on the evolution of first-person combat will elevate Warhammer 40,000: Darktide to a cut above the rest.

Set for a September 13 release on Xbox Series X|S and PC, Darktide transports players to the city of Tertium, full of bloodthirsty adversaries waiting to tear players apart. Thankfully, the best-in-class melee combat that was the heart and soul of the Vermintide games is better than ever, spurred on by the new and intense gunplay in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.

“On paper, it’s fairly simple, right? But when looking at it from the core mechanical perspective, we didn’t want to create something where you shoot in this section and then you fight in melee in that section,” shared Mats Andersson, combat designer for Darktide.

“We can easily copy Vermintide combat, but it comes down to creating something new. It’s not a game where you go in and do you do the same repetitive motion. It’s an experience where you headshot an elite enemy, switch to a knife to rip up someone, shoot into a horde of enemies and toss a grenade into the crowd in one motion.”

This constant rotation of behaviors, combined with the interlinked nature of the 4-player co-op design, generates an entertaining and deadly ballet that is going to be a majesty to witness, and even more satisfying to be a part of. “A lot of the inspiration is taken from classical fighting games, because it brings joy and fun, autonomy, mastery and you can get good at it, and we are trying to do this in first-person,” exclaimed Andersson.

Having delivered on the melee front, it is with great hope that Fatshark can do the same for ranged combat, and so far, things are looking great.

“We knew we wanted living and dynamic gunplay, that meant all the bells and whistles like recoil control, ADS, hip fire, different weapons that are going to appeal to different players and create discussions. It’s more about picking your targets based on what loadout, what kind of role and class selections you have,” Andersson added.

On the other hand, the developers understand that no one likes bullet sponges or enemies that are too squishy, it is all about rising up to the challenge and showing the world mastery of combat up close and at ranged. That is exactly what players can expect from the hordes in Darktide, a setup that is designed for both sides to shine, and only to emerge victorious from the blood bath.

There is no easy way out of the chaos, and no one weapon to rule them all. Certain firearms may work better against armor, but they may falter in the face of more nimble enemies. Throw in an extensive list of modifiers to the mix, and bedlam is pretty much the mood in every enemy encounter.

“Starting out, the scenarios are quite simple, maybe figure out how to deal with a certain enemy, but otherwise just enjoying effortless shoot and stab mayhem. As you start mastering the game, the challenge and difficulty get stepped up,” Andersson. “Maybe you’ll get a horde and three specials, a big monster, a fast foe, and there’s a bunch of grenades at your feet. This is the type of mayhem that drives the hybrid combat experience of Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.”

Just as players are armed with the right tools to counter the horrible creations that lurk in Tertium, the variety of enemy configurations and numbers will require a team that is on top of its game and agile enough to adapt and conquer together.

While the team has a strong grip on the lore of the Warhammer universe, it forms the underlying foundation in which player creativity and freedom are being explored. The combination of class, alongside melee and ranged weapons, means different ways of playing, and the developers definitely want to fulfill that power fantasy with systems that support that.

That said, a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and for Fatshark, the adherence to the four-player co-op experience was always “set in stone.” It is this journey through thick and thin that cements crews and partnerships, but the game will never feel too unfair amid the chaos, a process governed by the adaptive pacing system present in Darktide that can surprise players.

“Compared to what we’ve done in Vermintide, there is a wider range of experiences where we can go a bit further. The game simply shines when you’re dying, horribly screaming together with friends,” Andersson said with a smile. However, the choice is still the players’, whether you are looking for visceral fun that is easy to pick up or deep mastery and tight co-op team play.

At the end of the day, combat in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is taking the spotlight, and rightfully so. Having built on an already successful base, Fatshark is ramping up the efforts to allow players to feel more of an impact with every swipe, swing, slash, or shot. Based on what has been seen thus far, there is very little doubt of that not happening.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide will be available on September 13 on PC via Steam and Xbox Series X|S.

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