Tune up your boltgun and prepare for the hoard, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is swarming onto Xbox Series X|S today. A spiritual successor to Warhammer: Vermintide, Darktide takes developer Fatshark’s ferocious, co-op-focused combat and drops you right into the blistered heart of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Alongside its Game Pass launch, Darktide is also set to drop its biggest and most game-changing update yet. Patch 13 will introduce new class systems for each playable archetype and a ton of other game-play refining updates. This is the ultimate version of Darktide, so ahead of its console release, we had the opportunity to chat with three developers from Fatshark about why now is the perfect time to get stuck in.
A Class of Its Own
The biggest change heading to Darktide is the brand-new class system. Each of the four archetypes – Veteran, Zealot, Psyker and Ogryn – will now come with their own talent tree brimming with new skills and abilities. This affords much more versatility in how to build and play each starting character.
“A really big thing that we’ve been trying to do since launch is give more agency to the player,” explains Victor Magnuson, Design Director on Darktide. “We felt that the system we had before was a little too rigid, and didn’t really allow players to come up with their own playstyle. Now, players can pick and mix what they want to do, and we’re really looking forward to seeing all of the different combinations.”
When creating a character, players can choose unique traits, such as their starting planet, their upbringing, and some defining moments of their lives. The new class system provides more opportunities to lean into those backstory choices and almost roleplay your character in this vast universe.
“An Inquisitorial Warband is made up of very different characters,” explains Darktide Chief Creative Officer Anders De Geer. “We want people to be able to create their own version of that fantasy. Anything you read in a book or play in the tabletop game, you’ll be able to come closer to creating in Darktide.”
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide’s new talent trees
The team has also made changes to the levelling system in Darktide. Before the update, players could only make what the team describes as a “meaningful” choice every five levels. Now, players can add something that will evolve their character significantly every time they rank up, which is much more exciting.”Giving agency across your levelling experience was also important for us to do right,” says Juan Martinez, Executive Producer on Darktide. “We wanted this to cater both to new players and those that have played the game for a long time already.”
The choice sounded almost too overwhelming, so we asked the team about their favorite ways to play to get a little inspiration. Magnuson tells us that he used to be Zealot main through and through, with an aggressive playstyle that goes hard with melee abilities. However, with the new update, he’s brought out the literal big guns, utilising perks that allow him to shred through foes with minimal reloading. De Geer keeps it a little more classic with the Zealot, also leaning into the old bash build but with a stash of throwing knives to add more flexibility to the build.
Martinez started as an Orgyn main but graduated to Psyker, which now has new skills to control the ebb and flow of the battlefield. This includes chain lightning that damages foes with an area-of-effect radius, and a dome shield that can protect teammates.
That was the archetype I stuck with in the end – I had a delightful time playing as a Psyker with the Smite ability, letting me release streams of potent lightning onto my foes. I was also able to take talents that let me put up a shield for my allies, while boosting up our damage. Some of the other talent trees offered completely different buffs and skills that complemented my own for some potent combinations to get stuck into.
The skills I picked played perfectly into my background as a Tide Forager from the oceanic world of Incron – I’m a seasoned fisherman, full of comradery and not afraid to get my hands dirty. I chose to believe that my proficiency as a Psyker was also unveiled after I was caught electrocuting all of the fish. The background you choose also shapes dialogue choices throughout the game, which is a fun detail. These starting blocks let me craft my own story before I’d even picked up a weapon.
But, I Don’t Know Anything About Warhammer
The world of Warhammer is dense and brimming with complex lore and jargon, but you don’t actually need to know anything about it to enjoy Darktide. De Geer tells us that the game is first and foremost – a four-player co-op horde shooter, that just happens to be set in this universe.
“The things that you need to know will be introduced to you in the game,” De Geer says. “We’ve deliberately tried to keep it that way, but hopefully the parts you do learn will spark an interest in the wider lore.”
The gameplay experience shines through, whether you’re a fan of the wider Warhammer world or not. The visceral satisfaction of bashing and slashing through enemies or going ham with a huge machine gun feels still excellent, regardless of who the bad guys are.
“We have a lot of Warhammer fanatics in the office, but we also have people that don’t know anything about it,” De Geer adds. “This actually helps us sanity check and make sure things make sense even with zero understanding of that world.”
“Warhammer 40,000 knowledge shouldn’t be a barrier, and we’d like to think that Darktide can act as a stepping stone into the wider universe.”
The good news is that Darktide is now available to download and play on Game Pass for both Xbox and PC. Whether you’re a Warhammer veteran eager to get stuck back into these new classes, a total newcomer looking for an accessible route into the robust world of Warhammer 40,000, or just looking for lovely, violent new game – the new and updated Darktide is a shooter fit for an Emperor, and his three favourite friends.