Darktide's next update promises a complete overhaul of weapon progression: 'We took the philosophy with this game to not be afraid of doing quite massive changes'

A tech priest in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.
(Image credit: Fatshark)

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide may have had a rocky launch back in 2022, but you certainly can't fault developer Fatshark's dedication to improving its grimdark creation in the time since. While we have had new missions, enemies, and weapons, the biggest focus in the game's updates thus far has been improving the core experience and basic systems, from performance fixes to crafting changes to a complete overhaul of class progression

And apparently that work is still ongoing. Following a major content drop with the Secrets of the Machine God update at the end of last month, Fatshark has revealed its next major project: a complete rethink of the itemisation system, to make investing in your weapons more satisfying. 

"We took the philosophy with this game to not be afraid of doing quite massive changes," says Victor Magnuson, Darktide's head of game design. "The start of that was the class overhaul. We felt at the launch that we weren't really happy with how we ended up with our classes. So we decided to rebuild it… and now we're doing the same sort of idea with itemisation."

The current system is very focused on getting the right drops. Acquired weapons have their own max stats and randomly determined blessings (special abilities) and perks (bonuses), and can only be modified to a limited degree. A particular bone of contention among the community has been "locks". Blessings and Perks can be re-rolled, but only twice total—after that, whatever you've got is locked and can't be changed. If it's locked with the suboptimal qualities still on it, it can feel like a waste of the invested resources.

The new system will scrap locks entirely, and introduce mechanics called Mastery and Expertise (names not necessarily final). As you use a weapon, you'll gain Mastery XP for all weapons of that type (including all the different marks), which will unlock blessings, perks, and cosmetics for them. Meanwhile, the Expertise menu is where you'll be able to improve an individual weapon's stats, and apply your unlocked blessings and perks freely with no locks in sight. 

(Image credit: Fatshark)

It certainly sounds like a better solution, allowing players to feel like they're progressing without being victim to the whims of fate while making investments in your favourite armament more satisfying and rewarding. But it should also be a foundation for more to come. 

"We want to make sure that if we redo this system, we do it in a way where we can expand on it," says Anders De Geer, Darktide's chief creative officer. 

"These reworks need to bring compounded value to the game, right?" adds Juan Martinez, the game's executive producer. "Like when we did the class overhaul, or when we introduced penances, it allowed us to do a bunch of other things. These are systems that other systems can interact with now, and it adds this incremental value to all the other systems. We want the same when it comes to itemisation."

The new itemisation system coming soon to Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.

(Image credit: Fatshark)

The good news for long-time players is that all the hard work you've put in so far will still be reflected when these changes come in. You'll start off already having an amount of Mastery XP proportional to how many blessings you previously had available, ensuring you're not thrown back to square one.

How well this will all work in practice remains to be seen. Even as a longtime fan of the studio's games, I'd be quick to admit that item progression design has always been its most obvious weakness. Anyone who's opened as many disappointing Vermintide 2 loot crates as me will find it difficult to have complete confidence in Fatshark here. The fact that randomness remains a factor (weapons will still have pre-rolled maximum stats, limiting their potential), even if a diminished one, puts me a little on edge. 

(Image credit: Fatshark)

But it all seems to be moving in the right direction, in theory, and as ever I'm heartened by how committed the team is to the continuous improvement and refinement of what has, for me, always been a fantastic experience despite its flaws

The other question is when this update will actually arrive. My only answer is: probably not soon. Much of the Darktide team is currently enjoying the long summer break Swedish employees are entitled to, so a release before September seems unlikely. But in the meantime, there's still plenty of new stuff to mess about with in Secrets of the Machine God—and I'll have more to share soon from my chat with the team about the game's future and its journey so far. 

Robin Valentine
Senior Editor

Formerly the editor of PC Gamer magazine (and the dearly departed GamesMaster), Robin combines years of experience in games journalism with a lifelong love of PC gaming. First hypnotised by the light of the monitor as he muddled through Simon the Sorcerer on his uncle’s machine, he’s been a devotee ever since, devouring any RPG or strategy game to stumble into his path. Now he's channelling that devotion into filling this lovely website with features, news, reviews, and all of his hottest takes.