Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is one of our favourite co-op games, but after killing a lot of rat men with swords and axes, Fatshark is switching to Games Workshop's sci-fi setting for its follow-up, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. It's time to pick up a plasma gun and do battle in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium.
Expect to fight hordes of enemies in the dark, claustrophobic depths of a hive city. Only a trailer and a few screenshots have been shown so far, but we can extrapolate quite a lot from what we've seen already.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide release date
The first trailer
The first trailer was shown at the Xbox showcase on July 23. The trailer and the first batch of concept art and screenshots give us a lot of clues about what Darktide might look like.
The player characters
It seems sensible to assume that the four guardsmen in the trailer represent the characters we'll end up playing in the finished game. Wait a moment though, and check out the concept art above.
These four characters are more developed then the cookie cutter guardsmen we see in the trailer. This team has a variety of gear that implies a range of loot. They also seem to represent different classes, one of which—the massive dude—is an Ogryn. These enormous futuristic ogres serve as strongarms in Imperial Guard armies, but they can also serve as specialists.
There are two possibilities. First, the guards we see in the trailer are the fodder that discovered the Nurgle menace deep in the hive, so the inquisition sends a more talented force in after them, and that's who you play. Or these guardsmen are the starting point for the characters you play, and you can upgrade and specialise them over time.
Given that an Inquisitor is giving orders in the trailer voice-over, you are likely to serve as Inquisition Acolytes, who serve as lowly assistants to Inquisitors in 40K fiction. Acolytes are great for a game because they come in many archetypes, and there's an acolyte hierarchy (acolyte, proven acolyte, trusted acolyte, throne agent and so on) that would serve nicely as a progression system.
That's assuming that Darktide will include detailed loot and progression systems, as Vermintide does. The 'tide' suffix suggests the two games will have plenty in common.
Uh oh, it's Nurgle. The Chaos god of pestilence, who has a surprisingly good sense of humour, tirelessly experiments with new strains of disease with the ultimate aim of inducting everyone into Nurgle's garden: a festering organic plane of existence in which everyone and everything is subject to Nurgle's experiments. You do not want to go to Nurgle's garden.
The hordes in the trailer are Death Guard Poxwalkers. They are the zombie hordes of a 40K Nurgle army and make sense as low-level fodder in a Left 4 Dead format. We see a large hulking thing in the background in the trailer, and we get a clearer look at what that might be in the screenshot above. I can't think of a direct equivalent in the model range, but it could be an infected Ogryn as we know from the concept art above Ogryns will be involved somehow.
There are plenty of other units in the Death Guard range that would work in the bowels of a hive world. Nurglings would also be good fodder, and hilarious. I wouldn't be surprised to see some Chaos Spawn, as we've already fought a few of those in Vermintide and the monster works in fantasy and futuristic settings. Chaos cultists could give the range some enemies that can shoot. Plague Marines would make good bosses. A Great Unclean One could serve as a big campaign finale, though it's unlikely a squad of plucky Acolytes would stand any chance against one of those large, large lads.
Darktide is set in a hive city called Tertium. Hive cities are awesome. They are vast, layered cities populated by a diverse population of warring gangers, corrupt diplomats, Inquisitors, kill teams, and a few good hardworking folk who tend to die quite quickly. Planetary governers and senior Imperial agents enjoy good living at the top of a hive city's spires, while in the tangled corridors that form the bowels of the city, citizens form gangs and battle for territory.
It's a very good place for Nurgle to do his work. A Chaos-instigated pandemic can absolutely take down an entire planet if allowed to fester, so the stakes are high in Darktide. As a location to explore, hive cities risk being eternally dingy, but there is potential to mix up the architecture a lot. The screenshot above shows some grandiose Imperial architecture, while below we see utilitarian spaces more reminiscent of Alien.