Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is causing confusion on Steam with its pre-launch launch

Darktide key art - a grisly Imperial Guardsman
(Image credit: Fatshark)
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Warhammer 40,000: Darktide (opens in new tab) doesn't officially launch until November 30, but it's available now on Steam for anyone who preorders the game. Reactions to the game, to turn an overused phrase, are decidedly mixed at this point: Some players are digging it, but quite a number are posting negative user reviews. Darktide is currently sitting at a "mostly positive" user ranking on Steam, with 70% of the user reviews (opens in new tab) giving it a thumbs up, but earlier today it sunk all the way down to "mixed," meaning that only 40-69% of user reviews were positive.

That's a surprisingly low number for the followup to the acclaimed Vermintide games, but it may not represent how players feel about the game in a few weeks. Technically, Darktide is being reviewed before it has "released". In a message (opens in new tab) about what to expect from the "preorder beta," developer Fatshark listed a number of features not in the beta, including proper spawn points and a detailed weapon stats view, and warned that the initial beta release would be missing quite a lot of content.

The plan is to roll out new content, events, and presumably fixes and tweaks over a four-week schedule. (It's not actually broken down in weekly chunks, but that's how Fatshark describes it so we'll roll with it.)

WEEK ONE (November 17 - 20) 

  • Full access to the game hub and mission board. 
  • 4 changing missions across 4 zones
  • We will regularly run in-game events (Conditions), namely Power Supply Interruption and Ventilation Purge. We don’t want to spoil them too much. We encourage you to experience them for yourself :)  

WEEK TWO (November 21 - 27) 

  • Up to 8 changing missions across 4 zones
  • In-Game Events, other surprise additions we do not want to spoil right now 

WEEK 3 (November 28 to 30) 

  • Up to 10 changing missions across 4 zones 
  • Downtime to get the game ready for wide release: Tuesday Nov 29, 2022 19:00 UTC 

NOVEMBER 30 (LAUNCH) 

  • 13 missions across 5 zones 
  • 1 New Zone (We do not want to share its name yet)
  • New Conditions (In-Game Events) 

In other words, Fatshark is treating this pre-release beta like, well, a beta test: Giving a limited number of players access to limited selections of the game to ensure that everything works like it's supposed to. But even though the studio specifically noted that a detailed weapon stats view isn't available, for instance, there are complaints about missing weapon information. Other user reviews criticize the lack of private lobbies (opens in new tab) or solo play, and there are many complaints about overall performance, even on relatively beefy hardware. Many of the negative reviews actually specify that the game is fun, just not quite ready for launch yet—which of course is the exact point of this final beta.

"It's a fun game and not bad, just not enough content to feel fresh," one Steam user wrote. "After a few games with different characters I didn't feel the excitement that I felt with Vermintide 2 and none of the starting characters were my favs."

"This game wasn't ready for release, it has consistent crashes, the (early access version) runs arguably worse than the beta," another wrote.

Darktide players don't bear all the blame for the confusion. Beta tests are as much a marketing tool as a diagnostic these days—they're often presented simply as a way to start playing the game early, rather than to help figure out what's still broken—and opening the user review functionality on Steam only amplifies that impression. Fatshark says this Darktide release is a beta, and clearly it is, but it's also fully out there on Steam, user reviews and all. For anyone who's purchased it, in other words, Darktide is effectively in full release, and how they react to it will leave a lasting public impression—for better or worse.

We've put together some of our own thoughts on what we like and what we don't like about Warhammer 40,000: Darktide (opens in new tab) so far: It's gloriously grim, but like many others on Steam, our best Warhammers found that it struggles with ray tracing and has an unfortunate tendency to crash. In the words of our online editor Fraser Brown, Darktide right now is "still very much a beta."

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.