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Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is upon us, and you can join the fight early

The Darktide is coming - endless waves of heretical Chaos worshippers and the minions of the Plague God Nurgle are rising up from depths of the city of Tertium. The city is a 'hive' of civilisation, where imperial citizens live in cramped conditions amidst foundries, loading bays, and prisons that fuel humanity's neverending war effort against the darkness. The grim city may not look like much worth saving, but as a freshly released convict who's been offered a chance at redemption by fighting the rising hordes, it's your job to fire guns and swing weapons, not ask questions.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is the long-awaited follow-up to developer Fatshark's Vermintide series, transporting the hit four-play co-op gameplay from Warhammer's fantasy setting to the grim sci-fi of the distant future. With the drastic change in setting come myriad other evolutions and upgrades, making Darktide quite possibly the most teeth-grittingly tantalising co-op shooter of this generation.

The premise, as with its predecessors, remains beautifully simple. You and three other players get deployed to a level somewhere in the depths of Tertium. Your objective may be to retrieve an item, repair a critical system in the Hive or assassinate a Chaos leader. Whatever your ultimate objective in a given mission, you and your team will need to tear your way through hundreds of vicious enemies seeking to stop you.It's a bloody gauntlet run from A to B, with hundreds of swarming enemies in between who you'll need to dodge and defend against, before charging and dismembering them.

Warhammer Darktide

(Image credit: Fatshark)

But coming five years on from Vermintide 2, which continues to enrapture thousands of players online, evolution is inevitable. First of all, the addition of guns gives an extra tactical layer to skirmishes, and will satiate players arriving at Darktide from the world of online shooters. Gun-wielding enemies are now capable of shooting and suppressing you, forcing you to dart from cover to cover to either close the distance or fire back at them. There are few things more perversely satisfying than throwing a stun grenade into a squad of Chaos riflemen then closing the distance, charging up a heavy attack, and watching the limbs fly. 

The gunplay feeds into the level design too, as Darktide's levels are more vertical - filled with walkways and gantries where a longer-distance player (playing as a Sharpshooter, for example) can take up a position and pick enemies off from a distance.

When picking from the four available Archetypes - Zealot, Psyker, Veteran, Ogryn

– you're no longer confined to using readymade named heroes, but get to create your character from scratch, choosing their appearance and also their backstory. 

If returning Vermintide players are concerned that this will tone down on the series' traditionally excellent banter and lore chat between the characters, then cease your doubts at once, heretic! A player’s choice of the character's personality will affect the kind of chats they have with their fellow squadmates, which means there'll be thousands of different conversations happening during the few quiet moments in missions depending on your team's composition. Naturally, you should expect more lore insight from a well-balanced squad than one filled with four thick-skulled Ogryns (though the latter may have more entertainment value).

Darktide's hub, with a bank of monitors inside a starship

(Image credit: Fatshark)

Satisfying progression is a big part of what's kept Vermintide going so long, and it's going even deeper in Darktide. Successfully completing missions will see you rewarded with weapon and armour upgrades, and experience points that you can eventually channel into branching character progression. Even within a single class there's room to express yourself and tailor it to your play style, not to mention cosmetic customisation that will help you stand out from your fellow Rejects looking for redemption.

Darktide may look like it's all-action, but Fatshark is giving it a deep dynamic story that will evolve based on your character's growth and the masterful storytelling of veteran Warhammer 40K writer Dan Abnett. Darktide comes out November 30, but you can pre-order and play the game now in its pre-release beta. Head over to the official Darktide site now to find out how to enlist in the neverending war against heresy and Chaos now.