Warhammer 40K: Darktide is an online co-op shooter full of nasty little ghouls just begging to be decapitated. The average mission will see you and three squadmates smashing and blasting your way through approximately 1,000 baddies in half an hour (seriously—I'm not exaggerating). By default, Darktide's mission board throws you into quickplay matchmaking, where you may be tossed into a mission in progress or match up with three other players to start one fresh.
But if you don't want to play that way—if you'd prefer to play solo, or perhaps with a single friend—your options are unfortunately limited.
Darktide does not currently support offline singleplayer or private online matches. You can't start up a mission solo with a trio of bots as your wingmen, which is currently the biggest complaint I've seen from Darktide's players.
Here's the situation in Darktide right now, and what Fatshark has said about future plans (it's good news).
No, you can't play Darktide just with bots (yet)
As of launch day, there is currently no built-in option to start a solo match of Darktide with bots. Bots are only available to fill-in for players who quit or are disconnected from a match mid-mission.
However, Fatshark is working on such a feature. According to Fatshark's first community update, posted on November 18, private matches are planned:
"We’ve been working on an option to play exclusively in Solo Mode, where you will be hosting locally your own instance with bots. Because you will be hosting the AI and other game systems locally, this will increase performance cost. However, we continue to monitor and improve the performance where we can. Solo play is in its final stages of testing as we fix the last issues that remain. We aim to release this at Launch. If not, a patch shortly after that in December."
As of launch day, November 30, solo play is not available in Darktide. The launch day patch notes don't mention a solo option, meaning the feature is likely coming in December sometime.
Fatshark also shared a few details on private match options. More on that below.
Can you create a private Darktide lobby?
Sadly no—not right now. There is no way to create a private match in Darktide—except by inviting three friends to your game to create a four-player squad. If you have a full four-player squad, Darktide won't matchmake you with other players.
While Vermintide 2 operated on peer-to-peer networking—meaning individual players hosted their own games—Darktide 2 runs entirely on dedicated servers. That may be one reason for the lack of private play, but a more likely explanation is that Darktide is simply balanced for a full squad at all times, and scaling hordes of enemies and difficulty down for one, two, or three players would add a lot of complexity. Darktide's bots may also not be up to the challenge of carrying their weight as more than temporary fill-ins.
Good news, though: Fatshark says private matches are on the way in December:
"We have recently begun implementing Private Games as an option, and we’re in the middle stages of development for this. When launched, you can start a private game with 2-4 of your friends. We expect to be able to release this later in December. We heard your feedback on these topics and needed some time to investigate the solutions we had available to us. We hope you enjoy these features when released and welcome further input on them."
Some players desperate for a private co-op experience during the beta have actually come up with a workaround for playing with bots in smaller groups, but it's not elegant.
However… there is a way to play Darktide with just one friend and bots, but it's rude
As outlined by a player on the Steam forums, it is possible for you and a single friend to play Darktide with two other bots. If you party up and join a match together, then go AFK, the other two players won't be able to kick you—that requires three votes. Assuming those other players get fed up and quit, they'll be replaced with bots.
It's obviously not a great solution. You're wasting other players' time just because you don't want to play with them, which is selfish. And Darktide supports join-in-progress, so it's possible new players could be matchmade into your game to replace the bots, anyway.
I wouldn't recommend this technique to anyone—it's a rude way to treat other players who are playing in good faith. But if you see two players immediately going AFK when you start up a mission, well, now you know why.
Could you play just with bots in Vermintide 2?
Yes. In Fatshark's last game, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, you can create a private game, where only your friends can join. There's also a lobby browser and a "strict matchmaking" toggle that allows you to only join lobbies that haven't yet started a mission. Those features existing in Vermintide 2 are likely a big reason why so many players are upset to find no private lobby option in Darktide.