Through the years Multiplayer games have experimented with different ways of integrating storytelling, from pre-game cutscenes to Titanfall to the environmental narration of Left 4 Dead. There is a fascinating new idea brought to the table by Warhammer 40,000: Dark Tide, however, putting a deep character role-playing system in the middle of all the shooting and action. By role play, I mean the idea of creating your own unique character that puts you into the experience. This approach combined with rock-solid combat mechanics Dark Tide to potentially become a new multiplayer sensation, even if there is quite a bit of polish left.
I had the opportunity to jump in Dark TideRecent closed beta for , playing through over a dozen quests while becoming familiar with the game’s four distinct classes. Dark TideThe story of centers on a squad of Inquisitorial Agents sent to investigate an Infiltration of Chaos (parasitic entities from a different plane) on the planet Atoma Prime. Obviously you will have more attachment to Dark TideThe story of if you are familiar with the Warhammer universe, but the basic framework is still enough to hook new players.
Dark Tide is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, whereas previous Fatshark games, Vermintide Y Vermintide 2, used the more fantasy-focused Warhammer setting. Darktide is based on the same formula as the Vermintide games, with four players teaming up to battle their way through a series of missions with dynamic enemies and obstacles.
What’s really interesting is how your character fits into all of this.
You play as one of the members of the Inquisitor Squad, but unlike other Left 4 Dead-style games, there is a robust character creator. While you can, of course, customize your character’s look and voice, the best piece of the creator is the detailed background you can give it. There are a number of Mass Effect-style options that define who your character is and where they come from, including things like home planet, turning point in their life, and the crime that landed them in the Inquisition.
While these decisions give your character context within the larger story, what feels really innovative is how these small decisions shape dialogue throughout the rest of the game. As your party makes its way through a given mission, there’s a constant stream of jokes, whether it’s something that helps give more context to Dark TideThe world and the factions or just your character offering their opinion on something.
There seems to be quite a bit of variation in this system, as various characters I created felt markedly different. My Veteran was a grizzled warrior disillusioned by the false promises of those in power, while my Zealot was a religious zealot obsessed with “purifying” the profane. These interactions, while interesting, often feel too short and truncated. But it’s precisely the kind of foundation you want in a beta version that gets refined into something even more dynamic for the final product.
Of course, equally if not more important are the gameplay mechanics that support the story framework. Dark Tide it feels just as visceral as Vermintide, even with a bit more variation.
Each character has a ranged weapon and a melee weapon, and you’ll need to switch between the two to handle the variety of challenges that come your way. Melee weapons are used more often and are great for large crowds of enemies surrounding you, while weapons can allow you to drop into group support if you find your health is low. In addition to this, each character class has a set of passive abilities and a specific ability, such as Ogyr’s Bull Rush, which allows them to move forward and take down any enemies in their path.
The core game cycle of Dark Tide is very much the formula established by Left 4 Dead-style games. You take on a variety of missions as your party of four players travel through a portion of the Hive City of Tertium, with hordes of basic and specialized enemies ambushing you along the way.
Dark Tide it’s a brutally difficult game by any standards, and even the “easier” missions present you with serious challenges, with hundreds of tough enemies or bosses. Of the almost 20 missions I played, my group only successfully completed two. While the challenge will obviously appeal to some players, some balancing clearly needs to be done to help players of different skill levels.
At the same time, there are a handful of other issues that clearly need to be worked on. All the levels seem to blend together and there isn’t enough visual variety, which can also apply to the enemies, making it hard to tell melee and ranged enemies apart. Then there’s the hub which feels woefully empty and featureless currently, but that could be because Fatshark is simply holding things back for beta.
However, a more serious issue is game performance. While the primary value of the beta is to provide a “stress test” for game servers, Dark Tide I was constantly suffering from slowdowns and weird glitches like my audio would cut out completely except when a new target spawned. The game also crashed completely a dozen times, forcing me to go through the lengthy boot process one more time.
Granted, this is an early build, so these kinds of issues are typical, but the sheer number of performance issues is definitely a bit of a concern. And yet, it is surely something that the development team will address in due course.
the Vermintide games have clearly made their mark on multiplayer gaming, and I have no doubt that Dark Tide you can do the same, it’s just a matter of getting there. It is clear that Dark Tide it’s a game that’s going to change and grow a lot over time, but the strong foundations that exist give me hope that it can become something special.