It is the 41st millennium. There is only blah, blah, blah. We’ve all heard about the Emperor of Mankind and his Space Marine super-fascists fighting space bugs and talking mushrooms. That’s Warhammer 40,000 for you. At least as it’s been presented in the vast majority of video games in the last decade. Darktide — the sci-fi follow-up to the quietly excellent Vermintide games set in the Warhammer fantasy universe — doesn’t quite get away from that, either. But it is the latest in a string of games showing a slightly more… adaptable side of humanity in the grim darkness of the far future.
If you look back deeper into Darktide promotional material, such as the Gamescom trailer from earlier this year, you’ll find that the cooperative Left 4 Dead-like hews a bit closer to that more complicated side of things. Even if the latest trailer, which bills itself as a “World Intro,” spouts more of the usual company line. See for yourself below!
You play a group of “rejects,” which is to say convicted criminals in the eyes of the imperium, being used as expendable labor to battle Chaos (i.e. space demons) and stuff. The conflict is dirtier and more low-level than even the most public facing side of the 40K universe typically purports to be. Which makes sense, since it’s really hard to empathize or relate to genetically engineered, racist terminators made of meat that were originally invented as satirical British satire in the vein of Nemesis the Warlock and Judge Dredd.
After many years of Space Marine antics, high-profile Warhammer 40,000 games have finally started to branch out a bit. It’s still mostly focused on humans (where’s my new game about the Tau, Games Workshop?) but Darktide isn’t the only recent release drilling into the more pragmatic sectors of the universe beneath the imperial propaganda. Games like Necromunda: Hired Gun and the forthcoming Rogue Trader from the makers of the Pathfinder CRPGs focus on ostensibly normal people. Normal people who, in 40K lore, often interact with unsavory types (like the criminals you play in Darktide) and *gasp* even aliens.
Buying and selling goods and services from other species is often necessary and profitable on the outskirts of the Imperium of Man, you see. Not everybody has a continent-sized battleship made out of churches to live in, so following the whole “kill all xenos and heretics on sight” thing just isn’t practical for common folk. There are even entire cultures in the lore that have, at various points, completely peacefully integrated humans among other alien races. They just usually get hunted and/or killed by other humans if the emperor finds out. But as long as your local Inquisitor doesn’t see you vibing with a Kroot, what’s the harm, right?
This sort of flexibility is something I’d like to see more Warhammer 40,000 games and Darktide seems like a great entry point. Not to mention that developer Fatshark really knocked it out of the park with Vermintide 2 — which has still been getting new free content as recently as last week — in particular. I’m excited to play that studio’s next game regardless of its setting but focusing on the dregs of human society makes it that much more interesting to hop aboard this change in setting.
We can see how it all shakes out together when Darktide launches on officially on November 30, 2022 for PC and Xbox. Though there’s also a “pre-order beta” that will allow players to buy and play as early as November 17.