Swedish developer Fatshark has worked on a number of projects since 2007, ranging from contract work to entirely self-published endeavors. It really hit its stride with the Vermintide series, set in the medieval fantasy era of Games Workshops’ popular Warhammer franchise of tabletop games. Now it is venturing into the grimdark, dystopian Age of the Imperium with Warhammer 40K: Darktide, which hosted a closed beta for the co-op shooter from October 14 to 16. The beta offered a good taste of Darktide‘s riff on the popular Left 4 Dead-style shooter, but also its roleplaying potential through character creation.

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Left 4 Dead is one of Valve’s seminal franchises, and no shortage of developers have attempted to create their own cooperative first-person survival shooters in its wake. Just a few Left 4 Dead-inspired shooters released in the last few years include Cold Iron’s Aliens: Fireteam Elite and Turtle Rock’s Back 4 Blood, meanwhile Arkane prepares to jump into the ring with 2023’s Redfall. Warhammer 40K: Darktide naturally benefits from building upon its source material’s lore, but fans may become especially attached to the idea of adding their own character into that lore through Fatshark’s background-generation options.

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Building a Reject in Warhammer 40K: Darktide

In the aforementioned titles Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood, and Redfall, players pick between a handful of characters. Left 4 Dead makes this a purely aesthetic choice; Bill and Zoey are functionally the same, and this can be said with Left 4 Dead 2 characters too. Redfall‘s cast of characters take a more class-based approach with unique abilities inherent to each survivor, like Layla Ellison having telekinetic powers. However, in all cases the player is embodying a pre-determined personality, for example taking Rochelle through her journey to the next safe room.

Warhammer 40K: Darktide takes a more interesting approach by opening with a simple character creator that offers some unexpected depth. There are four classes currently available: the Psyker, Zealot, Veteran, and Ogryn, though according to an October 14 Steam update post from Fatshark, “It is safe to say that we aim to release one new class every quarter.” Each has access to different weapons and skills, not unlike Ghost Ship Games’ Deep Rock Galactic, but also different backgrounds, personality traits, and cosmetic customizations.

After selecting a class, players first choose their character’s home world – with options including the oceanic Incron, the mining planet Mornax, or more populous and religious worlds like Crucis. Every planet offers a unique range of childhood backgrounds that culminate in a “defining moment” for the character, and once that is set players are able to pick out their appearance and one of a few overarching personalities. Only then do they decide why they’ve been sentenced to combat demonic threats like Nurgle in the Hive city of Tertium.

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Warhammer 40K: Darktide’s Characters Are More of a Blank Slate

The backstories and personalities selected for any given character in Warhammer 40K: Darktide aren’t just flavor. Characters from certain planets have access to exclusive customization options like eye color, for example, and developer Fatshark promises there will be thousands of voice lines in Darktide that make any combination of classes and personalities bounce off one another in distinct ways. This includes reactions to enemies that clearly pull from the same philosophy as Left 4 Dead‘s Special Infected: snipers who hit powerful shots from afar, kamakazi soldiers who run into the front lines, trappers who catch people in an electric net, and so on.

As players complete missions and rise through the ranks, they’ll be able to further differentiate their characters by purchasing weapons with various stat spreads. Fatshark has also discussed the game’s live-service story that takes cues from Destiny 2, giving players more characters, weapons, and narrative beats to return for – and potentially develop their Warhammer 40K: Darktide OC as they go, seeing how they’d react to any given circumstance.

That’s not to mention the potential for players to embody their characters in gameplay. Where Left 4 Dead‘s survivors are identical, Darktide‘s classes each have specialties that lend themselves to playing the field in different ways. People could even go so far as to assume their character’s former betrayal left them unwilling to engage with teammates, or that their dimwitted Ogryn might miss something important. Even if these choices might be detrimental to survivability, it feels more open for players to make that decision than in Valve’s co-op shooters where little changes beyond who says what line. Ultimately, this roleplaying might give Darktide an edge in this genre.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide releases on November 30, 2022, for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

MORE: Every New Warhammer 40,000 Game Revealed During the Warhammer Skulls Showcase

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