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Patch 13 is how Darktide should have been at launch

The overhauled Darktide character progression system, coming in Patch 13 for Fatshark’s four player co-op Warhammer 40k shooter, brings build freedom.

Darktide characters - a Psyker wields psychic powers against a heretical Ogryn

Patch 13 for Darktide, Fatshark’s four-player co-op FPS set in the Warhammer 40k universe, releases on October 4 in most territories, and Wargamer was lucky enough to test it early at a press preview. We got to mess around with the revised Darktide character progression system, tuning up the Ogryn into a brick-yeeting walking barndoor.

Warhammer 40k Darktide launched on November 30 2022 to mixed reception. Fatshark spent years perfecting its horde-stomping co-op gameplay in the Warhammer Vermintide series, and for the most part Darktide translated that formula into a Warhammer 40k videogame successfully. But the launch version of Darktide had more bugs than a planet under siege by the Tyranids, and the endgame for long-term players simply wasn’t there.

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Over the course of twelve patches Fatshark has purged bugs and tinkered with features, adding extra missions, revising the gear crafting system, adding high-end challenges for end-game players, and extra twists. Patch 13 overhauls Darktide’s anaemic character progression system.

Where the launch version of Darktide gave your character a pick of three Talents every five levels, patch 13 lets you pick from an expansive, multi-track tree at every level. You can respec at any time, with the option to save up to five loadouts per character, letting you quickly switch between sets of talents, equipment, and cosmetics.

The many options in each class’s Talent tree are divided into paths that lean more into tank, damage-dealing, or crowd-control options. These are linked, letting you mix and match, with very few nodes locking out other options. Previously fixed class features, like a character’s Blitz  grenade or Combat ability, now have three options at different nodes on the progression tree.

For the preview we were provided with level 30 characters, and set loose to respec our characters. I took the Ogryn, a barn-door sized abhuman not known for subtlety – in the launch version of Darktide, his Blitz lobs an entire box of explosives into an enemy’s face.

The option to yeet a crate of explosives is gone, but the alternatives are great. I first tried out the super frag grenade, which has a laughably enormous area of effect, and then the brick, which is… well, it’s a brick. If that doesn’t sound very intimidating, reflect that it’s a brick being thrown someone the size of a baby elephant. And unlike grenades, bricks are pretty easy to find – rather than use ammo, the attack is on a cooldown.

I can’t describe which Talent tree nodes I picked for my two builds, but I was able to make two Ogryns who played very differently. The first simply shot lots of bullets and made things go bang, while the second one had so much stamina and toughness that once he raised his riot shield, he was effectively a locked door the other players could hide behind.

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Darktide launches on XBox Series S and X October 4, and players who waited are being rewarded with a substantially more evolved build than the PC launch version. The launch brings with it crossplay, connecting players on XBox, Steam, and Games for Windows into shared lobbies. During the preview presentation, Fatshark intimated that some of the optimisation required to get the game up and running on the XBox Series S will make its way back into the PC build.

Will this be enough to tempt back players put off by Darktide’s rough launch? I’ve always thought that Darktide had a rock solid gameplay loop, obscured by bugs, and with limited scope for player self-expression thanks to its ropey progression and loot systems. With almost a year of iteration many problems have been scraped away, while underdeveloped systems have been iterated on. My time with Patch 13 was great fun – but admittedly very limited.

Already a fan of Darktide? Wargamer heartily recommends you check out this interview with the fan creators of a Darktide Ogryn audio drama, because the Ogryn is a precious baby who everyone should love. If you’re more interested in seeing the Warhammer 40k universe in this person than first, we’re tracking the Space Marine 2 release date, and you can find out everything that’s been revealed so far in our Space Marine 2 walkthrough guides.