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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Darktide studio admits the state of the game means promised features are being ‘pushed back’

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Fatshark’s Warhammer 40,000: Darktide launched in early access in November 2022 and, despite being a pretty good game as it stands, is far from complete. To the extent that a lot of players have lost patience pretty quickly, and the Steam reviews are now mostly negatives that all complain about the same thing: This game doesn’t just feel like it’s early access, but that it’s unfinished. Needless to say, the presence of in-game microtransactions hasn’t helped the mood.

The studio has now issued something of a holding statement alongside a laundry list of minor tweaks in a new patch, but I’m not sure how persuasive players will find it. This follows hot on the heels of an open letter from the CEO and co-founder of Fatshark which reads in part:

“[We set out] to create a highly engaging and stable game with a level of depth that keeps you playing for weeks, not hours,” writes Martin Wahlund. “We fell short of meeting those expectations. Over the next few months, our sole focus is to address the feedback that many of you have. In particular, we will focus on delivering a complete crafting system, a more rewarding progression loop, and continue to work on game stability and performance optimization.”

This means delays to some seasonal content and a suspension of the release of premium cosmetics. “We just couldn’t continue down this path, knowing that we have not addressed many feedback areas in the game today.”

The new patch note addresses the mixed reaction to this announcement (some players welcomed Wahlund’s candour and the change in direction; others said it was too little too late). Players want some sort of roadmap for the game’s future but there currently isn’t one: “we have adjusted our short term plans to allow for more work on our top priorities which mainly revolve around getting the game to where it should be,” writes CM Catfish, which is a pretty amusing handle for someone tasked with re-building community trust.

They go on to say that “certain features we hoped to have in the game by now have had to be pushed back” and promise further updates once the studio has “a more concrete plan.” It is unclear what’s being referred to here, but the Darktide fans in PCG towers are nervous that this is an oblique way of saying that crafting will be further delayed. Either way it does seem like Fatshark is currently in the middle of a big reorganisation of priorities around the game: Whether for good or ill, we’ll have to wait to find out. 

The list of bug fixes is notable less for any one tweak than the fact there are dozens and dozens of them, reflecting that this is a game where plenty have run into performance and technical issues. There’s a whole slew of adjustments that are more to do with balancing out weapons and their various effects on enemies, and the Kinetic Deflection ability will no longer make you invulnerable to certain enemies. My favourite of all is that you can no longer stop your brain from exploding: “Fixed exploit where switching weapons before exploding after a 100% peril Brain Burst would prevent you from exploding.”

Among the voluminous list of fixes are solutions to the more serious crashing problems, and Fatshark says it has fixed “numerous” instances.

Crafting has been one of the main priorities for both players and studio since the game’s release but, not to put too fine a point on it, Darktide is still a whopping technical mess, so it’s not being added anytime soon. The sad thing is that there’s a pretty great game at the heart of all this, but if the studio can’t reverse the current momentum then it may never quite reach that “highly engaging and stable” level with all the promised features. This game will be good eventually. It’s whether the players will still be there for it.

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