Warhammer 40,000: Darktide official artwork showing a Veteran and Zealot alongside the logo

[Update]: My review for Darktide is now live and, long story short, it's as rough and fascinating as the world it takes place in!

Much like its predecessor Vermintide 2, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a remarkably challenging co-op game. Getting good at it requires deftly switching between both melee and ranged combat, calmly prioritizing dangerous enemies in huge crowds and tense situations, as well as quickly adjusting to whatever curveball the AI director decides to send your way. And all of this only gets more and more complicated the higher you ramp up the difficulty setting.

Yet despite how hard things can get, Darktide is also a remarkably enjoyable game to mess around with, and one that I've already spent 50 hours on. So if you're thinking about diving in yourself, allow me to give you some handy tips and advice to help avoid the inquisitor's wrath and make those first few missions go by as smoothly as possible. Without further ado, let us begin!

Video version of this guide (~12 minutes)

1) You have a melee weapon - use it!

Every single character in Darktide wields a melee weapon, so make sure to actually use it! It doesn't matter if you're a ranged-focused Sharphooter or a Psyker - sooner or later enemies are going to swarm you and you'll need to defend yourself.

Trying to do so with a ranged weapon will generally result in you taking a large chunk of damage since most ranged weapons not only have worse dodging capabilities than their melee counterparts, but they also tend to be a lot worse at clearing out hordes when they're spread out all around you. So even if your calling in life is to snipe specials from two kilometers away, make sure you're ready to whip out your melee weapon at a moment's notice. It will save your life!

Warhammer 40k: Darktide official screenshot showing a thunder hammer

Why would you not want to swing a thunder hammer?

2) Do the safety dance

In order to stay alive in melee combat, and especially on the harder difficulty settings, you'll need to master what I like to call 'the safety dance'. The key thing here is managing the amount of enemies that are capable of attacking you at any given time, because if you can do that reliably you can be perfectly safe even when squaring off against a gigantic horde.

So how do you that? Well, it's actually quite simple to execute, though tricky to master. The basic gist of it is that you want to weave together attacks, dodges and push attacks so you keep the enemies staggered from your attacks, confused due to your movement, and dazed from your pushes. If you do this correctly you'll end up in a situation where every enemy around you is too enthralled with your performance to even consider taking a swing at your face.

Ideally you want to do all of this while moving in a sort of circular motion around the horde so you never give the enemy time to surround you, but the concept also works if you're completely pinned down. The safety dance does take a fair bit of practice to nail, however, so just keep combining attacks, dodges and push attacks until you finally find a rhythm that suits you and the weapon you're using.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide official screenshot of a Crusher overhead attack

It doesn't matter how strong they are if they never land a hit on you

3) Don't run away from your problems

Given the sheer amount of enemies Darktide likes to throw at the players, you're frequently going to find yourself in situations where your only option for survival is to run away. However, trying to simply sprint out of a group of enemies is a death sentence as the melee ones will be able to catch up to you with ease while the ranged ones will happily shoot you in the back.

Instead, you once again need to rely on the safety dance to save the day. Rather than sprinting in the opposite direction, your best bet is to dodge backwards and sidewards while fighting off any opponents that are still chasing you. Then, once the coast is clear and you're not in immediate danger, you can break into a sprint to gain distance. While this whole procedure is far slower than simply sprinting from the very start, it's also a far more reliable and safe strategy since most enemies, including the ranged ones, won't be able to land a hit on you due to all of the dodging around.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot of the safety dance in action

In the vast majority of scenarios, the safety dance will keep you alive

4) Prioritize your targets

Regardless if you're fighting in melee or shooting at enemies from a far, getting too focused on your target and ignoring the world around you is a terrible idea. I say this because once you get comfortable with the gameplay the regular progression through a map in Darktide should present you with little challenge. Instead, it's the random events like hordes, specials and bosses that will often throw everything into chaos and spell your doom.

So if you can keep an eye (and ear) open for these threats while blasting apart cultists, you will dramatically increase your win percentage. For example, if a Rager arrives as a part of a horde and your team doesn't notice him, it's entirely possible that he'll either down or seriously wound someone before being taken out. So if you can kill the Rager yourself, or even simply mark them for your specialists to dispose, you can very easily prevent a lot of unnecessary damage from happening. Repeat this sort of thing a few dozen times throughout the course of a single mission and you can end up being a massive positive multiplier for your team.

Warhammer 40k: Darktide screenshot of a psyker blasting an enemy bulwark

Psykers and Veterans are especially adept at taking out elite enemies

5) Be a specialist

Unless you've got a group of friends that like to run things their own way, a good Darktide team should always have a character focused on dealing with specials and elites, a character good at grappling with hordes, and ideally someone beefy to help plug any gaps and resurrect any fallen players before things get really out of hand. These are not rigorous roles by any means, and most players will fall somewhere in between, but having all three bases covered will definitely make things easier for everyone.

So if you want to make the push into higher difficulties, try to orient yourself towards one of these playstyles by choosing appropriate loadouts and traits for your class. The exact weapon and trait selection doesn't really matter here since you can grease even the goofiest builds with a bit of skill, but just make sure your character is actually good at something!

Warhammer 40k: Darktide screenshot of the majestic flamethrower in action

A flamethrower is, unsurprisingly, quite effective against pox-infested cultists

6) ...but also be flexible!

Due to the random nature of Darktide's matchmaking you're frequently going to be stuck in missions where one, or even multiple members of your team are not doing their job. You can either lose your mind over this and eventually the mission as well, or you can rise up to the occasion and pick up the slack.

So if your Zealots are happily roleplaying sharpshooters while letting horde upon horde wash over your team, take it upon yourself to be the frontliner. Even if your build isn't the best at it, having someone hold the ravenous tides back can easily be the difference between a close victory and a humiliating defeat. The same goes for every other scenario because even though you can't control what your team is going to do, you can definitely work around them and establish some kind of strategy for everyone to rally around.

Warhammer 40k: Darktide screenshot of the Veteran Sharpshooter in melee combat

Even a Veteran Sharpshooter will sometimes need to hold the line

7) Focus on the objectives

As I've come to learn throughout my 50+ hours with Darktide, a lot of players would prefer to fight infinite waves of enemies over simply completing the objective and finishing the mission. Because of this, I would highly recommend taking the initiative yourself and focusing on the objectives whenever possible.

Stick with your team if they're moving in the right sort of direction and help them out whenever possible, but if they aren't doing anything your best bet is to break away and get things done yourself. Most mission objectives can be handled solo, and while it's neither recommended nor wise to do so, pushing things along yourself can, in a pinch, save your entire run.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot of the objective-focused mini-game

The faster the objectives get done, the less enemies you'll have to fight

8) Don't neglect your gear

Regardless of what sort of weapons you're using, you'll want to keep upgrading them every couple of missions. Higher level items not only bring with them better stats, but higher rarity items also come with extremely handy special effects that can sometimes drastically increase the amount of damage you do. So if you want to have an easier time in your current difficulty, or even move onto a higher one, make sure to buy the strongest gear you possibly can.

Don't take this to an extreme, however, as a couple of points here and there won't make or break your run. A weapon you enjoy that's a few levels lower than a weapon you hate is a perfectly valid option despite its supposedly lower damage. Just make sure not to fall too far behind the curve and you'll be fine.

As far as weapon upgrading is concerned, I would recommend waiting with that until you reach max level. Most of the weapons you'll use during the leveling process will only be with you for a couple of hours, so it makes no sense to spend considerable amounts of resources on getting them stronger when you can save those resources and eventually use them to perfect your end-game build that will last 'forever'.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot of the Psyker in-game shop

The shop resets every 'real life' hour, so try to use that to your advantage

9) Learn how to deal with armored enemies

As you might guess just by looking at them, enemies in Darktide have different types of armor which offer different types of protection. You don't need to understand the exact numbers and formulas behind each armor type as that's kind of boring, but what you do need to know is that the tougher an enemy is, the more power you'll need to put into an attack in order to bring them down.

For example, if you try to use light melee attacks and a pistol against the heavily armored Crushers, you're not going to achieve anything at all as your attacks will simply bounce off. Meanwhile if you use heavy melee attacks from an axe against the Crusher's head, or shoot them with a high caliber weapon like the bolter, you'll be able to chew through their health regardless of their armor.

Knowing which weapon is good at what will come to you with time, though you can speed up the process by going into the training area and messing around with your favorites. Either way, the main takeaway here is to avoid using light/weak attacks against armored enemies. Instead focus on hitting them in the head, use heavy melee attacks whenever possible, and if all else fails, see if you can help the specialized anti-elite members of your team take them out by giving them a clear line of sight and killing any pesky enemies that might be looking to interrupt their shot.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot of the Veteran's bolter blasting apart a mutant

Big or small - the bolter cares not!

Closing thoughts

There you have it, nine simple tips that will hopefully make your first experience with Warhammer 40,000: Darktide a nice and pleasant one despite all the Nurgle corruption stinking up the place. That said, this is still a remarkably challenging game we're talking about, so don't be too surprised if you end up kissing the floor over and over again in your first few missions. I've spent around 600 hours in Vermintide 2 and even I've met the Emperor more times than I can count.

Getting good at Darktide is not going to be an quick or easy process, but as long as you roll with the punches and keep pushing onward, you'll definitely get there in the end! And until then, you'll at least be able to take out your frustrations with the business end of a chainsword!