I’m enjoying the unique challenge of playing Darktide with rubbish weapons and no talents

I’ve griped before that Warhammer 40,000 Darktide hides satisfying challenges behind tedious grind, but another interesting challenge is easily missed and forgotten at the opposite end of the scale. Darktide is hard when you start a new character, with weapons that barely scratch some foes and no talents to back them up. It’s a challenge unlike the official high difficulty levels, which lean towards drowning you in special enemies. So after hitting level 30 on all four classes and grinding out great gear, I’ve started a new character who’ll never learn skills or get a good gun. She’s quite bad, and that’s quite fun.

As you climb through Darktide’s formal difficulty levels, it increases challenge by doing more. More hordes, more special enemies, more modifiers that add complications like reduced visibility or extra minibosses. It’s non-stop megamurder. And that’s fun. It is fun. With my levelled-up and kitted-out wizards, I enjoy throwing myself into as tough a mission as I can stomach with random matchmade squads. Yeah the game’s murderous but so am I, armed with honed builds and hard-ground weapons that let me solo threats which would flatten a low-level squad. But I do miss the challenge you only find as a fresh-out-of-jail varlet.

Before you grow as bulletproof as a helmetless named Space Marine character and get tooled up with a sanctified arsenal that a Blood Raven would covet, Darktide is difficult with a whole other pace. You don’t face many foes at once but you can’t handle many either. Even the weakest enemies can batter through your shields in a couple blows, and a few lads with guns can outright destroy you. And it’s alarming to charge up a full melee blow then fail to kill an armoured foe whose head you’ve come to expect should be flying across the screen. You must treat every heretic as a threat, pay attention, stick together as a squad, and dodge, block, and slide about to stay alive. You must consciously fight the instincts you’ve developed on stronger characters. As much as I enjoy saving Damnation squads with clutch plays scything through a hundred-strong horde, six Ragers, five Mutants, four dogs, three Trappers, two Snipers, a Bomber, and a bonus miniboss, Darktide has a whole other type of intensity when Scab Mauler twins come strutting up and all your weapons harmlessly ding and ting against their armour.

Having bad gear creates a fun cascade of problems. Your gun has a bad damage stat so enemies take more shots to kill, so enemies get closer, and your ammo stat is bad so you need to reload more often, so enemies get closer still, and your reload stat is bad so now they’re right on top of you, so you whip out your axe which is also bad, so you’re holding on for dear life. Afterwards, you scavenge for ammo, but that bad ammo stat means a box only gives you enough bullets for a few more kills, so that’s a whole new problem for your next fight. You’re rarely comfortable.


Examining an autopistol in a Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot.


Examining an autopistol in a Warhammer 40,000: Darktide screenshot.

A like-for-like comparison of the different arsenals my two Zealots have—all the stats and perks really add up | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Fatshark

So I’ve created Caterina, a Zealot named after the patron saint of people ridiculed for their piety. She has never put any points on the talent tree and never will, blessed with only her starting flashbang grenades and the basic charge move. All of her weapons are terrible, received as the starter loadout and random victory rewards. She equips no Trinkets. She mostly runs in Uprising difficulty because I want to be challenged without burdening my team. While I certainly don’t always want to play Caterina, she’s a novel change of pace.

Embracing terrible weapons is also a way to escape Darktide’s woefully tedious loot grind. While developers Fatshark recently announced plans to reduce random grind, I still think they should rip it out. It’s refreshing to not just ignore all the grinding systems but outright bin the increasingly good rolls I’m earning. Trash only for me, thanks.

If you too fancy playing a permavarlet, I can suggest some guidelines:

  • No talent points
  • No trinkets
  • No buying weapons from any store (the Emperor shall provide)
  • No upgrading weapons (it’s impious vanity)
  • No weapons above 125 base power
  • Play as high a difficulty as you can without becoming a burden

This is only how I play, mind. I think it’s important to tailor this to your own skill and enjoyment. A little self-flagellation is always appropriate but I find this style more fun as self-discipline. If you want or need to use better weapons or a trinket, go for it. Sure, buy a rubbish roll of a desired weapon archetype if you can’t live without one. Even add a couple skill points if you desperately want a different ability (especially as a Psyker). But remember the golden rule: if you ever feel powerful, not just skillful, you need to make yourself worse.

I would like to see Darktide one day explore an official high difficulty mode aiming for this sort of challenge. I do miss my favourite weapons and I miss the different playstyles that talent trees enable. I’d love a mode which kept the sparse enemies of lower difficulties and let me use my fancy toys but scaled the heretics so I can still get bodied by one lad wearing a bin.


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