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Friday, April 12, 2024

Fatshark pauses Darktide content updates as it apologizes for botched launch

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Warhammer 40,000: Darktide developer Fatshark has issued an “open letter” to players apologizing for the state of the game and announcing that it will delay the launch of future content updates, and the Xbox Series X/S release, in order to focus on improving the game’s underlying systems and performance.

We gave Darktide an 80% in our December 2022 review, calling it “the best iteration of Fatshark’s co-op formula so far.” But we also noted the fact, as good as the core gameplay is, Darktide still needed work: The crafting system hadn’t been fully implemented, and some players were reporting serious stability and performance problems.

“Sure, you can upgrade weapons, but when that’s all you can do it really limits your buildcrafting potential, and so too your ability to push into the highest difficulty content,” reviewer Sean Martin wrote. 

“For some, difficulty is a progression in itself as they strive to get better at the game, but buildcrafting belongs hand-in-hand with that progression, and without needing to strive for your own specific upgrade goals or materials, once you get to trust level 30, you quickly run out of stuff to do.”

Similar complaints are reflected in Steam user reviews, nearly 8,400 of which have been posted in the past 30 days, most of them negative. The situation is especially ugly in comparison to the very positive response received by Fatshark’s previous game, the co-op shooter Warhammer: Vermintide 2

A few choice comments:

  • How can a game be released with so much UX lacking? Story (if you can call it that) is non-existent, half of the options for crafting is not implemented yet (at the time of writing this review), item progression is time-gated and most of the cool cosmetics are locked behind a real money shop. Did I pay full price for a freemium monetization model most mobile gacha games use?
  • Let me make it clear – the core gameplay is really fun when the game works. Combat is meaty and visceral and it feels amazing to play with your friends. That said… nothing in this game is finished or works right and the developers are extremely dishonest and keep lying to the community constantly.
  • I absolutely can’t recommend this game in its current state. It has the potential to be a very very good game but the devs are incompetent so I wouldn’t expect any sort of major improvements for a while.
  • Really fun when it works, and as long as you are ok with it being VERY barebones. But my game has crashed consistently since December. It really feels bad when you are halfway through a map only to have the game freeze, then close. I love playing this game, but I literally cannot.
  • The gameplay is fine and would even be great if performance wasn’t horrible. Everything else about this game is just a poorly thought out mess.
  • It’s missing the “Early Access” tag lol

It’s worth noting that many of the negative reviews have hundreds of hours of gameplay on record, which I always find a bit suspect. But that dichotomy reflects a widely held opinion on the state of the game that traces right back to our review: There’s real potential but it needs work, and Fatshark has not done a good job of communicating with its players.

Fatshark acknowledged in today’s update that it “fell short of meeting [player] expectations.”

“Over the next few months, our sole focus is to address the feedback that many of you have [provided],” Fatshark said. “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 also means that we will delay our seasonal content rollout and the Xbox Series X-S launch. We will also suspend the upcoming releases of premium cosmetics. We just couldn’t continue down this path, knowing that we have not addressed many feedback areas in the game today.”

Response to the message in Steam comments is mixed: Some users welcome the apparent change in direction, others say it’s too late to make a difference, and of course the “we’ll believe it when we see it” contingent is well represented too. 

The one upside for Fatshark is that for now, Darktide is maintaining decent player numbers: According to Steam Charts, there are currently more than 7,100 people playing. The less-rosy counterpoint, though, is that the player count isn’t that much higher than the five-year-old Vermintide 2, which currently boasts nearly 5,800 players.

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