Best Ongoing Game 2023: Warhammer 40,000 – Darktide

PC Gamer’s Best Ongoing Game award celebrates an older game that stood out in 2022 through updates, new content or support. This year, we’re honouring Fatshark’s co-op FPS Darktide, which overcame last year’s rough launch through continued updates. This year, it became the game it always promised to be. For more awards, check out our Game of the Year 2023 hub.

Robert Jones, Print Editor: Even knowing Fatshark’s heritage in needing to seriously keep developing its games after release, I was still absolutely mad as hell when Warhammer 40,000: Darktide launched. The game was not only so janky and broken that, one time, it took me seven crashes with restarts to finish a single run, but it also shipped with key chunks of the game missing. It wasn’t just me who was spitting with rage, either, with thousands of reviews on Steam at launch leading to the game getting a ‘Mostly Negative’ badge of shame.

Despite this, though, I could see the potential for the game and noted that at the time. When it worked I had a blast. A year later and Darktide, while still recognisably the same game, has gone through a vast amount of update patches that have brought the game to the level it should have been at launch. And crucially, despite a rocky first year, the game and community still very much feel alive, and more upgrades are incoming from Fatshark, too. This is a game that is absolutely ongoing in the right direction, something evidenced by recent Steam reviews of Darktide now leading to a ‘Very Positive’ badge of honour.

Sean Martin, Guides Writer: It was hard not to be initially disappointed by Darktide, especially when it came with such a strong foundation of gameplay and a unique perspective among most 40K games in terms of highlighting the human characters in the setting. A game set in a hive world co-authored by Dan Abnett sounds like an absolute dream to me, so it’s a real shame that it’s taken so long for Darktide to get to a good place. But it is in a good place. Fatshark has slowly but surely made good on its quality of life promises, plus the class overhauls add far more variation to playstyle. Hopefully now the game is stable, it can start fulfilling the narrative promise of Atoma Prime and the setting’s potential.

Robin Valentine, Senior Editor: The thing about Darktide is, the core of it has always been good. The shooting is explosive and loud, the atmosphere is perfectly grimdark, and the music finds a wonderful new sound for the Warhammer 40K universe. It’s always just been the bits and pieces around that that haven’t worked—from progression systems to crafting to stability. The more Fatshark polish and refine those elements—and bless them, they have been doing that pretty non-stop since the game’s rocky launch—the more that brilliant core shines. Now I take every new patch as just an excuse to dive back into blasting heretics.

(Image credit: Fatshark)

Most recently, the Traitor Curse updates have felt like the team finally getting a chance to take a little time away from fiddling with mechanics to just add some new fun stuff. The new maps and missions are wonderfully exciting and atmospheric, the stim consumables (basically space magic potions) add a compelling new layer of resource management, and roaming bosses that can ambush you wherever and whenever in the middle of other missions make for some brilliantly tense encounters. It feels like a taster of how much this game could be built on in the years to come, and I’m really excited to see what comes next.

Sean Martin: One of the best things about the Traitor Curse for me is that Fatshark is clearly trying to establish a proper set of antagonists, something which I noted a lack of in my Darktide review and was sorely missing in comparison to the second Vermintide game. The whole setup of the Moebian 6th is great—a regiment of Imperial Guard corrupted on a far off world who return home to liberate the hive from the Imperium’s yoke. The Karnak Twin bosses; Chaos warlords who can ambush you as Robin mentions above, really showcase the potential of having a defined axis of evil opposing you.  

Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: My Ogryn now has the choice between a cluster grenade that turns an entire mob into giblets, or a replenishing rock that can pulp single target skulls. Choo-Choo very happy.

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