An honest chat about difficulty in Darktide

I posted this in the wrong forum, so here it is again -

This might be a long one, so buckle your seats, it would be great to hear something back from you guys and your thoughts.

First off let me just prerequisite, I love when games are made to be difficult. As a mythic raider on wow, an avid Deep Rock Galactic, Killing Floor 2 player and (most importantly) an absolute fangirl for VT2, I respect when developers aren’t afraid to make something difficult and ‘cater’ to an audience that takes pleasure into mastering a game’s mechanics to beat whatever the developers want to throw at us. However, there’s something really, really important which seems to be almost a boogieman when it comes to difficult games. To put it simply:

A game being difficult does not inherently make it a rewarding or enjoyable experience to complete it

Why is this a boogieman in hardcore gaming? It’s a two-word phrase, one we here often, it’s a phrase that can be funny to use as a comment to something completely unrelated and used ironically, like when a dad completely dominates his son in a game of backyard football. However, it’s also the most toxic phrase when trying to give critical feedback to a game in its development cycle. If you haven’t figured it out yet… well… Skill Issue.

Maybe there’s two phrases, get good is another term that gets used as a response to people who have complaints about the difficulty of a game. Sometimes I do believe this is valid, Elden Ring got a lot of negative reviews from people for it being too hard, to these people I would say, you’re wrong, but there is a catch to that. To a new player of a ‘souls’ game, the game is extremely hard (with not a lot of in game advice to direct people to learn), so I agree with them the initial experience can be jarring. This is however where my sympathies with them end, because they really aren’t asking the right questions.

The real question is, does to process of getting better at Elden Ring feel rewarding? the answer is 100% yes. Obviously, it was made that way for a reason, and as I said before, I 100% respect a developer which understands making a game a certain way means it won’t cater to everyone. Some people might not find the same enjoyment out of learning something to that level when they are other games out there which you could get equal amounts of enjoyment out of without there being any necessary challenge (animal crossing gang where you at?). However, to those who do fit under the category, learning the games mechanics, while also using trial and error & third party resources to understand specific problems and encounters is enjoyable. If the sole reason you completing an encounter is the direct result of you being better than what the game throws at you, then the games difficulty should be praised.

Now I’ve listed a great example of how difficulty benefits a game, I’m not going to give you a short example of a game(s) that has a very, very poor difficulty setting.

Total War: I love total war, but I think anyone who plays total war will agree that how CA deals with difficulty is incredibly bland and unrewarding. Higher difficulties, in practicality, allow the AI to cheat in order to have the upper hand on you. AI factions receive more income, less upkeep costs on units, sometimes faster replenishment rates and inflated unit statistics in order to beat you, the game does not ‘get harder’ for you to beat it, the AI does not get smarter, the challenge does not get bigger or different. the scenarios are the exact same, the game needs to cheat itself in order to beat you.

God of War: Hear me out, God of war 4 & Ragnarök are both GOTY’s for me, however it’s way of implementing difficulty is poor, the core gameplay of these games is absolutely fantastic. I’m still waiting on Ragnarök for PC, so I can’t comment on that too much. But the difficulty settings on that game meant purely that the enemies did more damage and have more health, to the best of my knowledge, bosses did not introduce new mechanics or abilities for the player to master. if you’ve beaten a boss with very little effort on the normal difficulty, the scenario doesn’t get harder the higher up the difficulty setting, it just gets longer. Many (many) games fall into this category; I just used a current example of a truly great game just to highlight how our perception of difficulty has been warped over the years.

Now, regarding Darktide.

I’m leaving bugs, crashes, performance, UI, Balance and all of this out of it as much as possible, since most of these (which are very valid critiques) are fixable in the short term ‘mostly’, however what we are discussing now are Moreso to do with game design which might need some serious revisioning.

**In short, Darktide’s hardest difficulties do not make the game more enjoyable for a player who wants a harder experience. **

Why is that? I’ll list them off and go into them in a bit more detail on each section, obviously, i have other things to do with my life then play Darktide, I’ve only been able to get the Psyker to 30 and the Veteran to 13 (which is still, more than most… maybe I don’t have a life?) any feedback regarding the other classes in the comment section would be great, or even corrections if needed. I also can’t remember the names of all the elites and enemies off the top of my head, sorry in advance.

Why Darktide’s harder difficulties are harming the player experience:

  1. They don’t reward player proficiency.
  2. It’s easier to avoid problems than to combat them.
  3. Promotes a passive, reserved playstyle.
  4. Much of the damage in practicality unavoidable.
  5. Much of the damage taken feels like you were forced/tricked into taking it.

Many of these sections interconnect with each other, or one might be the symptom of another, so it’s very hard to put these thoughts into words, so I’m going to give you a scenario in two different difficulty settings that I know that myself and others have been in many times that highlights these issues.

Difficulty 2: You are on an ammo storage mission with a group of your friends, it’s been (for the most part) a fun hack and slash to the end, there were points where you got pinged by a sniper from nowhere that one time which made it a bit more spicy, there was also that gunner on top of the stairs just out of sight pinning you down, you can’t get a good shot on due to the horde, you and another one of your team push through, take a fair bit of damage from the ranged troops but finally get a good angle to destroy them all, it wasn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it was fun. You get to the final area to collect the ammo crates, you decide 2 of you will work on moving the crates, 2 of you will protect them, you’re standing next to your friend body blocking him for dear life, you probably didn’t need to, but it was fun, your other friend (who was meant to be body blocking too) was going around killing elites on his own for some fun. you finish the mission, it wasn’t difficult, but you enjoyed it.

Difficulty 4/5: You are on an ammo storage mission with a group of friends, it’s taken way longer than it probably should of, but you had to take the missions very ‘methodically’ otherwise you physically wouldn’t have the ammo, health or even cover to deal with the gunner packs waiting for you alongside a potential horde spawning. You get halfway through the mission and enter a long hallway with a lot of cover at the enemies end for them to hide behind, but besides the pillars at the sides of the tunnel, you and your friends are mostly in the open, all of you want to charge the distance down, but you understand that the amount of ranged fire there will absolutely delete you, and you don’t have an ogryn with a shield. Instead, you all stand vaguely behind one of, or multiple of said pillars, and have the psyker keeping dodging out of cover, hopefully locking on to an annoying elite, dodging back into cover and brain bursting it, alongside the veteran throwing grenades and shooting potshots at the grunts to trim them down. You spend much longer than you would of liked there, but it had to be done. You get to the last area and you proceed to go to the containers to get the ammo, you get into the container, however you see 2 red lines looking to absolutely destroy you, you want to dodge in and out of the container to hope your brain blast targets the sniper, but it keeps targeting the grunts next to it, you need to go outside of it for a better shot, you go outside of it but you start to get gunned down by 2 heavy gunners suppressing you. you have no choice but to stay in the container, you stay there killing hordes and waiting for the sniper/gunners run around to get a good shot on you, which also gives you a shot on them, grenade elites start thowing grenades into the container, so you can’t stay in there, you can’t get out of there, you all die. You could have played it better perhaps, but you feel more frustrated due to the fact it was such a ballache to get there, only to be beaten by poor rng.

So what’s the difference between these 2 scenarios? We’ll go through our original criteria again

  1. despite the fact you are obviously good enough to dodge and block incoming attacks, it doesn’t mean much when elites spawn in areas where you cannot reach, and do not have the means to even attack, while they can attack you. Not to mention that ‘easier’ enemies such as ranged grunts pose a much greater threat then most elites.

  2. When encountering a harder area, the best tactic for harder difficulties is usually the ‘mechanically easiest’. don’t push, don’t take risks, stand behind cover and hope you get a few good shots in, the simplest approach is the best, this does not reward players with more game knowledge.

  3. Again, you are better off taking one pack at a time, it’s slow, the pacing doesn’t reflect the fast nature of the actual combat system. Again, making the game ‘easier’ by purely taking it easier, not by challenging yourself to do better.

  4. Sniper shots are avoidable, normal ranged fire is avoidable, it’s not avoidable when you are easily suppressed by the ranged grunts and a heavy gunner making your movement speed zero.

  5. “lets go in here to not get shot at” proceeds to get their ass roasted by a flame thrower and grenade.

this is probably the weaker section when talking about game difficulty as a whole, especially when not comparing it to VT2, in hindsight, maybe it was a better idea doing that in the first place, but this has taken a long time to write and its also because quite the ballache. What do i personally think needs to change immediately for harder difficulties to be more skill expressive?

  • Ranged grunts need to do way less damage &/or not attribute to suppression**
  • Suppression (and other negative character effects) need to be reduced or have a cap on the duration you can be suppressed for**
  • Elite spawns need to be less randomized and placed better, having a sniper on one end and 2 heavy gunners making sure you can’t move to combat any of them isn’t difficult or fun, it’s a chore more than a challenge.**

I am more than happy being punished by a missed dodge or poor placement, i am not happy being forced into making a choice that either removes any skill expression and makes me have to ‘cheese’ a scenario, or one which forces me into one choice, then punishes me for spawning something to punish the place I was just put in.


wrong forum (good post tho)

I read all this and as someone who already enjoys playing this game on damnation endless horde using zealot im gonna have to disagree with you on a few things.
First is when you said there is damage that is practically unavoidable. That is just not true. One of the best things about this game is your skill to understand your surroundings completely as well as a master of the mechanics and some good weapons allows you if played perfectly to avoid all damage and kill all enemies. As zealot i always go in hard and destroy the biggest threats to my team and i take little to no damage doing it. Sliding under bullets gives such a great feeling when weaving through different parts of the map to reach enemies. Its just so satisfying and it has an even higher skillcap then vermintide 2. I also dont agree that it promotes a passive playstyle. The harder the difficulty the more important it is to get into the thick of the enemies and allow my team to push forward.
Honestly im hoping that in the future there will be ways to even increase the difficulty further


is it the wrong forum? do you think i should put it into another one also?

this is the vermintide 2 part of the forum ^^

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I mean, a lot of that from what i understand from friends and creators is that zealot is by far the best class in the game, i do feel like that may be a reason why. you might have the luxury to charge in a do what you want. others not so much, but again i can’t comment much as i haven’t played it myself.

I want the game to be difficult, what is making it difficult isn’t making the game fun. You play a tide game to get up close and personal with the enemy, smash heads open, not hide in a corner taking potshots

big oopsie on my part.

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Yea currently zealot feels great but i also know veteran is really good at pumping out huge damage. Just 2 diff playstyles. Psyker for me feels too slow paced in this fast paced game but ive never played it and i do enjoy having a good psyker who can pop heads around me. Its possible you just dont have good balanced teams either it helps a lot

They’re definitely going to have to do some balancing. It looks like with 1.0.8 Difficulty 2 missions have been turned down but Difficulty 3 seems to be similar to how they were prepatch.

Skill issue is a bit of a meme. But when people write a post this constructive I don’t think that’s a fair criticism. Thanks for adding the feedback.


Veteran is either way too good in ranged scenarios or else the other classes are too bad. I’ve never had an issue with the ranged combat (even with elites and specials spawning among’st them), but I’ve also only played veteran and I must admit that having 2x the toughness, ranged damage reduction, volley fire and more ammo makes him special tailored for encounters like this. On heresy and damnation, I constantly hear my teammates complaining about the ranged combat, whereas I feel it’s perfectly balanced. I think they need to tune suppression on Ogryn and Zealot, making them more capable of charging in maybe? But then again they both have a special that help them do that.

I get that each class “fills a role” but it feels bad that only veterans are comfortable with ranged combat and the rest of the classes are just pinned down.


Great post. As a veteran main, I’m inclined to agree with Buffe above me - grenade spam, good sniping ability and increased toughness/toughness regen make some of the challenges you’ve listed less challenging, not simple though.

The general points you’ve made regarding the amount of ranged fire are solid though - it very much feels like difficulty 5 is designed only for pre-made groups with a team comp set up for specific scenarios. Difficulty 4 I’ve been able to work through fairly comfortably in random groups, as long as everyone plays smart and contributes well, but 5 feels excessive. IMO, random groups of well geared, decently skilled players should be able to clear 5’s with smart play, in a decent time (say 30-40 mins). Obviously, premade groups with comms are going to have a better time (shoutout to the VOIP btw - really solid and works well) - but it shouldnt feel unachievable in random groups.

For me, replacing all the melee hordes with gunners is a step too far - I would like to see a better mix of melee and ranged to enable the primary melee classes to feel like they have something to contribute while the psykers and vets are popping elites at range

I think a big issue the game has in regards to difficulty is that this is not the type of game where you can “play how you want” at higher difficulties. Hell, I’d say this is even true at malice. I’ve noticed it a lot. Where I’ll see people going mainly veterans and they’re all a spec where they prefer ranged single target high damage build (sniper). Or the ogryns in the match are all ranged. Honestly to do really well at higher difficulties, you need an even spread of the following roles

  1. Horde/CC management - to suppressor and take care of the hordes.
  2. Anti-Specialist - large single target damage, mainly ranged, to take out specialists. Especially ones like trapper, sniper, flame, and bomber. Who can roll up on your quick and screw up your whole team. This person needs to be on constant look out for them and prioritize them. Even if they’re taking damage from a pox (leave that to the other teammates to take care of, assuming you’re near them).
  3. Front liner - Someone to take the pressure of the ranged players. Especially the anti specialists. This can sorta fit into #1 at times, but in general you want to make sure your ranged teammates can do their job.

Those are the three major roles and people need to realize what their role is and prioritize it. Many times people aren’t doing their job or fighting over the same job. Which causes the whole team to fail. They can’t be selfish either. I.E a psyker and sharpshooter fighting over the same specialist, for example. I don’t bother, at least not yet, with rank #4 or above with randoms. Because many times people don’t organize well. Nevermind that you have no idea what kind of traits people are going with and how that will impact things.


When you get to the higher difficulties the enemies have too much health. It feels like the enemies are playing a game of gotcha with you where if they catch you out of position just once you’re done, but if you catch them out in the open it makes no difference, because they just have too much health to be mowed down.


The game will go through multiple balance passes. The range aspect is making it more tricky for Fatshark to balance it out. I still remember how controversial was the introduction of mob archers to Vermintide 2.

Atm it looks like you and your friends are somewhere at difficulty level 3 and that is absolutely fine.

I would agree with this also, but that makes the case then that allowing 2 or more of the same class was a big misstep, or at the very least, not making a lobby and not having the option to make it one class only in the match.

This is why i believe this games ‘difficulty’ isn’t good, all it does is enforce a hard meta, and anything which could be skill expressive is better off replaced with playing more reserved and ‘cheesy’


Thats funny because i have completed countless (okay not countless but you know what i mean) difficulty 4’s and a handful of 5’s

Again, this is one of the issues, it’s averting valid critic by saying someone isn’t good at the game and doesn’t understand.

I understand very well, it could be subjective (however from what I’ve heard, it’s quite a general consensus), but i understand quite well the jump in difficulty, why & how to best deal with it. the point is said strategies to beat said difficulties aren’t enjoyable player experiences.

It feels much better to blow some brains up, then charge in with a Chainsword and swing with the emperor’s fury and then dodge and weave like a boxer. It’s not fun to sit in a corner potshotting people from afar in order to not die.


I think this also ties into the complaints people have about veteran. Everyone says that class is overpowered. It’s “too good” at multiple roles. To me? It feels right. It feels like that’s how all classes should feel. Veterans an amazing class to play when you’re worried about the negativity that comes with poor team compositions. If you pug team isn’t running the meta, like you said, you can sorta fill whatever role is missing to help alleviate that issue.

Other classes, especially ogryn and zealot, can have a much harder time at doing that. To me that’s what I think they need to approach. How can they help alleviate the issue of versatility with the other classes. Cause right now I think veteran “feels” the best out of all of them. Like it was made for this game. While the others feel a bit shoehorned into roles that don’t also feel smooth in gameplay. Like playing ogryn without a shield feels absolutely horrible

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While elite and armor density mobs or 5 are indeed a problem, I believe that most of that would be solved by a decent balance pass. As it stands right now Ogryn and Zealot are vere niche when it comes to 5.

Regarding the argument of ranged, I think that’s somewhat of a fallacy coming from Vermintide 2. The fact that you can’t take them head on is someting that goes against everything we’ve learned in countless Cataclysm runs in the Chaos Wastes: Delete everything as fast as you can before getting swamped.
As it stands the ranged platoons force you to slow and bunker down, I agree. But more often than not the game provides you with 1-2 sometimes even more flanking routes. Once a mob of ranged units has locked on to a group it will take a lot for them to turn, this can be very much abused by high mobility characters like Zealot. It’s something I had to forcefully learn by failing a lot of Damnation runs. Crowd control seemingly takes a much rather role here than it ever did in Vermintide

Which is why I think that the difficulty issue will settle in a few days. I mean a week ago my friends and I fought malice tooth and nail, and now we’re just zoning out and barely noticing anything attacking us, just because map knowledge, playstyle and everything else is slowly adjusting to Darktide’s more ranged focused game.

On the point of absolute bullsht special spawns I kinda agree, but that’s exactly what I like about the hardest difficulty. For some reason level 5 runs sometimes manage to become like a miniature randomized version of Fortunes of War on Cataclysm which is amazing, both in it’s bonkers ramp up in difficulty but also when overcoming a particularily grueling section.
In the end it’s what has gotten me to dump 800 hours into Vermintide 2: Seeing what kind of bullsht the AI director will throw at me and how I can overcome it.

The only point I agree with in that regard is the current railroading into certain ‘meta’ builds. Given the inconsistency of many guns and melee weapons and the lack of overall balance between classes, it’s impossible to reliably enjoy 5 without abusing some kind of build. I for one can’t use anything other than tac-axe / dagger build as Zealot, as the currently bugged bleed is the only thing allowing me to stay alive in many ranged to melee encounters. That’s something I hope the address very short term as it definitely sucks out the fun of higher difficulties.

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I think you took this slightly too personally.

Yes, 4th and 5th difficulty changes how you play Tide games. Darktide has new issues to consider as there are many ranged enemies and the temp “health” mechanics was changed. As I wrote before this is early days and the game will have multiple balance passes.

I agree that the whole hug a corner whilst picking off ranged enemies “meta” should go. Early days closed beta psyker gameplay was basically brain bursting from around corners. I don’t think this makes for fun gameplay.

There are a lot of mechanics in which one bypasses enemy gunfire.

Sometimes you have to hunker down and take pot shots before you can execute these maneuvers. I notice this only happens when my team is A. all bots or B. all bots metaphorically. A good squad will almost never be pinned down for every engage. In fact, i take that happening as a red flag that we probably wont win the game.

If the threat of impending ranged doom didnt exist then there would be no excitement in running out in the open, chasing a bomber or trapper or playing aggressively. There would be no excitement in turning a corner.

What you’re complaining about is people “cheesing” the game to win while you’re cheesing your perspective to excuse your lack of godhood.

You’ve wasted a lot of effort making excuses, now go out there and just enjoy yourself. If you cant play aggro on higher difficulties go play the lower ones and see if thats more fun. I doubt it will be.

im a psyker main who is happily popping heads around corners until i can lightning staff and dagger dash in. maybe you should try zealot or ogryn and try to make that space to skip the boring gameplay you’re talking about.

“… you have no choice but to stay in the container, you stay there killing hordes and waiting for the sniper/gunners run around to get a good shot on you, which also gives you a shot on them, grenade elites start thowing grenades into the container, so you can’t stay in there, you can’t get out of there, you all die. You could have played it better perhaps, but you feel more frustrated due to the fact it was such a ballache to get there, only to be beaten by poor rng.…” and then “…don’t push, don’t take risks, stand behind cover and hope you get a few good shots in, the simplest approach is the best, this does not reward players…” A note on those glaring contradictions - be more creative. You must be more preemptive and creative in your approach. Change it up, take risks, throw the game if you have to - learn how to survive and not be scared.

Sometimes luck gets all of us, its a game thats how it goes. Don’t take it personally.