Progression - A Treatise by Deisu

Good afternoon. I shall keep introductions short. I work as a Technical Product Manager in enterprise. I say this in case it adds some weight to what I write, but I believe what I have written stands on its own merits. I’ve played some 60 something hours of open beta and I had around 10-20 in closed beta.

Progression in this game is good, but not great. One of my very first impressions was that there were a lot of weapons to choose from and that they were trying to tell me some kind of story. But I was never exactly sure what that equipment was trying to tell me. Is a lasgun better than an autogun? Did I gain access to this equipment because I am more trusted or because I got lucky? This soupy approach fails to ingrain in the player the notion that they are scum and their gear is going to be limited until they stop being scum. This is a missed opportunity. I intend to fix it herein.

The Weapon Exchange:

This is currently the weakest part of the environmental story telling and progression. Weapons in the shop are randomized entirely. Whether something has been gated to you as a consequence of luck, trust rank or level is unclear.

Proposed resolution:
Make the shop display 1+ of each weapon pattern available to the player at all times. Randomly cycle the number of each weapon pattern and the stats/bonuses for each weapon pattern every 60 minutes. This preserves the randomization, but will create a growing inventory selection for the player that will feel far better and explain the character’s growth through the environmental medium of gear availability.

The weapons themselves obviously tell a story and I want to elucidate what that seems like it should have been and how to tell it better. We even have a good exemplar in the Ogryn. The Ogryn starts with scrap pipe with some bolted on trash. Then he shortly thereafter gets a proper knife. Eventually a sophisticated club and shield. His weapons start as a grenade launcher, no wait this is a huge shotgun and it looks scrapped together. Then he gets a grenade launcher. Even a grenade launcher fist or a heavy stubber. This is a great arch of play that explains the rise of a character directly by the equipment they have access to. The same can and should be done for the other classes. Weapons and their balance and their place in the player’s story arch is key to the message that they are scum that is leveling up. Taking the fluff of the 40k setting and the reality of current weapon balancing into account (and proposing no changes to the balancing of the weapons to limit scope of effort) I propose the following changes to melee weapon unlock levels:

Melee Weapons:

melee weapons can be broken into three rough categories: Mundane, Special, Power.

Such weapons proliferate freely in the imperium of man and any
random scum might grab a sharpened piece of metal to swing at their enemies. Players using mundane weapons should instinctually understand on first sight of a boss with a big power weapon or a mauler with a chain axe that they are decidedly NOT equipped with the same gear these bad guys have. Naturally they might start to wonder if THEY can get a chain axe. Fortunately for them for now the mundane weapons are reliable, dependable and relatable, even if you’ve never heard of 40k.
Unlock: These weapons should focus on the class default at level 1-2 and grow to a full suite of mundane options by level 8. The duelist sword should be the last unlock for any class it is allowed to. For that I’m so cool feel.

Players should have these weapons to look forwards to and be excited about. They also are key to that moment where a player begins to feel more powerful.

  1. Chain Weapons: are quite common in the imperium but they are not freely available to just anyone. They are status symbols for officers and clergy. They represent the emperors rath.
    *Unlock:*Chain weapons should begin to show up around level 10. The chain sword and chain axe should show up at 10 and 12 respectively. The Eviscerator at 15.

  2. Force Swords: are rare things indeed and only made for psykers. Yet for the sake of gameplay they should definitely continue to come before the staffs begin to unlock to help cement the psyker in the magic mentality.
    Unlock: I propose between 8 and 10 for unlocking these.

This will give players plenty of time to use these weapons before finally upgrading to power weapons as the bow to tie on their experience. Personally I barely got to use my chain weapons before unlocking a power weapon and by that point there was no reason to go backwards.

Power Weapons: Power weapons are rare, craftsman weapons. Often bespoke, created not just as weapons of war but also as symbols of the imperiums might and martial excellence. The power sword is a revered weapon, often centuries or millenia old. The power sword is also easily the best weapon in the game.
Unlock: The thunder hammer should unlock around level 25 and the power sword at level 30. The two handed power sword at the same time. The shock maul at 20.

Ranged Weapons

Guns are not quite as easily broken into categories but there is plenty of fluff and balance to rely on. Here are my archetypal proposals.

  1. Autoguns are ubiquitous and commonly given to PDF troops where lasguns are not available. Used by gangers and scum for their commonality and cheapness of manufacture, they are the first thing a player should encounter. They also look, sound and feel like guns a player not familiar with the 40K Universe will be familiar with. Thus ushering them into this new world. Stubbers and Autopistols should be the first thing the player is equipped with. It is the lowest rung on the ladder, even if it still has its utility in mid levels.
    *Unlock:*These should all be available between levels 1 and 5.

  2. Lasguns may be ubuiquitous but they are also a dedicated military weapon. They are, in lore, better than the autogun from the point of view of damage and precision, ease of use and logistics. The famed Mobian 6th will be shooting new players with lasguns while all they have is autoguns. Compared to Dregs who use autoguns. This will explain to the player via environment, enemies, and equipment, what level they are at. And make the lasgun feel all the cooler when they finally get one. These should start to become available at level 5. Specifically the Kantrael MG Ia. at 6 the Kantrael MG IV and MGXII and so on until all las weapons are unlocked by level 10.

  3. Shotgun and Long Las. These are specialist guns that are not for everyone. While common and highly usable they should come after lasguns.
    Shotgun around level 8
    Long las around level 10

  4. Flamer. The flamer is a ubuiquitous specialist weapon in the imperium. It is the Zealot’s “class weapon” but its rarity is less than that by far of the boltgun.
    Unlock It should begin showing up around level 15.

  5. Boltgun. Currently the best gun in the game. Rare and powerful weapons that hold a hallowed place in the imperium. But are more common than near reliquary weapons like Plasma guns.
    Unlock This should show up around level 20.

  6. Melta Gun. Despite in many ways being more powerful than a plasma gun these usually are more ubuiqutious as anti-tank weapons. They are also typically low fire rate single target weapons.
    Unlock This should show up around the same time as the bolter at level 20.

  7. Plasma Gun. These are reliquary tier weapons in some cases. Highly prized for their power, some are thousands of years old. These are not provided to guardsman lightly.
    UnlockThese should show up no sooner than 25.

Starting Gear: In light of all this I also wish to proposed a revision of the starting gear lineup to better align with the storytelling in Darktide.

Veteran: Replace the Kantrael with the Vraks Mk VII Head Hunter pattern autogun. Same basic function and story telling that explains the character via gear. Matches the lowest rung on the ladder scraping together what you can.

Zealot: Autopistol and Axe is still good. It represents the class play style well and sells the same message.

Psyker: Add a stub automatic pistol, or return to the Revolver. Not the laspistol. That should unlock at level 5.

Ogryn: Already basically in line with what I had in mind and this not especially relevant to this conversation.

Some notes:

  • The plasma gun needs a buff
  • Ogryn grenade box should automatically have the relevant feat that makes the grenades fall out. This feat should be replaced with something else. Yes this is progression related.
  • Optics and attachments could be a whole other system of progression. Maybe it was cut for time but it probably should have been included instead of the cosmetics surgery man.
  • Levels for unlocks are meant as a general reference to tell the story of getting better gear. They can be different. I don’t care.
  • I don’t mind if a master crafted autogun is as viable in end-game as a bolt gun is. Stats and status effects like Rend can make a huge difference. Fair enough. But early on guns don’t have those and my autogun isn’t killing any crushers with any ease.

It seems to me that the big challenge with this game is representing thematic upgrades while maintaining a balanced armory for players to choose from.

I agree that the link between narrative and equipment availability should be stronger however, from a gameplay perspective ‘upgrading’ from mundane > Chain > power weapons is a problem to me.
The same thing for Stubbers > Lasguns > Boltgun. The challenge is in maintaining endgame variety while meaningfully representing the power difference between these weapons.

If there is no reason to go back after unlocking power weapons than the viable weapon variety for endgame is terrible.

Chain weapons and Power weapons should be better than mundane weapons when powered up and weaker otherwise. Maybe they could use a nerf when unpowered but I would prefer a significant rework that makes weapon power either a short duration on a cooldown or a regenerating resource.

Ranged weapon balancing needs to be done with ammo capacity I think. The Boltgun is obviously extremely powerful and it should be. I really hope they don’t change this. But if it is outperforming every other weapon then maybe give it less max ammo or give other weapons more. Alternatively you could remove ADS and make it a braced weapon.

I think all side-arms should be probably be hybrid weapons(combined with sword, knife etc) like the Ogryns Grenade Gauntlet. LMB to melee, RMB to aim and LMB to shoot while aiming. Otherwise it becomes absurd trying to balance a Las-Pistol against a Bolter. Blocking would not be possible with these hybrid weapons so they are not a complete replacement for melee weapons.

Alternatively, they could add a dedicated pistol slot, however this would cover the weakness of special weapons like the bolter and skew choices away from Autoguns and Lasguns. For this too work there would need to be specialist sidearms like the Plasma Pistol, Bolt Pistol and Hand Flamer which could complement a Lasgun.

I thought I might return to this thread considering there was a recent pass on progression and I had the good fortune to start a Zealot just in time to experience it anew. It appears many of my concerns and much of my proposed solutions were followed in a rough way or otherwise handled in a sufficiently satisfactory matter. So I’m happy to consider this feedback as largely moot.

I am working on a second treatise on balance of weaponry. But, briefly, I would hope rather than nerfing things the focus instead be on buffing things.