Computing

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide – Pushing the Limits of Your PC (and Loving Every Minute)

Rejects, gear up with your lasguns and chainswords because there’s a heretic lurking in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. It’s your mission, alongside three other outlaws, to venture into the Hive city of Tertium, eradicate the plague, and eliminate the traitors before heresy spreads. But be prepared for some performance drops and occasional crashes.

I dived headfirst into Darktide and have already spent 30 hours playing the PC game before its official release. To help you optimize your performance and make an informed decision before purchasing the game, I’ve gathered some tips, frame rate expectations for different hardware, and crucial considerations.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide System Requirements

System requirements for Warhammer 40,000 Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is the first game that recommends an Nvidia RTX 4080 in its system requirements. While you don’t necessarily need that GPU to run the game, developer Fatshark suggests it if you want to fully maximize the settings at 4K. One of the main reasons is DLSS Frame Generation, which is crucial for achieving a frame rate of over 100 fps with ray tracing cranked up.

Playing the game on an RTX 4090, I averaged about 110 fps with DLSS Frame Generation and DLSS on Automatic mode. However, I believe Fatshark’s projected fps values are somewhat optimistic because the RTX 4090 is only around 35% faster than the RTX 4080 at 4K.

Typically, CPU requirements are less relevant at 4K, but Darktide is an exception. The vast number of enemies with ragdoll physics necessitates significant parallel CPU processing. Consequently, the more cores your CPU has, the better the performance.

The minimum system requirement calls for a four-core Core i5-6600, but it’s worth considering an upgrade to an eight-core CPU or even a 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X for optimal performance.

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide Performance

A wall reading "Death before Dishonor" in Warhammer 40K Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I’ve chosen not to provide specific benchmarks for Darktide. Firstly, all my testing was conducted during the beta phase, and the developer has pledged a stability patch for launch day. Secondly, due to the cycling nature of missions and the high level of randomness in hordes, it’s nearly impossible to obtain direct comparisons. Lastly, this release has some stability issues, which I’ll delve into shortly, making average frame rates less significant. Hopefully, Fatshark will introduce a dedicated benchmark tool, similar to what they did with Warhammer: Vermintide 2.

However, I can provide some approximate numbers. Playing at 4K Ultra without ray tracing, I achieved an average of about 79 fps with an RTX 4090. For reference, this is on par with the performance you would see in Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K Ultra.

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Yet, this average figure doesn’t tell the whole story. The game experienced occasional drops, with frame rates fluctuating between above 100 fps and below 55 fps, as illustrated in the chart below. These weren’t brief stutters like in Gotham Knights. Instead, they represented a few seconds of lower frame rates before the game recovered.

Performance over 10 minutes in Warhammer 40K Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Initially, I suspected that these drops were due to ragdolls and the presence of hordes on-screen. However, as I continued playing, I noticed a pattern. Even when there were no active events, the frame rate would sharply decline just before a horde spawned. This loading challenge compounded with ongoing battles, resulting in further frame rate dips.

While I refrained from precise benchmarks, I did gather general ranges for 1080p and 1440p with Ultra settings. With an RTX 3060 at 1080p, you can expect frame rates between 60 and 100 fps by enabling DLSS Performance mode and turning off ray tracing. With the RTX 3070 Ti at 1440p and Medium ray tracing settings, you’ll experience a similar frame rate range, again with DLSS enabled.

The Best Settings for Warhammer 40,000: Darktide

A horde rushing at the player in Warhammer 40K Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s crucial to experiment with Warhammer 40,000: Darktide to find the optimal settings for your system. However, I can provide a recommended starting point:

  • Field of view: HFOV 100, VFOV 68
  • Resolution: Native monitor resolution
  • Screen mode: Full screen or borderless full screen
  • VSync: Off
  • Nvidia DLSS: On, if available
  • Super Resolution: Automatic
  • Frame generation: On, if available
  • Nvidia Reflex Low Latency: On
  • Framerate cap: 120, or Unlimited if your monitor has a higher refresh rate
  • FidelityFX Super Resolution 2: Balanced, if DLSS is unavailable
  • FidelityFX Super Resolution 1.0: Off
  • Sharpen: On
  • Anti-aliasing: Off with FSR or DLSS, TAA if upscaling is disabled
  • Ray tracing: Off
  • Ray traced reflections: Off
  • RTX global illumination: Off
  • Ambient occlusion quality: Medium
  • Light quality: High
  • Volumetric fog quality: Low
  • Depth of field: Off
  • Global illumination: High
  • Bloom: On
  • Skin sub-surface scattering: Off
  • Motion blur: Off
  • Screen space reflections: Medium
  • Lens quality: On
  • Lens quality color fringe: On
  • Lens quality distortion: On
  • Lens flares: Sunlight only
  • Scatter density: 0.5
  • Max ragdolls: 6
  • Max weapon impact decals: 30
  • Max blood decals: 30
  • Decal lifetime: 20

While certain settings, such as lens quality and motion blur, are more about personal preference than performance, pay close attention to the bottom five settings, especially scatter density and max ragdolls. Tweaking these can significantly impact both GPU and CPU performance, so adjust them if you encounter any performance issues.

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Tips to Optimize Performance in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide

A reject using a flamethrower in Warhammer 40K Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Darktide differs from most games in that reducing shadow or reflection quality doesn’t always yield substantial performance gains due to potential CPU limitations. However, I have some tips to help you fine-tune your settings and achieve optimal performance.

Always Use Upscaling

Although Darktide puts considerable strain on your CPU, don’t underestimate its demands on your GPU. The good news is that the game supports both AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) versions.

Both FSR and DLSS provide upscaling capabilities, which not only boost frame rates but also enhance overall smoothness in Darktide. While dips in performance will still occur, these upscaling tools can mitigate compounding issues that arise when hordes are spawning on top of existing ones.

Reduce Max Threads

In Darktide’s launcher, you’ll find a setting similar to that in Vermintide 2: max worker threads. This setting determines the maximum number of threads the game can utilize on your CPU. If you have a CPU with numerous cores, such as the Ryzen 9 7950X or Core i9-13900K, feel free to maximize this setting. However, be cautious as it could potentially impact stability. If you encounter stability issues, try reducing the setting to six worker threads.

Leave Ray Tracing Off

While ray tracing in Darktide is visually stunning, the rasterized version of the game also looks fantastic. Ray tracing incurs a significant performance hit, particularly in maps with large open areas and volumetrics like dust and fog. Unless you have a powerful system, it’s best to keep ray tracing disabled.

Limit CPU-Bound Settings

Thanks to upscaling options in Darktide, you can maintain higher settings while still achieving solid performance. However, upscaling doesn’t alleviate the impact of settings that stress your CPU; in fact, it can even accentuate them. Fatshark has identified four settings that you can reduce to alleviate the strain on your CPU:

  • Max ragdolls: Controls the number of ragdolls on-screen, influencing performance during hordes.
  • Scatter density: Adjusts the density of scattered objects, affecting both GPU and CPU performance.
  • Lens flares: Fatshark indicates that only the “all lights” option impacts CPU performance.
  • Field of view: A wider field of view can create additional strain on your CPU.
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Network Issues Apply

A team of players stands together in Warhammer 40K: Darktide.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While Darktide has performance issues overall, they pale in comparison to the network-related problems plaguing the game. While I remain hopeful that these issues will improve with the full release, based on my experience with Fatshark’s previous release, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, I approach them with caution.

When launching Darktide, you’ll likely encounter several errors. During the beta phase, I consistently encountered these errors, although they didn’t crash the game. After dismissing one to three errors, I was always able to launch the game without any further issues. However, the dreaded “Backend Error” occasionally made an appearance.

These errors can be frustrating, but the real annoyance comes from random crashes. Throughout the beta period, the game crashed on me around a dozen times, sometimes just before completing a mission. This resulted in zero progress and rendered all my efforts futile.

While I believe these issues may be typical for a new game in beta with a large influx of players, I revisited Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and experienced similar problems. In addition to the backend errors, I encountered crashes and was disconnected from a mission upon completing it, again resulting in no progress being saved.

To their credit, the developers have resolved most of the crashes I witnessed during the beta’s early stages. However, considering my experience with Vermintide 2, I expect there will be some rough patches to navigate before Darktide reaches its full potential. Thus, if you’re planning to purchase Darktide on release day, be prepared for some turbulence.

Should You Buy Warhammer 40,000: Darktide?

An enemy swinging at the player in Warhammer 40K Darktide.
Level Infinite

Undeniably, Darktide currently faces performance stability and network stability issues. However, the game has significantly improved since the preorder beta, and it’s evident that the developer has identified and addressed key issues.

Having invested 30 hours in the preorder beta, averaging two-and-a-half hours daily, I fully intend to continue playing. Despite the occasional crashes, backend errors, and unstable performance, Darktide offers some of the most enjoyable co-op gameplay of the year.

The immersive and dense setting, satisfying combat, and addictive progression leave you craving just one more round before logging off. I wholeheartedly recommend the game itself.

Nevertheless, I maintain reservations regarding performance and network stability. If you’re unsure about Darktide, I suggest trying it through Game Pass to determine whether or not you should make the full purchase.


Editors’ Recommendations:

  • Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader – Your Next 100-Hour CRPG Obsession
  • Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun – A Satisfying Boomer Shooter
  • Warhammer 40K: Darktide – Xbox’s Exclusive Delayed Fall Console Release

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