A promise is a promise here is our deep dive blog on the talent trees. We figured you might want to enjoy a studious weekend, dissecting each class and getting ready for the launch of Patch #13 and Xbox on October 4, 2023.
Make sure to check out our previous dev blog on the design work of the class overhaul patch! Quick disclaimer; in this blog, we will cover Combat, Blitz and Keystone abilities. We will let you explore Aura, Talents and Stat Nodes once you jump into the game.
When we first released Darktide we wanted to provide a solid template background striving to capture the core of the guardsman experience, encompassed by the Veteran Sharpshooter. A soldier with a rifle. Simple and approachable. Equipped with a frag grenade, it allowed for a ranged focus playstyle that could circumvent challenges by simply headshotting efficiently.
We wanted to expand the build space into more support roles, using the leadership and officers of the Astra Militarum as inspiration. There were early prototypes of a squad leader subclass based on the original release format lying around, so scavenging some abilities and the odd Krak grenade implementation was a solid start.
We also wanted to allow Veterans to lean into the more aggressive, close to melee range, assault infantry power fantasies. On what started to be known as the ‘commando’ side of things, ambushing and smoke-grenades were added to allow the players to get stuck in and disrupt the ranged enemy domination.
Initial designs for the Veteran talent tree included weapon-specific Keystones, with the plasma rifle, bolter and power sword as first set. The idea was to create specific bonuses for different play styles while introducing mutual exclusivity between them. After multiple iterations and some closed testing feedback, we ended up removing the weapon specific keystones. In the end, any weapon specific node ends up either offsetting the entire balance of the particular weapon or becoming a mandatory talent tax. Neither were impressively interesting.
We've ended up with a Veteran talent tree that provides a suitably rigid layout with three clear lanes. We have tuned the tree to allow for flexibility, where zig-zagging across the different lanes is not just an option but encouraged. There are clear tinkering spaces where talent options and stat nodes enable builds ranging from pure ranged damage output, suppression immunity and resilience, melee loadouts with stamina configurations and plenty of others in between. The staple features of ammo management and extra grenades are still present, and are integrated into parts of the tree. Creating a well rounded or very specific build for your Veteran is up to you, with clear and straightforward build options available and lots of tinkering hidden in the talent clusters and bridges between lanes.
- Executioner's Stance: Enter Ranged Stance for 5s. When in Ranged Stance you instantly equip your ranged weapon, deal +25% Ranged Damage, +25% Ranged Weakspot Damage, and your Spread and Recoil are greatly reduced. Elite Enemies and Specialist Enemies are highlighted for 5s. Base Cooldown: 25s. This is an augmented version of Volley Fire.
- Voice of Command: Replenishes your Toughness & Staggers all Enemies within 9m. Base Cooldown 45s.
- Infiltrate: Replenish all Toughness and enter Stealth for 6s, gaining +25% Movement Speed. Leaving Stealth Suppresses nearby Enemies. Attacking makes you leave Stealth. Base Cooldown: 60s.
- Shredder Frag Grenade: Throw a frag grenade that explodes after a short delay. Applies 6 Stacks of Bleed to all Enemies Hit, causing Damage over time. This is an augmented version of Frag Grenade.
- Smoke Grenade: Throw a grenade that creates a lingering smoke cloud for 10s. The cloud blocks line of sight for most enemies and reduces the sight range of enemies inside it.
- Krak Grenade: Throw a grenade that deals devastating Damage. Sticks to Flak Armoured, Carapace Armoured & Unyielding Enemies.
The original class was designed to showcase the melee gameplay and provide a familiar home for our Vermintide veterans. Equipped with a stun grenade and a charge ability, it allowed for an aggressive get-stuck-in melee play style that could bypass the ranged combat and lock the heretics in glorious melee combat.
The first thing we set out to solve was a realization of the bolstering prayer fantasy. The ability to act as a solemn anchor for the team. The source of faith. The reminder that the Emperor protects. Providing players with the opportunity of supporting and buffing the rest of the team - quite a challenge from a design standpoint. In one fork of the tree we landed on Zealots having a classic ability, and buffed the impact of it to allow for better control, including staggering of monsters.
On the other side of the tree we just went full stabbing. We made a stealth and backstabby talent tree that leans into those tropes, fully equipped with throwing knives you can quickthrow while wielding any weapon, a stealth ability very reminiscent of the Vermintide shade, coherency while-not-in-coherency talents and mutator packages focused on mobility, headshotting and dodge-dancing. Playing with a stabbing zealot changes the way a team works its way through the mission. The sudden appearance and disappearance of one or more team members becomes a flow that the team has to adjust to. One part acts as the anchor, drawing aggro and directing combat, while relying on stealth build players to strike from the shadows, make that clutch revive or complete the objective utilizing their unique skills.
There are three different keystone sets at the bottom of the tree, all unlocking different core passives that are foundational for a build. But plenty of key talents are found higher up. “Until Death” together with “Holy Revenant” makes up a pair of talents that enable the Zealot to avoid death should it occur and regain health based on damage output for a duration immediately after. You’ll find stat nodes for toughness and wounds, talents that provide damage mitigation based on wound thresholds and plenty of either close range or melee focused damage buffs within the tree. The tinkering space also features plenty of tweaks to your ability suite and hopefully encourages tinkering for synergies with the complete loadout chosen.
- Fury of the Faithful: Dash forward, Replenishing 50% Toughness & gaining +20% Attack Speed for 10s. Your next Melee Hit gains +25% and is a guaranteed Critical Hit. Base Cooldown: 30s
- Chorus of Spiritual Fortitude: Wield a holy relic that releases pulses of energy every 0.8s. While channeling, Allies in Coherency have Stun Immunity and Invulnerability. Each pulse Replenishes 45% Toughness to Allies in Coherency. If the Ally is at full Toughness they instead gain +20 Max Toughness up to a total of +100. 60s Base Cooldown.
- Shroudfield: Enter Stealth for 3s. While in Stealth gain +20% Movement Speed, +100% Backstab Damage, +100% Finesse Damage & +100% Critical Chance. Base Cooldown: 30s
- Stunstorm Grenade: Throw a grenade that stuns all Enemies within its blast radius. This is an augmented version of Stun Grenade with +50% blast radius.
- Immolation Grenade: Throw a grenade that leaves a layer of flaming liquid, Burning and Staggering enemies, and barring their path. Most effective against Unarmoured Enemies.
- Blades of Faith:Throw a consecrated knife to deal high Damage to a Single Enemy. Very effective against most Enemies; less effective versus Carapace Armour.
- Quick Throw
- Killing Elite & Special Enemies in Melee replenishes 1 knife
- Ammo boxes replenish knives
- Blazing piety: +15% Critical Hit Chance for 8s when in Fury. Fury is triggered when 25 Enemies have died within 25m.
- Martyrdom: Each missing Wound grants +8% Melee Damage, up to 9 missing Wounds.
- Inexorable Judgment: Moving grants you Momentum (Stacks 20 times). When you Hit an Enemy, spend all Momentum, gaining +1% Melee Attack Speed, +1% Ranged Attack Speed, and +1% Damage per Stack. Lasts 8s.
Mechanically, the release version of our Psyker leaned on controlling the overcharge mechanic of Perils by providing dynamic buffs and abilities granting better management. The Brain Burst blitz encapsulated the design principle of pushing Psyker utility towards the extremes of our design space. The ultimate single-target remover of problems, disregarding armor, line of sight or anything else standing in the way of a kill. The design was all about enabling the use of force powers and the interplay with managing your Peril meter. A true mastery of the warp, walking a fine balance between suffering its perils and unleashing its powers.
The new Psyker talent tree was envisioned as the most tinker-friendly. The shared resource between weapons and blitzes tie everything together, and since there’s plenty of talents that scale and interact with Perils it makes build choices for the Psyker a bit more involved and interesting. Enforcing a layout that encourages this and invites exploration and customization rather than straightforward progression was the initial goal.
On the Blitz side, we have the old Brain Burst, mainly intact with some balance adjustments and finetune improvements. We have added two new ones, one for crowd control and one for those easily mesmerized by the twirly spectacle that is our true flight projectiles. The new Smite blitz is our crowd control one. A chain lightning that allows the Psyker to stunlock large populations of enemies, holding them in place and pushing them around at will. For the last Blitz we did implement an ammo loop in the end. Warp infused homing missiles that will track and pick targets based on what you're looking at, have a self-regenerating ammo cap built in. There are modifiers that allow you to lessen the limitations that come with the ammo loop, but at its core they work best as a burst of extra damage.
Perhaps the biggest news with the biggest impact on the whole game loop is found in the Shield ability available in the Psyker talent tree. It’s a simple concept: place a flat shield that blocks enemy shots but lets yours and your allies' shots pass. It can be played purely defensively, as part of a push or more tactically to ensure objective completion. The modifier layer allows heavy customization too. There are options to deploy multiple shields, to have specials stagger when trying to pass through, and options to exchange the wall for a dome.
- Venting Shriek: Unleashes a wave of warp energy that Staggers Enemies in front of you. Quells 50% Peril. Base Cooldown: 30s This is an augmented version of Psykinetic's Wrath.
- Telekine Shield: Spawns a psychic shield in front of you for 15s. The shield blocks Enemy Ranged Attacks, while you and Allies can still shoot through. Base Cooldown: 40s.
- Scrier's Gaze: Triggers Scrier's Gaze. When entering Scrier's Gaze you gain +10% Damage and +20% Critical Chance. For every second in Scrier's Gaze you gain +1% Damage up to a maximum of +30%. This effect lingers for 10s after leaving Scrier's Gaze. While in Scrier's Gaze you build up Peril. Build up is temporarily slowed down by enemy Kills. At 100% Peril, Scrier's Gaze ends. Base Cooldown: 30s.
- Brain Rupture: Charge up your Psychic Power and release it to deal immense Damage to a Single Enemy. Effective against Flak & Carapace Armoured Enemies. This is an augmented version of Brain Burst dealing +50% Damage.
- Assail: Throw swift, homing projectiles formed of psychic energy. Less effective versus Carapace Armoured Enemies.
- Smite:Unleash a torrent of Bio-Lightning. Charge to deal high Damage and high Impact to an Enemy on release, or channel a continuous stream that deals low Damage but high Impact over time, spreading between multiple Enemies.
- Warp Siphon: Killing an Elite or Specialist Enemy gains you a Warp Charge for 25 seconds, stacking 4 time(s). Your next Combat Ability spends all available Warp Charges to reduce the Cooldown of that Combat Ability by 7.5% per Warp Charge.
- Empowered Psionics: Kills have a 7.5% chance to Empower your next Blitz.
- Empowered Brain Rupture: 100% Peril Cost Reduction 50% Cast time Reduction +50% Damage
- Empowered Smite: +30% Damage 25% faster spread between enemies
- Empowered Assail: 100% Peril Cost Reduction. Base Damage increase from 100 to 150. Does not consume any charges.
- Disrupt Destiny: Every second, Enemies within 25m have a chance of being Marked. Killing a Marked Enemy Replenishes 10% Toughness, grants +20% Movement Speed for 2.5s, and adds a Precision Bonus for 15s. Each Precision Bonus grants +1% Damage, +2% Critical Damage and +2,5% Weakspot Damage. Precision Bonus Stacks 15 times.
Ogryns are three things: brawlers, bodyguards and bringer of big karking guns. The core Ogryn experience of the Skullcrusher that was part of the release was already there. Big, strong, melee powerhouse that relies on heavy attacks and massive health. Ignoring the stuns and staggers the little ones suffer, with “charge at the problem” as the go-to solution for anything.
To create a strong bodyguard, protector of friends, the Ogryn needed to be able to draw aggro. A taunt ability was nothing new, we have those in the Vermintide game. Making it work in the hybrid combat of Darktide is trickier. The Taunt is one of those abilities that changes how the team plays. It is good for the Ogryn player,as it helps control the fight - but it’s very good when used with the team, putting the Ogryn at the core of any squad.
We also added the Point-blank barrage ability which is particularly good for Ogryns that like to lug around big guns. It brings up your ranged weapon and reloads it whenever you use the ability and it also makes guns shoot faster and reload faster for 10 seconds. It’s great fun with a Rumbler. Sometimes the team says it’s like it’s raining grenades, but most use it with a heavy stubber or a ripper gun. It’s like you can shoot twice as much.
Ogryns get some nice end nodes. The three keystone talents at the end of the talent tree. You can only pick one of them, but each has a bunch of more modifiers after - and they’re not like the ability or the blitz, you don’t have to do anything to use them, they are just always there if you pick them. Getting all the way down to one of the keystone talents is good as most Ogryn builds need one. There are lots of talents on the way there, so once you have all the talent points you can pick a bit from each path and make a good build that way too.
- Indomitable: Charge forward with great force, knocking back Enemies and Staggering them. Gain +25% Attack Speed and +25% Movement Speed for 5s. Charge is stopped on collision with Monstrosities. Base Cooldown: 30s. This is an augmented version of Bull Rush with an increased charge.
- Loyal Protector: Taunt Enemies within 8m, making them attack only you for 15s. Base Cooldown: 45s.
- Point-Blank Barrage: Swaps to and reloads your Ranged Weapon. You have +25% Rate of Fire and +70% Reload Speed for the next 10s. Base Cooldown: 80s.
- Big Friendly Rock: Toss a big rock or hunk of junk at a Single Enemy. Reduced effectiveness against Carapace Armoured Enemies and Unyielding Enemies. You pick up a new rock every 60s and can hold up to 4 rocks at a time.
- Bombs Away!: Throw a box of grenades with great strength and enthusiasm to deal high Damage to a Single Enemy. Hitting an Enemy causes the box to break open, releasing 6 grenades around the target. This is an augmented version of Big Box of Hurt.
- Frag Bomb: Throw an Ogryn-sized (the only proper kind!) frag grenade with a 16m blast radius, dealing increased Damage at the centre.
- Heavy Hitter: +5% Damage for 7.5s on Heavy Attack Hit. Stacks 5 times.
- Feel No Pain: You are blessed with 10 Stacks of Feel No Pain. Each Stack grants +2.5% Toughness Replenishment and +2.5% Damage Reduction. Taking Health Damage removes one stack. Stacks are restored every 6s.
- Burst Limiter Override: 5% chance of triggering Lucky Bullet and not consuming Ammo when making Ranged Attacks.
The Darktide Team