The pantheon of groundbreaking titles from the 90s is one filled with standout titles. Doom, Duke Nukem, Mario 64 and others all stand head and shoulders above the fray as shining influences whose roots can be seen creeping even into titles twenty or more years later. Parallax’s Descent also has a permanent place on that list and it could be argued that it takes the top spot. Utilizing 3D, full 360 degrees of movement, players navigated the tight corridors of various mines, blasting malfunctioning robots from the relative comfort of a small spacecraft. The series spanned three games and two spinoffs only to fade away, much to the confusion of the audience. All these years later, we finally get to see a proper Descent title with a reboot title appropriately called Descent from the developer, Descendent Studios.
Calling it a reboot might be a bit unfair. This newest title, previously known as Descent: Underground, is intended to be a full re-imagining of the game that launched it all. This means that the maps will be all new, and there are plenty of new features, but the core gameplay remains very familiar. The single player campaign will still have players exploring mines, fighting off robots, and collecting keys to open doors to progress deeper into the mines. Players, however, will also need to contended with some enormous, imposing bosses that wouldn’t have been possible when the original game was created.
To aid in combat, players will have access to a variety of weapons. Here, the Descendent Studios held close to the original weapons. Concussion missiles, vulcan cannons, and the ever popular plasma gun are available to be used against the aggressive mining equipment. The new additional twist comes in the form of swapable ships. Located throughout the levels are stations with an alternate craft to commandeer, with each one offering different stats. Expect over twenty different customizable craft between single and multiplayer. It’ll be up to the player to decide which ship is best suited to their style. For example, I found that my dodging skills are now lacking during my play time, so I would opt for a craft that can soak up more damage. Others might be better, and go for a ship that can quickly slip past the enemy’s defense and hit the flank. It’s a minor improvement, but will allow for some extra replayability as different tactics can be explored across the maps. This is in addition to full fledged story, puzzles, and sidequests that will be present in the campaign.
Those who have been following this title since its inception will know that competitive play has been the focus. This title was built for multiplayer. Combining specially designed maps with a class based system, players will be able to square off against each other, or on teams, to render the opposition so much floating debris. Through play and experience, players can then explore the upgrade trees to customize their strengths and take the top of the boards. On top of this, all multiplayer DLC will be free so as to not fragment the player base. There is a possibility that there will be paid DLC for single player if there is a demand for the content, though.
Rounding out the package is a wave based survival mode. It might sound trite in this day and age, but facing off against wave after wave of enemies in the zero gravity environment could easily be an amiable time killer. These things are vicious, and love to swarm. Using the environment and the abilities that the full movement allows makes for an extremely tense fight. It’s also a quick way to prove that the studio is handling the feel of Descent with love and reverence.
All told, while this new Descent isn’t poised to win any awards for graphics and originality, it does exactly what it sets out to do: give players a new, official Descent after way too long. It feels right, the sounds are on point and the package offers enough reasons to keep playing. This should satisfy fans of the original title and should bring in quite a few newcomers, which is good enough for me.