Aliens: Dark Descent was a highly anticipated game by me. Real Time Tactical gameplay, the Aliens I.P and controller friendly! What’s not to like? Unfortunately, it lacks the secret sauce of ‘fun’ to make it come together into an enjoyable experience.
Set 20 years after the Aliens 3 movie, Dark Descent focusses on Tantalus Base, where a Xenomorph outbreak has occurred. I controlled a squad of Marines, akin to “The Commander” in XCOM from the crashed command ship, The Otago.
In design, it has some loose similarities to XCOM, except its combat which is a Real-Time Strategy game, not turn based.
This means the squad of Marines I controlled would shoot and target aliens as they saw fit. My job as the Commander, was to move them through the map, to objectives. To plan safe routes, use stealth where possible and set up ambushes or choke points to defend. This is done by using command points to activate skills or special weapons, to damage targets quickly or buff my troops.
Everything you equate with “Aliens”, is here. The click and beep of the motion tracker, the weapons sounds, the scream of the Xenomorphs and importantly the terror they inflict, even on hardened Marines.
The squad has a stress-gauge.
The longer they are on a mission, and the more firefights they get in, the more their stress goes up and the less effective they are.
Planning for this eventuality is crucial. And once again, akin to XCOM, pre and post mission strategy has a massive effect on a successful outing. Marines can be equipped with better weapons and armour, but also medical supplies to deal with injuries and stress.
Just like the movies. Auto-Turrets were my best friend too.
On the return to base, Marines need to rest and be treated for injuries. That’s if they didn’t die in the field of course! I would put recovered research resources into engineering and the development of new weapons and armour. Accrued XP would level-up each Marine, opening up new skills and strengths.
Just like XCOM. I have said “Like XCOM” a few times, but perhaps I should be clear. “like” is the operative term here. The level of strategy, customisation and squad tuning is far, far below whats on offer in XCOM, but the loose similarities can’t be ignored.
In the Dark Descent pipe, 5 by 5.
Deploying a squad of Marines on a mission, and moving them through buildings and corridors is the basic tenant. But even that grew to be annoying. The Incessant barking’ from squad members, acknowledging the command, was limited to 3 responses. After hearing them repeat these 40-50 times in a mission, resulted in me turning the volume down. Which in turn took away much of the wonderful ambient “Aliens-esque” tension. I can only hope a patch or setting to ‘mute barks’ comes later.
Tenchically the game performs pretty poorly. When I first played the game, the glitches were terrible. I had countless hard crashes, or bugs that stopped me progressing. I had to reset the game and reload a save. But with only an auto save system, I would always loose progress to fix a glitch or lock-up.
I love the look and vision of the game, but it feels unrefined and at times just frustrating to play. I soooooo wanted to love this game. Tactical gameplay and Aliens….sign me up! But I just didn’t have fun.
Dark Descent was too glitchy, too hard, too randomly unfair and too repetitive.
Oh well, could be worse…I could have an alien egg in my chest.