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E3 2018: Descent Preview – Descend Into Darkness (PS4)

Tucked away into the meeting rooms of the frenetic E3 2018 show, between the West and South Halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, was a frenetic showing of a different kind. Publisher Little Orbit was offering a small glimpse into the reboot of the Descent series of video games. PlayStation LifeStyle was onsite to take in Descendent Studios’ Kickstarted game, simply titled Descent. Take a read below.

Quite the Pedigree

The original Descent released in 1994/1995 on MS-DOS (!), Mac OS, Acorn Archimedes (?!), and even the original PlayStation. It was a first-person shooter wrapped in a sci-fi adventure that achieved a decent amount of popularity back in the day. It featured six degrees of freedom, meaning that the player, who piloted space ships, could easily and immediately move forwards, backwards, left, right, and up and down due to the environment being low or no gravity (contrast this to flight simulators, where aircraft typically require relatively large distances to turn around). A recent game with similar control concepts would be the fun and furious PS VR game, Starblood Arena. The new Descent continues in this tradition, giving players absolute freedom of movement.

While we were shown a very brief, hands-off demo, what was shown was already performing smoothly on a laptop. The Unreal Engine 4 provided for a fast, stable frame rate. The level shown running was a labyrinth-like assortment of extremely tight corridors. Just like many players may remember from the originals, ambiance within these corridors is almost suffocating – some would even say a bit spooky, as you don’t know what dangers await just around the next corner.

In true old-school game fashion, the demo player needed to find a keycard in order to progress beyond a certain point. Also in true old-school game fashion, the demo player, a member of the dev team, was quickly killed by enemy AI. So it looks like Descent will also provide a refreshing level of difficulty for those looking for such a thing.

Make It Yours

Descent’s scope has expanded several magnitudes in several aspects since its Descent: Underground days. Chief among these now includes ship classes. The older Descent games didn’t really have distinct classes, but now, the new Descent is set to launch with 20 different ships spread across four classes. The ships can also be customized, via skins, and different parts such as the nose, wings, and other undisclosed parts. Some will need to be unlocked, further providing incentive to play the campaign.

Speaking of which, the single player campaign will contain over 15 levels, plus side quests, puzzles to solve, and of course boss battles. Four-player online co-op will be available, as will traditional competitive multiplayer, which will feature at least three other modes: Survival, Anarchy, and Corporate War. There are also plans to support Descent throughout 2019 with DLC, both free and paid – no plans to segregate the player base with premium map packs, either.

Descent looks to bring frantic, six-degrees-of-freedom action to gamers everywhere when it launches in Q4 2018. There were few games like Descent back in its heyday of the ‘90s, and what was shown at E3 appears to bring the fun in tight-corridor skirmish form. With any luck, we’ll get some hands-on time with the game the next time we meet up with Descendent Studios, and report back with good news on the anticipated game’s progress. Until then, keep those reflexes sharp – in Descent, you’ll need them!

Twist and turn your way through all our E3 2018 coverage here!