Late to the Party: Descent


Another old school game I recently finished for the first time was Descent, for which you can now find my user review on Steam.

I’d never even heard of Descent before it showed up on Steam’s front page. I guess you can say it’s like the old days when I’d see a cool game box at the store, look at the screenshots on the back, and make a purchasing decision right there, except digitally now. Honestly, what drew me to Descent was how much it looked like one of my all-time favorites — Microsoft Fury3, and it’s crappy early 3D graphics with completely unfiltered textures. I have a thing for those kinds of graphics, and luckily a source port let me view them in crisp 1080p.

In my review I basically call it classic DOOM in zero-g. You’re in a space ship but you’re really just moving around like a weightless body, flying through key card mazes. The difference is the key card mazes are much more three-dimensional and that much more labyrinthine. I remember getting lost in DOOM maps and having to consort that game’s automap. Thankfully Descent’s automap is in really cool wireframe 3D like the map in Metroid Prime or the first Dead Space, and I ended up needing it too. I don’t know how people comprehended these maps in 1995 because it took me a while to wrap my head around them almost 19 years later. Not only that but I had to plan all that stuff out too: find the hostages, then remember where they are so I can grab them right before blowing up the core and escaping the self-destruct. All that makes Descent a mentally taxing action game.

As I note in the review, Descent is a shockingly tough game, but mostly because it sets up too many really bad ambushes. I had to straight-up save scum a couple levels, but for the most part I might actually say playing through Dark Souls got me ready for this kind of old school game. I didn’t mind losing so many lives and just flying back into the fray to try different strategies.

One thing I kinda like though is how the story is laid out. It’s really just a bunch of briefings, but at the beginning and end you can read the protagonist’s cynical thoughts on his contract laced with his utter contempt for the corporate suits whose mess he’s being paid to clean up. Honestly it comes a couple steps shy of being noir in space. The music was pretty cool too, in a mid-90’s techno sci-fi kind of way.

I really don’t know if I wanna roll into Descent’s two sequels though. Descent is only around 15 hours but it’s a tough 15 hours made up of almost 30 levels. Maybe if the subsequent games are significantly different. I heard this franchise basically turned into Freespace, and I someday plan to investigate that whole genre of PC space sims.


  • I had no idea Zelda fan theories were this far-gone, and I used to be deep in the Zelda fan theory game.
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