You'll love it if:
- You like the Alien Lore
- You've got quick thinking
- You like real time strategy with a bit of quick shooting
Not for you if:
- You don't like hard gameplay
- You are definitely not a sci-fi fan
- Patience is not your virtue
Aliens: Dark Descent is the new release from Focus Entertainment, developed by the independent Tindalos Interactive. As the title says, we’re talking about aliens, and not just any aliens, but from the well-known Alien universe from classic and modern films. So in collaboration with 20th Century Fox, the companies brought us a horror real-time strategy. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with it.
Aliens: Dark Descent
For those who don’t know original lore, I recommend watching the early ’79 movies with the lovable Alien who hunted and slaughtered everything on a spaceship, making her eggs so that they would hunt the crew and spawn others like her. Something like this is also found in Aliens: Dark Descent.
Story – Spoiler Free
Starting from the first few minutes of Aliens: Dark Descent, we see the one character we’re playing as, Administrator Weyland-Yutani. Weyland soon discovers that inside the USS Otago, the luxury liner you board, there are free-roaming Xenomorphs that eat everything that moves. In the story, we see that one of the crew released the Xenomorphs which without the knowledge of the crew, were carried by the Otago for some reason.
After the havoc caused on board, the USS Otago crashes on Planet Tethe and Weyland along with our second character, Jonas Harper (Colonial Marines), assemble a strike team.
So here, you come to find out what happened to the ship with the main goal of repairing it. You’ll discover the many secrets that the planet Tethe ultimately hides in Aliens: Dark Descent and deal with the Xenomorphs and their children. The story has several variations that are also connected to the original theme of Alien and it manages to keep you entertained.
Aliens: Dark Descent features excellent sci-fi graphics that don’t lack atmosphere or design quality. For the gameplay, everything was perfectly designed so that the dark corridors were not invalid due to the distant “3rd person” and the overall design lends itself to tactical real-time strategy. When zooming either from far away or close up, details were not lost when looking closer to see something.
The highlights here are the cinematics that regularly appear during the game, giving us parts of the story, and breaking up the flow of the monologues that are classically timed to fill the player in with information.
The characters within the gameplay were interesting. Some features were awkward and I wanted more to make the characters’ kinematics a bit more human and not so gamey. Ultimately though, when you got the whole squad together everything was working perfectly. The image of an armed squad fully organized and not so awkward was on point and added a lot to the Tactical element.
In finer detail now, the sharp edges were too sharp in angles and details giving a big contrast with the cinematics. I would like to see smoother gameplay images. High-quality shadows were extremely important for the more surprising elements of the game, and also give room for the exploration of the large map and the role the character’s flashlights had in it. You’ll definitely enjoy it more on new-gen consoles and high-end PCs but you won’t miss too much on lower-end builds.
Aliens: Dark Descent – Gameplay
Unlike other Alien titles we’ve seen, Aliens: Dark Descent has quite a unique gameplay that gives you a sense of the game from the start. Aside from the fact that the game advises you to give the tutorial time, it takes a bit of getting used to handling the camera and movement.
Essentially, you’re in a far and close top overview of a squad that gives you the opportunity to have control over what’s going on in the area. The camera moves everywhere with WASD and movements along with actions are done with the mouse. Commonly described as point-and-click. The characters follow exactly the commands given to them so BE AWARE! Many times the game was ruined by a misclick.
The whole movement contributes greatly to the strategy build you want to do depending on what is going on. That goes whether you’re in a situation where you’re killing Xenomorphs or avoiding the beloved face-huggers, or simply opening up a passage to access new parts of the map or landing points.
Squad and Missions
Obviously as a Strategy, Aliens: Dark Descent couldn’t lack a proper squad build. Starting with rookie characters, you’ll begin exploring the plot, but as you progress through the game you’ll level them up and of course, unlock classes and abilities for each one. The main classes that I highly recommend are of course the Medic, which has more utilities for squad health, the Gunner, which as you can tell is a joy of a weapon, and the Tecker with his gadgets will give you a head start. The motion tracker is very powerful to know what is happening on the map.
Squad abilities will give you everything you need to get the missions done in Aliens: Dark Descent. In general terms, the game is just about squad survival both in health and sanity. Therefore all missions are about how fast you lose these resources or how much you retain them.
Missions in Aliens: Dark Descent are divided into primary and secondary, each with its own goals and rewards. One piece of advice is that if you see that the squad can’t take it, take a step back. The world stays as it is so you can return any time you want to continue your missions.
A few general notes
You have skills and the more you level up the characters, the better the game gets. The right timing for these is always necessary to trigger various mechanics you’ll see in gameplay, and give they you more time for strategic moves. A good move is to use the Weld Door skill, giving you some breathing room in which to heal and rest.
The USS Otago may be shot down, but it’s your central Hub in which you have various things to do in Aliens: Dark Descent. From the Command Deck, you pick your missions and from the Workshop, you unlock weapons. The Laboratory is very important, as you’ll study the Xenomorph and the planet Lethe here, giving you buffs and tech that helps with the gameplay. The Medical Bay has two locations where players heal both health and sanity. Lastly, the Barracks is an area that also has two locations, one where you see the characters and level up, and one where they train to get experience.
Aliens: Dark Descent – Conclusion
Aliens: Dark Descent is a very nice game if you have time and interest in the lore. It certainly doesn’t end at 25 hours for the simple story. The horror element as I imagined it wasn’t as strong as I expected it to be, rather it was more agonizing. Many times I was stressed about what I was doing at the time, but it was a very enjoyable experience and kept me on my toes. I wasn’t bored at any point and it definitely filled me up on the lore that many years now has gained a lot of people through movies and games.
The few bad things I found to add to Aliens: Dark Descent is that it does take a lot of dedication to get through things so it comes off a bit tiring with daily play. The strategies did have a lot of importance and you will definitely struggle until you get used to the controls, that is if you have the patience to keep at it. After that though, it’s definitely nice.
Aliens: Dark Descent is available June 20, 2023, for PS4 and PS5, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and obviously PC at a price of 39.99€.
Many thanks to AVE for the review key and for making me run from face-huggers again and again.