Aliens: Dark Descent

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Aliens: Dark Descent – Review

To those who are regular readers of my reviews, you will be aware of my admiration for the Aliens franchise. When Aliens: Dark Descent was announced in June 2022 at the Summer Game Fest, I was excited to see what developer, Tindalos Interactive, and publisher, Focus Entertainment had to offer. With the two companies in collaboration with 20th Century Games, I was confident the game was going fit well into the Aliens universe.

Aliens: Dark Descent has its own new narrative. Set 20 years after the movie Alien 3 and after the writings of Alex White and Steve Perry, the game is set in the year 2199. You begin playing as Maeko Hayes, a Weyland-Yutani deputy administrator. Maeko is on board the space station Pioneer in high orbit above the mining moon, Lethe.

The ship, the Bentonville docks on the Pioneer and unloads cargo believed to be the precious mineral, Trimonite. The Bentonville then requests immediate departure, leaving it behind. Maeko begins questioning its intent and starts an investigation, soon discovering the Pioneer has become contaminated by Xenomorphs.

Forced to take drastic measures in order to contain the contamination, Maeko activates the Cerberus Protocols. The Cerberus Protocols activate the planetary defense system, destroying anything that approaches or tries to leave the high orbit of Lethe. Consequently, the Bentonville is destroyed while making its escape, however, collateral damage occurs with the destruction of the Baldrin mining vessel and severe damage to the USS Otago, forcing it to crash land on Lethe.

Before the crash, a marine team from the USS Otago was sent to the Pioneer to investigate. This team is led by USCM Officer, Jonas Harper. When Maeko meets up with Jonas, you then play as the officer, leading the way to escape Pioneer and return to the USS Otago. When reuniting with the crashed USS Otago on Lethe, Jonas is thrust into the position of leadership. With limited resources, Maeko and Jonas team up, commanding troops in the field in order to survive.

Before starting the game, you can access the very robust options menus that cover all the usual items like graphics, displays, and audio, but the most convenient options can be found in the gameplay and controls sections. The gameplay options are very customizable, allowing you to tweak it to your liking. From slow-motion or pause in combat, to health bars and more, the choices make playing very accessible.

The controls section allows all the keys to be remapped. This flexibility I found most important as the default control options were too cumbersome for me, but best of all, Aliens: Dark Descent allows control via gamepads. Though this takes away from being able to customize the layout, I found issuing commands and navigating a lot smoother and faster than with the keyboard and mouse. When starting, you will be able to choose the difficulty of the game, with the choices of Story, Medium, Hard, Nightmare, and Custom, and they are all available from the get-go, but once selected, they cannot be changed.

As mentioned above, you begin playing as Maeko Hayes. The top-down view of this real-time strategy leads you through the tutorial and gradually introduces you to all the mechanics. Eventually, you will arrive at the USS Otago, and you will then be led through the base mechanics. Thankfully, the codex is not only great for revisiting the information, but it expands on it.

Aboard the USS Otago, you will be able to navigate to different sections of the ship in a menu-style format. The sections are barracks, workshop, command deck, medical quarters, and laboratory. Each section will allow you to expand and grow your marines into a stronger cohesive force to take on the threats of Lethe. When dispatching the marines via the command deck, you will be able to customize their loadout for what is most appropriate for the mission.

When you begin a mission, the top-down RTS gameplay will begin as you navigate towards your mission objective. You will issue commands and the four-person marine team will undertake those commands. The artificial intelligence of the marines will delegate the most qualified to complete your request. The AI also allows each marine to move independently, creating a dynamic synergy with the environment. During the missions, you will not only have to keep the objective in mind, but you will also need to care for your marines. Keeping them alive is not enough, as the horrors they will endure will affect their psyche.

Overall, the graphics are OK. There appears to be an earnest attempt to make the graphics look as realistic as possible, but unfortunately, a cartoonish appearance remains, particularly in the cut scenes, and this makes the animations look a little janky. The RTS gameplay is less susceptible to this due to the camera being further back, however, the camera being further back blocks the line of sight easily. I found utilizing the slow-motion/pause feature a must in order to circumvent this annoying occurrence. The audio is spot-on for the Aliens franchise. The iconic music and sound match that is heard in the movies perfectly.

In all, Aliens: Dark Descent with its intriguing storyline, iconic audio, and smart AI easily outweighs its graphical foibles. If you are a fan of the Aliens franchise or RTS, this game will surely entertain you.

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The Good

  • Intriguing storyline.
  • Iconic music and sound
  • Dynamic synergy between AI and environment

The Bad

  • Animations look janky
  • Graphics too cartoonish
  • Line of sight easily blocked

Written by: Ashley Barnett-Cosgrove


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