Author Topic: Descent clone reviews!  (Read 3364 times)

Offline D2Disciple

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Descent clone reviews!
« on: May 02, 2015, 11:01:12 AM »
So, while getting back into the Descent scene again, I thought I'd do something a little different - play through some Descent clones and discuss them a bit. After all, Descent isn't the only 6DOF shooter out there, and perhaps our favorite series could learn a thing or two from the games it has inspired (or, possibly, not, depending on their quality).

We'll start with the classic PC/PS1/N64 game, Forsaken, a game more fondly remembered for it's unusual box art than for the game itself.

A clearly emotionally vulnerable young woman. Some sweet ink on her cheek. A dark, barren, grey wasteland in the background. The ominous title, "Forsaken." That "Mature" ESRB rating. Inside this box must be an absolutely terrifying experience, one not easily forgotten. This is, if the packaging is to be believed, a man's game, not for kids who play kiddie titles that feature stupid spacecraft duking it out with stupid robots. This game has got to be all about sheer terror, blood and guts, and hot chicks.

Except that this is, in fact, a game about spacecraft duking it out with robots. First thing I noticed about Forsaken - it's not only not "Mature," it's decidedly immature. Seriously, this thing cranks the silliness to 11: Basically, earth let unrestrained scientific advancement go unchecked, someone nuked the entire planet, a few surviving mercenaries in space (with names like "Slick," "Beard," and "L.A. Jay") all fly around in hoverbike gangs, and the now-uninhabitable earth contains tons of loot for those brave enough to face the massive self-aware robotic defense force guarding it. Not that Descent's plot is going to win a Pulitzer, but contrasted with it's story, Forsaken's is just laughably bad. Even worse: the introductory cutscene, which makes the plot I just summarized even hokier, complete with poorly animated, overly-violent death sequences clearly included just to get this game an "M" rating.

Seriously: Just watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chFTHkmXbkE

But how does the game actually play? Well, it took me at least an hour to get my controls even usable, and this is the source port "ProjectX," A.K.A "ForsakenX," freely downloadable online. Basically, in-game control changes do nothing, and others made from the main menu do nothing, as well. Beyond this, attempting to bind a control to a function merely adds that function to that key, instead of changing it. Want to use "WASD" for movement? Too bad - "A" was already bound to accelerate, so now it just accelerates AND slides. Want to fix it? You'll have to "Reset Defaults" and go back and start making changes once more. It's both maddening and preposterous. I managed to fix up a workable setup with my joystick, but even then, some of the key binds were completely ignored by my changes - I bound the three thumb buttons on my stick to "Drop bomb," "Fire secondary," and "Engage afterburner," but in practice, I've got "Fire secondary," "Accelerate," and "Accelerate." What's up with that?

Anyway, on to the actual game. It's here where the game actually begins to shine, because, well, Descent. It's not just a clone, it's a veritable carbon copy. The very first level is extremely straightforward - it gives you roughly 15 minutes to tear through the "Volcano" level and enter an exit tunnel. From there we move to an abandoned subway system where the level design begins to open up, and then different areas are accessed by throwing various switches around the level. Sound familiar? It should. However, it does do a few things that Descent 3 later arguably copied later - the addition of tanks and turrets gives some variation to the enemy design, and levels are a bit more scripted than they are in D2.

I'd go further into the campaign, but I digress. Why? I'm stuck - this game gets freaking hard in a hurry. Much like D1, enemies fire fully powered rounds, but unlike D1 and D2, they carry an inordinate number of missiles. Do those three tanks really have to each fire four missiles at once in a tiny, enclosed space? And that's the first level! Beyond that, ammo is scarce - and each weapon has it's own dedicated ammo supply, and the game doesn't exactly let you stock up. Every weapon is not much more forgiving than D1's notoriously hungry Vulcan cannon.

With that said, weapon design is actually pretty strong. Each weapon can be upgraded in the level by picking up a "powerpod," which may increase the rate of fire or number of projectiles fired with each shot or increase damage or any number of things. Weapons include the standard pulsar (lasers?) and an obvious fusion knockoff, but others like the Suss gun are pretty nifty, which is something like a rapid-fire shotgun. "Orbiter" pickups also add nifty little rotating guns around your craft that add a little extra firepower - and a "Golden Powerpod" will add four of them to your arsenal for a brief time, making very short work of stronger foes.

However, a bit of an edge is given to the player in form of other playable characters. Some seem innocuous enough, whereas some designs feel pretty forced. I mean, really? A fat trucker wearing denim overalls and a cap? A bikini-clad blonde with mechanical bat wings and two massive cannons strapped to her arms? And why are none of these people wearing suits or helmets, since apparently the earth is now devoid of an atmosphere? These characters do fortunately have different stat strengths and weaknesses, with some of the slower characters having more shield and hull strength, and some of the weaker characters move like greased lightning. It's kinda nice to see this level of choice given to the player in terms of control, and fortunately, it all feels fairly balanced. It's just a good thing I don't have to look at the character models once I choose one.

Graphics are decent, with some pretty decent lighting effects and some smoother texturing than D2, but D3, released only a year later, absolutely blows it out of the sky (though D3 did admittedly take a beast of computer to run back in 1999). More troublesome than any graphical infidelity, however, is the coloring - this might just be the original "brown shooter." There's just so much grey and brown, and I have to wonder if it's part of the "this is a man's game, dang it" mentality that Acclaim apparently had when they made this.

Overall, I'm having a good time with it so far, though I have a feeling later I'll just get frustrated with the insane difficulty levels. But it does feel a bit too much like Descent, to it's own fault - other than some clever weapon upgrades, scripting, and ship selection, there are hardly any improvements to the formula, and when you factor in some of the forgettable enemy designs and the same-ish environments, there are places where it clearly falls flat. Is it great? No, but it's good, and so if you haven't tried it, I encourage you too.

NEXT: AquaNox
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 12:08:50 PM by D2Junkie »
I, for one, hope this is much, much more than a reconnaissance mission.

Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Descent clone reviews!
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2015, 05:30:10 PM »
It's a man's life in the british dental association and post-apocalyptic earthmania! :D



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