Aliens: Dark Descent reignites an atmospheric fantasy franchise. This bone-chilling world is full of death, despair, and destruction. Accordingly, it is an atmospheric beast that keeps you on the edge of your toes. However, this series has been milked to death, and this may be one step too far. Alternatively, if you love the franchise, you’ll adore the sinister maps, uncomfortable missions, and tactical nuance. As such, this has the ability to divide its audience. So, shall we see what I thought of it?
Developed by Tindalos Interactive and published by Focus Entertainment, this is a real-time strategy title. What’s more, there are some minor RPG elements as you customise your squadron of marines. Moreover, there are plenty of research elements, massive maps to explore, and, of course, waves of Xenomorphs to annihilate. Consequently, there are plenty of plates to spin and loads of balls to juggle at once.
Aliens: Dark Descent tells an all too familiar tale.
Aliens: Dark Descent doesn’t stray too far from the well-trodden tropes of the series. Accordingly, the opening gambit offers limited surprises and everything feels familiar. Effectively, all that is different are the characters, the location, and the names of the people that get slaughtered. Now, this isn’t a complaint, as I fell for the story and the clichéd protagonists.
The year is 2198 and the Weyland-Yutani corporation is going strong. Set 19 years after the original trilogy, the money-grabbing bastards haven’t learnt from their mistakes. Instead, it is up to deputy administrator Maeko Hayes to become a hero. A strange container has been delivered to the Pioneer Station. Its contents are deadly, and this sets off a chain of life-altering events. As Hayes witnesses some horrific ordeals, she makes irreversible decisions. Unfortunately, these choices have dire consequences! Subsequently, she must help the marines aboard the Otago to prevent the Xenomorphs from spreading.
The plot may not have evolved as much as I’d have liked. However, the gameplay was incredible! The action revolves around a squad of 4 marines. Each person has a set of skills and personality traits. These elements are key to how you plan each mission, and success and failure are finely balanced. As you progress through each mission, you are given new mechanics to work with that enhance your tactical choices. Moreover, there is a fine research and development tree to focus on.
Alongside this, you can tailor each marine with a refined but interesting skill tree. By specialising each soldier, you can increase your chances of success. Will you create a medic or a hacker? Alternatively, you can opt for a sniper or an officer. Whatever you choose, they’ll give you more strings to your bow. However, that is not all. Injuries, fear, and fatigue all play a key role. As such, you may have the perfect squadron lined up. Yet, you may have to take a rookie, as your number one choice is temporarily put out of action.
When a game forewarns you about its challenging nature, you begin to worry. In this instance, the developers were right to warn you as Aliens: Dark Descent is brutal. With so many layers to focus on, something has to give. Normally, you push your people too hard and this adversely affects their performance. However, if you do not do so, the Xenomorphs become progressively tougher, and the game is harder still.
Each mission is broken down into main objectives and side quests. On top of this, you are required to hunt for resources, find ammo, tools and medkits, and search for data pads. Furthermore, there are survivors to rescue, Facehuggers to burn, and plenty of aliens to destroy. Alongside all of that, you must ensure the team rest to mitigate the effects of stress. As such, you must create shelters in order to relax. These little touches were amazing as they permanently altered the gaming world. If you extract your squad and then return, every welded door, destroyed wall, and blown-up barrel is still there.
An array of aliens requires a tactical mindset.
The developers weren’t happy with one type of alien. Instead, the Xenomorphs are a varied and hardy bunch. Additionally, there are cultists and corporation asshats to overcome. Luckily, the latter two are pretty straightforward to defeat. The aliens, on the other hand, will break your balls repeatedly.
These fast and aggressive bastards love to slice, dice, and dissect you. Alternatively, they’ll carry you away to feast on you later. Either way, they will hurt, maim, and kill your squad in an instant. If that wasn’t bad enough, their acid blood causes all sorts of problems. Moreover, the giant Xenomorphs are a pain in the arse. Just when you think you have everything under control, these unruly twats do everything in their power to ruin your day. Whether they sprint towards you, crush you, or slash you to pieces, it won’t end well.
Luckily, though, you have a few tricks up your sleeves. This real-time strategy game can be slowed down. This was a great design choice as it helps to set ambushes while balancing the gameplay. Thankfully, you can set traps, whilst you hide behind cover. However, remember that aliens can crawl through walls, so anything is possible.
Glitches and bugs.
Aliens: Dark Descent got under my skin. Yet, the glitches and the bugs taint this extraordinary experience. Unfortunately, there are so many game-breaking issues that you’ll be frustrated and disheartened repeatedly. I played this for countless hours, but every level was punctuated by problems.
The game crashed regularly, or my squad was stuck in a darkened room. Alternatively, quest objectives failed to progress or a squad member became stuck in a wall or lift. However, my favourite was when I dropped a survivor and he vanished into thin air. This problem happened not once, not twice, but three times on the bounce! How the hell has this been released with this many bugs is beyond me.
I’m sure that the developers are actively patching their game. Yet, in the meantime, you’ll have to endure some unnecessarily challenging moments. Accordingly, be prepared to be frustrated while you waste your precious time.
Aliens: Dark Descent looks grim.
This seedy sci-fi title does a fantastic job. Visually, it creates a grim and oppressive world to explore. Moreover, the cinematic was fantastic, and the animation was flawless. Alongside this, there were no frame rate issues, and I adore the permanent changes to every level. However, I can’t ignore the bugs as this taints an otherwise excellent experience.
The audio is both amazing and shite in equal measure. Let me start with the negatives. The sound bites are as annoying as a child screaming on a long train or plane journey. The repetitive and shrill noise will bore into your brain like a dentist’s drill. Consequently, it’ll drive you insane. However, if you can ignore the constant screams and repetitive commands, you’ll enjoy the soundtrack and sound effects. The meaty guns, hideous aliens, and atmospheric ambient noises were phenomenal. Additionally, the acting was top-notch, and the cinematic benefited as a result.
It plays superbly on console.
I expected this to be a bit of a farcical endeavour. Strategy games and controllers rarely go hand-in-hand. However, Aliens: Dark Descent works superbly on console. Thanks to the excellent tutorial and incredible UI, this performs exceptionality well. Furthermore, the complexities are stripped-back and each layer is relatively easy to understand.
In its current state, it is hard to keep playing. Knowing that the game will crash or fail is a disheartening experience. As such, the developers need to get the issues solved. However, once the problems are ironed out, this will keep you busy for hours. Each mission can be revisited to gather all the missing resources. Moreover, you may find survivors, or you can train a spare squadron as a backup. Either way, this has the potential for replay value and longevity.
Despite its issues, I loved Aliens: Dark Descent.
I found Aliens: Dark Descent to be a challenging, enjoyable, but equally frustrating game. There is so much potential that I became increasingly annoyed with the developers. One or two bugs can slip through, but the problems were never-ending. However, I can see this being rectified and when this happens, it’ll be a spectacular and moreish title. As such, despite its issues, I loved it and I recommend that you buy it here! Can you help the Marines and save the day? Upgrade your equipment, tackle every mission, and wipe out those Xenomorphs.