Aliens: Dark Descent Review – Niche Gamer

Aliens: Dark Descent Review - Niche Gamer

The history of video games is tied to the Alien movies considering how Aliens became one of the most ripped-off IPs. Contra, Metroid, Xenophobic, R-Type, Dark Seed I & II, Ecco the Dolphin, Splatterhouse, dead space, SystemShockand so on… the list of titles influenced by these films is endless.

There weren’t that many actual games based on the Alien franchise at first. There were a few excellent arcade games. Alien 3 had a few console games of varying quality and Alien Ressurection had a surprisingly forward-thinking first-person shooter that came up with the dual-analog control scheme that it used today. Alien: Isolation is widely considered a solid first-person horror game, which makes a lot of sense for the franchise.

You could go your whole life playing only games based on this IP and have many unique experiences. This latest entry in the series dares to mix two genres that most gamers never consider going well with each other; survival-horror and real-time strategy. Is this a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or is it a Alien Vs Predator? Find out in this Aliens: Dark Descent review!

Aliens: Dark Descent
Developer: Tindalos Interactive
Publisher:
Focus Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: June 19, 2023
Players: 1
Price: $39.99USD

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) was a watershed horror film that mesmerized audiences with its unrelenting terror and psychosexual subliminal imagery. The sequel directed by James Cameron would further push the franchise to great success thanks to Cameron’s action-heavy signature and the film became the basis of inspiration for the original Doom.

The film is an all-time classic that has stood the test of time excellently thanks to its blend of action and horror that also has some human elements. One of the pivotal scenes depicts an inexperienced commander trying to lead the Marines through a hostile xenomorph hive, only for them to get savagely killed.

The commander panics and he is paralyzed with fear, unable to effectively guide his troops. It was a powerful scene and Aliens: Dark Descent aims to make an entire game inspired by that moment of terror. The player can experience the same sense of helplessness as Lt. Gorman, but this time Ripley won’t be there to save the day with her quick thinking.

The gameplay of Aliens: Dark Descent is a fascinating blend of real-time strategy mechanics with survival-horror elements. Players guide units with a cursor on large maps that has some shades of a metroidvania. Doors can be locked and will need a key. Other times a squad may need a consumable tool to cut a welded door.

Leading a four-man team deeper and deeper into the base makes the infestation level of alien aggro increase over time, making battles more inevitable. In Aliens: Dark Descent, you want to avoid getting into fights because it costs valuable resources and is traumatic for the soldiers. Some combat is necessary to earn XP, but too much comes at a terrible cost.

Fighting xenomorphs for extended periods can weigh heavily on the mental well-being of soldiers. If you are in the middle of a mission and one of the recruits is on the verge of a mental breakdown, then extraction from the mission and returning later is an option. If the troop gets traumatized, then they can develop a disorder that is like a debuff.

Management is a major pillar of Aliens: Dark Descent‘s gameplay and spending the resources acquired while exploring is used to develop facilities to better contend with the alien menace. Making psyche wards to recover shell-shocked marines or choosing to upgrade the weapons become a balancing act for the player where they are forced to make hard decisions.

Acquiring personnel to run the various amenities of the Otago is done by finding them holed up. The entirety of Aliens: Dark Descent is centered on a very palpable sense of rising tension and tug-of-war of balancing very limited resources, and soldiers, and exercising caution while exploring the map.

Like-in XCOMpreparation is key to victory and in Aliens: Dark Descent it is crucial to make sure your troops get everything they need. From plasma rifles and shotguns to flame throwers; everything from the movies is represented and film accurate, down to the sound effects.

Weapons are only a piece of the grand tapestry when dealing with xenomorphs. The classic automatic sentry guns return from the Special Edition which is a cheeky way to keep an area clear. Sometimes the best option when a team needs a break but you don’t want to leave the mission is to seal the room by welding all the doors shut. Another clever strategy is to use the APC as a free offense without expending ammo or skill points.

Combating the aliens is easy to understand, but can take a bit to master because there are a lot of possibilities and factors to consider. If stealth is no longer an option, then it is best to take your time when setting up either team and to find a choke point and funnel the threat into a localized area for easy pickings.

Regretfully, there are not that many enemy types. Face huggers and warriors are classics, which is to be expected, but there are only a few other types like the praetorian which only protects the queen, and runners which are weak but fast. Guardians are the new additions to the lore and are human xenomorph hybrids that worship the aliens. They carry weapons and are generally unpleasant.

The roster of foes does not go further than this. There are androids but they aren’t visually striking. What Aliens: Dark Descent needed was to tap into the bizarre xenomorphs based on the Kenner toy line from the 90s. The flying queen alien or even the bull alien would have been fun additions to mix up the gameplay.

The story of Aliens: Dark Descent is simple but effective. After some chaotic shenanigans onboard a craft that is carrying some xenomorphs; everyone crash lands on Lethe to prevent an infestation. This protocol grounds the crew and everyone must work together to gather necessary components and staff from nearby facilities to take off.

The only aspect of the story that does not work is the characters. Most of the units are generic and interchangeable, which is fine because when they die it is permanent. Where the character writing falters is with very obviously evil characters that make the protagonists look incredibly stupid… probably because they are stupid.

It doesn’t help that the dialogue and voice acting is mediocre and everyone is phoning it in. There are a lot of really embarrassing line reads that are meant to be referencing the James Cameron movie, but the delivery is all wrong.

Whoever is the squad leader also constantly shouts, which makes no sense when a majority of the gameplay revolves around stealth and the mismatch destroys the sneaky atmosphere. In the movie, characters would speak in hushed voices because they didn’t want to alert aliens to their location and you could feel it in every scene.

Usually, the production values ​​in Aliens: Dark Descent amazing look. The lighting looks convincing and the way it is used to convey the fog of war is a very stylish touch. The environments look on brand with the movie it is inspired by. The textures and detailed cassette futurism aesthetics look cool.

The character models and facial expressions are lacking in cutscenes, but for the most part, the POV is too far to notice. All marines are fully customizable and they do not have nearly enough options to make them feel unique apart from their bespoke classes.

Most of the issues in Aliens: Dark Descent can be ignored and written off as nitpicks. Where it falters hardest is with the glitches. Some bugs can lead to the X or the shoulder buttons being unresponsive, making many actions impossible. The only fix is ​​to restart the game from the home menu.

Other issues lie in the cursor getting caught on what feels like invisible objects. These bugs are very common and aggravating because they can make a mission go extremely bad very quickly, wasting a lot of time and progress. Hopefully, they get addressed, but as of this review, these issues persist.

Aliens: Dark Descent is a very creative mixture of genres and ideas that are contained in one of the most beloved IPs of all time. Its concept and premise are sound and the execution is generally solid. The only things holding it back are the technical issues and the sloppy writing and acting. This is one of the most interesting takes on the RTS genre that mostly sticks to landing… mostly.

Aliens: Dark Descent was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by Focus Entertainment. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Stay Out of the House is now available for Windows PC, (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

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