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Aliens Dark Descent Review

Fans of James Cameron’s Aliens series are up for a treat with the latest game in the franchise, Aliens Dark Descent. Not to be confused with the virtual reality (VR) game title Alien: Descent released in 2018, Dark Descent dabbles in a top-down view (isometric-like view), real-time strategy (RTS) squad-based gameplay wherein the player is given control of a squad of four United States Colonial Marine Corps (USCM) space marines as they progress through the game’s campaign.

Continuing from the story of the original trilogy of Alien films, the game’s story campaign is set in 2198, 19 years after the trilogy film’s events. It follows the USS Otago and its crew as it encounters the deadly Xenomorphs and other hostilities while slowly unveiling the campaign’s dark story and investigating the motives of Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s rogue agents.

Dark Yet Atmospheric Graphics and Decent Character Models

Developer Tindalos Interactive managed to perfectly bring the dark and the atmosphere of suspense with the beautiful graphics used in Aliens Dark Descent using the Unreal Engine. Abandoned space stations with barely lit-up interiors are clean with sharp detail, while stations overran by Xenomorphs and other alien entities are covered with its signature gross, icky material identifiable by fans who watched the films.

However, character models are in the realm of “passable human-like figures” with some minor issues with shadowing and lighting. But overall, the characters look great, especially when the graphic settings are higher (provided you are playing on your PC with capable hardware).

Effects and lighting are bright and impressive in combat, especially in places with dark areas such as the den of a Xenomorph egg farm or a random hallway/room of an abandoned space station. Details such as gunfire blasts, explosions, smoke, gory bits, and even blood have sharp details that can easily add colors to the dark environment.

Aliens’ Horror and Suspense Packaged in Squad-based RTS Gameplay

Fans of games such as XCOM who want to have the same squad-base management and gameplay but in real-time will love Aliens Dark Descent’s take on the said genre. You can still assign actions to each squad member like deploying gun turrets or using special weapons by slowing down the time considerably.

But players shouldn’t be complacent about the time-slowing mechanic as everything in-game is still happening in real-time, as everything inside the game is still in movement (unless the player intentionally pauses the game). Additionally, thanks to the hive system the game’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) uses, the gameplay experience will heavily vary for each run as the enemy smartly adjusts to the player’s actions and reactions in each stage, giving off a rogue-like gameplay that can be unpredictable.

The campaign’s gameplay consists of taking in several missions per day, wherein before being deployed you can customize your squad, upgrade and level up each member and their equipment, and be debriefed about the location you will extract onto. After each mission, you must heal and destress your squad to avoid them performing poorly on the battlefield, or replace a lost member with a new member.

Downsides of a Rogue-like RTS Squad-based Game

Speaking of adding a new member, this is one of the downsides of an XCOM-like game with some rogue-like elements: the permadeath system. That means when you lose a team member, you will lose that member forever (unless you’re willing to do save scumming), including the stats you have invested in that member and the equipment he/she had during their death (unless retrieved within the same mission wherein that member was lost). 

Additionally, after finishing a mission and while recuperating inside the USS Otago, your squad members’ stress levels will be at an all-time high, especially if they’ve lost a team member and will be traumatized. You must manage their stress levels and keep them healthy. If left unchecked, they will perform badly in combat, such as missing their shots, panicking and getting killed, or even worse, muniting against you and your mission.

Lastly, the enemy A.I. can be sometimes unforgiving, especially when it comes to later difficulty levels that may turn off dedicated players of this genre. One moment your squad is mowing down hordes of Xenomorphs without a sweat, and then suddenly your whole team is wiped out after turning inside a corner, forcing you to repeat the level.

Manage Your Space Marines and Survive

Smartly and meticulously planning and staying cool are the keys to enjoying this game. Whether preparing for the next mission or commanding your troops on the battlefield in real-time, the thrill of blasting through waves of Xenomorphs while still clearing your mission objectives and your whole team surviving can be rewarding to many RTS squad-based connoisseurs.

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