Review by MetroidSuperfan

Reviewed: 02/21/06

The first game, but with improvements

Descent II is the sequel to the highly popular Descent. Descent was originally created to provide competition to Doom (there is a pretty funny commercial, which you can still find on-line, comparing Descent to Doom), and people loved it. Its main selling point was that it offered full-range movement. Think space sim plus FPS and you got Descent. Closed-in, sprawling levels, deadly floods of killer robots, and very good graphics (for its time) all combined to make a game that is still enjoyed today, when it is over a decade old.

Descent II took everything about Descent and made it better. Twice the weapons, twice the secret levels, and many more varieties of robots. It took the original weapon set of the first game and added new counterparts to each weapon. I won't bore you with a list, but among the new weapons are: Flash missiles, which can blind your opponent, Smart Mines, which sent out heat-seeking projectiles after getting blown up, and wildly ricocheting Phoenix cannons. It also took you out of the Sol system, and into imaginary systems that each have a theme, such as water, fire, or ice.

It also introduced two new robot classes: the Guidebot and TheifBot.

The Guidebot people had mixed reactions about. It is the only friendly robot in the mine. After you free it from its holding cell, it will guide you through the mines, leading you to different keys, reactors, exits. You could tell it to find energy or shields, the hostages, all your stuff from when you last died, or even to stay away from you if it was being annoying. But one thing many people enjoyed about Descent was exploration, and the Guidebot took away from that.

The ThiefBot was THE. SINGLE. MOST. IRRITATING. robot of all time. There was one per level, and it alone could open doors to travel anywhere (even secret passages) so it could appear and disappear without a trace in about ten seconds. It would follow you through the mines, sneak up behind you and steal your items. Then if you chased it it would fly erratically, very hard to shoot, and zoom away on a wild goose chase through the mines, until you gave up or it was destroyed. But its sheilds are so powerful most people give up.

Vertigo and disorientation are the two popular complaints about Descent. The fact that you can move in ANY direction, literally any direction, makes some people motion-sick. It helps though, if you use the technique described in Ender's Game: get rid of the up/down orientation. Stop thinking in terms of up and down, and just accept where things are. Don't confuse one room with another simply because you're upside-down or sideways or some combination of the two. Next most popular complaint: getting lost. Some gamers out there (like me) enjoy getting lost in games. If you don't, use the guide bot. Problem solved.

Anyway, the game follows a simple formula: enter mine, blow stuff up, collect items and weapons, enter high-security Red area, blow up nuclear reactor, then RUN to the emergency exit. Every single level follows this pattern. But you have hundreds of robots per mine to deal with, and often indestructible robot generators that can pump out a bot every three seconds. Very annoying and dangerous. The robots' AI isn't all that complicated: they follow you, and shoot you, and dodge shots you throw at them. But it does increase with each difficulty level. Trainee (the easiest) is still a challenge, but Insane (the hardest) really is insane. Furthermore, there are plenty of puzzles, like secret doors, disappearing/appearing walls, force fields and doors that lock behind you. By blowing up control panels you can sometimes counteract these effects, other times you have to find a way around them. Believe me when I say this game is addictive. I still play it often, many years after it came out.

Please be nice to the game's graphics. Robots (and your ship) are 3-D models, but just about everything else is a sprite. Textures also seem... pixelated. But remember that this game is old. By about 7 or 8 years. For its time these were cutting-edge graphics. By today's standards they aren't the best though.

Doors opening sound like doors opening, touching lava (helpful hint: not a good idea) makes a bubbling, sizzling sound. Each weapon has its own sound effect. But now for the coup de grace: the robots. As a side effect of this crazy computer virus that makes them bloodthirsty, they make very, veeeery creepy shrieks, moans, and screams. It can truly freak you out if they come up on you unawares. And the computerized voice gave me nightmares (remember I was 7 when I first played this game). All in all, superb sound effects.

Music: Only four in-game soundtracks. Four. But don't worry they don't get repetitive. They are actually very good. Fast-paced and upbeat. The third soundtrack my friend praises as the best video game music in existence. So don't worry about the music, no problems there.

Replay: Finding and completing the six secret levels is a chore, as the secret levels are more booby-trap and puzzle intensive than the main game (that's saying something). Also the difficulty at the highest levels is.... well, difficult. Insanely frustrating on Insane too. Too bad the multiplayer is pretty much dead, I heard it was quite good.

Total Score: 8/10

Buy or Rent: I'd say rent first, then make a decision. Its one of those games you either like or don't, so give it a try. It should be pretty easy to find, for a used PC game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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