This week’s Kickstarter Spotlight turns towards the resurrection of another beloved 90’s franchise: Descent. The Interplay/Parallax Software classic defined vehicular combat with six degrees of freedom, fast-paced FPS intensity and big ideas that deserve a second look. The original spawned numerous expansion packs and two direct sequels. Time to go back into the asteroids once more in Descent: Underground.
The Tunnel Never Ended
Descent stood out among a very crowded landscape of games that wanted to be Doom back in 1995. The endless corridors coated in bullet casings were traded for the mining tunnels and the cyber demons were replaced with virus-riddled robots. The game differentiated itself from the rest of the pack thanks to the six degrees of freedom (X, Y, and Z axis along with roll, pitch, and yaw) granted to players. All the environments were in zero-gravity thus requiring players to keep their orientation in free space. The Zero-G environments lead to truly speedy and fluid movement, zipping through tunnels and shooting to safety. Throw some key cards in the mix and reactor cores to blow up and you’ve got a PC gaming classic.
There were rumblings back in 2007 that Interplay was looking to make a new Descent game if funding could be secured. Not much came of it until Eric “Wingman” Peterson, formerly of Cloud Imperium Games, left overseeing the persistent universe of Star Citizen behind to take on the task of bringing Descent back from the dead. You might remember Eric from the numerous “Wingman’s Hangar” videos he did talking about the state of the Star Citizen community, development news and even sketches about the game and its players. He wanted to make a game in the “style of” Descent but wasn’t planning on rebooting the franchise initially. It was, in fact, titled Ships That Fight Underground (STFU!) in early stages of development but, thankfully, a shareholder at Interplay approached Eric and his team at Descendent Studios and offered the idea of using the Descent IP instead. Interplay still owns the rights despite not having done a thing with the property for over a decade. Meetings with Herve Caen, CEO of Interplay, happened and now Eric and his team are hard at work making a Descent game that is trying to stay true to the roots of the series, modernize and innovate along the way.
Teach This Old Dog Some New Tricks
Descent: Underground will serve as a prequel to the original games, retain the same arcade style feel to its combat and the labyrinthine maps will be back as well. A modern take on a classic is fine and all but what’s new about Underground?
- A variety of customizable ships to suit every play style
- Destructible terrain conceals hidden resources, power-ups, and tunnels
- Master new game modes along with your favorites from Descent
- Prove your prowess with rankings, achievements, and leaderboards
- Six-Degrees-Of-Freedom Action – fly and fry foes while zipping in and out of the dizzying confines of asteroids
- Balanced First-Person Ship Combat and Resource Gathering – choose from eight unique ship types, each one showcasing a different play style
- A Twenty-First-Century Update – Unreal Engine 4, top-flight graphics, rich design, and a modern twist on Descent’s classic multiplayer modes
The setup is simple. Earth is at its breaking point. There are too many people and not enough water or food to go around. The race to save humanity becomes a sport in itself, pilots serving as mammoth figures of heroism amidst a world torn apart by war and natural disaster. Players will again assume the role of the pilot way down deep in the innards of an asteroid or planet, seek out vital materials and take out opposing forces along the way. Hopefully, the sponsors at home will like what they see. We will get to see the origins of the PTMC (Post-Terran Mining Corporation) that became such a critical pillar of the original games’ success.
Descent: Underground will include all the multiplayer modes and features from the prior titles with new twists. You can form corporations with friends, team up and climb the rungs of power to the very top with the built-in Leaderboard System. Multiplayer modes mentioned thus far:
MATCHES can include multiple teams of up to sixteen players each.
Each map will have goals and some may have timers.
Capture the Asteroid – Secure and defend five strategic beacons in the asteroid.
Capture the Ore – Mine resources and ferry them to your harvester. The first to reach their mining quota wins.
Deathmatch Destruction – Kill all your enemies’ drones before they destroy yours.
Mining for Minerals – Find and mine a special resource and return it to your harvester. But watch out! If you drop the “ball,” your enemy will swoop in and snatch it away.
No more Kali needed for playing online this go-round as Eric and his team have big plans for the future of Descent: Underground and its multiplayer scene, fostering a big and open community for players to interact with each other, developers and then some.
Explore Then Seek and Destroy
The myriad asteroids and planetoids players will be working their way through are full of destructible terrain. Voxels come into play heavily here as players can pretty much carve their own path out if they so choose. There’s an inherent freedom to the gameplay that clearly says, “Hey.. we get it. We know what made the first games so great!” and they’re applying that to each and every nuance of what Underground has to offer. Various elemental types of barriers, walls and caverns will stand in your path. It will be up to you to decide how to work through it. Take a laser and tunnel through that ice wall? Maybe. Blast through an adjacent wall and find a secret means into the heart of the enemy base? You bet. Six degrees of freedom regarding movement are well and good but Eric and his team are looking to give the player more and more reason to explore, blast and fly their way through the serpentine maze of the far future.
Ships will be customizable to not only offer players a range of cosmetic options but also in regards to how they play. Want to hit those curves even faster? Upgrade your engine. Want to have a sick logo of your corporation brandishing the tailfin? Go for it. Need a longer range on EMP burst or sensor sweeps? Upgrades are available to find. Kickstarter backers will get some of these rewarded from the get-go though any and all unlocks can be achieved just by playing the game.
The Descent Team
Eric Peterson worked on titles that span from Wing Commander 4 to Star Citizen. Robert Irving and Phil Tittle are also both veterans of the industry while the rest of the team is rounded out by other Star Citizen alums. The funding goal of $600,000 is still a ways as of today (they’re sitting at $298,144) but with 14 days to go anything can happen as Kickstarter has proven time and time again. Between ToeJam and Earl rising from the grave and a new Descent game in the works it is interesting to see that the continued trend of “What’s Old is New Again” due to crowd funding is now making its way to the more niche 90’s titles along with playing necromancer to what was considered a completely lost franchise. The intended release date for Descent: Underground will be March 2016. Descendent Studios’ Kickstarter page can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/descendentstudios/descent-underground/description
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