Descent 2
for PC (DOS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Parallax Software / Interplay
Year: 1996
Genre: Action
Theme: Flight / Multiplayer / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 508
Review by Mr Creosote (2024-04-13)

What is this? The laziest “sequel” since Doom 2? It was hard to blame Parallax after id had done it. I.e. releasing essentially a level pack of the original and putting a “2” behind its title, for full price. The basic principle of the game, flying through mines full of rogue robots, in search of the reactor, blowing it up and escaping quickly, has been fully left intact, at least. The list of of what's new is, for better or worse, the usual one.

So much for “higher resolution”

Higher screen resolutions? Do not result in significantly improved visuals, because the textures are just the old ones in many places – pixels just having been quadrupled or more instead of actually being sharper.

New weapons? Minor variants of the old ones.

New levels? Admittedly, very well designed. But additional switches and destructible light sources can hardly be considered groundbreaking.

New enemies? The most noticeable thing about them are their programmed behaviour patterns. Considering their surroundings, alerting reinforcements. A Zorkian thief is on the prowl, snatching those valuable upgrades from you.

The new guide robot? Very nice indeed, to let it explore by itself, settings its objectives, then following it. Though don't think that simply flying after this little drone will make you win the dreadfully hard levels.

Welcome back to Descent!

So, well, that's about it. At the time of release, Descent 2 was infuriating, because charging full price for such a small upgrade, the original having had a fairly large, free Shareware episode was a slap in the face. And yet, it has one thing going for it. Then and now.

Between 1994 and 1996, there had been a hundred Doom clones. Some better, some worse. Many even using the original's engine and therefore sharing many of the basic architectural assumptions and limitations in their games. Each new such clone was, first of all, an old hat – unless it offered something special, something to really set it apart. Which rarely happened. In the same timeframe, there had been nothing like Descent.

Once again: welcome back to Descent!

The truly three-dimensional dungeons. Riding through those winding tunnels like a dizzying rollercoaster. The almost tactical exchanges of fire. All that while listening to a bombastic rock soundtrack streamed directly as Redbook audio in this new game. Sure, the graphics did not blow anyone away anymore in 1996. Yet, in a darkened room with just the lights of the monitor and a good stereo, preferably with a dedicated, booming base box, this still worked.

And, surprise, surprise, it still does. Maybe takes a little bit more time to get into again. The polygonial world, the game's biggest plus at the time of part 1, comes across a little blocky these days. Though when you do your corkscrew maneuvers, when suddenly the lava seems to be running along the ceiling, when you've lost track of what's left and what's right, you're back in the zone which makes Descent so special. The disorienting architecture which is so key to the whole experience.

Part 2 is a humble optimization in concept and presentation. It did not have the “wow, this is new” factor anymore. In retrospect, it is nevertheless the better game. Less important, but offering the (slightly) superior experience.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Into the mine, out of the mine. Descent 2 repeated the original game's formula with very few changes. I remember being quite annoyed by it at the time. Time passes, I got older and more forgiving. The game not being all that expensive anymore may help as well. You should play it!