Released on 20th June this year, players will be exploring hives and gearing up their squads in Tindalos Interactive’s new game Aliens: Dark Descent. This RTS action-adventure game is on Steam, PlayStation and Xbox for £34.99.
That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over!
I am a massive nerd for anything related to the Xenomorphs, from the original 1979 movie to comics. The last game I played and enjoyed with Xenomorphs was Alien: Isolation. When I heard about a new RTS aliens game, my mind rushed back to the classic PS2 game AVP: Extinction which allowed players to control the Xenomorph army. Now here’s my chance to relive those memories with a modern take that seems to have drawn some inspiration from the more recent XCOM games.
The Story in Aliens: Dark Descent starts with cargo delivered onto a ship that is sabotaged quickly by an unknown individual. Now that the creature is loose aboard the ship, it has caused the ship known as the USS Otago to crash land on the nearby planet Lethe. The Otago will serve as the main base of operations for players between missions and comes with a few facilities to help them survive until they can find a way off the planet. The main areas aboard the Otago that you should familiarise yourself with are the Medical Bay and Barracks. The Medical Bay will help speed up recovery for wounded soldiers and later will allow players to cure “Trauma” effects. You can change the Marines’ gear and customise them in the Barracks. Even though there weren’t many options, I had fun making my main squad look and feel unique.
Taking care of your troops.
You’ll need to keep an eye on a lot in Aliens: Dark Descent, the main thing being your soldier’s mental well-being. When selecting a marine, they will have different bad traits that affect their combat. Such as the Jinx trait that will make the marine’s gun jam 50% of the time. Players can choose a class once soldiers have hit level three. Five classes are available (Sergeant, Recon, Tecker, Medic, and Gunner). Players will have to decide which will best suit their squads. However, there are only two choices per marine. I’m not a fan of the two options system for classes given at random, as I now have ten soldiers, but most of them are either Medic or Recon.
One of my favourite classes to use is the Recon as it gives players the skill precise shot, this skill is an automatic kill on non-suspecting enemies, and later the soldier can get an upgrade that makes it silent. My least used class, surprisingly, is the medic, as they don’t get any skills apart from a passive trait to heal allies faster. The faster healing is helpful sometimes, but since players will mainly heal whilst hiding, it feels redundant.
Missions can be stressful.
Missions won’t always be about combat. Surprisingly, there’s more stealth than I expected compared to other games when playing as the Colonial Marines. Instead, players will have to choose when engaging the enemy. When detected by a Xenomorph, this will trigger the hive to begin hunting, which sends several creatures to attack the squad in that sector. Players can run and hide until the hunting bar depletes and everything calms down. Be warned every time a hunt starts, Xenos will become stronger and more aggressive. More dangerous Xenos will appear, such as the charger or the Iconic Praetorian that serves as the Queens Royal Guard.
Stress will accumulate as the squad explores the abandoned facilities. When stress builds, it gives negative traits, which affects them during combat. For example, they will get wounded more easily or have lower accuracy. If left untreated, stress will become the aforementioned “Trauma” status. Trauma has even worse effects, like Xenophobia which makes them more stressed when singing a Xenomorph. If your squad is struggling, get them to the ARC and extract. There’s no penalty for retreating, and when you send out another team, they will continue from where you left off.
Fighting for survival.
When exploring the Hives and buildings on Lethe, you will find several boxes that hold resources. For example, med kits help with healing or lower stress, and tools allow access doors or can weld them shut to slow the Xeno threats and more. Sentry turrets found will bring much-welcomed firepower to the fight. I love that the Sentry covers a wide area and provides decent damage to boss enemies. Survivors found during missions need escorting back to the ACR to get extracted. Once extracted, they will help out on the Otago by becoming a Doctor, Engineer or a new soldier.
Even though players can unlock new equipment, there is no way to level up gun damage which is a shame as there aren’t many weapons for the game, and some are class specific. Most of the damage comes from the skill players will use. For example, the Incinerator is a specialised weapon that can cover a wide area and last up to 8 seconds, or the helpful suppression skill that slows enemies giving the team more time to react. As the story progresses, more weapons become available to you, such as the Heavy Pulse Rifle and RPG. Some are class-specific, like the Gunners using the iconic Smart Gun.
Graphics & Audio
Overall Aliens: Dark Descent is a visual treat, especially for fans of the Alien franchise. The detail put into the hive areas is immense, and the way the lighting highlights and emphasises the Xenomorph’s bodies is phenomenal. My favourite examples are the title screen, the way the red lighting bounces off the chitin of Xenomorph’s head, and during a cutscene, where you see the Xenomorph slowly emerging from tubing (a classic from the movies).
The sound effects aren’t lacking, either. The gunfire sounds crisp, and the voice acting is class. They did a brilliant job of selling their characters and their personalities. The only issue I had was that the lip-synching seemed a little off, but that is easily ignored or fixed in a later update.
I’ve been playing Aliens: Dark Descent for nearly seventeen hours and have a lot of fun with it. I have only done five missions, and they do take a while. But I usually return back to previous areas to collect any remaining Datapads. Players looking to test their survival skills can try out some of the more difficult modes available, like trying to finish the game on “no one can hear you scream” difficulty.
My time with Aliens: Dark Descent has been a great experience. I enjoyed building up my squad and exploring each area carefully. The game runs really well, and I haven’t had any frame issues, but I did have to replay a mission as one of my marines bugged out. I feel if Tindalos Interactive were to make an RTS like AVP: Extinction. Then it would be in great hands. I was happy I could play this on my Steam Deck even though it isn’t verified yet. I would have liked to have been able to use more than one squad, and my initial thought was that combat was turn-based like XCOM, which was a shame, but still fun. Adding upgrades to weapons would be a good addition, or maybe adding some attachments that increase stats. I did find it annoying that I couldn’t manually save my game.
If you love Xenomorphs or anything from the Alien franchise, then I highly recommend picking this game up and supporting the developers so we can get more games like this in the future maybe even one based on predator
Honestly Aliens: Dark Decent is an excellent game that’s why I give it the Thumb Cultures Platinum Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.