The upcoming Aliens: Dark Descent developed by Tindalos Entertainment and published by Focus Interactive isa real time hybrid squad based tactics game. The first impressions upon getting set up at the booth was that Dark Descent is, in its current state, a mechanically busy game/ The game has you juggle your attention between different gauges and menus, muddying up should be a relatively straightforward isometric shooter. Playing through it more in a longer session, however, began to reveal that Dark Descent is a much deeper game than expected, and it very quickly became my favorite take away from the PAX East 2023 demo.
Express Elevator to Hell
What I initially thought to be a basic run and gun turns out to be a very visceral tactics game, and a rather unforgiving one at that. In the demo, you get to control a four man squad of Colonial Marines, the private army of the enigmatic Weyland-Yutani corporation. They’re on what seems to be another bug hunt, but it quickly turns out to be just as much a fight against the clock as it is against the Xenomorphs.
Playing something more reminiscent of Dawn of War 2‘s cover centric skirmishes than the dodge and dash gunfights of the likes of The Ascent or Ruiner, Dark Descent tasks you with completing a list of objectives and side tasks while fighting off gradually increasing threats from the alien hive. In a genuine surprise, the game seems to actually incentivize stealth tactics, allowing you to largely sneak around the big bugs if you can stay out of eyeshot, and slowly raising the alien hordes alert meter with every firefight, often with aliens within hearing range running to the sounds to join in the fray.
The demo culminated in a final stand gauntlet, with waves of bugs breaking upon the formation of automated gun turrets and mines, where players first got to come face to face with what the game called a “stage two Xenomorphs”, a charging bull Xeno that took the combined firepower of the full team to finally take down. Much to my chagrin, it was shortly after the big bad boss went down that the turrets’ ammo count started to run dry, and the first surge of bugs made their way to my troops, and one by one the soldiers fell, gloriously snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Can we dream now, Ripley?
In post game talks with the Focus Entertainment staff, we learned that there will also be a robust base mechanic that allows you to spend the materials and bug bits to drastically upgrade your squad, improving everything from reload speed to reducing the time it takes to weld doors together. I am very glad to say that a new Aliens game has me excited again, and we can’t wait to get out hands on the full thing when it releases on Xbox, PlayStation and PC June 20th.