Focus Entertainment has taken on the daunting task of creating a game based on the Alien franchise, aiming to combine the aesthetics, horror, suspense, and action that fans expect. While there have been many Alien-based games over the years, unfortunately, most have failed to meet expectations and disappointed the fan base. Alien Isolation was a prime example of how to properly adapt the franchise, and although the recent Aliens: Fireteam Elite generally satisfied fans, there were credible complaints about certain aspects of the gameplay.
Enter Aliens: Dark Descent, a game that incorporates squad-based missions set against a branching storyline. Units can be lost outright, along with valuable experience and gear obtained along the way.
The game starts with an impressive opening segment, demonstrating considerable attention to detail in the universe’s look and lore. Players then set up operations, explore a ship, and interact with various characters. Daily missions allow players to select the squad and gear to be taken along, while making tough choices between hardware and medical kits for the four-person squad.
Once on site, players must command their squad to locate and extract survivors, necessary gear, information, and more, as the game’s detailed storyline unfolds. Naturally, the Alien menace won’t sit idly by, and when the motion tracker starts pinging, it’s time for action. Players can use a mix of assault rifles, grenades, shotguns, pistols, and other weapons, including Sentry guns, and choose to stand and fight, run and gun, or barricade themselves behind closed doors.
Navigation can be tricky, as the darkened and debris-filled locales become obstacles when fast-moving swarms approach. During combat, the game slows down, giving players the option to deploy timed responses, such as a sweeping shotgun blast or a grenade. Players can always retreat to their armored vehicle, which will fend off pursuing Aliens.
Naturally, casualties will occur, especially when dealing with acid-laden enemies. Players can deploy a medical kit to restore health, carry fallen comrades, or return them to the vehicle and continue with a reduced squad.
I had performed well in my early missions until I decided to sweep down to the Marines. The enemies that were mildly challenging before suddenly became significantly more difficult, and I found myself bogged down, regretting the choices I had made.
The game offers a decent mix of stealth and action, although it can be frustrating at times, particularly for players accustomed to charging into fights to get out of any situation. With enough patience and a properly equipped squad, success can be achieved, but there will be plenty of casualties and trial and error along the way, requiring players to exercise patience.
The graphics and level of detail are impressive, and the amount of customization works well for the surprisingly detailed and engaging story. It would be interesting to see if multiplayer could be included down the line, as it would be exciting to have human players working together in a squad to complete missions.
There are some minor annoyances and glitches, such as the inability to adjust the difficulty level in a new game, and some frustratingly precise stealth moments that require repeated efforts. That being said, Aliens: Dark Descent is a highly enjoyable game from start to finish. It captures the best of the Alien franchise and provides plenty of challenges along the way.
4 stars out of 5