PAX East 2023: An Early Look at Aliens: Dark Descent

Prior to the opening of PAX East 2023, the media received early access to the convention center. I took the chance to play the demo of Aliens: Dark Descent and to sit down with the game’s producer Hippolyte Simon (Tindalos Interactive).

As a huge fan of the Aliens franchise, I had the game on my personal radar; but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m not typically a fan of real time strategy (RTS) games, and my obsession with Cold Iron Studios’ Aliens: Fireteam Elite has left me hoping for more third-person shooters.

I’m happy to report Aliens: Dark Descent is incredible.

The game is as much a work of horror as it is an RTS game. When I asked Simon about what he felt most proud of with regard to the game, he said, “The environment, the fear of the Xenomorphs players will feel.” He noted that the developer team is full of lifelong Aliens fans and that it was important to everyone working on the game to get the atmosphere right. I felt this sense of dread and fear for my squad immediately upon playing the game.

Simon, who came on as a producer for the game two years into development, said the game features different biomes on the planet, iconic places that fans of the franchise will recognize. Many of the developers also share a love for table-top games, and the game’s top-down perspective holds the romance of such.

When asked about what makes this game unique, given so many Aliens games are on the market or in development, Simon was quick to point out that Aliens: Dark Descent is the only game of its kind wherein you manage the health and safety of your squad as they finish the mission. You are the squad leader in the truest sense.

Aliens: Dark Descent producer Hippolyte Simon (left).

When marines die, they are gone for good. The game’s permadeath feature creates real stakes for your fully customizable squad of Colonial Marines. As marines face tough encounters with Xenomorphs, they can develop symptoms of trauma and suffer “trauma points,” which add up until your particular marines suffer from PTSD and “Xeno-phobia”; upon even seeing a Xenomorph, the marines begin losing control, aiming poorly, or just plain panicking. Only treating the marines in the ship’s medical bay will reverse their condition. This creates real pressure and need for players to manage the health and safety of their squad. Order your marines to take Naproleve to lower their adrenaline or get them out of there! Failure to do so will not only result in the loss of the mission, but the elimination of favorite marines and their hard-earned experience.

Simon also mentioned the artificial intelligence of the Xenomorph hive as a favorite feature. The hive quite literally hunts you as you guide your marines through the mission. Aggression indicators on the HUD communicate the hive’s level of awareness of your presence. Make too much noise and the Queen will send a Xenomorph Drone to investigate. If you handle that poorly, a hunt will begin, and eventually a full onslaught. Good luck marine!

Another feature that makes Aliens: Dark Descent unique is that like marine permadeath, every interaction on the map is persistent. That means that if you weld a door shut, it stays shut until a Xenomorph breaks through or you open it again—even if you return to your ship and revisit the area later. The game truly immerses players in a world with high stakes and terrifying atmosphere.

Aliens: Dark Descent releases June 20, 2023 on Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam.

Tell us what you think! Will you be playing Aliens: Dark Descent? What do you think of the game’s key features? Share your reactions in the comments below or join the conversation on Boss Rush Network’s Discord and Facebook.

Source: Focus Entertainment

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