Descent Is 19 Tomorrow, And On Steam Today

Yesterday, when I glanced at the new releases on Steam and saw “Descent” I thought, “Huh, someone’s used that name again – well, it has been nineteen years since it came out.” And then I dropped down dead of old age and horror because it’s been nineteen years since Descent came out. I’ve only just recovered from this death, and looked again. No, it’s actually Descent. It’s somehow appeared on Steam. Descent!

This is just Descent, in its original form, running through Dosbox. There’s no updating here at all, to the point where controller inputs include a Gravis Gamepad. At least I didn’t have to change my IRQ settings before loading, I guess. But fiddle with the keyboard and mouse controls, and you can get something damned close to comfortable. (Although I would desperately love to up mouse sensitivity, despite my probably having originally played this game keyboard only – a skill long since lost.)

And it’s Descent! And therefore it’s utterly splendid. Six-axis flying through corridors inside planets, enemies attacking you from above, below, in front behind and either side, as you spin around, flipping and rolling, hunting down secret areas, and rescuing hostages. Descent!

Tomorrow will be Descent’s 19th birthday, and it’s currently £2.50 on Steam. Of course, saying all this, it’s been on GOG for ages, where you can pick it up alongside Descent 2 for $10. Quite why whoever owns it post Parallax/Interplay has suddenly put it on Valve’s service I have no idea. But still, Descent!


  1. mrmalodor says:

    One of the first two games I ever owned. It came bundled with our first PC, a 100mhz beast with like 16 megs of RAM. However, it was the extended demo version which didn’t contain all the levels.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Ah ha ha ha ha that was exactly my experience!

      I really may need to pick this up (despite this not being a genre I dip in to at all….)

    • KDR_11k says:

      I got it from a magazine series called Bestseller Games, they were 15 DEM a piece and had full versions of various games, mostly Lucas Arts adventures. The actual magazine usually had a walkthrough printed in it.

      I have no idea what kind of PC I played it on but I could swear it was a 386 with 40MHz.

      • thaquoth says:

        Oh god, Bestseller Games!

        That magazine was pretty much my only source for games as a child.

      • jezcentral says:

        A 386 with 40KHz? You must have been one of those money-bags with a DX maths co-processor. I had a mere 386 16MHz SX.

        Fortunately, a friend gave me his 486DX2 66MHz, and we over-clocked that bad boy a further 14MHz!

        • KDR_11k says:

          We did have one of those math co-processors. However like the computer itself it was all second-hand gear, a 386 in an age of 486s. We went straight to a 486 100MHz DX4 from there though that was only waaaaay later. The first store-bought CPU I had was a Cyrix 586 with 133MHz (absolute bottom end at the time), bought after MDK refused to run on our 486 (didn’t learn about the cheatcode to make it accept 486s until later).

      • Philopoemen says:

        I just remember making a bootdisk so I’d have enough RAM to run it on my 486 SX 33

    • BobbyFizz says:

      486 DX2 66 here, 4mb ram. Ran super smooth.

    • Tiffer45 says:


      Packard Bell – Windows 95, Pentium 100 Mhz, 8mb RAM, 1gb HDD and Descent pre-installed. Didn’t play the game for ages because could never figure out A and Z made the ship move, thought the game was a dud. Glad I decided to press every button on keyboard one day.

      Bought it recently on GOG and used a mod to play through the whole game in 1920×1080. Still plays well.

      • Bury The Hammer says:

        Our family had that exact computer. It was kind of a strange grey and cream, like all computers from the 80s and 90s seem to be.

        And fuck yeah, I played Descent a lot. Along with ENCARTA MINDMAZE

        • Tiffer45 says:

          ENCARTA – oh my, haven’t heard that name in years.

          Yeah, it was beige, it’s gone that sickly yellow colour too! It came with a beige monitor and some beige speakers. I remember the day we got it. Parents bought it in PC World for £1500. It remains the most expensive PC our family has ever bought (granted it came with a monitor). Then my bro and I got a bit older and could build our own.

          I remember it had this virtual interactive home on it, a piece of software and you could walk around inside a house. Which was supposed to walk you through using Windows and installing software, but it didn’t work at all and failed to install anything for us.

          • Bury The Hammer says:

            Yep! Packard Bell Navigator! What a steaming pile of doo-doo that was. You could like go to the lounge and select the music player, and it would open windows media player or whatever.

            We got a lot of CD ROM learning apps with it, which were horrendously exciting as they had REAL VIDEO (in really crap resolution). I particularly enjoyed a biology one which had a primitive FPS based around the human body, where you had to like, go to various body parts and shoot all the bacteria with a.. healing.. gun.

          • Tiffer45 says:

            Yip, it was set in a hospital at night time. I remember leaving the operating room, walking down corridors then finding myself outside the hospital and never able to get back in. Wow, big nostalgia over old nasty software. Excellent :)

    • heldelance says:

      First PC my family had was given to my mum by her work. Pentium 166 mhz, 1.2 gb HDD, not sure about ram, no VGA card (it was whatever was onboard).

      This was my second game on it, the first being Hellbender which my dad bought with the Microsoft Sidewinder. I think I still have the CD for both games somewhere at home. Ah, nostalgia, a cruel beast thou art. (I miss the days of deathmatches in Doom, Quake, and Unreal. None of this CoD bullcrap. Using cover is for sissies, STRAFE ALL THE WAY BABY!!!)

    • derbefrier says:

      100mhz!!?? you must have been rich I was playing on just a lowly 33\66 mhz PC or something like that I remember being able to switch between the two though. It was a custom made PC my dad paid some dude to build and he put just about every PC classic you can think of that was released at the time n there for free.
      everything from Doom to Loom and everything in between. It was awesome I remember Descent, how awesome it was and how crappy i was at it. I dont think i ever made it past the 2nd or 3rd level.

    • Big Murray says:


      You fucking badass.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      Wait, are you me? Am I asleep? Have I slept?

      Seriously, NEC Pentium 100MHz, it was pimping kinda sorta. Although when Descent II finally came out and I was still on that computer, I noticed that it ran terribly and without sound unless I quit Windows and went into MS-DOS instead, upon which the sound actually worked and everything ran smoothly. And thus began my long life of hating Windows! Good times, good times.

    • Zafman says:

      486 DX4/100MHz, 8MB RAM, 8MB Hercules graphics card and cursed be my joystick for not having a Z-axis. Something is always wrong. ;)
      (And yes, upgrading to a Pentium 133 made sooo much sense.)

    • Scandalon says:

      First exposure was probably through PC Gamer. Later I got the full (Mac) version with special 3d accelerator enhancements as a pack-in w/ the 6500. (ATI RageII+!)

  2. subedii says:

    But changing your IRQ was half the fun!

    Yeah I picked it up from as soon as it became available. Still nothing else quite like it. IIRC there was a kickstarter for a Virus themed game that was inspired by Descent, but I didn’t hear about it until it was over. I heard the final release wasn’t too good either.

    Personally I played with Keyboard and Joystick. Works really well. Just translate your “jump” and “crouch” buttons into “up” and “down”. Bonus points if you’ve got a joystick that rotates on its axis. If like me you don’t, Q and E do the job well enough for rotating your ship.

    Was ridiculously hard on occassion as well. Especially those tiny silver hit-scan vulcan bots.

  3. Infinitron says:

    Interplay still owns it.

  4. Knurek says:

    Fun fact: It is the GOG version, verbatim. Someone at Interplay didn’t even remove GOG’s Dosbox config utility. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      Interplay is the worst.

      • heldelance says:

        It has been since it changed hands from Brian Fargo to some random nobjob. I read the story behind it a while back, it’s was pretty sad (Fargo basically had the company bought out from under him).

        Fallout 3’s (Van Buren) cancellation actually brought a tear to my eye and made me rather sad.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      You’ll want to be running the game with one of these anyway:

      link to
      link to

      • Premium User Badge

        keithzg says:

        Both d1x-rebirth and d2x-rebirth are in the Debian and Ubuntu repos, even: link to

        Which means anyone reading this running SteamOS or Ubuntu (or what I’m running personally, Kubuntu) should probably just install d1x-rebirth from the package manager (sudo apt-get install d1x-rebirth) and point it at the gamefiles, whether from Steam or from GOG or whatever.

    • DrollRemark says:

      And yet they’ve disabled it from running on Mac on Steam. :/

    • Scandalon says:

      Further cementing my belief that if you had a legal copy sometime in the past (that you did not sell/give away) you’re morally obligated to obtain a copy of the game data and play a modern sourceport and not give some random folks that had nothing to do with creating the game or even running the business at the time, more money.

  5. aliksy says:

    I played the crap out of this when it was new. Getting out of the mine before it all blew up was always so intense. And there were so many secrets I never found out. The worst were ones where you could see the cool gun, but couldn’t figure out how to get to it.

  6. spacedyemeerkat says:

    I just remember how ill it used to make me feel.

    • SillyWizard says:

      As in Beastie Boys?

    • db1331 says:

      I rented this for the N64 back in the day, and my friend and I both got motion sickness from playing it. To this day, it’s still the only game to ever have done that to me. I felt nauseous for about 2 days after I stopped playing.

      • drinniol says:

        No wonder – the N64 version was never released, you had interdimensional jump sickness.

        • KirbyEvan says:

          Maybe he’s talking about Forsaken? It was kinda like Descent with the whole six-axis gameplay angle.

      • spacedyemeerkat says:

        Yes, it’s just about the only game that’s made me feel nauseous in 30 years of gaming.

  7. Artea says:

    If you buy this, you’re financially supporting the guy who deliberately destroyed Black Isle and cancelled Fallout: Van Buren when it was nearly done.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      It’s true that Herve Caen is almost certainly the worst CEO in the industry, and the fact that he gets any investors/draws a paycheck is one of the world’s great mysteries.

      That said, I’m not really sure what you’re arguing. We are morally obligated to pirate Descent? Or not play it?

      • BrianFargo says:

        If you consider when Brian Fargo ran interplay into the ground (see Interplay Productions bankruptcy in 1998) and Brian took Interplay public in an IPO. The proceeds went to pay off debt and keep the company floating. But it was a bit too late. Brian continued to run the company into the ground. It was so bad in fact that he went to Titus Interactive and signed a deal where they would provide him with 35 million in funding and in return they would get a non controlling chunk of the company along w/ warrants that would trigger if Interplay went tits up. Well.. they went tits up. Titus took control and in came Herve to try to reduce the -120 million in debt.

        12 years later the company is at -3 million per SEC documents (2011).

        So say what you will but if Fargo had not screw the pooch they would not be in this. Herve has done well enough.

    • heldelance says:

      Good thing I still have the CD somewhere at home. I just gotta figure out how to get it to run with DosBox.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    Wow, mentioning the name “Gravis” caused a stronger nostalgia reaction than the name “Descent.” I think that might have been my first joystick.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Kinda odd, these days Gravis is an Apple store.

    • db1331 says:

      I got one of these for Christmas one year. Damn I loved that thing. It was a blast playing Rogue Squadron with it.

      link to

    • bhauck says:

      I still have a three-button Gravis Joystick. As far as I know, that’s it’s name. No model number or brand name, just “Gravis Joystick.” None of the three buttons are even on the trigger, there’s two arcade-style circle buttons on the base and something on top of the stick. I hope it works forever.

    • Amun says:

      I had a gravis game pad, but it was impossible to use it to play the game. I let a friend hold it and man the weapons while I flew the ship. You might think it was silly, but it was actually a ton of fun and it worked out pretty well.

  9. shaun says:

    I’m only depressed that I don’t get to play it like I did when I was little, with aforementioned Gravis Gamepad. I would probably just feel gross if I bought the game and tried it without the poor little SNES ripoff. It definitely happened when I reacquired Jazz Jackrabbit a couple years ago.

  10. ocelotwildly says:

    Had a major Proustian rush when loading up Steam this morning, as I too had this game bundled with the family’s first Hewlett Packard. I think it only made me a bit disappointed that all other games of the era couldn’t match it for ambition so well executed.

    I do like the way that the Steam blurb is clearly lifted from a 19 year old press release. As wonderful a game as it is, I think it might be stretching it a bit to keep describing the graphics as ‘cutting edge’!

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Lights are destructible and lighting changes as light sources are added and destroyed. That’s something a lot of current FPSs still can’t get right (though of course the FPSs from 10 years ago were perfectly capable of it – see Alien vs Predator 1).

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        AvP was released in 1999 so 15 years even.
        A game released a year before the future flying-car third millennium did things few games do today. Even when we are way into the high tech cyberspace future.

    • DrScuttles says:

      Not to forget two-player modem […] support! Going to have to create a custom “makes me feel old” tag on its Steam store page for that.

    • KDR_11k says:

      It does have edges so sharp you could cut yourself on them.

  11. SRTie4k says:

    Did anyone ever actually play it with a SpaceOrb 360?

    • Person of Interest says:

      I did. I was able to hold my own against more experienced Descent players by circle-strafing along bizarre axes.

      And I just now discovered that there’s an Arduino-based Orb-to-USB converter called OrbShield, so maybe I’ll have another chance to use the goofy thing. Assuming I can find it in the boxes of dusty old electronics.

      • Menthalion says:

        I also played it with a SpaceOrb 360. No need for tinkering though, just buy a 3Dconnection SpaceNavigator.

        A modern version of the SpaceOrb 360, with a driver that’s got great generic support for it’s 6 axis: bind each to joystick axes, mouse movement or keys. Even multiple keys on one axis on are supported. So for key only games you can bind walk, run and sprint on one axis.

        I played a.o. descent, retrovirus, apache air assault, mechwarrior living legends and evochron with it with 6-axis support.

        With the ce360 software you can bind it’s axis to an emulated 360 controller as well. That way it’s also compatible with controller based games.

        It’s a great 6 axis game controller, shame it was never marketed as such. It’s even half the price a SpaceOrb was, and ten times the build quality. Hmmm, I wonder if I can use it in Arma 3 as well..

        • Person of Interest says:

          Thanks for the glowing review. If I find that the SpaceOrb is kaput, I’ll check it out. But it’ll be hard to overcome my sporb nostalgia…

          • Menthalion says:

            I know right.. Always wanted to get my Sporb on again, but even back then the game support was atrocious, and my old Sporb was broken.

            A lot of people including me have been badgering 3Dconnection (who made the Orb part anyway) to include better binding abilities for their SpaceNavigator for over two years, and when they finally did it worked great for both older and newer games.

            It really is the same feel except for the Controller shape of the SpaceOrb, but that was generally considered its weakest point. Most people I knew put it in a vice to keep it in place anyway .

      • Flarn says:

        I did the exact same thing in Descent and Quake with the SpaceOrb. Loved that thing. I had 2 and I think I have 1 that still works so I will have to check out that Arduino project to get her up and runnin again.

        • Menthalion says:

          You’d still have the same crappy game support the original SpaceOrb was renowned for though.

  12. IAmBeave says:

    Ahhhhhh, I remember the joy of playing 8 player lan games of this at uni when it first came out. An awesome game.

  13. C0llic says:

    Isn’t Descent credited as being the game that killed shareware? (I don’t really believe that personally).

    I’d be interested to know how many of you actually bought it. I loved the game, but the demo was so generous, I just ended up playing it through multiple times. Anyone else?

    • derbefrier says:

      nope never bought it, but in my defense i was a kid at the time with no job. This is also the first i have heard of it being the game that killed shareware. I always figured that was just a natural side affect of the big publishers coming into power at around that time.

    • heldelance says:

      I bought it after downloading the demo. With a 28.8 kbps modem, that took AGES. I remember saving up my pocket money for several weeks before finally having enough to buy it.

  14. Hunchback says:

    19 years… Jesus, i am getting so old o.O

  15. TT says:

    ” T minus 59…”

  16. TechnicalBen says:

    If anyone, anyone knows how to get the port/recompile working on a Raspberri Pi, I would be very grateful. Well, many people know how to, but I seem to fail at syntax or something and I screw it up every time. :( I want me some self bodged portable Pi Descent.

  17. Rikard Peterson says:

    19 years… that’s just how long it took them to go through the Steam approval process.

    (Was surprised that nobody had made this comment already.)

  18. Didden says:

    When I was at college doing IT, we figured a way to get past the application control to reach DOS and play this puppy on the network. Of course it was a Microsoft application that we used to get past the security :)

  19. utharda says:

    Hey Sapnky / Yknaps I miss you man. . Had a lot of fun blowing reactors with you at the shirley apts.

  20. Myrdinn says:


    …there is LIGHT at the end of the TUNNEL!

    link to

    anyone who have played the Baldur’s Gate games back in the day probably know this

  21. Bweahns says:

    I remember playing Descent when I was around 13. For some reason playing that game always left me feeling depressed.

  22. Neurotic says:

    My friend loved the Descent games on his Amiga, but they used to make me feel nauseous. I’m pretty sure I had the first one on my PSX though.

  23. Shazbut says:

    On Steam, all the reviews are like:

    “Best game ever made, a true classic. Keeps you coming back again and again”

    – AGamer (0.1 hours on record)

    • cunningmunki says:

      To be fair, if you spent hours and hours on a game 19 years ago (or even more recently by getting from GOG) then I think you’re still quite entitled to leave a positive review, regardless of how many hours you’ve clocked up running it via Steam.

      If they ever released NOLF on Steam, I’d be the first on there to recommend it.

      • Neurotic says:

        Exactly. This is the whole point of the reviews on too.

  24. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Wait, is nobody mentioning the dxx-rebirth project? link to

    Just load up d1x-rebirth and use these game files, unless they’re stupidly DRM’d or such (Steam data can be, but isn’t necessarily, and especially for these old games it often isn’t).

    Hell, d1x-rebirth and d2x-rebirth are in the Ubuntu repos, and I even played d1x-rebirth on my first smartphone after extracting the data files from an old game disc I had years ago (this was back when smartphones had slideout landscape keyboard, so it wasn’t as terrible as you’re thinking).

    Be right back, gonna try this for a lark. EDIT: After hearing about who runs Interplay now, maybe I’ll avoid giving him money and just redouble my efforts to find my old Descent 1 and Descent 2 game discs.

  25. dethtoll says:

    Oh here’s a classic! I’m on a retro FPS kick and this is definitely on the list — currently I’m sticking to id Software engine games (and there’s a LOT — those things got licensed out to practically everybody back in the day, which kind of says a lot about how influential id was) but as soon as I finish up my list, I’m firing up Descent for the first time in maybe 17 years.

  26. Dumdeedum says:

    I’m upside down and I don’t know where to go!

  27. Daryl says:

    I played Descent a few years ago, but it scrolled so slowly with a mouse. I could manage about the first 2/3 of the game, but the later levels got way too hard for me. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware thing or if the game was meant to be played with a joystick. It’s too bad since I really enjoyed what I played.

  28. HisDivineOrder says:

    It’s funny to remember back in the day there were wars waged about whether being a kb-only or a kb/m player was superior. Ah, them were the days.

    • Zafman says:

      Even went as far as downloading a slimmer mouse driver from the local BBS so you can have an extra 4kB upper memory. Insane!

  29. jr2 says:

    @John Walker
    Oy, to change mouse sensitivity:

    Just adjust your joystick sensitivity. If you are on mouse, that applies to the mouse instead. At least, IIRC. ;)