Descent: Underground Unearthed On Early Access

Reimagining classic 90s video games is something crowdfunding platforms seem cut out for. Ah, nostalgia, what a wondrous thing. It’s been some 15 years since a Descent game reached our telly screens, and 21 years since the first – a pioneering space shooter with six degrees of freedom – did the same.

After barely succeeding on Kickstarter earlier this year, the multiplayer-focused Descent: Underground [official site] has now arrived on Steam Early Access.

Such is the nature of the long, uncertain and circuitous road Early Access weaves, pun-heavy developers Descendent Studios have made clear Descent: Underground – which brings FPS action the six degrees of freedom table – is a work in progress. Whilst they expect a full release next year, your cash right now will land you three maps, three ship types, three missiles, two guns, offline free flight and bot combat, and a quick-match multiplayer mode, all of which seems pretty generous. Single-player missions are planned for future updates.

Underground may have the Descent name, but that’s licensed from the shambling remains of publishers Interplay. The founding Underground team was not involved with the Descent games, though after the Kickstarter Descendent picked up a Descent veteran who’s working on its sound and music. [Update: Forgetful old Alice had missed that he’d come onboard. Sorry! -ed.]

While I do hold fond memories of the original Descent, spiritual successor Sublevel Zero has mostly filled that gap/urge for me. Adam sang a similar tune last month after a short play through, so much so he reckons it could be one of his favourite games of 2015. Is there a need for a return to Descent, given the slack that’s been somewhat picked up in the intervening years? Naturally, that remains to be seen but Descent: Underground will be an interesting one to follow for this very reason.

Kickstarter backers should have access now. If not, Descent: Underground will cost £22.99 on Steam at full price; it’s £19.08 with a 17% discount until October 29th.

14 Comments

  1. Faults says:

    Forsaken will always be my favourite Descent game to be honest. That said, I’m always up for more 6dof shooters! Will likely check this out when I next get paid.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Be warned. Some of the features of this have a subscription fee attached apparently. Or at least will in the full release.

      • Faults says:

        Waht? Full-priced game *with* a subscription fee? Eh, maybe I’ll pass after all.

      • Catweasel says:

        My reluctance towards a MP focused game has just turned into complete disinterest.

      • Xzi says:

        Wait, so they get money from the kickstarter, money from the game’s sales, and then they want subscription money too? Subscription models don’t even work in MMOs any more, for god sake. Some devs just want to watch the world burn…

      • DS Fallarnon says:

        This is 100% false.

        The Underground membership program is a wholly optional offering that was created at the request of backers who couldn’t back the game in a large lump sum but wished to contribute to the project on an ongoing basis. In gratitude for their support, access to the Proving Grounds, a closed testing environment used by our QA staff, was added as a perk to the membership. Nothing released in the retail game has any sort of subscription attached to it.

      • dunkelza says:

        This is completely untrue. Descent: Underground is buy once, play forever, as the company’s CEO clearly stated in a number of articles this week. For instance: link to pcinvasion.com

        The only membership program at Descendent Studios is “The Underground”, which is for people who want help support development while getting an even deeper peek behind the scenes with livestreams of design meetings and participation in the earliest stages of bug and balance testing. The Underground is completely separate from the production gameplay environment.

  2. EhexT says:

    Don’t forget the extremely shady way their kickstarter “succeeded” (strong hints of the devs getting their own money into it so it succeeds and they get all of it instead of nothing), the fact that they are Star Citizen rejects and have built their entire business model on it (buy all the ships individually for extreme money, pay extra for everything, pay a subscription for even more concept art, etc.), the fact that they are making what is essentially a multiplayer PvP arena (with pay to-get-more-ships) that has nothing to do with Descent.

    The only reason there’s even a mention of singleplayer is because their campaign floundered even worse than it did at the end before they tacked on a singleplayer pitch that they never planned for to make funding go up.

    Oh yeah, and they killed or tried to kill the actual Descent game made by fans.

    • DS Fallarnon says:

      EhexT,

      Your accusations are patently untrue. I don’t know what you have against us but it’s clear you’ve got a bone to pick with Eric or someone on our team. If you felt our perk offerings per dollar during our crowdfunding campaign were too high then I’m sorry, we were doing our best to ensure that every tier felt meaningful.

      I don’t suppose pointing out that it was stated that every ship would be unlockable in-game would do much for you, but perhaps the fact that we’ve announced that we’re altogether dropping the ability to pay for things instead of earning them through gameplay will help.

      I can’t argue with you about our membership program though, you’re 100% correct that it was modeled off of Star Citizens in terms of the perks offered. Of course, that’s really not surprising when you consider it was largely backers who’d followed the team from that project to this one who’d requested we offer a membership in the first place.

      And you’re also right that Single Player was not originally mentioned in our campaign when it started on March 10th. We emphasized the multiplayer both because it is more manageable on a tight budget and because to our team, multiplayer was the definitive part of the descent experience. In short, we wanted to start with a realistic goal. When we released details about our single player plans on March 12th (two days into our 30 day campaign) it was the unveiling of internal planning already in place.

      And as for your final allegation, that we were somehow involved in the issues another project had are patently false. Our company didn’t exist yet, our principal employees were still working at other companies, and the dream that would become Descent: Underground wasn’t even on the table when all of that went down. We had absolutely no involvement in that situation whatsoever and any allegations to that extent are devoid of any basis in fact.

      I’m truly sorry for whatever you seem to be holding against us, I hope you’ll reconsider and come check us out some day.

    • Cinek says:

      strong hints of the devs getting their own money into it” – what? First time I hear that insinuation. I tracked the project, watched the last livestream during campaign, backed the game myself, and at no point I seen anything that would justify what you are saying. IMHO It’s an absurd accusation. You can even see their kicktraq page: link to kicktraq.com – at no point they had any odd spikes or anything suspicious, campaign had a very typical growth curve, and their first and last days of campaign were filled with various promotional activities, perfectly explaining the growth. (If anything – I was surprised that the last day didn’t end up with a large funding growth spike considering the amount of effort they put in a last week, and then the live stream

      fact that they are Star Citizen rejects” – not really a rejects, they quit for the personal reasons*, not because someone kicked them out or they were “rejected”. (* – eg. in case of a project lead – his family didn’t wanted to move out of Austin with the Star Citizen main office was moved to LA)

      pay to-get-more-ships” – that’s not true either. You’ll be able to grind the ships too, much like in WT/WoT/WoWs.

      that has nothing to do with Descent” – depends what you mean by having something to deal with Descent. For me it has enough.

      Jezz… there’s quite a few things one can complain about this game, but these accusations and insinuations are ridiculous.

  3. haldolium says:

    Given that the Steam feedback so far is rather positive, I think I’ll just give it a try.

    • haldolium says:

      Hm okay it’s just way too early in access. Might be “Descent” at some point, but not now.

  4. gsilver says:

    Glad to see the trend of new 6-DOF games.
    Other new good ones are Retrovirus, NeonXSZ (Early access but very nearly complete), Sublevel Zero, and Kromaia.

    And the upcoming Sol Contingency, but that isn’t playable yet.

  5. racccoon says:

    I’ll leave it… my heads spinning enough!