Descent’s true spiritual successor Overload is out today

Overload

1994’s Descent was a game before its time. While other FPS’s of the era were only beginning to ask people to aim with the mouse, Descent demanded full 360-degree rotation and strafing on every axis. Perhaps now the time is right, as the original developers have reassembled as Revival Productions to deliver Overload, a true return to form for the free-flying shooter. It’s out today, and having played a preview build to death this past week, I can confirm that this one is very good indeed.

If you’ve never played Descent, imagine Doom but without gravity. An old-school FPS, but you control a small one-man spaceship navigating massive underground mining facilities, fighting rogue robots, and Overload is more of that, right down to some coy nods to Descent’s story. As you’re fighting robots, the lack of blood and gore is more than made up for by constant explosions, as combat seldom lets up and almost every enemy pops in a messy cloud of fire, smoke and metal shards.

It’s a lovely game to look at. While the environments themselves are chunky in their geometry, the lighting effects are stonking, especially the screen-space reflections off the many metallic surfaces. If you’ve got the GPU for it, it can look stunning, but it scales down to older machines nicely. It’s plenty nice to listen too as well, with the composers from Descents 1, 2 & 3 all returning and delivering a banger of a soundtrack.

While the levels are better designed and easier to navigate than in the original Descent, with a much better sense of place and direction, you can deploy a holographic guide to lead you to the next objective in the level. It’s especially helpful in finding the emergency exit once the reactor does go critical, and you find yourself with 30 seconds before everything explodes.

Overload

Overloads’s biggest deviation from Descent is a weapon upgrade system. Upgrade points (often hidden in secret areas, giving you plenty of reason to explore thoroughly), can be spent between missions to buff up weapons or ship systems. The rarer Super Upgrade Points allow you to upgrade further, but force you to pick a specialisation. Do you want a heavier shotgun with more knockback, or a fully automatic one with a tighter cone of fire? It’s a permanent choice, too, and you’re unlikely to max out everything.

Overload even managed to surprise with its length. While there are only 15 levels, they’re large and dense with secrets, and the New Game+ mode unlocked upon completion lets you run through the game again with your complete and upgraded arsenal, but pitted against much denser and more advanced enemy forces. A great excuse to go through the entire game a second time. Plus, the dozen deathmatch levels play double duty in the horde/survival-styled Challenge Mode.

Overload

Revival have promised that they will be releasing the level editor for the game eventually, and I cannot wait to see what the community produce with it, as Overload’s broad range of enemy and environment types have plenty more mileage left in them, especially those introduced in the final act. This is already one of the most enjoyable shooters I’ve played in a long time, and it may remain so for a good while yet, given half a chance and some dedicated mappers.

Overload is out on Steam for £23.79/$30, with a GOG release planned soon. You can try a demo over here.

26 Comments

  1. Vandelay says:

    Also available in VR, for those that enjoy being surrounded by the spinning around and around…

    Having played a bit of the Kickstarter build in such manner, I was surprised to see that it isn’t as heave inducing as you may expect. I didn’t play too much of the game, but what I saw was a lot of fun.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Anything where you’re seated in a cockpit is a natural fit for VR. While I’m one of those lucky folks that can handle free movement without issue, that extra visual/psychological grounding helps people a lot.

      • elevown says:

        It does help a lot, but does not make you immune if you are sensitive. For example in elite I am fine 99% of the time but If I need to do some rapid multi axis spinning, say while docking, I will get a second or 2 of dizziness.

        So a game like descent – which I loved, where you are constantly spinning and rotating in 3d space – I doubt I could handle it on the rift.

        • snv says:

          Seldomly i have that too, but i think it might be a sudden framedrop.
          Most of the time my FPS is fine, but in some of the nicer and more busy spaceports (during community goals) ASW switches on.

          ASW is alright but when it kicks in or turns off, the transition is noticable.

          The other place where i can get dizzy in Elite is when the landing platform turns the ship around. I think it’s not beeing in control of the motion, but most often i just focus on the ships interior while that happens to avoid that.

          Also YAY, VR-Support! Really should have been mentioned in the article :/

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Well, awesome. Didn’t know about this one, I played Descent ][ for ages back in the day.

    The Descent Underground thing is not really any good.

    I’ll have to pick this one up.

  3. Sargonite says:

    I’ll definitely want to check this out. I fondly remember playing hours and hours of the old Terminal Velocity games on my school’s computers – it was one of the few interesting games they had, that and Dune II and Dune 2000 (thank you to whatever person put those on primary school PCs!). I ended up quite liking Everspace, but this seems like a different feel that could also be fun.

  4. Telkir says:

    Yep. Like Drib said, forget Descent: Underground. This really is the best continuation Descent could hope for, even if it’s using a different name. If you played and enjoyed any of the original three games then this will absolutely float your boat. The game really does recapture that frantic mid-90s gameplay while polishing things up nicely for a modern take on robot destruction.

    I also think that the group of spare-time devs who created the Sol Contingency demo deserve some recognition for having some part in keeping Descent-y 6DOF in our minds. Who can say for sure whether things would have turned out exactly the same without them?

    The whole game is a blast, and the multiplayer… it’s chaotis bliss! Brings back great memories of playing matches over dialup using Kali :)

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      It may be under a different name, but there’s a few cheeky nods in the game suggesting that it’s set in the same universe as Descent. Frequent mentions of the PTMC – presumably the Post-Terran Mining Corporation – among them, plus unless I read the ending wrong, it might just lead into the beginning of Descent 1 anyway.

      • GepardenK says:

        If so that’s a pretty hilarious nod; seeing as Decent Underground was supposed to be a prequel. It’s very much possible, Revival own just about all rights to Descent story/assets except for the title name.

  5. Blake Casimir says:

    Overload is every bit as brilliant as I had hoped. I’m four levels in, the controls feel right, the sound design and visuals are spectacular, the level design is classic Descent, I’m loving it. Had a couple of freezes though and hopefully they’ll be fixed, but this is the Descent sequel fans like me have been waiting over TWENTY YEARS for. Worth it.

  6. Kaeoschassis says:

    All the positivity surrounding Overload is such a great surprise. Will definitely be picking this one up soon! Hopefully we’ll get more from them.

  7. Megatron says:

    Possibly a bit cheeky of me ignoring this fine post and comment thread, but the overall tone of finding something old and beloved brought back to magical life again made me want to come and tell you all about a game I found recently, BallisticNG – Wipeout lovingly recreated for the modern PC.

    It’s just brilliant and only £4 too! No, that’s not a typo!

    CHECK IT OUT HERE (Link to Steam page) – if you loved Wipeout you’ll hopefully fall head over heels for this absolute love-letter to the series!

    • Blake Casimir says:

      Apparently it’s my turn to say “stop it you’re making me spend money” :D

      I utterly sucked at Wipeout, it was such a tough game, but the soundtrack… oh man the soundtrack. Both Cold Storage’s “OST” and the licenses tracks for the original game are absolutely incredible. And it seems that Ballistic NG’s original soundtrack is also aiming squarely 100% at that old school – to mid 90s vibe: link to youtube.com

      So I finally get to recreate 1995 in high definition!

      • Megatron says:

        Man, Cold Storage’s stuff – sorry “CoLD SToRAGE” – is just endlessly sublime. His track “Canada” is possibly one of my all time favourites. I’ve even heard it played in clubs!

        If you have the OSTs I think there’s a way to have them play during the campaign instead of the default mob of admittedly rather good tunes. Haven’t found it yet but hope to soon.

  8. KaiUno says:

    Those minimum specs though… Looks like they copied them over from Descent 3.

    MINIMUM:
    OS: Windows XP SP2+
    Processor: SSE2 instruction set support
    Memory: 4 GB RAM
    Graphics: DX9 (shader model 3.0) or DX11 with feature level 9.3 capabilities
    DirectX: Version 9.0
    Storage: 8 GB available space

  9. mitrovarr says:

    It really, really feels authentic to Descent as a series. The feel is more to Descent 2 than Descent 3, which I view as only a good thing.

    It also works great in VR. Unlike Sublevel Zero, I don’t feel like I play a whole lot worse in VR, or lose a ton of awareness – I think they got the viewpoint/FOV better. And it’s not particularly bad for VR sickness.

    If you wanted more Descent on modern systems or just wanted to try a good 6dof game, this is pretty much Descent 4 in all but name. I’d strongly recommend it based on what I’ve played so far.

    • QSpec says:

      Does VR give a significant advantage in being able to look up or behind you through the cockpit?

      • mitrovarr says:

        Other people with stronger necks or lighter goggles might feel differently, but I feel like it’s much easier to turn the ship than your head, especially when seated and holding onto a flightstick.

      • haradaya says:

        It has non-VR headtracking support also, which isn’t heavier than a pair of headphones. And to me it feels like I have a good situational awareness due to it. I can track an enemy on my flank and home the sights in on it smoothly.

  10. mac4 says:

    By the by,

    Terminal Velocity’s currently doing E 1.29 at GOG, link to gog.com .

    Made me happy the other day :) Thanks for the heads-up on this one, wishlisted for another rainy day.

  11. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    I never played Descent so wouldn’t want to comment on this trailer. However, I will say that watching it really made me want to re-install Hardwar.

  12. Det. Bullock says:

    I’ll get the GOG release since they said it will happen (I try to avoid Steam if something is on GOG) but the demo is very, very promising.

  13. HumpX says:

    Im about 3/4’s of the way in and Im more than happy with my purchase. Simple, fun shoot-em-up game of which there arent nearly enough of. Hats off to the dev team on this one.

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