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Descent Underground is hopefully still coming, but maybe not as 'Descent'

Descent Underground loading screen art.

Over five years after Descendent Studios successfully finished a Kickstarter campaign for Descent: Underground, their dream of a new game in the tunnelbound spaceship shooter series has not yet come true. It got pulled from early access, its plans changed to focus on singleplayer, and… it went quiet for a long time. Descendent Studios and the publishers, Little Orbit have been tied up in a legal battle, y’see. Well, Descendent issued an update this week saying work has come on and they do still plan to release it, even if they can’t use the Descent name and have to call it “Ships That Fight Underground” or something.

Descendent said in a Kickstarter post this week that “as we got to the end of primary game development and about 2-4 weeks from our Beta release to early backers a dispute arose with the publisher.” This has spiralled into a lawsuit and countersuit, and Descendent helpfully point to all the court filings for “if you feel like reading them for yourself and making your own conclusion about the state of things.”

They say they are “committed to getting our work out to those of you who backed us – and have been so danged patient,” but need to resolve the legal matters first. They also say that the game’s license to the ‘Descent’ name has expired and, as much as they hope to sort this out, it could potentially lose its name. But they do own the game itself.

“If no agreement is reached, the game could be released as the original pre-Kickstarter title ‘Ships that Fight Underground’ or something else, as Descendent Studios owns the assets and the game IP,” they say.

Whatever the cause, people who paid for the game got a raw deal. It was on the early side of early access when it debuted almost five years ago, updates stalled, then Descendent pulled it from sale, and there have been some lengthy silences.

What’s the game like now? Their post included a video from one of the latest builds, showing someone playing the first mission on an easy difficulty level:

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished, we just so desperately want to get it into your hands,” they say. “It has been a long time since the last update, but we were frankly worried about what we can and can’t say when engaged in an active lawsuit. And, nothing much is happening until it is resolved. However, our lawyer informed us that a post that is informational only would be fine.

“So, I know it is a lot to ask, as your patience has been tested, but hopefully it will work its way through the legal process soon, and the game will get released.”

While Descent Underground faltered, some of the original Descent’s creators have released a Descent-y shooter of their own, named Overload. It’s available on Steam and GOG, and I hear it’s some decent Descenting.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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