Dafyd McFlanders goes down with the latest from R-Comp Interactive
Almost three years ago, R-Comp Interactive generated much in the way of excitement within the Archimedes World offices by announcing a game that pretty much everybody in the office wanted. That game, Descent, was first released in 1995 by Interplay and proved subsequently to be an immense hit for the company. Two sequels followed, shortly after which Interplay Productions Ltd (the UK division) was closed following the acquisition of its parent by Titus Entertainment (owners of Virgin Interactive Entertainment).
What's it all about?
Within Descent (and, oddly enough, Descent II) you're in charge of a space ship flying through mines and other twisty-turny passages destroying enemies, fulfilling targets and generally ensuring the longevity of your life. As it's presented in true 3D, there are a lot of controls to master - it's possible by the same token to wander down a corridor that you don't recognise only to by flying back along the ceiling of some corridor you've seen many times before.
The action getting intense in Descent 1
Pretty much everything within the game can be destroyed - including yourself - using a combination of weaponry (via a choice of guns and missiles to be picked up along the way) and plenty of robots gone bad to take out. If you keep out of the way of their weapons, it's possible to push them into the scenery and destroy them like that; but if you miss them you could very well commit end up killing yourself. On the other hand if mindless destruction is your thing, a quick round of Descent II allows you to destroy all of the monitors and cell doors - blasting the scenery to smithereens is extremely satisfying after a hard day at work!
Newly on offer
Descent II offers above the original over 30 new ships, including improved AI and weapons. A series of bots (guide-bots, taking you through the maze and thief-bots, which steal your weapons and power) have been introduced which in some cases helps considerably; but can add an element of confusion to a gaming session. The resolution on offer is such that it can be difficult to distinguish between the different types, but given that this is an action game it's not fair to expect more than that!
When your favourite weapon runs out of juice, you can set it to switch automatically to your second favourite; then progressing until you're left only with one lame-ass cannon. A stack of new guns are available, such as the helix and phoenix cannons, and smart mines. Descent II includes numerous environmental improvements, such as better lighting, flowing water, hidden doors and even headlights you can choose to turn on or off. Without some of these changes, you're flying in darkness - and it's very difficult!
With Descent II, there's a lot more in the way of danger lurking in the side passages.
Unlike its predecessor, Descent II offers multiplayer gaming. This is still undergoing development at the time of writing, but if you fancy the idea of blowing friends and colleagues to smithereens (much in the way offices used to have Doom tournaments out of standard office hours) it's a fantastic way to get more value from an already superb game. R-Comp Interactive and the developer, Dave Thomas, are to be commended for their excellent efforts.
Descent II is much harder than its predecessor in play, but by the same token the enhancements made to the game can make it a lot easier to get through each progressive level. To get the full benefit of the music, you'll need a hardware midi card (although software ones will work, it's not quite the same) and a joystick (such as that from Stuart Tyrell Developments) will maximise your gaming experience.
Generally? If Descent didn't annoy you to the point of destroying the original CD-ROM, return yourself to the pack and take out the Descent II disc. Give R-Comp Interactive a ring, and for £15 you'll receive the Acorn driver and an extension to an already superb bundle. Another recommended conversion, courtesy of the R-Comp Interactive team.