As Descent 2 opens with a well-produced cinematic sequence, you take on the role of a bounty hunter who assumed his job was finished, until he learns it’s time for active duty again, or he can kiss his paycheck goodbye. Warped into the Zeta Aquilae System, it’s time for even more intense mine action across 5 different planets and over 24 levels of metal-sheering action. The five worlds include themes such as fire and ice, along with the alien mothership where the game ends.
All of the levels are housed below the surface in mineshafts, one aspect I was hoping the design team would expand upon for the sequel. If there was the ability to fly outside on the planet’s surface, similar to Terminal Velocity, it would have added even more variety to the game, but the dev team decided to better the array of weapons and enemies faced within this sequel.
As it stands, the control still takes some getting used to, but fans of the original should be happy to hear that they can simply install the game and play, as the interface is unchanged from the original. With cramped corridors and shallow pathways, there’s no question that players will sometimes get lost among a sea of vibrant textured walls. Thank goodness the fine men at Parallax decided to implement a 3D wireframe map of each level.
Along the same approach of making navigation easier, Parallax has also added a guide-bot. This sleek little ship can be found on all the levels, and acts as your brains in the mine, finding everything from the next access card to the reactor core. By pulling up a menu to command the bot, if he becomes too much of nuisance, simply command him to “Go Away”. Don’t be too pleased because a thief-bot has been added as well, which acts as a sort of evil cousin to the guide-bot. It slams into you and steals your stuff!
Speaking of enemies, there are over 30 new bots to combat in the game, significantly more than in the original. They are gradually introduced over the course of the game, and some enemies have unique abilities, such as splitting up into multiple parts before destruction to avoid an impending death. In terms of gameplay enhancements on the ship, there is a new afterburner which will double your speed at the click of a button, particularly appropriate for long stretches of seemingly desolate corridors.
Multiplayer has been enhanced with supports for up to eight players, and a new a capture the flag game. Another quirky new feature is the ability to launch security surveillance cameras from the ship to map out the level and keep track of the enemy’s ship. The final result is a game that maintains the atmosphere of the original, yet improves on it in many ways to enhance gameplay for new players as well as experienced Descent dogfighters. Although it would have been more impressive if outdoor levels were added, one can hardly fault the developers, since they have added over 10 new weapons and 30 new enemies. Not bad at all guys!
System Requirements: 80386 40 MHz, 4 MB RAM, DOS 5.0