Descent Into Undermountain

1Down and down it goes.

It was about time to unearth this infamous wreck. Badly designed, buggy and virtually unplayable to the core, Descent Into Undermountain completely wastes its TSR Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license and casts a shadow on what was an otherwise great RPG developer. Featuring poor gameplay, a slow and ugly 3D engine, and possessing more fatal crash bugs and glitches than one could count, Interplay’s Descent might be one of the worst RPGs ever made.

The backdrop for this mess is a long and complex one, but here’s a quick summary. The original work for the game began way back in 1995. The project made use of the Descent engine, and the game was supposed to be done by the Christmas sale. The engine was already there of course, so they only had to redo the code to make characters walk instead of fly as with Descent.

However, making the characters walk was a task that the team would not accomplish in 1995… or in 1996, or in 1997. In fact, when the game finally arrived in stores early in 1998, characters still had an alarming tendency to ignore the laws of gravity and hover in space. The main problem for this was a lack of simulated gravity, a non-issue in the original Descent where the action took place in a zero-G environment. For Undermountain, however, it was a debilitating glitch in the Matrix that proved very difficult to remedy.

It may seem odd to say that a project running three years overdue was released too soon, but all the technical problems, design changes, and a revolving door of talent resulted in a game that was still very much unfinished when released in 1998. The final game was rife with crash bugs, broken scripts, and featured an aging engine that still was unsuited to the task. Perhaps if it weren’t as buggy it could have competed with Ultima Underworld way back in 1992. If only.

Descent Into Hell


The 3D map resembles that of Descent.

After creating the hero of your dreams via the standard AD&D character generation system (to which the entire game is, oddly enough, quite loyal), your adventurer travels to the town of Waterdeep in order to get some work. Unfortunately, just as things start to get interesting, the game is attacked by innumerable bugs. Conversations appear out of sequence and quests magically complete themselves. The game often crashes while saving or switching levels. There are numerous misspellings in the game’s text and messages occasionally pop up saying “Cannot Find Text” or “Unable to Load Graphic.”

For a few moments these problems start to dissipate, however, as you become immersed in the gameplay. Unfortunately, the floating gameworld objects and monsters immediately yank you back to reality, or the crashing, or the ugliness of it all. A botched design process, improper engine and dated graphics made Descent into Undermountain unsalvageable by the time it shipped, and has since remained an embarrassing chapter in Interplay’s history.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, MSDOS, Window 95

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