It doesn't seem so very long ago that we first sampled the delights of Descent; but the date stamps on my hard disc say it's been nearly two years since my first install and so it's probably long past due that we saw an update to this classic full 3D shooter. Well, our sources tell us that not only is work taking place on bringing Descent II to RISC OS, it's already up and running, although in need of a little spit and polish before release. Hopefully you'll be able to badger R-Comp at the Southwest show this weekend and sneak a peak, but if not here's our guide to what to expect.
Going down again?
Cut scene from the new game
To recap on what Descent's all about, you're basically flying a space ship through mines and other twisty-turny passages in full 3D (the game being released at a time when Doom was fudging a third dimension on an essentially 2D style of gameplay. This makes Descent a harder game to control - true 3D means more controls, and you can get turned around in the maze-like levels so that you can, for instance, wander down a corridor you don't recognise only to realise that it's the same corridor you've seen a million times before, only you're now flying along the ceiling! However, if you're not up for a challenge, what the hell are you playing computer games for in the first place, wussie? There's lots of cool guns and missiles, and plenty of robots gone bad to take out. The lumps and bumps of the scenery playing a bigger role in tactics - and, in some case, the mindless destruction as you blow up monitors and cell doors.
An in-game scene
New features compared with the original version include 30 new ships with improved AI and weapons, such as guide-bots - scout ships that can guide you through the maze of levels - and thief bots - ships that steal your weapons and power. You can set your weapons so that when you favourite runs out of ammo it'll switch to your second favourite, not whatever the game thinks you should use; new guns such as the helix and phoenix cannons and smart mines; afterburners; missile, guide ship and spy cameras; even headlights that you can turn on and off. There are also environment enhancements such as better lighting, flowing water and lava, hidden doors and rooms and so on in 30 levels set over five worlds.
Pretty eye candy
What's not certain at this time is whether we'll see some of the extended features of D2 - such as networked play (with co-op (a friend controlling your weapons) and deathmatch?). Past experience has taught us that networking may be out but bundling with an extra-levels multipack is a possibility - and as DII comes in an "Infinite Abyss" extra missions flavour there's the possibility of 22 more levels, 12 more robots and 2 new bosses. D2:IA seems to come with a mission designer too, which would be nice if we get to see it. Music by Ogre of Skinny Puppy and movie cut sequences should definitely work, as this functionality was working in the RISC OS version of Descent. However, given that the sequel is supposed to be much harder than the original it seems it would help a bit if you've played the first version - just don't try using the same cheat codes...
Here are a few snaps of the new enemy designs for your visual pleasure. No details on them as yet, but they don't look too friendly. Click on them to display larger versions.