A roguelike, procedurally generated level game, sounds normal enough. Oh, but you progress on a downhill mountain bike.
For this review, we were provided with a free copy of the game
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PS4 (Switch release soon)
Players: 1 Player (but features online lobbies & scores to beat)
Descenders was a game that we had the opportunity to play at EGX Rezzed back in in 2018. At the time of playing then, it felt really good fun, and frantically fast. It released on Xbox & Windows in 2019 and now in August 2020 released on PS4.
It has obviously been quite some time since we had the occasional dabble with it back in 2018, so upon first starting it again and partaking in the tutorial. I did not hit the ground running, lets put it that way. When I say fast, I mean, fast!
What do you do?
It’s quite simple really. The objective of Descenders is to bolt down some incredibly tricky procedurally generated tracks as fast as you can, while (if you feel compelled to do so) pull off tricks from high jumps at breakneck speeds and aim to complete a run objective that will aid you in progressing your career. Usually in the way of providing you with an extra life.
Why would you need an extra life? Well this is where the beauty of Descenders comes in. As mentioned, this game is a mash of extreme sports with some incredible downhill adrenaline combined with the stresses of a roguelike game in which, if you bail too many times throughout your career, it’s back to the start of the game for you.
Career and level structure
The career mode sees you start off in some lovely green forests with no sponsors, no crew, just you and your bike. There is a map with different courses for this first ‘world’. Each downhill you complete, you progress to the next run, eventually coming to a ‘boss’ level. There isn’t one direct route you follow on this map. To reach the boss level you can go direct to it, completing downhill runs that go direct to the boss level, or you can branch off course as other downhill runs will have added bonuses to try and acquire from completion of them. Usually crew members to add to your crew.
The crew members that you get to tag along with you don’t physically show up on the runs with you, but essentially add additional skill points to you in various ways. Like one crew member is a mechanic so your bike will see upgrades therefore being easier to manoeuvre or have better handling, another member can apply a stat in that the tracks are wider and therefore you are less likely to clip a barrier or tree as you hurtle down the mountains.
As for the boss levels, these are again procedurally generated tracks, and still carry the objectives from other levels to work towards, but, they have one killer jump that you need to achieve to pass the level. Jumping over a moving train, or a volcano for example.
Please don’t crash, Please don’t crash
You’ll be muttering this to yourself quite often. Each time you start a career you have 4 lives. A life is lost if you bail, bail 4 times in total across all levels and the career is over, and you start again. YES, back to the very beginning, all that progress, all those bosses.
There are some aids though to prevent you throwing your dualshock controller into the wall. First, if you complete a worlds boss level enough times, you can skip that world on a new career. So you don’t necessarily have to start again from the beginning if you get some good progress to clear boss levels.
You can also attain additional lives in the game, for the most part by completing objectives on the run. Trouble is, these objectives are more than likely going to be tricks to complete x times on the run. So it’s very much a risk for rewards scenario.
Cool, is it good though?
Frustratingly so yes, it is very good. The runs are just short enough to capture that ‘Just one more run’ mentality. The world map itself equally doesn’t look that daunting to reach a boss level. The more you fail, the more frustrated you become, the more you lose the calm head and throttle down the run quicker and lose life’s on runs you really shouldn’t, become frustrated more, die…. then say…. I can do better than that and start the process again.
It is incredibly addictive and really is a quick pick up and play game if you aren’t too concerned with trying to run through the career in one sitting.
Graphically speaking, this game isn’t a powerhouse. But that isn’t important here. The speeds you’ll be hurtling down the mountains, the foliage doesn’t need to be in the same league as Ghost of Tsushima. The soundtrack is absolutely perfect for the game too, an epic drum and bass playlist of songs licensed from Dutch drum and bass label Liquicity.
Incredibly surprised in all honesty. The game we had the pleasure of playing at EGX 2 years ago had slipped my mind, then getting my hands on it again the last few weeks I’m impressed with how it’s turned out. Huge hook with the one more run feeling that will see you lose more time that you had anticipated to. Gives a great sense of the speed as you hurtle down the hills narrowly missing objects that would certainly give you a headache in real world. Married with a truly head nodding soundtrack, just many boxes ticked here.