Descenders is a roguelike indie biking game that has just seen a full release on Xbox One. The player will compete in a series of different environments to earn rep. All you have to do is survive the tracks. Sounds simple right? It is. But you only have a certain amount of lives, lose them all and you have to start from the beginning. So can does Descenders deliver on the fun? Let’s find out.
There isn’t a story to Descenders at all. The game just throws you right into the mix after a small tutorial. The player can be seen as an upcoming rider I guess because earning rep (reputation) is the main goal of the game. Earning sponsors is also possible throughout your career. The 3 sponsors are Enemy, Kinetic, and Arboreal. So far sponsors are just more challenges for the player to complete to earn customizable gear for the rider.
The main theme of the game is to try and survive each environment type. There are a total of 8 different environments. The players will be able to experience Highlands, Forest, Canyon, and Peaks when playing through the game. Highlands is the starting area, completing that will progress you through the next and so on.
Location, Location, Location
Forest, Canyon, and Peaks can be unlocked as a starting area, once you complete 3 boss bonus objectives for the previous area. Meaning completing 3 boss bonus objectives in Highlands will unlock Forest and so on and so forth.
The other 4 areas: Desert, Jungle, Favela, and Glaciers need to be unlocked by first accumulating 250,000 rep. This can be achieved somewhat easy, once all of the previous areas are unlocked.
All of these areas have a certain difficulty in them. Highlands and Desert are mostly flat and simple. Forest has plenty of trees to look out for and is slightly more steep than the previous. Canyon has plenty of dips and potholes that can ruin you run real quick. Peaks have all of their previously mentioned obstacles, but the path can be smaller at times, sometimes they are along a cliff edge.
The jungle is a mix between Canyon and Forest and is one I struggled with a bit because of narrow paths. Favela is flat mostly but filled with plenty of buildings. Glaciers’ levels are mostly similar to Peaks in most ways.
Shortcut To Danger
Being able to unlock areas is a godsend and can take some of the pressure off when first starting out. This allows players to able to experience the whole game, as long as you can make it through that area without losing all of your lives.
Speaking of which, each area has a boss jump. A boss jump has to be completed to move on to the next area. These are usually extreme jumps that can definitely cost a lot of your lives if you are not careful. These also offer plenty of rep when completing them, making them good for farming.
Be careful of your speed, the harder you bail the more lives you will lose, you only start with 4 lives. Each bail loses you 1, but bail at high speeds, you will lose 2. Completing bonus objectives will net you 1 extra life. These bonus objectives are best to be skipped unless they are easy.
The unique aspect of Descenders is that each level is randomly generated every time you load into one. Meaning the track path and the entire level different each time. The levels are based on 3 modifiers: Steepness, Curves, and Stunts.
If I see a track with high steepness, I usually start to panic because high speeds are incoming and braking rarely works, especially on Peaks. Curves usually present more bumps and turns on the dirt path, while stunts will put more ramps and jumps available on the dirt path.
Some area nodes are unique though, there are “medic camps”, completing this node will give an extra life. Some tracks have a star on them, meaning this is a unique track, with a different environment completely sometimes. These are extremely fun and usually offer unique challenges as well.
Sponsor tracks will help earn a sponsor and each level will be uniquely generated based on what sponsor you pick for the track.
Controlling your rider is quite nice, everything feels smooth and I never had a problem when it came to controls, unless during high speeds, but that’s obvious. There are many tools that can be utilized to help reach the end of a track, such as bunny hops, pumping and counter pumping, and slides.
The controls are one of the best things about the game. Going at high speeds and doing tricks and chaining them together feels great. I love that I always felt in control of my character.
Doing tricks and riskier maneuvers during a level will earn rep. Rep will help unlock gear, as far as I can tell, and will earn teammates during a run. Teammates are perks that can help during your run, making things a bit easier for you.
Perks and Recreation
However, they are only there for that run, they don’t stay. If you aren’t doing tricks, then you will find yourself short on teammates throughout the run. So if you are one to play it safe, then you might not be able to make some later levels easier for you. This added loads of fun to me because I like to take risks, so much that I have lost all my lives on the first level.
Players are able to “build” their own level as well. Setting their own modifiers and terrain. Once a boss level is completed you can also build a boss level to help you practice as well.
There is also an online component, it is mostly players riding together in an environment taking on nodes like single player. So far, only 4 people are able to play with each other, at least on Xbox One. Each player can compare their stats at the end of the track to see who did best, but it isn’t a competition, it is for fun.
I would have loved to see some actual races or trick sessions, with each track being randomly generated, it would make for some fun sessions, sadly it is most of the same.
The music of Descenders is mostly filled with a bunch of electronica and EDM. It is far from spectacular, some songs are catchy, but most are not, it is really uninspired. I found myself just listening to music on my phone a lot of the time. The songs aren’t bad, but it either isn’t just for me or they are boring most of the times. Some songs sound dang near identical.
In short, Descenders is simple and fun but doesn’t have a lot of content. All of the environments are fun, unique, and add different experiences. The online feels somewhat tacked on and doesn’t offer anything different. I also experienced some huge frame rate drops a few times. Descenders offer tight controls and crazy speeds, but it feels like it is missing something.
Originally published at https://gamingnitemare.com on May 15, 2019.