As a young lad I went to an older German doctor who had served in the military in his youth. He would tell me how he and his fellow soldiers would get punished by being hit by their commanding officer. As soldiers they were taught to not show weakness, so every time they were struck their response was, “thank you sir, may I have another”. Now whether or not he actually received another lashing after that statement I couldn’t say but what it did do was show resolve. I tell this story because I believe it is an accumulation of my feelings about RageSquid new game, Descenders.
I could easily use that same analogy on another game that lands somewhat in the same wheelhouse, Trials Fusion. They both scratch the same itch in that instead of competing against others you are going toe to toe with the track and in the end yourself, which can at times be the toughest of foes. Descenders doesn’t include motorcycles as Trials does, instead a trusty BMX bike is the vehicle of choice across varying procedurally generated tracks. With a heavy emphasis on physics and at times pinpoint accuracy while performing sharp turns, jumps and mid air stunts within a small window for error.
In its simplest form, Descenders is a downhill racer without the racing. Each time down the track the rider is basically tasked with making it to the end. Doing anything more than that is when player progression kicks in and ultimately longevity of your session. RageSquid implemented a system that is equally interesting as it is frustrating. At the beginning of each session the player starts with a set number of life points that can be impacted in a couple of ways. It’s no surprise that if you wipe out while riding that you will lose a life point, but depending on the harshness of the fall there is a possibility to lose more. The one way to gain a life point back is to complete the bonus objectives that are present during every race. These always include completing certain stunts, which will lead to a higher score and reputation points.
The place I feel could use a different approach is the way in which track environments are unlocked during your session. After playing through a group of tracks and beating a track which is essentially a “boss level” track where a big jump is required to be done, the next environment will open up. Basically rinse and repeat as the first environment. Though if you were to start a new session you would not be able to start in that newly opened environment. Instead to be able to do so you have to beat the “boss level” track two more times to create the shortcut to the next environment. This creates and an extension of gameplay but also creates the frustrations to match.
Even with that being said there is still plenty of fun to be had in Descenders, as long as you have the patience of Job. As I mentioned before, just like Trials, it’s the type of game that rewards for high skilled play but will take it away just as quick. Lifting you up to the top of the mountain for pulling off a variation of stunts but then throw you down it for one slight misstep. Which in the end I can never say is the games fault. For this style of game excellent handling and game mechanics are a must and RageSquid did a great job. Along with some attractive procedurally generated environments that will see the best and worst of you.
One thing that did stand out to me is how RageSquid wants people to approach their game. Obviously the trailers are full of high speed and high flying action to catch the eye and interest of consumers. But within in the game it is stated that the game isn’t a race. Feel free to play it at your own pace and in any style that you like. To them it’s obvious that full tilt boogie isn’t the only speed and ones enjoyment of the game is purely objective. That being said, if anything about The Descenders interest you, as it did myself, I say give it a try. It is still in early access at the moment and has the room to grow.