Aliens: Dark Descent Review – In space, nobody can hear you scream

Prepare to be gripped by fear and suspense as Aliens: Dark Descent masterfully captures the essence of the series.
Aliens Dark Descent Featured Image
Image: Tindalos Interactive

What you’ll notice immediately getting into Aliens: Dark Descent for the first time is that the game is super quirky. Not quirky as in janky or buggy, but unconventional, unexpected, and even a bit eccentric. Some of the choices it makes are certainly unconventional, from the frequent and very cinematic cutscenes to the unique blend of RTS and XCOM-lite gameplay, but you can’t say that it doesn’t work. The game’s undeniable charm and creativity set your expectations very early of what to expect from Aliens: Dark Descent, which is a truly unique ALIENS game wholly faithful to its source material and uninterested in being compared to other games in the market.

Aliens Dark Descent Panic
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

In case you didn’t know, the Alien franchise is a science fiction/horror media franchise that originated with the release of the film “Alien” in 1979, directed by Ridley Scott. It has since expanded to include several sequels, prequels, novels, comics, video games, and more. The franchise is centered around the terrifying extraterrestrial creature known as the Xenomorph, which is known for its aggressive nature, powerful acid blood, and distinct life cycle.

The original film, “Alien,” follows the crew of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, who encounter a hostile alien organism while investigating a distress signal on a distant planet. The film combines elements of horror and science fiction, creating a tense and suspenseful atmosphere. The Xenomorph designed by H.R. Giger, is a biomechanical nightmare that hunts down the crew members one by one.

The Alien franchise has had a significant impact on popular culture, influencing the science fiction and horror genres with its iconic creature design, suspenseful storytelling, and strong female protagonist, Ellen Ripley, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver. It continues to captivate audiences through its movies, expanded universe, and enduring legacy.

Aliens Dark Descent Xeno 1
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Understanding that legacy is important going into Aliens: Dark Descent, because the game seems determined to prove that it can live up to it. Living up to the incredible suspense and storytelling of the original Alien franchise is a monumental task that any director or game dev team would understandably feel anxious about. If you ask me, Aliens: Dark Descent lives up to the legacy pretty well.

The story of Aliens: Dark Descent takes place on the planet Lethe, where a catastrophic Xenomorph outbreak has put the planet on lockdown. Our protagonists, the surviving members of a Colonial Marine attack ship and a Weyland-Yutani command satellite find themselves united in a desperate situation despite their clear differences. Their bonds are tested as they try not only to escape but also save Lethe’s colonies from the relentless Xenomorph threat.

It really wouldn’t be a good Aliens story if the Xenomorphs were the sole source of tension. What sets Aliens: Dark Descent apart from contemporary horror games is its emphasis on complex character dynamics and the exploration of human nature under extreme circumstances. The characters are not merely facing the physical threat of the Xenomorphs but also dealing with their own personal conflicts and internal struggles, pushed to their extreme breaking points by fear.

Aliens Dark Descent Gameplay 1
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The characters in Aliens: Dark Descent are forced to make a number of difficult decisions, some of which may also be self-serving or create conflict in the group. This adds depth and unpredictability to the narrative, as alliances shift, trust is tested, and hidden agendas come to light. The presence of secrets among the characters creates a sense of unease and paranoia that heightens the suspense and makes it hard to know which characters you can trust.

The game’s narrative takes advantage of the uncertain atmosphere to create a sense of constant tension and suspense even when the Xenomorphs are far, far away. The actions and choices of the characters themselves become a source of danger and suspense. As they grapple with their own morality and survival instincts, you feel the weight of their decisions alongside them, creating a very personal and unique story where not everyone – and hardly anyone – can really be called a true hero or villain.

Aliens Dark Descent Xeno 2
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

By exploring the complex relationships and motivations of the characters, Aliens: Dark Descent crafts a narrative that goes beyond a simple monster chase. It delves into the psychological aspects of survival, pushing the boundaries of trust and highlighting the potential darkness within human nature. The game’s storytelling offers a gripping and suspenseful experience where the Xenomorphs are not the only, or necessarily the greatest, threat the characters must face.

The game has a good story and wants to tell it, and will give you plenty of cutscenes and dialogue. Some of this dialogue, especially from the marines themselves, can really miss the tone at times, but it isn’t enough to pull away from the characters who really carry the game’s suspense, Though heavy on the narrative, the game has plenty of gameplay that can carry the suspense just as well.

Aliens Dark Descent Chest Burster
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The RTS gameplay follows a player-assembled squad of Colonial Marines who move and act as a unit, navigating incredibly well-put-together maps to accomplish missions. Each of these marines is a unique person who can be upgraded and equipped as you see fit, and have unique actions they can use to give you an edge over the Xenomorph menace. The nearest thing I can compare the gameplay to is XCOM, though it is honestly a pretty flimsy comparison.

Despite being armed to the teeth, the levels are not at all free from suspense, You and your squad of four are thrust into a hostile environment, where survival hinges on resource management, strategic decision-making, and quick reflexes. I often found myself being snuck up on in rooms I was positive I had cleared, and couldn’t react fast enough to keep a marine from suffering grave injuries.

Aliens Dark Descent Gameplay 3
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

You feel very vulnerable as you crawl through dark, desolate hallways and peek around each corner. Stealth may be your best option in many cases, as every sound draws more Xenomorphs to your location. As your resources begin to drain, the tension present in the hive-infested compounds of Lethe ramps up along with your faculties.

Even in a mechanic as simple as your radar, you find palpable tension and yet another source of fear. While the tool can be used to detect enemy positions, helping you avoid or set up for an attack, it appears as nothing but a blip and an ominous sound warning you of its presence. You have no idea what that blip is, be it a Xenomorph, Facehugger, or human being. It simply inches closer, your sensor’s beeping becoming louder and more rapid as whatever it is draws nearer and forces you to make a decision. Fight or flight?

Aliens Dark Descent Synth
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The Final Word

Aliens: Dark Descent successfully pays homage to the Aliens franchise by deftly incorporating fear and suspense into story and gameplay alike. It embraces the established aesthetics and lore of the series, delivering an immersive experience that’s sure to resonate with fans. With a story that clearly loves its originator and gameplay that’s fun for RTS and Horror fans alike, Aliens: Dark Descent solidifies its place as a faithful and masterful entry in the Aliens universe.

10

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Aliens: Dark Descent is available on Steam, Epic Games, Playstation and Xbox,

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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