For some reason, despite the fact that I rather like the Alien film franchise and absolutely bloody love the squad-based tactics best exemplified by XCOM, Aliens: Dark Descent wasn’t really on my radar. After a hands-off demo of the game, however, it’s rocketed into my most-anticipated list.

In case you missed it, here’s the world premiere trailer for Aliens: Dark Descent.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t on board before. It might have been because the Alien franchise has a fairly checkered history in games, and recently also in film – though of course, it also gave us Alien Isolation, so I shouldn’t write the franchise off without due diligence. Maybe, though, it is because XCOM is just so damn good that every time I see an XCOM-alike, I wonder why I’d play it over the strategy genre perfection put out by Firaxis in the form of XCOM 2.

But like I said, seeing this demo of Aliens: Dark Descent immediately drives home why I should shelve that attitude and give this game some love. There’s two key reasons – first is simply that it just looks really good. The second, however, is just as important: this game is much more than an XCOM clone with a movie license.

The connection to the Firaxis strategy reboot is undeniable, obviously. A glance at the structure of the game, where you return to a hub base to manage soldiers with light RPG progression elements, or the pre-mission launch screen, makes it especially clear. It looks very similar. But, dig beyond that, particularly into the flow of combat and exploration in the strategy scenarios – and suddenly you see how Dark Descent is putting a distinctly different twist on the idea of a squad-based tactics game where you fend off powerful extraterrestrial creatures.

Most different is movement, which is both real-time and free-form, meaning you don’t have time to think about decision-making in the same way. This ramps up the pressure as your marines push through cramped corridors, making use of motion trackers (this is the Alien universe, after all) to keep track of where aliens are stalking. Motion trackers are used to great effect, in fact, both as a generic radar as a UI element that represents the area immediately around your marines, and also deployable items that can help you keep track of the aliens on a more macro level – until they’re found and destroyed, that is.

aliens: dark descent is more than an xcom clone - and feels surprisingly true to the movies

Keeping track of the map is important, too, because you’re not just on temporary ‘battle box’ maps that exist only for firefights. You’re exploring a wider area, a base that you’ll gradually uncover. It’s almost a bit like how a planet might work in a Metroid game, even though it’s a completely different sort of game – and you’ll even be able to uncover shortcuts across the planet to that end. Perspective-wise, the map, real-time movement and camera perspective almost makes it look like a spacebound Diablo, at least for a moment.

The first moment the map was opened was one of the big eureka moments for me in this presentation: it really showcases how this title differs from its inspiration.

With lots of motion trackers placed, you can see dots representing the deadly aliens darting about, up and down corridors, patrolling rooms, and actively searching for your squad. There’s full-blown alert states – so when the enemy knows where you are, reinforcements will try to chase you down until you can lose them. Your party of marines will have to do things like weld shut airlock doors in order to block off aliens – but that’ll also change your own path through the base.

The cool element about the map is that there’s a sense of permanence. Even when you return to your hub, things you’ve placed like motion trackers remain. Aliens still patrol. And, yes, the poor marines you lose in permanent death remain there, their corpses a testament to your tactical failures.

aliens: dark descent is more than an xcom clone - and feels surprisingly true to the movies

There’s a lot of tactics to manage, too. You’ve got a squad of four that can be any of six different classes, each with abilities, weapons, and skills to consider. The two key stats to manage are health and stress – the former familiar and the latter a representation of the sanity of your marines. The more stressed they are, the worse their performance will be – topping out in outright panic, where a Marine is rendered practically useless.

Combat is real time, but you can slow things to a crawl, allowing orders to be issued. This also has the bonus of looking extremely cool. If you set up an ambush in a doorway, watching a hail of bullets slow-mo slam into a Xenomorph is extremely satisfying.

Hands-off demos are obviously not as useful as getting to play it, but at first blush from a half hour of gameplay. Aliens: Dark Descent looks great. It’s also a different sort of Alien-based experience – less the creeping horror of the first movie and more the intense action of the second. Xenomorphs are tough, but you’re still taking them down in relatively large numbers – in fact, you’re arguably most worried about being overrun.

With XCOM 3 probably a while off, there’s an open market for that sort of game – but I’m thrilled that Dark Descent is also clearly something quite different; a subtle twist on a structure that worked brilliantly. I look forward to actually playing it soon.

GAME'S NEWS RELATED

When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Image via Sloclap Earlier this year, Slowcap’s Sifu took the world by storm, selling over one million copies in its first three weeks on the market. Close to launch, the team revealed that the game would get several free content updates over the course of the year. In the ...

View more: When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a slow burning title that’s slowly heating up and bringing the hype to fans of third person action titles. One of next year’s most dynamic and aggressive titles has just gotten a new gameplay trailer, giving us a brief glimpse of what we have to ...

View more: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

New Minecraft Legends Trailer Gives A First Look At Fiery Foes

Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

A series making its return after many years, Gungrave GORE promises bloody mayhem, a killer team, and a fall release date in this new Gamescom trailer. A mix of CG and gameplay gives it a good taste of the carnage to come. This new Gungrave game will launch on ...

View more: Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

This is not your grandfather's Heavy Metal

View more: Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Photo via PGL OG beat FaZe Clan 2-1 today in the knockout stage of the BLAST Premier Fall Groups, which is their best result since adding Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar, Maciej “F1KU” Miklas, and Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov halfway through 2022. The victory allows OG to move further in the CS:GO ...

View more: Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

In the first Destroy All Humans!, Crypto evidently didn’t manage to successfully carry out his objective to destroy all of the humans – as per the title’s remit – necessitating the existence of a 2006 sequel, which forms the basis for this remake, playfully titled Destroy All Humans! 2 – ...

View more: Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds everywhere Miscellaneous Mercs, Brawliseum, and more Image via Blizzard Entertainment The latest update to Blizzard’s popular card game is bringing along the new separate seasonal pass for Battlegrounds and Runestones, Hearthstone’s new virtual currency. Heroic Brawliseum is also making a return, plus in-game reporting is finally being ...

View more: Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Metal Gear and Silent Hill fans hope Konami's announcement could revive classic games

Age of Darkness: Final Stand - Edwin Hero Spotlight - IGN

Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed Video Review - IGN

The First 13 Minutes of Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed PS5 Gameplay - IGN

Destroy All Humans 2 - Reprobed

Team Liquid officially exits PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds eSports

‘The Ghost Lights’ VOD Review

Official PC system requirements for Hogwarts Legacy

Review Destroy all Humans! 2 – Reprobed

Destiny 2's New Craftable Taipan-4FR Linear Fusion Rifle Is A Must-Have, Here's How To Get It

Volunteer As A Subject In THE OUTLAST TRIALS Closed Beta

How to Get Ammo in Destroy All Humans! 2 – Reprobed

OTHER GAME NEWS