Descender’s feels like a truly polished and well thought out rogue-bike title, that excels in blending the highly intense world of extreme mountain biking, with the hardcore style of rogue games. With more than enough features to make the game a steal at the given price point.
Ever since the beginning of the first lock-down in England, I had yearned to go biking once more on the trails with my friends. Descender’s somehow managed to bring that amazing rush of freedom and adventure, to the desk of my office, with the people I wanted to experience it with. It started out with a quick and simple tutorial, standard stuff, which tried to help coax me into the game. However, much like real-life biking, it takes a lot of time to traverse the slopes and ultimately get a good feel for the bike you are riding.
Descender’s game-play has you exploring a series of ‘procedurally’ generated levels, each with their own unique biomes and varying degrees of difficulty. Features on the track also helped to bring a spark of vibrancy to stages with features such as wall-rides, technical ramps and trail paths, north-shore wooden beams and my personal favorite, the boss jumps.
These insanely challenging, yet extremely rewarding jumps, are the gateway to the next stage in the game and take precision and care to complete. The game makes you think about your trajectory and route you take, whilst punishing you hard for screwing up, by taking away multiple lives out of your health, after you have probably lost quite a few just getting to the jump itself.
The life mechanic in this game feels necessary when getting you to think before doing something stupid (like jumping off a canyon), therefore I feel this method works over other rogue-like games such as Gunfire Reborn, which only gives the player 2 lives, as you will find yourself crashing a lot in the first few hours of the game.
Each stage in a level has its own unique challenge, which rewards the player a life when completed. These provide a much needed life-line for the first time player. based on the game being procedurally generated, the map is always changing, offering players new ways to play with special events such as helmet-cam mode which grants bonus reputation points and the special sponsor challenges, which acts as the games guild system.
The mechanics of the rider are slick and responsive, with a variety of tricks that the player can pull off such as back-flips, 540’s, 180’s and tweaks to name a few. Descender’s is best played in first person (helmet cam) to truly experience the uniqueness and qualities of the game.
Worthy mentions (Pros)
Customization — Descender’s has hundreds of cosmetics to unlock, each being graded by a colour system to mark the rarity. Rarity depends on how many reputation points a rider earns in a run, therefore the better the run the better chance of receiving rare items. Overall this feature was nice to see and gives the player something more to work towards.
Helmet camera — As previously mentioned, players should check out this truly awesome perspective of the game. It makes the game much harder and stands the game out from other third person games by giving it a classy first person perspective. A true game changer if you want your games spiced up in difficulty.
Multiplayer — The multiplayer allows you and 7 other friends to maneuver the daring slops of Descender’s. It worked well for me on a moderate internet connection with no bugs or glitches to report. It made for some great moments and thrills which is what biking is all about.
Bike parks — Bike parks are one of my favorite parts of this game, with 27 different levels to choose from, ranging from extremely technical trails such as STMP park, to the highly fun, yet highly infuriating total wipe-out bike courses. It makes the game change from a hardcore rogue title to an almost relaxing game that you can put on your own music and chill. Bike Parks were a blast and made for some amazing runs.
Soundtrack — The soundtrack in this game is phenomenal,(for me) though people who don’t like the techno savvy rhythms of drum and bass or EDM, will have a hard time getting behind the Descender’s modern-style soundtrack. The fully licensed soundtrack was made in partnership with D&B label, “Liquicity”, to apparently bring users the best tunes for hitting mountains.
Workshop (PC) — Descenders allows for user level created content, with some innovative and exciting new creations to be discovered.
The less honorable mentions (cons)
Weather conditions — This one was a real annoyance rather than a glaring issue. The longer you play, the darker it gets, and the more likelihood for different weather conditions. The night-time levels in this game can sometimes be a chore, forcing you to go slow isn’t very fun and lets face it; who even goes biking at night?
Procedural generation — The game states it has procedural generation and says there is a different experience to be had in each run of the game. However, the levels sometimes feel stagnant and mundane after you start seeing the same path over and over again, just with a different object or two in the way. This was partly the reason I started to find the bike parks more enjoyable than the base game.
Landing mechanic — When landing hard you need to get a perfect landing or risk falling off and ruining your run. This mechanic isn’t set in stone as you can change it via the characters progression when in a run. The problem that I have with this is when you take away the skill needed to land safely and make it an interchangeable ability, it ruins the core concept of what makes your balance mechanic. A small issue that for me didn’t take away from the experience, but would have been nice to get away from.
Graphics — Nothing special to note here, textures were standard with some noticeable pop-ins here and there, though only in areas with a lot going on.
Bugs — No bugs to report, though a few times there were noticeable frame drops, but rarely.
Recommended specs were a GTX 550 and an I5 processor, which is a fair prediction of hardware needed. It is by no means a hard title to run and my pc with a mid range I5 handled it fine at 1080p 60 fps.
Descender’ s achieves everything it sets out to do; being a fast-paced, adrenaline junkie biking game. It’s core concept of trial and errors makes it a truly rewarding and invigorating experience for fans of the rogue genre and arcade games. It manages to distinguish itself from the over-saturated arcade genre via its challenging levels, unique bike mechanics and intense do-or-die moments.
Although being over a year old, Descender’s still has a (literally) die-hard community, that help keeps its name held high.
A steam review I saw which can best describe this game is “easy to learn, hard to master”, which is a fair comment when learning the basics of maneuvering, to then applying those moves into technical tricks.
RageSquid (developers) have managed to create a truly fabulous game for mountain-bikers and non mountain bikers alike. Despite a few minor issues, it ultimately feels like a distinguished and solid title that will bring in many hours of fun (especially for the price of just under £12 on sale), especially with friends.
Reviewed By Jack Gilliam 26/11/2020 (all views are my own and mine alone. This article is not sponsored by any third parties)
CPU – I5 6400
GPU – GTX 1070
RAM – 16GB DDR4
HDD – 1TB