Think of Trials: the addictive, somewhat nihilistic, easy to play and difficult to master motocross platform racer. Now, take that concept, put on the shoes of an extreme downhill cyclist in a racer with roguelike features and you’ve got yourself Descenders.
Developed by RageSquid and published by No More Robots, Descenders is another take on the ever-popular procedurally generated game world genre, where new challenges and mistakes have real consequences.
Joining the folks of RageSquid at the publisher's booth, I had the opportunity to play Descenders first-hand. To my surprise it was great fun, even impressing myself at my dirt bike skills, especially after seeing previous failed attempts from other players, even during the game’s tutorial.
The premise of Descenders is simple: you take the roguelike nature of other fantasy adventures, sci-fi shooters and implement it into an easy to pick and play downhill racer. With set environments like forests, mountains and deserts, the game will procedurally generate the challenge within the environment, it could be anything from ramps, steep drops/hills or even halfpipes.
Much like Trials, the many obstacles in your path as you barrel down the dirt roads of desert mountains and scenic forests, allow for some showcasing of creativity and skill. In its roguelike nature, the main objective is to survive and with four lives you have to be a daredevil, risk meets reward and in doing so you can earn yourself rep to build up your character.
Surviving a single run in Descenders is the biggest challenge, during my time it was a case of trial and error with sprinkles of bravery thrown-in as I blazed down the hill towards a ramp at 80 km/h. Going upwards in the air, I touted my “amazing” bike skills, with a bevvy of airtime, easy enough I thought, as I sticked the landing and gathered speed again.
The further I went down towards the finish line, the necessity of gaining more points was apparent. And while I couldn’t turn back, I could restart from checkpoints - again, like Trials, instantly resetting myself for another try. Score chaining was key, so if you can keep your multiplier going and not slam headfirst into a ditch, you’ll be dandy.
As you progress through the ranks, Descenders will get increasingly more difficult. Fortunately, with the rep system, you're able to upgrade your character with improved skills in speed, control and airtime.
While it was an early build of the game, the stage was already set for Descenders. Development was coming along nicely, built on the Unity engine, the team at RageSquid know what they’re doing when it comes to becoming masters of momentum as demonstrated in their last game, Action Henk.
When speaking with the developers in regards to the availability, I was told it won’t be out until next year (2018) and even then, it will be for Steam Early Access. However, when talking about other platforms, they said they want to release it for the Nintendo Switch too - which would be perfect for the platform. After all, who wouldn’t have some high-octane downhill descending on the go?