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Interplay Productions (Mac OS)
Mac Play (Mac OS)
|Engine||Portal Rendering System|
Descent II is a 3D first-person shooter video game noted for popularizing the use of true 3D rendering technology and providing the player with six full degrees of freedom (often abbreviated "6DOF") to move and to look around.
Originally planned as an expansion (and not a sequel) to Descent, Descent II runs on the same engine with enhancements and added more weapons, and robots with improved AI. It was followed by Descent 3.
After the player has destroyed all of the mines in the solar system in the original Descent, he stops in the Asteroid belt for refueling. Dravis then contacts him and blackmails him to accept a new mission:
"If you've studied your standard mercenary agreement, you would notice that PTMC reserves the right to keep you on retainer for up to 72 hours, post-mission. If you choose to decline further service, we may consider you in default of your contract, and your fee may be suspended, pending litigation. Good luck Material Defender. Dravis out."
The player's ship is fitted with a prototype warp core. The player is then sent to clear out PTMC's deep space mines in planets beyond the Solar System. The planets are Zeta Aquilae, Quartzon, Brimspark, Limefrost Spiral, Baloris Prime, and Omega. The Omega system is subdivided into the Puuma Sphere and Tycho Brahe, with the latter being the final level of the game.
The last mine on Tycho Brahe seems to run all through a planetoid, which is revealed in the final cutscene to be a large spaceship.
After the planetoid/spaceship breaks apart, the Material Defender radios in to alert Dravis to his return home, but his warp drive malfunctions and he ends up in an unknown location. The camera then fades to that location and the ship appears, drifting towards the camera while it zaps itself with bolts of electricity.
Originally planned as an expansion (and not a sequel) to Descent, Descent II added more power-ups, weapons, enemies, laser-deflecting force fields, and switches.
In response to complaints that Descent's levels were mostly dull and lacked creativity, Descent II's levels were designed with a theme in mind; as an example, Level 2 "Turnabout Bore" lives up to its name since the map resembles a figure-8. There is the inclusion of difficult puzzles, usually to hide valuable power-ups, but some are required to complete the level.
The planets are Zeta Aquilae, Quartzon (a water planet), Brimspark, Limefrost Spiral, Baloris Prime (desert planet), and Omega. The Omega system is subdivided into the Puuma Sphere and Tycho Brahe, with the latter being the final level of the game. Each system consists of 4 regular levels and 1 secret level. The 4th level of each system has a boss robot instead of the reactor.
The secret levels are described in-game as storehouse for weapons. In the first Descent where secret levels are separate from regular levels, Descent II secret levels allow the player can travel back and forth between the regular levels (of the same system) via teleporters so long as the reactor in that secret level is not destroyed. However the player may not save nor load a game on the secret level. Descent II secret levels are noted for being less heavily defended by robots but having more difficult puzzles than regular levels.
Planets come with a complementary set of "themed" robots, instead of relying purely on recycling enemies like the first Descent. For example, Brimspark (a volcanic lava planet) is heavily populated with robots that fire yellow/orange bursts or explosives, while the robots in Limefrost Spiral (an ice world) unleash blue/white bursts from their Spreadfire and Helix cannons.
Many new enemies were presented in Descent II, along with major improvement in enemy AI, with new robots capable of hit-and-run attacks and/or roaming through the level.
The most prominent feature is a friendly robot: Guide-Bot (stated in the manual as a "tour guide" for the mines). Guide-Bot is present on every level of the game, but has to be found and freed from a chamber. By default Guide-Bot shoots illuminating projectiles (known as "flares") and guides the player through the level step by step, showing them the way to the necessary keycards, then to the reactor to be destroyed and the exit door. It is also possible to issue commands to the Guide-Bot (like "seek energy/shield energy/enemies/hostages", etc.) Guide-Bot can only be damaged only by splash damage from explosions, but its great durability and agility makes it difficult to destroy.
A new and very unusual robot is the Bandit (originally designed as a trash collector): it can only fire illuminating projectiles (flares), but it can rob the player's ship of items, energy, ammunition and even weapons. It always attacks suddenly and then flees. When destroyed, Bandit explodes and leaves all stolen items behind, along with a few extra shield and energy power-ups. Another similar robot is the E-Bandit which drains the player's energy and then the shields.
A boss robot replaces the reactor in the last level of each planet system. Like Descent, all bosses are capable of 'cloaked teleporting' and spawning robots when attacked. The first two bosses ("Red Fatty" and "Water Boss" are vulnerable to all weapons, while the next two bosses ("Fire Boss" and "Ice Boss") are particularly vulnerable to particle weapons (i.e. Vulcan and Gauss Cannons, and missiles) but invulnerable to energy weapons. The fifth boss ("Desert Boss") can only be damaged by energy weapons, while the final boss ("Alien Boss") can only be killed by hitting a glowing green spot on its back. The original game release mistakenly had the final two bosses completely invulnerable which was subsequently corrected by a patch).
Like Doom, Descent offers competitive multiplayer game play over a LAN. Descent is also touted as being one of the first games that allowed on-the-fly joining of multiplayer games, whereas in Doom it is presumed that all players have to be queued prior to initiating the match. With the advent of the Internet, IPX emulators such as Kali and Kahn, which actually combined better compression for IPX games with its own IRC network for users to meet in a standalone client, more and more people began to play Descent and Descent II over the Internet. Descent II was especially popular online due to its support for short packets and variable packet rate—options which were crucial for smooth Internet play.
Both Descent and Descent II use a software renderer. Descent II however was also able to take advantage of the widening selection of 3D graphics accelerator video cards. Graphics were still 8-bit, but due to the additional CD storage space available, instead of using a single palette set during gameplay, each of the six four-level sets had its own 256-color set, and there were effectively six texture sets, each of which had basically the same textures but optimized them specifically for those colors and textures most used in the four-level set. Furthermore, multiple resolutions were supported. After its release, a patch was issued to add support for early 3D accelerators running the S3 ViRGE chipset. Patches (also from Parallax) added Rendition Vérité and 3Dfx Voodoo support further down the line, and the Macintosh version could use RAVE-compatible 3D acceleration as well.
The original Descent uses indexed 8-bit color in DOS's display mode 13h, using 320 × 200 resolution. The Macintosh and later PC versions allow higher resolutions, such as 640 × 480. Descent II allows the resolution maximum to be stretched to 800 × 600, or 1280 × 1024 with the -superhires option.
Like Descent, Descent II operates on the premise of interconnected cubes. Sides of cubes can be attached to other cubes, or display up to two texture maps. Cubes can be deformed so long as they remain convex. To create effects like doors and see-through grating, walls could be placed at the connected sides of two cubes. Descent introduced an elaborate static lighting scheme as well as simple dynamic lighting, another advancement compared to Doom. The environment could be lit with flares, lights could flicker. Newly added for Descent II is that the environment can be darkened by shooting out the lights.
Descent II releases
Descent II (1996)
The original story campaign of Descent II is known as "Counterstrike", while the campaign of the first Descent has been retroactively called "The First Strike".
Descent II: Counterstrike consists of six "planets", each with four regular and one secret level, for a total of thirty levels. The fourth level contains a boss robot in lieu of the reactor. This version was also ported to the Macintosh. There are also pre-rendered cut scenes, one being when the player destroys the reactor and reaches the exit, showing their ship flying through the tunnel and narrowly escaping the destruction of the mine (in a similar fashion to the Millennium Falcon as it flees the Second Death Star's explosion), replacing the sequence from the first Descent that used the game engine.
Due to size restrictions, as well as the game design not finalized, the demo uses stills and a text story for the cutscenes instead of the pre-rendered cinematics with voice acting found in the full game. In the demo story the Material Defender is depicted as sarcastic and requesting a dental plan from the PTMC company that he works for, whereas in the final game this was changed to the Material Defender being in a contract dispute with S. Dravis. The demo cutscene after completing the third level shows that the Material Defender has finished with the Zeta Aquilae system and is headed to another planet, however for the full game the content was then reorganized to give each system four levels instead of three. The demo also uses the game engine to render the tunnel escape sequence (similar to the first Descent) while the full game uses pre-rendered cinematics.
The three levels are identical to their counterparts in the full game in terms of layout, powerups, and enemies, however in the third level the teleporter to the secret level has been disabled.
Another truncated version of Descent II was "Destination Quartzon" which featured the first 8 levels and was bundled with the Logitech Wingman Extreme joystick or with the S3 ViRGE chipset that also included the promotional game Terminal Velocity.
Descent Mission Builder 2 (1996)
An authorized, commercial Descent and Descent II level editor created by Bryan Aamot and published by Interplay Productions. It gives users the tools necessary to design, create and implement levels for the commercial versions of Descent and Descent II. It is also capable of converting Descent levels into Descent II levels.
Descent II: The Vertigo Series (1997)
An add-on for Descent II containing twenty additional levels (and three secret levels), two new multiplayer modes (Hoard and Team Hoard), plus the officially licensed Descent Mission Builder 2. Remixed versions of some music tracks from the original Descent II were also included on the CD in Redbook CD-audio format. It was lauded for its creative level design and the introduction of many exotic robots and two new bosses (briefing sessions had them in motion in contrast to static images in Descent II), though some levels also borrowed robots from Descent. "Flickering" lights were also a new feature to visual effects (this was also available in the free V1.2 patch for the original game).
Descent II: The Infinite Abyss (1997)
A 2-CD special release of Descent II. The first disc contains Descent II with the latest patch applied (providing support for 3dfx and Rendition video cards), while the second disc is the original "Vertigo Series" add-on (with remixed versions of original music tracks from the first CD in Redbook CD-audio format).
Descent II: The Definitive Collection (1998)
A 3-CD special release of Descent and Descent II, which also contains a preview of the upcoming Descent 3. The first disc contains Descent and the Levels of the World (containing fan-made levels entered into an official Interplay competition). The second disc contains Descent II with the latest patch applied (providing support for 3dfx and Rendition video cards), while the third disc has the Descent Mission Builder 2 and "Vertigo Series" expansion.
Descent Maximum (PlayStation)
Descent Maximum is the PlayStation counterpart of Descent II on the PlayStation. Unlike the first PlayStation Descent which was considered mostly a direct port, Descent Maximum was designed to better accommodate the console and contained 30 entirely new levels. These maps had similar themes to those in Descent II, but were generally smaller than their PC cousins.
Descent II (GameTap) (2007)
In 2007, Descent II made its debut on Time Warner's GameTap broadband game service, the full version of Descent II can be downloaded and played on Windows XP using GameTap.
The Descent series also spawned a trilogy of novels written by Peter Telep and sold at several major booksellers. The titles are Descent, Descent: Stealing Thunder, and Descent: Equinox. The novels did not follow the games to the word, but expanded on the basic premise, and were very well received.
The Descent II source code, like that of Descent before it, has been released to the general public.
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