Descent to Undermountain

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Descent to Undermountain
Descent to Undermountain box cover
Developer(s) Interplay
Publisher(s) Interplay
Designer(s) Chris Avellone, Scott Bennie, John Deiley, Robert Holloway, Steve Perrin
Composer(s) Richard Band, Rick Jackson, Ron Valdez
Engine Descent engine
Platform(s) PC (DOS)
Release date(s) 1997
Genre(s) Role-playing video game
Mode(s) Single player

Descent to Undermountain is a role-playing video game created and distributed by Interplay in 1997.


It was developed by Chris Avellone, Scott Bennie, John Deiley, Robert Holloway, and Steve Perrin. The game is based on the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, which was published at the time by TSR, Inc.. Programmers were Andrew Pal, James Gardner, Robert Holloway and Chris Farenetta.

The game partially derives its title from the use of the Descent 3D graphical engine.


The quest took place within the environs of the super-dungeon of the Forgotten Realms, Undermountain.


Undermountain allowed the player to interact with NPCs, monsters, and the general environment from a first-person perspective. Real-time combat would mix with puzzles to provide a variety of challenges throughout the vast dungeon.

The game was not the first to bring PC role-playing into a 3D environment, having been preceded by several titles such as Bethesda Softworks' Elder Scrolls series and Looking Glass Studios' Ultima Underworld series. It was, however, noted for being the first RPG to use a dedicated 3D engine such as that behind Descent to create a 3D world based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license.

As the back of the box has stated, the game included six different races that could take on single or multi-class professions with a variety of unique abilities such as thieves being able to climb walls. Over fifty different 3D monsters were in the game along with 160 magical items and forty different spells.


Descent to Undermountain was generally poorly received. The decision to use the Descent graphics engine was cited as a design issue, as it required heavy rewrites to the code in order to support an RPG setting such as Undermountain.[1] According to game designer Eric Bethke, bugs, poor AI, the unappealing and shoddy nature of the graphics, and several other issues have attributed to a general consensus of the game as an example of a title that was pushed to release before it was ready.[2] Technical issues existed in the concept which delayed development, forcing redesigns and re-engineering. Ultimately the "quick change" to Descent's rendering engine proved to be extremely challenging which exceeded the technical understanding of the corporate leadership who were resolved to predetermined delivery dates. This lack of understanding led to a hurried development cycle, and the game was maligned by Bethke as "a classic example of a game that was shipped too early."[3]

Julian Schoffel, in the Australian PCWorld, called the game "woeful", with the hope that the following release, Baldur's Gate, might "redeem" Interplay as a company.[4] On the other hand, Ahmed Kamal Nava of the New Straits Times called it the best role-playing game of 1997.[5]

According to GameSpy, "Descent to Undermountain had only one virtue - it made everybody forget about Gorgon's Alliance and the entire previous two years of atrocious Dungeons & Dragons games".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interplay 98 (Part 1)". IGN. May 13, 1998. 
  2. ^ Bethke, Eric (April 11, 2003). "Structural Key Design Elements". Gamasutra. Retrieved September 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ Bethke, Erik (2003). Game Development and Production. Wordware Publishing, Inc. p. 79. 
  4. ^ Schoffel, Julian (April 1, 1998). "RPG Revival". PCWorld. Retrieved September 26, 2012.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  5. ^ Nava, Ahmed Kamal (January 19, 1998). "Some Good Picks of the Year That Was". Retrieved September 6, 2012.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  6. ^ Rausch, Allen (2004-08-18). "A History of D&D Video Games - Part IV". Game Spy. Retrieved November 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]