Descent II title screen
Descent II is a 1996 six degrees of freedom first-person shooter. It was developed by Parallax Software and published by Interplay. It was released on MS-DOS, Windows 95, Mac OS, Mac OS X and Amiga. A PlayStation port of the game was also planned, but due to Sony's policies regarding ports from other platforms at the time, as well the platform's limited hardware and controller, the game was remade from scratch with 36 new levels and released under the name Descent Maximum in the US (it was still released as Descent II in Europe).
As of 2006, the game is available on the online game service GameTap, and since 2008 it has been available on GOG as a bundle with the first game. In the game, players take control of the Material Defender on another mission given to him by the Post Terran Mineral Corporation (PTMC).
Descent II was originally planned as an expansion to Descent, but it eventually evolved into a full game. It was followed by Descent³ in 1999.
After what the Material Defender thought was the end of a long day, having destroyed all the mines in the solar system, he returns to a Post Terran Minerals Corporation (PTMC) base located in the asteroid belt. Eager to get his money and return home, Dravis confronts him with a new mission stating that, "The PTMC reserves the right to keep you on retainer for up to 72 hours, post-mission." Material Defender then has a warp core retrofitted onto his ship that extends his reach to distant planets with PTMC mines outside the solar system.
The ship's cockpit, the most common view as you play the game.
The Descent series is known for popularizing the use of full 3D rendering, allowing for six degrees of rotation. As the player explore tunnels and mines as the Material Defender, many enemies must be destroyed in order to proceed. A variety of weapons and upgrades can be gathered to further speed up the destruction of these foes. To find the core of the level, certain color-coded keys have to be found as well. Once the core is found and destroyed, a countdown timer begins, and the player has a certain amount of time to find the exit, and escape the level. Every four levels, instead of a core reactor, there is a boss. The boss must then be defeated as a core reactor would be destroyed. There are six bosses in total throughout the game.
Saving can be done at any time. It saves the exact location of the player, all items, weapons, enemies, and the Guide-Bot.
The Guide-Bot is a new feature in Descent II. It serves as a companion robot that leads the player to objectives in the mission. The Guide-Bot shoots flares that can injure both the player and enemies. It is invulnerable to laser fire, but a large amount of missiles from the player or enemies can destroy it.
Another new appearance in the game is the Thief-bot, which will roam around the level, sneak up on the player and steal some of their weapons or equipment, but never downright attacking the player. When fired upon, the Thief-bot will try to run away, and the player has to chase it down if they want to return their precious equipment.
The PC version of Descent II featured two different options for music playback, the player could either choose to listen to redbook CD audio on the game discs, or an MIDI soundtrack available for users who couldn't play CD audio (which often required a special audio cable between the CD-ROM drive and the sound card in 1996), or hadn't done a full install, requiring the game to load from the disc during play. Unlike Descent 1, where the PS1 and Mac versions had CD audio remixes of the PC version's MIDI music, Descent II's CD music is entirely different from the MIDI music. Like Descent 1, there were separate MIDI songs for every level in the game, but only 12 (in some releases, only 8) CD tracks, making the music repeat halfway through the game.
The game's redbook soundtrack was largely composed by Interplay's in-house musicians Brian Luzietti, Larry Peacock and Johann Langlie, who also composed the MIDI music, but a selection of licensed music by Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy, Mark Walk and Type-O Negative also were included (some of it was re-used from the Mac and PlayStation versions of Descent, which also had redbook audio, unlike the original PC release). The music during the game's cutscenes was composed by Peter Rotter.
Many releases and re-prints of Descent II and it's expansion pack Vertigo have slightly different track lists, some with the songs in different orders, or with slightly extended mixes of some songs. The original release combines the title song and the next song, Crawl, into the same track (track 2, as track 1 on Redbook discs are used for the game data), while the Descent Definite Collection and Infinite Abyss releases split them up into separate CD tracks. The track names for the music were supplied in the game's read-me file. Track listing for all the known variations are listed below:
The uncredited tracks are likely by Brian Luzietti, Larry Peacock or Johann Langlie.
The game has all of the weapons from the previous game, as well as ten new weapons.
- Will instantly boost the Laser level to level five, but it can be upgraded to level six (yellow and white lasers respectively).
- Fires explosive Vulcan Ammo, using up a larger amount of ammo. It fires at a slower rate than the Vulcan Cannon, though, so overall it uses less ammo.
- A fast-firing, rotating cannon that is similar to the Spreadfire Cannon.
- Fast-firing energy bolts that bounce of walls, allowing the player to hit enemies multiple times.
- This cannon shoots homing lightning bolts that temporarily blinds the target.
- Flares can be fired to light up dark areas. It only costs one energy per two shots to fire.
- A weak missile that temporarily stuns the target.
- Can either be guided by the player or turned into a regular homing missile.
- Similar to a Proximity Bomb; releases homing pulses.
- Fastest of all missiles, but it doesn't home in on targets.
- Initial impact shakes the entire level; it leaves an afterburner trail and releases smaller homing missiles.
- The trademark blue spheres. Varying amounts of these are scattered around the level, depending on what level the player is on.
- Flashing yellow stars that give certain amounts of energy.
- Allows for the player to go quicker.
- Transfers energy into shield at a rate of two energy to one shield.
- Makes the player invisible for about thirty seconds.
- Improves lighting by a lot, but steadily uses energy.
- A green sphere with the ship inside it. Gains the player an extra life.
- Makes the player invincible for about thirty seconds.
- Doubles the amount of ammo space.
Like Doom, Descent offers excellent competitive or co-op 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.
If you don't like Descent at least a little bit, make no mistake, there is something wrong with you. Descent II's huge replay value and absolutely insane network play should ensure its popularity for a long timeChris Hudak, Gamespot, May 1996
Descent II was mostly met with critical acclaim, with the only real contention being the few changes to the formula from the original, as well as the lack of outdoors areas. Gamespot's Chris Hudak gave the game a score of 9.2, praising the network play, the addition of the guide bot and the soundtrack.
Descent II: Vertigo Series is an add-on for Descent II containing twenty additional levels (and three secret levels), plus the officially licensed Descent II: Mission Builder by Brainware. Remixed versions of some music tracks from the original Descent II were also included on the CD in Redbook CD-audio format, an interesting addition to what is a simple level pack. It was lauded for its creative level design and the introduction of many exotic robots and two new bosses though some levels also borrowed robots from Descent. "Flickering" lights were also a new feature to visual effects. Descent II Vertigo was included in the Descent Definite Collection, but not in any subsequent releases, such as the 2008 GOG.com release.
An authorized level editor for Descent 1 and 2 gave users the tools necessary to design, create and implement levels for the commercial versions of Descent and Descent II, and was shipped with some releases of Descent II and Vertigo. The original Descent Mission Builder was also available as a separate retail release. Levels consist of a series of cubes that the player gets to texture, light up and join with other cubes, the cubes' size can be changed, as can their shape, and the faces can be turned into triggers, doors and destructible walls. Blinking sequences for the flickering lights could also be created in the editor. This program is also capable of converting original Descent missions into Descent II missions, import player created textures (as .BMP files) or new music (only replacing the PC version's alternate MIDI soundtrack, not the redbook audio).
Here, finally, is the source for Descent II. We've been so busy with Descent 3, Mercenary, FreeSpace, FreeSpace 2, and several other projects that we haven't given much thought to this old code. But I know that many of you are eager to get it, so here you go.
We were amazed and impressed at the cool things people did with the Descent source we released a few years ago. It touches us deeply how devoted some people are to the Descent series, and we look forward to seeing what people can do with this Descent II source.Outrage Games at http://www.descent2.com/ddn/sources/descent2/
On December 15, 1999, Outrage Games (formed after Parallax Software was closed down, most of the team split into either Outrage or Volition) released the source code for Descent II on the Descent Developers Network, stripped of proprietary code they didn't own the copyright for, such as the audio and modem communication libraries. The code was released under a license only including the source code, not the assets (textures, music, cutscenes, models or levels) for the game, which had to be acquired from a legal copy of the game, and the code was only allowed to be used for non-commercial, non-revenue generating purposes. The original Descent source code had previously been released under the same license in 1997.
With the source code available, several source ports of the game became available, porting the game to run in Linux and other operating systems and platforms, even making it to the PSP homebrew community. Today there are primarily two active source port projects for Descent and Descent 2, D2X-XL (http://www.descent2.de/d2x.html) which aims to expand the game with modern rendering and shader technology, including support for Track-IR and the Oculus Rift, and the DXX Rebirth project (http://www.dxx-rebirth.com/), which aims to stay as close as possible to the look and feel of the original 1996 release, while being compatible with modern operating systems and hardware.