I’m all for an extreme sports game, especially one that involves high speeds and insane trickery. Given that Descenders promises exactly that, I was extremely keen to give it a go. It’s a game that features you on a mountain bike, usually traversing downhill at a rapid pace in order to get to the end. It sounds easy, but you have a limited amount of lives to get from the first biome to the fourth, and final area. You can replenish your lives by performing certain tasks and visiting medic camps, but even with those, it’s an immense challenge to get through it all in one go.
All Downhill From Here
You’ve probably read my introduction and thought “well Edd, that doesn’t sound so bad, I reckon you’re just bad at video games”, and you’d be right. About me being bad at video games that is, anyway. Each biome in Descenders is comprised of a number of courses, leading up to a boss jump that requires some finesse to complete. Or you can cheese it and just avoid it, and with that the chicken hat would be bestowed upon you, to indicate how cowardly you are. Again, you might think that you can just do lots of the levels to build up a healthy supply of lives before attempting the boss jumps, but you’d be wrong again. In order to get through the whole area, you must complete it before sunset, which is usually around six or seven levels, meaning you can’t dilly dally with the task at hand, you have to go straight for it.
I know, you’re still not sure that the game is challenging, right? Well, each level has three different settings, and each of these has a slider, with possibilities for eight different values on each setting. This is where you’ll be recanting your thoughts that I am an awful gamer, because each level is procedurally generated based off these sliding settings. So you may be able to practice the basics, but you’ll never have the same course to practice over and over. Each time you play it, you’ll get dumped into a different course, and you have to adapt as quickly as possible to the steepness, curves and stunt possibilities within it. This makes the game forever challenging, gives it immeasurable replayability and also provides you with hundreds of hours of fun.
The generation of courses in Descenders is genuinely tip top as well, you’ll get a choice of which level you want to do on the main biome map, but no matter what, the levels are always put together fantastically. There’s never any bits that feel disjointed, every thing knits together to make a flowing course that lets you ride without fear of the game knocking you off your bike unfairly. This means you have everything you could ever want – a level in which you can do some ridiculous and over the top tricks on. Pulling off double back flip superman tricks in the desert is exhilarating every time. You can perform a number of tricks in the game, with each one rewarding you in reputation points that you can then use to nab yourself some team members to aid your trip through the four biomes. Some of them will offer benefits that reduce the curvature of the course, or give you a compass that points you towards the end of every course. Some are far more useful than others, but every one has a use that you can use to boost your odds of getting to the end of the game unscathed.
The mechanics are one thing, but presentation wise this game is something else as well. It may not have the AAA-level of super high definition graphics, but it definitely does look good regardless. Each level is populated as well, with little bits off the beaten track that you may not otherwise notice. For example, in the forest levels, you can find small campsites dotted around and in the desert area there are lots of oil digging machines. There’s little things like that all over the map, which really make it actually a believable game to play through. You’ll also be treated to a phenomenal soundtrack, with loads of songs bands who are signed up to Liquicity, a Dutch drum and bass label, punctuating your level.
An Uphill Struggle
There is one thing I don’t like about Descenders. One thing only. And it’s something you can largely skip as you play anyway, but that is first person mode. You have to select to actually do the first person mode, but it’s so difficult that it feels out of place in an otherwise extremely well put together game. Everyone has seen those videos, with downhill riders wearing GoPros and careering down hills at an unnerving speed. They’re absolutely thrilling, but that format does not really translate well into the video game. It was tricky to keep control of my bike, even turning seemed to be majorly affected, and doing stunts in first person mode is just a nightmare. It is the only chink in the armour of this otherwise spectacular game.
The Final Word
The only downside to Descenders is the first person view. It’s otherwise an absolutely phenomenal game. Even if you’re not a fan of bikes in general, or stunt games, I implore you to give this a try, because I doubt you will be disappointed. It’s tricky, but it’s incredibly fun, and will give you hours upon hours of gameplay.