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Alien Breed 3: D escent is the final chapter in the Alien Breed revival, bringing a close to the series which has its roots with a now defunct platform, the Amiga and revitalised an extinct genre with a modern twist. For all its billing as a separate game, it is essentially a continuation of the same game that the other two Alien Breeds are. While there are plot summaries aplenty, in terms of story and setting Alien Breed 3 is not an ideal jumping on point. The game's events wouldn't have the same weight to them without those of Impact or Assault.
Speaking of events; protagonist Chief Engineer Conrad is hurtling toward a barren icy planet in the bowels of an ancient space station controlled by an insane, formerly human scientist who has now attained god like synthetic omniscience, inhabited and violently pursued by angry, genetically engineered monsters, his list of living friends, rapidly approaching nought as his suicide mission to make sure the breed don't escape to consume the cosmos reaches its explosive and depressing conclusion!
Alien Breed 3: Descent also doubles as a bad day simulator.
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Each chapter of the series has been released with only a few months gap between them, which is an absolutely minimal amount of time when you consider most sequels take at least a year between release, but a bigger period if you consider Alien Breed 3 to be chapter 3 of the same game. More than likely, anyone returning to the story after finishing the previous episode will have forgotten some plot details, so the story may lose some momentum there.
Picking up where Assault left off, Descent does little to change the formula of the preceding titles. In some ways it has a slightly different atmosphere with the story winding to a close and the feeling of melancholy and isolation that it conveys, but the mouse led shooting is the same, and the objective led 'go here, collect that, go back here, repeat' formula is essentially the same also. There are many more efforts to dress it up at least, such as a section where to collect a PDA you must fill the chamber with enough water that it will float within grabbing distance, for example.
There is also a big emphasis on changing the camera from a birds eye view to a fixed third person view for various intervals. In some cases, it can come off as quite cumbersome, mostly where the camera cannot be moved, in other places, it's naturally more involving, rather than the distant looking from on high that most of the game is played from.
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They Were Asking For It
In one of the illustrated story comics, Conrad is depicted as using a grappling hook to negotiate the outer surface of the ship. Did nobody think that it would be a good idea to actually make this a playable event? Possibly a part that involves rappelling down the side of the ghost ship while gunning down varmints. That might have been nice.
While we're on the subject of things that didn't get put into Alien Breed 3, once again, the weapon upgrade mechanism is good, but nowhere near as detailed as it could of been, though this is hardly a surprise at this point. Most of the game revolves around fixing stuff with a held button, and there only appears to be two types of grenade despite several times where you raid weapon stores. But you're supposed to be an engineer, couldn't you rig something up with found materials?
With that said, there were times in the game that the six weapons there are felt like a lot, partly because of how different they are, partly because Alien Breed 3 tends toward tense situations that don't particularly lend themselves to switching weapons, much like if you were spraying down a room of angry cats, the few seconds it took to change hose nozzles would result in the scratching of a lifetime.
Not that I condone mass cat dousing. Without cause.
There are less credits to be had this time around too unsurprisingly, so choosing upgrades and equipment has become ever so slightly more strategic. Much like choosing what type of water spread is used is important when soaking a cluster of furious felines.
As the proud owner of a cabin full of sea lions, this is something I think about often.
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Static Offensive - Controls and Interface
Unsurprisingly, the controls and interface have remained the same for the duration of the series, with mouse look laser pointed aiming fixed to the field of vision of the character and a sleek, near minimalist heads up style display for showing health, equipment and the map.
The occasions with fixed camera views for third person scenes work well when the camera is modifiable, like it is in the regular from above view; it works near seamlessly with the use of mouse led aiming. However, during some of the fixed view scenes, it can be a little jarring to not have camera control in line with the character's vision after so many hours of just that. It still works fairly well, but is clunky in comparison, though it can be gotten used to it is a something of a disconnecting experience in contrast to the more intimate view.
With that said, some of the fixed scenes are extremely dynamic and control intuitive still; these scenes represent the highlights of Alien Breed 3 and also that fixed perspective scenes succeed or fail on the positioning of the view point.
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Synthetic Sigh - Sound
Alien Breed 3: Descent retains the atmospheric sound design of the previous titles, the only things that mar it being the recurrent problem of in-game character interactions not being voiced, which is even more ridiculous now that the villain speaks to the player character during levels, but Conrad only ever replies in text. This is only surmounted by the obviously repeated lines of dialogue that the villain occasionally spouts toward the end, as if trying to fill an awkward silence with something unsettling, but unable to think of anything new to say (or more likely to avoid paying the voice actor for any more lines).
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Aquaflesh - Graphics
The visuals of Descent are consistently good. The Unreal engine's dynamic lighting still being the main visual draw. While environments are repetitive, it's in keeping with the setting, and the new addition of streaming water effects and big ice chunks add a measure of variation. The use of third person perspective can sometimes reveal weaknesses in the character models, but conversely some of the new additions to the environment, (like misshapen aliens floating in breeding vats) are never seen in a more intimate perspective than top down, which is a shame, since they are grisly and strange enough to warrant further examination.
Let's talk about the glow effects again, they're great.
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Gleaming Gargantuan - Gameplay
Though Alien Breed 3: Descent PC gameplay is the same as the rest of the series in concept, the focus has shifted slightly. While not as punishing as Alien Breed 2: Assault, it has a sense of refinement in comparison to the other two episodes; the new weapons are based around creative ways of dealing with swarms and a big chunk of the game is set around boss monsters, including a cat and mouse chase with something which could be described as close to infringing on copyright. If you are curious to see this magnificent beast, then look up 'alien queen', it's pretty much that. Whatever that is. I have no idea.
Descent has the least lulls of the series, and the biggest concentration of third person scenes, as if in answer the previous question of "Why was this not a third person game?". The fixed viewpoint does not always work, but that could have been easily addressed by making the camera dynamic in third person.
In short, there are plenty of great, alien murdering set pieces, and frenetic Smash TV-esque action with first person shooter style controls, which is only let down by all the backtracking and depthless scavenger hunt infused button-holding-to-make-event-happen.
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Depression: Button & Mental - Conclusion
Alien Breed 3 is a good conclusion to the series, and in many ways provides lots of pay-off to those who stuck with Alien Breed from the beginning. It is far from perfect, and some of the Alien Breed 3: Descent PC gameplay facets are flimsy and monotonous, but it is a solid, atmospheric and involving shooter, with a defined sense of style and challenge. There's a lot of content on offer for the price, even if this statement were to include all three Alien Breed games, and as the final chapter, the ever escalating scale of battles, or rather, scale of the things you battle serve as a fine ending.
Anyone who enjoyed the previous Alien Breed games, will enjoy Descent, and anyone who didn't may still, depending on how much they like shooting/running away from things many times bigger than themselves and are willing to put up with backtracking and button holding. I'd recommend this to anybody who bought the previous two if only for the sense of closure of the story, finding the logs of the various characters was strangely investing and seeing their various ignominious ends was morbidly compelling.
If that doesn't appeal, there is always Predator inspired puzzle game Hunter Spawn, or there will be, once I can figure out how to release it without being sued.
Digital distribution has resurrected Alien Breed and it is hungry for your sweat beads and worn down mouse buttons, in a way only top down shooting games can be.