Descenders is an extreme downhill freeriding game that puts you in procedurally generated levels and environments to take on challenges such as pulling off tricks to reach a certain amount of points, time trials and many other daring and dangerous tasks. The game is very much an arcade style extreme sports game at its core, very fast paced which makes it perfect for gaming thrill seekers.
Now I know what you're thinking, Trials. Whilst this game's difficulty in some areas may resemble Trials, this game has it's own identity and makes sure it makes that clear to you pretty fast and in an impactful way. Descenders is interesting for me, I'm a sports freak, I love sports like it's the second best thing in the world (Video games obviously is my main hobby) and when a sports game drops I'm all over it, after spending some time with Descenders I've come to a few conclusions about this particular sports game, so let's get into it.
The game can be bought on Microsoft Store for your regional pricing.
Descenders Xbox Game Preview Launch Trailer
Going into the story for this game, well, there isn't one. The game literally is what it is. You go in, find a challenge to do or go for a free ride. Now for those gamers that like to get straight to it, this is a good thing as it doesn't put any barriers or cinematic obstacles in the way of the gameplay. As for me who likes the perfect balance between story and gameplay, it hurts the game as I sometimes lost my motivation for playing the game, but that's just me.
It just disappoints me as other sports titles have been releasing some really great story modes recently, with a sport like this their is some interesting angles that this game could've gone with. The social media presence in sports right now is so strong that it seems every sports game is just going with it and adapting to the current trends and followings.
Now, of course, I understand that licensing is an issue and it can be expensive and difficult to obtain but hey, get creative with it. But at least it leaves some space for imagination or roleplaying. This is a big let down for me, but hey, it's not all about the story.
Now we're into the gameplay section let me say this before I go into detail, I played this game for a week and I pretty much got the gist of the game very quickly. The gameplay is very basic, you peddle with RT and brake with LT, use the left stick to move and the right stick to slide from left to right or pull of flips whilst in the air.
Now the game moves and feels quite static, it's very quick and movement is how I personally would describe as extremely sensitive. That's where I get the arcade-style feel from it. Now I don't mind this style in sports games, I actually think it benefits this game greatly.
The game has you take on many different tasks and challenges, such as time trials, which are always fun. It also has you do different challenges such as, finish the ride without releasing the pedal button, do multiple flips and control the bike in a certain way for a certain amount of time. These challenges are fun but are guilty of my pet peeve in video games, repetitiveness.
Now while I felt it get fairly boring each level is never the same due to the procedurally generated levels function. Each challenge can feel very different due to the always changing terrain. Now as I mentioned earlier the controls feel static as very fast, the general gameplay is no different, once you get going downhill, stuff starts going at an extreme pace obviously, but the downfall here is that the framerate and motion blur gets pretty out of control which makes things even more difficult, which some people will find very frustrating.
The fact that the game doesn't seem to handle the fast-paced moments disappoints me, as this is a major part of freeriding and extreme sports in general, something the developers should keep in mind should they decide to take on a different sport, especially in the extreme sports category.
Given the procedurally generated levels, it makes level design generally entertaining and intriguing, it honestly gives the game unpredictability and a general unknowing of how to plan my next ride. This aspect was interesting to me at first, after a good while into the game it became much of the same thing and I even sometimes forgot that the game was generating new levels each time.
As a whole the gameplay for Descenders is fine, while it's nothing on the spectacular side, it is a generally fun little arcade sports game. While it's gameplay can be challenging and the tasks it has you do can add an addictive feel because of it's scaling in difficulty. The game will give you memorable moments in these levels, which is always something you want in games.
Before I move on I have to say this game is in Xbox Game Preview right now, so there's more than enough reason to take things slow and for the devs to update and enhance this game as time goes on. I just feel for a game like this in a genre like this it could be difficult for this game to get good exposure for the time being. Descenders can be a great sports game, just not right now.
Graphics and audio
Descenders boasts some sweet sounding audio that really does add a very immersive and satisfying atmosphere when riding, it’s just almost perfect. I honestly haven’t heard audio like this in a game for a long time. It’s just so crisp and well done it’s all I could think about sometimes, the sound of the pedals accompanied with the sound of tire on dirt track plus the wind makes for an extremely immersive experience. The audio of this game honestly is one of the games strongest points.
Graphics are done nicely here, whilst it’s not elite level visuals it’s still quite impressive. Procedurally generated worlds can sometimes give off shoddy results, this is not the case for Descenders. Environments look great and rather smooth I have to say. I can tell a lot of attention to detail went into the environments for this game, which I seriously appreciate.
|+ Static gameplay firs nicely||– Lack of narrative|
|+ Procedurally generated levels give a fresh feel||– Repetitiveness|
|+ Best audio I've heard for a long time||– Technical performance|