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).
In the game, players take control of the Material Defender on another mission given to him by the Post Terran Mineral Corporation (PTMC).
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. On February 19, 2014, it was released on Steam, one week after the first Descent. Both the GOG and Steam versions use the Infinite Abyss release of the game, which has fewer music tracks than the original release, most noticeably cutting out most of the licensed music (there were originally three tracks by Nivek Ogre, and one by Type-O Negative, the Infinite Abyss release only has one of Nivek Ogre's tracks), but featuring longer mixes of the remaining songs.
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 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.
- Zeta Aquilae
- Limefrost Spiral
- Baloris Prime
- Omega (divided into two: Puuma Sphere and Tycho Brahe)
- Level 1: Ahayweh Gate
- Level 2: Turnabout Bore
- Level 3: Wenl Mine
- Level 4: Robby Station
- Secret Level 1: Segment City
- Level 5: Seaspring Gorge
- Level 6: The Well
- Level 7: Coralbank Quarry
- Level 8: Riverbed Mine
- Secret Level 2: Hurdle Chase
- Level 9: Firewalker Mine
- Level 10: Lavafalls Extraction Ctr.
- Level 11: Coalbank Shaft
- Level 12: Magnacore Station
- Secret Level 3: Mephisto Hardcore
- Level 13: Sleetstone Tunnels
- Level 14: Arcticon Corridor
- Level 15: Icehammer Caverns
- Level 16: Terrafrost Catacombs
- Secret Level 4: Galacia Caverns
- Level 17: Y'tor III
- Level 18: Drec'nilbie K'luh
- Level 19: Nep-Hilim S'crub
- Level 20: Gytowt Station
- Secret Level 5: Ascent Level 1
- Level 21: N'neri Ring
- Level 22: Kwod A'rior
- Level 23: Iwihml
- Level 24: Tycho Brahe
- Secret Level 6: Chain Reaction
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 14 (in some releases, only 8) CD tracks, making the music repeat on several levels throughout the game.
The game's redbook soundtrack was largely composed by Interplay's in-house musicians Brian Luzietti, Larry Peacock and Johann Langlie, while the MIDI music was composed by Daniel Wentz, 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 (Interplay used to host an MP3 version of the original redbook soundtrack on their website, as a goodie for their fans, but had mixed up the tracks Techno Industry and Robot Jungle on that release):
- Game Data
- Title by Brian Luzietti
- Crawl by Brian Luzietti
- Glut by Ogre of Skinny Puppy & Mark Walk
- Gunner Down by Brian Luzietti
- Cold Reality by Larry Peacock, Brad Cross, and Leslie Spitzer
- Ratzez by Nivek Ogre/Skinny Puppy & Mark Walk
- Crush by Brian Luzietti
- Untitled Track by Mark Morgan
- Haunted (Instrumental Remix) by Type O Negative
- Are You Descent? by Ron Valdez
- Techno Industry by Johann Langlie
- Robot Jungle by Johann Langlie
Definite Collection/Infinite Abyss Soundtrack (Descent II)
- Game Data
- Title by Brian Luzietti
- Cold Reality (Extended Remix) by Larry Peacock, Brad Cross & Leslie Spitzer
- Crawl (Extended Remix) by Brian Luzietti
- Gunner Down (Extended Remix) by Brian Luzietti
- Ratzes (Extended Remix) by Nivek Ogre/Skinny Puppy and Mark Walk
- Techno Industry (Extended Remix) by Johann Langlie
- Are You Descent? (Extended Remix) by Ron Valdez
- Robot Jungle (Extended Remix) by Johann Langlie
Definite Collection/Infinite Abyss Soundtrack (Descent II: Vertigo)
- Game Data
- Crush by Brian Luzietti
- Glut (Extended Remix) by Nivek Ogre/Skinny Puppy and Mark Walk
- Haunted (Instrumental Version) by Type-O Negative
- New Track #1 by Mark Morgan (Cutscene music from Descent 1 for PS1)
- Untitled Track by Mark Morgan
- Pain by Larry Peacock
- Rusty by Nivek Ogre/Skinny Puppy and Mark Walk
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.
- 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.
- A new item for Descent II that allows for the player to fly quicker.
- A new item for Descent II that transfers energy into shield at a rate of two energy to one shield as long as the player has more than 100 energy (thus making it impossible to infinitely charge the shields using energy recharge stations, which will only boost charge you to 100 points).
- 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 before it, Descent offers excellent competitive or co-op multiplayer game play over a LAN for up to 8 players. 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.
Among the competitive modes are anarchy (deathmatch), team anarchy, robo-anarchy (free for all deathmatch that also spawns all the robots from the singleplayer/co-op missions), capture the flag, and added with the Vertigo expansion were Hoard and Team Hoard modes, where players need to collect as many shield spheres as possible.
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.
Descent Mission Builder 2
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).
Minimum System Requirements
- Processor: Intel 486DX 50MHz or faster
- Graphics: 256 color VGA or SVGA monitor
- Memory: 8MB for DOS or 16MB for Windows
- Operating System: DOS 5.0 or Windows 95
- Hard Disk Install Requirement: At least 30MB
- Optical Drive Speed: 2x CD-ROM
- Miscellaneous: Spare time... lots of it.
Recommended System Requirements
- Processor: Intel Pentium 90MHz or faster
- Memory: 16MB RAM
- Sound Card: Stereo 16-Bit sound card with MIDI support
- Optimal game controller: A joystick with twist function
- Hard Disk Install: Full install at 300MB
- Miscellaneous: A player who is not prone to motion-sickness
Source code release
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.