Descent: Legends of the Dark lives up to the hype, our full review

Printed in 2005, Fantasy Flight Video games’ Descent was among the many first trendy board video games that attempted to recreate the construction of a conventional role-playing sport. One participant served as the sport grasp, operating the remainder of the group by means of a sequence of adventures whereas controlling all of the enemies ⁠— a bit like Dungeons & Dragons, however with a simplified ruleset. The sport’s second version, Descent: Journeys within the Darkish, improved on the expertise by offering a better mission selection whereas nonetheless requiring one participant do a lot of the work. Now Descent: Legends of the Dark ⁠— Act 1 has really fulfilled the sequence’ promise, offering an expertise with all of the tactical and narrative depth of an RPG whereas counting on an app to do the heavy lifting. The result’s a wealthy, seamless expertise and one of many perfect board video games printed this yr.

Set on this planet of Terrinoth, a comparatively benign, Tolkien-inspired excessive fantasy world, the sport’s marketing campaign unites six heroes to struggle off all method of threats from ruthless bandits to mad wizards. The required companion app guides gamers by means of missions, informing them the way to construct a 3D map and populate it with treasure, traps, and monsters.

The sport is bodily imposing. Simply unpacking and assembling it requires about an hour of labor. You’ll then want an enormous quantity of desk area to put out the maps, which develop as your characters discover new rooms. The app permits the sport to shock gamers, forcing them to navigate labyrinths or by having rooms shrink over time as they’re devoured by flame. The app typically gives hints as to how they need to navigate a state of affairs or cope with a harmful foe, and paying cautious consideration to these hints might be the distinction between success and failure.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish incorporates a comic book book-style visible novel filling within the story behind each mission, and choice timber for every of the characters, which impacts not solely the present situation but additionally future encounters. These options make Legends of the Darkish really feel very acquainted as a online game, even when I feel its designers might have leaned into that medium a bit extra. Some voice appearing would have been good, since there’s a lot exposition and dialogue that may be exhausting to share should you don’t have your laptop synced to a display screen sufficiently big for all of the gamers to see. However, having gamers take turns voice appearing their characters does add to the texture of being a part of a TTRPG.

After the app reveals you the place to initially place every monster and your get together members, it’s as much as the gamers to trace their motion on the sport board. Nonetheless, the app will level out who an enemy is attacking, and observe random occurrences like particular enemy defenses or triggers on a participant’s weapon that may do additional injury or apply debuffs. Most challenges, from swinging a weapon to selecting a lock on a chest, are dealt with by rolling cube, with gamers inputting the outcomes into the app. The result’s all of the kinetic pleasure of enjoying a tabletop sport without having to do as a lot math. It additionally higher allows secret data, like the problem of a problem or what weapon varieties an enemy is susceptible to.

The characters all really feel very mechanically distinct and there’s a satisfying problem to developing with splendid get together composition. Most missions require {that a} particular character come alongside to finish some a part of their private plot, so that you’ll have to study the nuances of enjoying every of them.

That complexity largely lies in a intelligent system of fatigue administration. Do something particular — like add additional success to a roll, or use a capability equivalent to letting an ally transfer or enfeebling an enemy — and also you’ll add some variety of fatigue tokens to one in every of your playing cards. Some enemies will fatigue you simply by hitting you and you may additionally take fatigue for finishing quest aims like hauling folks out of a burning constructing. When you develop into too exhausted, you’ll begin taking injury.

Gamers can take an motion to flip a card and take away all these fatigue tokens, however each card has totally different skills on either side. Consequently, gamers should continuously change ways even when it would appear to be a successful technique to simply maintain slamming into an enemy with the weapon already outfitted.

The app actually shines between missions, when the get together heads again to base to relaxation. Town display screen provides a store with a continuously altering stock of crafting supplies, recipes, and gear, plus workshops the place you may forge your individual gear. Potions, armor, and trinkets are represented by playing cards gamers maintain within the play space and might present them with highly effective results when used correctly. Making an attempt to scrounge up sufficient cash to get everybody therapeutic potions earlier than embarking on the following mission actually felt like enjoying D&D.

A demons stands on a mountain of flagstones.

Photograph: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

Within the metropolis and through overland journey you too can play by means of narrative occasions which may give extra rewards or assist flesh out a sure participant character. Whereas the plot could depend on broad fantasy tropes, the characters are charmingly particular person, just like the kind-hearted rogue Likelihood who likes to steal from unhealthy folks and the overly optimistic wizard Syrus who dotes on his phoenix acquainted. Moreover, Legends of the Darkish isn’t particularly linear. The app gives entry to a number of quests without delay, so you may select no matter appears most fun or no matter quest requires the characters you’re within the temper to play.

Whereas the sport permits you to play with simply two characters, it’s finest to have a full get together of 4 ⁠— even when which means having a participant management a couple of character. Preserving observe of a number of actions ramps up the complexity, however the sport simply doesn’t scale down correctly for smaller teams. Huge teams encounter extra foes who’re additionally individually more durable, however the true limitation on success is usually motion economic system as your characters want to assemble quest gadgets whereas coping with timers created by respawning monsters or collapsing terrain. It’s additionally more durable to handle your well being and stamina when the unhealthy guys are all ganging up on one or two characters.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish ⁠— Act 1 boasts 16 most important quests, with a median playtime round 50 hours, in keeping with builders. After experiencing roughly one-fifth of that marketing campaign, I can say that the pacing and the density of the narrative feels good. There’s loads of room for enlargement as properly, though how Act 2 can be delivered continues to be unknown. Like a extremely good D&D sport, I’m anticipating this journey might final years.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish was reviewed on Home windows PC utilizing a pre-release copy of the bodily sport and app supplied by Fantasy Flight Video games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here. | Descent: Legends of the Darkish lives as much as the hype, our full overview


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