The past from a piece of the time of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and SSX in the top of the charts, the video game based on the sport more or less extreme have been reduced to be titles of niche, but this also opens up the possibility to rework the concepts so as to build something really special, despite the fact subjects seem to be very canonized, in their kind. The small team of Ragesquid, for example, has had a very good idea to stage a game on the downhill, or on the particular discipline in which crazy mountain bikers launch themselves at speeds exponentially, down for descents in the extreme, trying to avoid obstacles and perform tricks along the way to the finish line. Instead of proposing a simulation classic, anchored on real-world experience, with Descenders have introduced elements strongly arcade, closer to fantastic interpretations, as the Trials but still maintain a certain attachment to the sport to which the game refers to, as we see in this review.
In this way it is possible to model the experience of sport in a free way, by introducing additional elements and enriching the gameplay, making the game more multi-faceted and inspiring – in a word: fun – and at the same time more palatable for an audience more broad. The original experience of the downhill is pushed to the paroxysm, but maintaining a certain balance, especially thanks to the management of the physical that does not go beyond too much from reality, avoiding excessive drifts and keeping, however, a high level of challenge is with regard to the driving of the bike that the aerial tricks. This with regard to the mechanical basic of the game, or the driving model and the implementation of the stunts, but the peculiarity of the Descenders are not limited to these items and invade the entire structure of the game, introducing features roguelike, open world, multiplayer, and managerial in that it is a simulation of a very special downhill.
The freedom of movement is the basic element on which it is built Descenders, thing that clearly emerges is the central hub from which you access the options of the game, consisting of a large map is freely explorable by bike, and is equipped with a variety of slopes and facilities to perform the trick, both within the individual races. The dynamic of the race remains substantially the same in the different modes of play proposals, which at the moment include two types of career almost corresponding except for a different way of dealing with the progression of the character, and a mode in multiplayer where you have to face in the company of other players on the screen the same tests in single player, but with direct competition between the cyclists in the game, and with rules that may be established in an autonomous manner. During the races it is proposed a path to get to the finish line at the bottom of the valley, but there is no compulsion to follow him, with the possibility to exit the trail, and choose any path inside of the structure, the open world of various environments. There are clearly incentives to stay on track, but according to the situation in which we find ourselves, we can choose strategically whether to follow the path imposed or cut by valleys, woods and cliffs to reach faster to the finish line, bypassing in this way, the obstacles and the ability to perform tricks willing on the track.
The balance between the elements of simulation and arcade is reflected in the composition of the tracks, which are alternate with descents much more focused on the evolution of other all brought to the speed, but also in the control system, which grants developments, very little realistic, but always maintaining a certain physicality to the bottom, imposing, however, accuracy and timing in order not to crash against an obstacle or after a jump very difficult. The freedom of approach and interpretation of the track also leads to a remarkable opening to the game styles are different, that can be enhanced by the selection of the races, according to the particular system of progression stages to be differentiated. Within the limits imposed, however, by the configuration of the setting, in this way it is possible to decide whether to follow more the classic style of downhill, and specialize primarily on the speed and driving ability, and to devote oneself to aerial acrobatics and more, wild, or switch from one style to another in a manner more eclectic depending of the situations.
Sounds rather strange, but Descenders of the game is downhill with elements of rogue-like. It is of suggestions, the more that features are properly defined, but in the progression system, it is possible to notice traces of the tradition in relation to the historical RPG. In Career mode, every time we start a game we have four “lives”, at the end of which, we are forced to start from the beginning, keeping the items you unlock and the level of reputation accumulated previously, in addition to opening of the passages, the permanent towards the environments most advanced, overcoming some of the tests particularly challenging. To expand the screw, and therefore the ability to get as far as you enter into the game the special objectives that are placed randomly at the beginning of each race, requiring to meet a certain performance before crossing the finish line (reach a certain speed, do not brake, do specific tricks, and other special requests). In this way, the choice to follow the path and take advantage of obstacles to perform tricks, or drop everything to rush at breakneck speed towards the finish, becomes in some way a strategic one, in case you want to try to expand the reserve of lives, or to get the first can in the bottom of the path. Stay on track and to successfully complete the stunts amplifies the collection of Rep points “reputation”, the width of the stream (the most high while remaining perfectly within the plot), however, may not be as important as simple survival or the achievement of the goal in a way that is less risky can, therefore, also in this case, the best path to follow is derived exclusively from a personal choice.
Another bizarre feature, which helps to build the strong identity of the Descenders, is the ability to choose which races to face inside a sort of map, following a path that leads to the final test. Each location offers a wide amount of possible races to take part in, each one characterized by particular elements of the challenge: the different balance between the steepness, tortuosity and stunts, which are the basic elements of each path, you add modifiers to random as different weather conditions and lighting, or more complex obstacles than usual. Once again, it is up to the player to decide which path to take to get to the “boss”, which in this game is represented by a level at the end of each setting and characterized by a particularly difficult challenge, usually a neutral jump that defies the laws of physics. Overcome the boss, you enter in the setting next, with the possibility to open a shortcut persistent if you win the final challenge multiple times. Always in line with the hybridization between the genres, the progression of the character also passes through the unlocking of real perk able to change the ability of the cyclist, and characteristics of the tracks, in the form of new members of the crew are equipped with special features. There are also hints of the management for the character, who may sign contracts with sponsors that can provide bonuses such as special equipment and exclusive, leading to the specific objectives.
The ambitious but immature
The major weak point of the Descenders is the strength of its performance, having regard to the instability of the frame-rate is a problem in several cases. In a game entirely focused on the sensation of speed, the showy decreases fluidity to be encountered at certain times, affecting in a particularly negative considering also that the cap seems to be placed on the 30 frame-per-second, therefore, not one standard especially high for a racing game. On a Xbox One standard, the frame-rate decreases with some regularity, especially in the presence of online activities with other players, together with a visible change in the LOD on the elements of the track in the approach which can be annoying, even if it doesn’t affect much to the game experience. These are problems that could be easily corrected with subsequent updates but return the feeling of a game still not optimized, almost to the level of a title in early access, especially if the complexity of a polygonal scenarios, is not really impressive.
Ragesquid is a team very small and the idea is that Descenders are a game, perhaps even too ambitious in some respects, which explains the presence of roughness techniques that also arise from the choices of concept. The levels are built in a procedural (even the level editor only allows the setting of the basic variables for a construction still random according to the selected features) and this involves, in addition to obvious advantages in terms of variety of experience, some consequences are less convincing: first of all, the uploads are rather long, and frequently before the start of each race, for the construction of the setting, who break the very rhythm of the game in the face of descents, which are resolved in bursts of a few seconds. Then, something that can be interpreted subjectively in a positive or negative manner, the fact of not to grant a careful study of the drawings: the construction of the procedural, making each level a unique experience, which eliminates the factor study and refinement of the performance in favour of approaches more immediate and improvised in each game. Really interesting and enjoyable, however, the selection of songs used for the soundtrack, never predictable, and can create a great atmosphere around the experience of the game.