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Descent: Legends of the Darkish lives as much as the hype, our full overview

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Printed in 2005, Fantasy Flight Video games’ Descent was among the many first fashionable 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 way of a collection 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 Darkish ⁠— Act 1 has really fulfilled the collection’ 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 easiest board video games printed this 12 months.

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 way of missions, informing them learn how 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 house to put out the maps, which increase 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 usually offers 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 could possibly be the distinction between success and failure.

Descent: Legends of the Darkish comprises a comic book book-style visible novel filling within the story behind each mission, and resolution bushes 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 believe 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 pc synced to a display screen large enough for all of the gamers to see. Alternatively, 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 choosing 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 taking part in 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 sorts an enemy is weak to.

The characters all really feel very mechanically distinct and there’s a satisfying problem to developing with very best 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 be taught the nuances of taking part in every of them.

That complexity principally lies in a intelligent system of fatigue administration. Do something particular — like add additional success to a roll, or use a capability corresponding to letting an ally transfer or enfeebling an enemy — and also you’ll add some variety of fatigue tokens to considered one 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. For those who turn out to be 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 completely different talents on all sides. Consequently, gamers should continuously change techniques even when it would seem to be a successful technique to only preserve slamming into an enemy with the weapon already geared up.

The app actually shines between missions, when the get together heads again to base to relaxation. The town display screen gives a store with a continuously altering stock of crafting supplies, recipes, and tools, plus workshops the place you possibly can forge your individual gear. Potions, armor, and trinkets are represented by playing cards gamers preserve within the play space and may 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 subsequent mission actually felt like taking part in D&D.

A demons stands on a mountain of flagstones.

Picture: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

Within the metropolis and through overland journey you may also play by way of narrative occasions that 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 offers entry to a number of quests directly, so you possibly can select no matter appears most fun or no matter quest requires the characters you’re within the temper to play.

Whereas the sport allows you to play with simply two characters, it’s finest to have a full get together of 4 ⁠— even when meaning having a participant management a couple of character. Protecting observe of a number of actions ramps up the complexity, however the sport simply doesn’t scale down correctly for smaller teams. Large teams encounter extra foes who’re additionally individually harder, however the actual limitation on success is commonly motion financial system as your characters want to assemble quest objects whereas coping with timers created by respawning monsters or collapsing terrain. It’s additionally tougher 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 primary quests, with a median playtime round 50 hours, in line with builders. After experiencing roughly one-fifth of that marketing campaign, I can say that the pacing and the density of the narrative feels excellent. There’s loads of room for enlargement as effectively, though how Act 2 will likely be delivered continues to be unknown. Like a very 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 offered 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. You’ll find extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.


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