Given the iconic Sci-Fi universe Aliens: Dark Descent is pulling from, there are a few things it can do to capture the magic of Alien: Isolation.
The Alien franchise has had a bit of a rocky history with video games. While there have been some pretty great games featuring the titular bugs, such as the classic arcade Aliens Vs. Predator titles, the 2010 AvP game, and a few others along the way, standout Alien video game experiences are pretty rare. In the last 10 years, there’s only really been one genuinely great Alien game: Alien: Isolation. But with Aliens: Dark Descent on the way, the franchise’s luck might just change.
Taking the iconic imagery of the Aliens movies and fusing them with an isometric perspective and top-down shooter gameplay, Aliens: Dark Descent has a chance to break the Alien game curse, but it’s going to take quite a bit of work. As is the case with adapting any popular franchise to the video game format, developers need to put a lot of effort into recreating the essence of the source material, while also making it fully interactive, and making the experience an enjoyable one. A few years ago, Alien: Isolation did just that, and hopefully Aliens: Dark Descent can do the same.
Xenomorphs Ripped Straight Out of the 80s
Alien: Isolation released in 2014 and was met with a fair amount of critical and fan acclaim. While some critics had their issues with the game’s pacing and narrative, especially during the third act of the game, Alien: Isolation‘s atmosphere was unanimously praised by everyone who got their hands on it. With box-y 70s Sci-Fi technology strewn across the levels, and environments that perfectly captured the set design of the original Alien movie, Alien: Isolation managed to achieve the impressive feat of feeling like a genuine Alien product, made by the fans, for the fans.
But there’s one other area that Alien: Isolation excelled at: its horror. The original Alienmovie, and the sequels to a lesser extent, is a horror movie through-and-through. Creative Assembly understood this, and delivered an experience even more terrifying than its source material. Boasting some of the most intelligent AI in a video game to date, Alien: Isolation‘s big bad, the Xenomorph, stalks the player relentlessly around Sevastapol Station, popping out of vents and ambushing the player frequently. If there’s one element that set Alien: Isolationabove its predecessors, it’s the Alien itself.
Although Aliens: Dark Descent is going for a more action-focused approach, with the players assuming the role of a squad of Colonial Marines equipped with Pulse Rifles and SMART guns, it’s more than possible for the game to capture the same magic that was present in Alien: Isolation. While its Alien horde is not going to be as individually smart as Isolation‘s Xenomorph, Aliens: Dark Descent‘s Xenos can still hearken back to the source material and recreate the essence of the original Aliens movie.
While Ridley Scott’s Alien delivered a succinct, groundbreaking Sci-Fi horror experience, James Cameron’s Aliens upped the ante significantly, dropping a group of Colonial Marines straight into the nest, forced to fend off waves of the monster that caused so much trouble in the previous movie. With Aliens being such an iconic film, there’s plenty for Aliens: Dark Descent to draw from that would easily make the game feel like an authentic experience.
Just like Alien: Isolation did, it’s important for Aliens: Dark Descent to get its Xenomorphs right. Focus Entertainment should take the time to model its Xenos after those found in the 1986 movie, recreating their iconic movements through animation. This should also extend to the enemy AI, where Xenomorphs should be able to crawl up walls and cling to ceilings, and maybe even slither out of a wall-mounted nest.
Sound design is also an incredibly important facet of capturing the feel of the franchise. Just as Alien: Isolation did, Aliens: Dark Descent should let its audio do the heavy lifting, with those iconic Xenomorph hisses and clicks being used to ramp up tension before a firefight breaks out. It may take some effort, but Aliens: Dark Descent could easily follow in the footsteps of Alien: Isolation to capture the unique essence of the classic Alien franchise.
Aliens: Dark Descent will release in 2023 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.