It’s been a bit over twenty one years since Parallax Software took a look at Doom and figured that the newly-popularized FPS genre could do without gravity. Sure, there had been plenty of flight sims and space shooters, but taking the corridors of Doom and combining them with the ability to move or rotate freely in any direction, or just hang in space as if you’d stopped walking, was a new experience. Descent spawned the excellent Descent II, Descent 3 never really took off, the entire planet as one still pretends Descent to Undermountain never happened, and then the series spun off into the space-shooter Freespace.
Parallax broke up between the two development houses of Volition and Outrage, and the series went quiet as the six-degrees-of-freedom shooter disappeared. There have been a few revivals of the Descent name, including the rebranded and in-development Sol Contingency and Descent Underground on Early Access, but now a new heir to the Descent legacy has arrived and it’s got the strongest claim yet. Overload is being developed by the original Descent team, and while the tech making it work is new the design elements look refreshingly familiar.
Overload is promising to be Descent in all but name, complete with twisty corridors, robot enemies, the familiar destroy-and-escape objective, and a basic level-creation tech that’s surprisingly similar to the original games. While the lighting and smoke effects are fancier and the explosions are shrapnel-ier, each level will be constructed from the same deformed-cube building blocks that gave the first games their unique look. That’s not to say the levels aren’t dressed up with plenty of tech to mask their origins, but rather that the design and style looks like you’d imagine the 1995 game would look in 2016. Hopefully the complexity of design remains the same as well, but so far screenshots and the pitch video are promising. There’s even a bit where shooting a random wall popped open a secret area, which is always a welcome sight.
Overload is looking like a 1990s-style shooter with a 2016 polish on the art and story, filled with complex corridor layouts that are still easy to get a read on thanks to a clean design sense. The new robots look nicely threatening, and they explode in lovely showers of smoke and shrapnel once you’ve pumped enough laser-death into their glowering mechanical faces. The only potential downside is a lack of multiplayer, thanks to Overload having the budget to focus on doing either single or multiplayer well, but not both. Seeing as Descent: Underground has the 6DoF multiplayer thing covered, it makes sense for Overload to focus on staking out its own territory.
Overload just launched earlier today on Kickstarter and is off to a decent start, clearing 12% of its $300,000 goal and counting in less than a day. Head on over to the campaign page for more details and the pitch video, or just watch the gameplay trailer below to see the prototype in action.