Descenders PlayStation 4 Pro Review

Descenders perfectly captures the sense of speed and excitement when heading down a large hill at high speeds

By Grayshadow, Posted 22 Aug 2020

Descenders is a simple game, you're placed on a bike and told to reach your goal. The path having been randomly generated with many forms of obstacles ranging from jumps, rocks, tiny paths, castles, or whether its night or day. This rush of getting to the end while trying to complete optional objectives or even trying to make that perfect jump with style creates a surge of adrenaline as you peddle faster and faster while attempting to maintain control. Descenders' randomness does come at the cost of becoming predictable as you travel through the same set of assets just placed in different ways.

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Descenders is centered on randomness and moving quickly with style. Each time down the mountain offers a random collection of paths, obstacles, and optional objectives. This can include staying in the air for a specific amount of time, performing tricks, or an environmental hazard such as your light going out during a night ride. At first, this is exciting as it keeps things dynamic but the developers focus entirely on this system. As you progress you're provided new areas but the same core mechanics are always present.

Since every level takes from the same procedurally generated pool you can guess what the next stage will consist of. You're given a selection of stages that branch out from the available options and expand as you progress, with key levels labeled with special icons. Eventually, you start to see patterns of how levels are created. The Highlands are peppered with wooden ramps, the occasional castle, and sometimes a dense placement of thin trees. The Forest adds new things such as firewatch towers and twisted bridges but once you notice the pool of items the levels are constructed from the excitement of a new stage starts to dwindle. This is because once you know what items less of it becomes what you can expect and instead what order.

Descenders' randomization complements the presentation. When speeding down a hill at 40 mph you have to take into account a variety of options that could be present. This leads to twitch-like decision making as you decide whether to break to maintain better control or throw caution to the wind for a better score or to complete that side objective. You're given an overview of each track beforehand so you can better prepare before the run but the choice to go off-path adds new options for creativity. If you succeed in your risk you're rewarded and if not you can watch your avatar go ragdoll as he tumbles in pain. Best of all you can change the camera position for more cinematic gameplay or in first-person for that direct feed.

Occasionally you'll get a level that focuses on obstacles similar to Ubisoft's Trials franchise or large open areas where you have to find the end goal. These are refreshing breaks from the same downhill stages that offer something new to take part in. I wasn't a fan of the obstacles courses since many paths lead nowhere and failing here is much more common than peddling down a hill at 50 mph. The control for making those precise jumps is vexing and often I found myself fighting against the avatar.

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Each run starts you with a limited amount of health. Any failures that lead to a wipeout will remove 1 health. Health can be recovered by completing Medic levels and optional objectives. Complementing this is the surprisingly good soundtrack that keeps you engaged with the rush of speed while navigating these courses.

Each level does include a variety of checkpoints that get you back into the action when you fail. You can choose to take more risks to complete each level but depending on the path will depend on how much Rep points you'll earn. These are earned by performing tricks, close calls with objects, and maintaining a high speed but more opportunities are provided on the given path. Each stage has a boss jump that must be completed 3 times before a shortcut option is provided to the next stage. This can be vexing as you can continue to the Canyon, Peaks, and a final secret area without unlocking the previous but if you lose all your health or quit you need to start from the beginning unless that shortcut is unlocked. Like the procedurally generated world, these boss jumps lose their luster since they repeat the same patterns.

Other opportunities include sponsorships. Like completing boss jumps for unlocking shortcuts these have to be completed multiple times in special levels to unlock new rewards. They're not always present during each run but earning them is significant to gaining new items.

While Descenders uses the same procedurally generated system the new stages offer a lot of exciting areas to visit. The first set is standard such as woods, peaks, and other areas you would expect to bike in. It's in the latter half that new areas start to open up. You'll need to play a lot to get these locations but they're well worth the grind to unlock. I cannot say what they are from spoiler reasons but they were worth unlocking.

There are crew members that make each run easier. This includes a variety of options such as adding more steepness to a track, easier control, decreasing off-road friction, a compass to point in the right direction, and so on. You lose access to the crew members each new run so choosing the right ones is ideal given what style of play you want to dedicate to.

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Rep serves as the games experience system to mark your achievements. You can use this to access more cosmetic items that are provided based on your ranking. If you crash, this will reduce your Rep depending on its severity. This also includes botched but recoverable tricks, making execution that more serious since you don't just have to complete the trick you have to do it right.

Between runs, you can explore and practice within a training area. This is where you can put on your earned cosmetics such as shirts, helmets, pants, bike decorations, goggles, handlebar, rear-wheel, and hats. There's plenty to choose from to give your avatar a unique look but you can't change the body type or sex which is strange but nothing majorly problematic. 

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Descenders encourages you to keep trying. The constant need to perform harder and more dangerous tricks to unlock cosmetics, gain reputation, and earn sponsorships continually gives new reasons to start another run. The repeated use of the same assets in new ways adds new effective situations but at the cost of uncommon obstacles. The stages do make up for this fault but only to an extent. Descenders perfectly captures the sense of speed and excitement when heading down a large hill at high speeds and if you fall to keep trying.

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Descenders

80/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): Sold Out, No More Robots
Developer(s): RageSquid
Genres: Action, Sports
Themes: Biking
Release Date: 2019-05-07

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