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Aliens: Dark Descent Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

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Aliens: Dark Descent Review

Going on a killing spree is almost no fun. Not if the prey drops easily, like flies. But what about when the hunter becomes the hunted? For a long time, humans have dominated other species. So much so that games have almost always replicated each other.

But once in a while, we get a game like Aliens: Dark Descent that pushes you to the limits. It’s a new real-time strategy game that adopts the same recipe as XCOM and retains the dark, sci-fi universe of the Aliens franchise. The result is a game to behold, where every turn brings nightmarish horrors that make your skin crawl. And demands acting swiftly, or else it’s game over. Here’s a deep-dive Aliens: Dark Descent review where we break down the good, bad, and ugly (if any), as well as put to bed whether the RTS is worth your time.

End of Times

Aliens: Dark Descent

Aliens: Dark Descent’s story is pretty neat. It’s an original take on alien invasion, where a terrifying outbreak of the iconic Xenomorph aliens unleashes itself on the moon planet Lethe. Every creature, from Praetorians to Facehuggers to Alien Queens, roams about the colony under the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, searching for prey. Humans barricade themselves in a ship that is gradually collapsing.

Their sole savior is a squad of four hardcore Colonial Marines, whom they send out every now and then to stop the terrifying aliens from overstaying their welcome. Meanwhile, they have to bring back resources to the base like food, medical supplies, and tools to repair the ship.

Since the Colonial U.S.S. Otago originally crash-landed on Lethe, I assume the plan is to bring back enough resources to repair the ship so they can lift off to another planet for safety. All of these are detailed in a cinematic prologue that doubles as the tutorial. It’s pretty decent, with engaging writing and delivery. Some moments feel awkward, and voices sound similar. It would be great to have infused some wit, certainly going beyond decent, and delivered an award-winning performance. I can settle for the current script, though.

Stay Strapped or Get Clapped

Onward, the plot continues to develop unforeseen twists. It’s structured in the form of missions that have the player issue commands to the Marines (not as individual soldiers but as a unit). At all times, they must stick together. Otherwise, isolated soldiers are more vulnerable to attacks. Gradually, they investigate different areas, which aren’t massive either. Rather, a small-scale part of the colony. Each new area is an opportunity to acquire new supplies. It could also be a breeding ground for a hive waiting to pounce.

Fortunately, you have a motion tracker you can use to track any movement within a 60-meter radius. Admittedly, it’s easy to want to get into a gun showdown with the xenomorphs. Show off some of your moves. But Alien: Dark Descent encourages stealth, and for good reason. Firstly, each attack drains your squad’s stress level. It doesn’t matter whether you win the round. And when your squad is hyper-stressed, they tend to ignore your commands and fire haphazardly. All the while, they’re firing wildly and consuming more ammo. In the end, they wound up getting themselves killed. 

Then, there’s the matter of an attack on a xenomorph alerting nearby hives to your presence. They call to one another, like the queen in Army of the Dead or The Great Wall. In a matter of seconds, a swarm of xenomorphs descends on you with all their might. And trust me, you’ll get outnumbered regardless of how good a strategist you are. In fact, just to taunt you, there’s a clock that starts ticking. It represents the growing aggression of the aliens, and an incoming horde you can’t outrun. 

Better Safe Than Sorry

So, what do you do when you accidentally stir up a hive? Because it will happen at least once or twice, and you still have to be prepared regardless of whether you think you’ll win. Well, your squad will automatically start shooting at the xenomorphs, trying to keep them at bay. That alone isn’t enough. So, you might want to whip up the skill menu and use suppressive fire for wider AOE damage. You can also use the other weapons at your disposal. For instance, grenades, and shotguns for close-range. By this point, your stress meter will be running low, as will your Command Points.

If your squad has Naproleve pills, they can pop these to reduce stress. Or, rather, you can find a safe room and weld the doors shut for a quick rest. Safe rooms often come in handy.

So, however unnecessary they seem, do use them every now and then to keep your squad in fighting shape. The last option is to forfeit. Even if you’ve completed 90% of the mission, at times, it’s better to return to base to get more supplies and allow your squad to heal. You can always auto-save to potentially return to where you left off.

There’s another factor to contend with, though. The fact that every subsequent encounter with a xenomorph is worse than the last time. It’s honestly a nuisance at some point, and then you remind yourself that therein lies the overly tense nature of playing this game. To avoid all of these debacles, as a rule of thumb, you want to avoid any confrontation with xenomorphs if you can help it. And, instead, use cover spots to hide and maneuver around them.

The Element of Surprise

All of the factors that seem to work against you actually add up to create a truly tense, horrific game. You simply never know what to expect. An encounter with a xenomorph can seem like a fight already won. Until it turns into the most intense battle, your squad will inevitably pay for it. All the while, you have to complete the mission’s objectives. There’s no shortcut for it. Some objectives are multi-layered and can take days to complete. If you choose to take a break, the xenomorphs will keep growing more aggressive, more infestive, and more relentless. It’s the kind of mission you can’t put off for another day. 

This is why progression is so important. Thankfully, you can upgrade your squad over time. Always, starting with healing their physical and mental health. And proceeding to empower them with new skills, gear, weapons, and more. It’s why acquiring supplies while on missions matters so much because the same resources lead to unlocking new skills.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

Aliens: Dark Descent review

Down the line, you can place your squad members into classes. There are Sergeant, Gunner, Medic, Recon, and Tecker classes. Each one has unique skills, strengths, and weaknesses that you must factor into the overall, dynamic gameplay.

For example, while a Gunner is a firearms expert, unrivaled by everyone else, a Recon can uncover safe paths and corridors to help you avoid unnecessary xenomorph encounters. Enemies grow more diverse, too, including human attackers down the road. So, you need to adjust your squad’s repertoire accordingly.

Paying Tribute to Aliens

Few other adaptations do justice to the Aliens franchise, except for 1992’s Alien 3 and Alien: Isolation. Now, Aliens: Dark Descent has joined the ranks with its faithful adaptation of the franchise’s dark, eerie, sci-fi universe.

Particularly, the strategic shift of lighting across its cramped corridors and hallways. It keeps you on your toes, not knowing when and where a xenomorph will jump. Perhaps even a hive nearby you accidentally walk yourself into. If there’s one thing Aliens: Dark Descent nails, it’s the creepy atmosphere that never lets you forget the monstrosity you’re up against.


Aliens: Dark Descent is a spectacular RTS that borrows ideas from games like XCOM to create its own creative, unique take on the alien invasion. The gameplay is familiar, yet even the most skilled veteran will have a difficult time learning the ropes on this one. It’s the very feature that makes it so highly desired. To not always feel so powerful all the time.

Sometimes, you can retreat to safety, lick your wounds, power up, and return stronger than before. Each turn challenges you to push yourself. The instantaneous build-up from an easy kill to intense battles against hordes of xenomorphs is something that will remain Aliens: Dark Descent's biggest thrilling element. As you play alone, you'll have access to a variety of tools and resources to help you take down the xenomorphs and fight for survival.

The only downside is a few reported bugs with textures popping in and out. Doors fail to wield shut in the thick of things. And the game’s unplayability on the PC version. Were these issues fixed in the next patch update, Aliens: Dark Descent will no doubt be one of the best RTS games ever made.


Aliens: Dark Descent Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)

Uniquely, Its Own Kind of Party

There’s so much to love in Aliens: Dark Descent. It’s a fresh and fun take on the RTS genre and studiously maintains a steady stream of terrifying, modern-day bug hunts. While the game has a rather steep learning curve, once you learn the ropes, it packs hours upon hours of a tense yet hugely satisfying playthrough.


Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.