Hi, I’m Romain Clavier, Game Director at Tindalos Interactive, the studio developing Aliens: Dark Descent, a strategic real time squad-based tactical action game with rich management systems and twisted horrors. On June 20 you’ll be able to witness the Xenomorphs stalk their prey in a contemporary strategy game. But before you descend into the darkness, I want to use this blog post to shed some light on how our development team fused terror and tactics for Aliens: Dark Descent’s intense, lo-fi world.
First, let’s look at the horror elements of Aliens: Dark Descent. As the title suggests, the game is set in the Alienuniverse, more specifically tinted towards James Cameron’s action-based take on Aliens (1986) where players take on the role of a group of colonial marines trying to escape from a colony overrun by the titular aliens. From the very beginning, we worked hard to establish a tense and foreboding atmosphere; there are cryptically dim corridors, flickering fluorescent lights, and the constant threat of a Xenomorph attack, but what really changed Aliens: Dark Descent for the better was when we implemented our unique fog of war mechanic, where areas of the map are hidden to create dread and let players’ imagination run wild. This means that you must carefully plan your routes and movements at every turn, taking into account the risk of running into a Xenomorph or other unknown dangers.
Developing the Xenomorphs was one of the most rewarding challenges, as we want them to hit the same level of ruthlessness they’re famous for on film. Our goal is to have players drown in the tension from the potential of a ferocious ambush of a conniving pack of Xenomorphs. That said, we wanted to avoid having swarms of Xenomorphs in a way that would dull their individual significance so we opted to give the game’s enemies cunning strategic impulses to plan maneuvers on the fly, flank squads, and quickly retreat to gather more numbers.
Sound design is also crucial in eliciting that primal dread; we made sure to add the subtle hums of the tattered tech and eerie chirps of the creatures’ hissing and scurrying as you lead your crew on a variety of crucial missions.
But Aliens: Dark Descent isn’t all suspense and dismay – it also requires strategic thinking and planning to succeed. Players must manage their resources carefully, gathering supplies and weapons while avoiding detection by the Aliens and other enemies.
While the constant threat of a Xenomorph attack creates a sense of urgency and danger, the strategic gameplay elements add depth and complexity to how players must react. Our stress mechanic is a ticking time-bomb acting as a constant reminder of how things can go wrong if distraught marines are left uncared for in this hostile environment. Permadeath will be the unfortunate reality for the most unlucky marines, making each mistake have a lasting impact; and the more the marines have progressed, the more heart-wrenching losing them will be. Players must constantly adapt and change their tactics to stay one step ahead of the Aliens, making each playthrough personal and exciting. My personal favorite feature is the slowdown mechanic, as it forces players into inescapable situations