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Video Game: Descent
That is all, Material Defender. Prepare for Descent.

Descent is a First Person Shooter Corridor Space Sim game series first developed by Interplay Entertainment and Parallax Software. The player controls the small, maneuverable, but heavily armed Pyro-GX Space Fighter and navigates confined networks of mines on various planets, destroying hovering mining-robots-gone-mad and rescuing hostages for points along the way in your mission to destroy all the mines. Yeah. That'll teach 'em.

In Descent (released in 1995), a representative of PTMC (Post-Terran Minerals Corporation) hires you, Material Defender, on a mercenary contract. The company's mining robots have been infected with The Virus, and the only solution is to flush out the mines by destroying the reactor in each one. You start on Earth's moon, progressing toward the sun via Venus and Mercury, then swing around to Mars and go all the way to Pluto and Charon and defeat the final boss, only to find that PTMC won't allow you to return to base, for fear that your ship might have received the virus. Descent later received a PlayStation port with some new levels, prerendered cutscenes, and new music. A Sega Saturn port was also planned but did not materialize. A WiiWare Port has been announced as well.

At the start of Descent II (released in 1996), you are contacted by the same representative from the first game (now with the name Samuel Dravis) and assigned a new mission. Same job, new mines. These mines are far more remote than the solar system, so a warp core prototype is installed in the Pyro in order to get there. After you've dealt with the final boss, it's time to "go home, get paid ... and sleep for the next two years." Unfortunately, your ship's warp core malfunctions at that very moment, knocks you out and dumps you into a random point in space. Descent II received a "port" in the form of Descent: Maximum for the PlayStation, which was essentially a new game with 30 new levels similar to the previous games' but smaller and optimized for the console.

The third game, Descent 3 (released in 1999), reveals that the warp core malfunction on your ship had sent you and your ship on a collision course with the Sun. A salvage vessel owned by a group of Technical Pacifists saves you at the last moment, but is unable to repair your ship and dumps it into the Sun. Katelyn Harper, the director of this group, tells you, shortly after you recover, that Samuel Dravis deliberately caused your warp core to "malfunction", in an attempt to kill you so that he does not have to pay you for your services. Harper also mentioned that the PTMC had started to test the very virus that you had been sent out to eradicate, in the hopes that they can harness its destructive power and use it for their own means. Harper presses you into her service in return for rescuing you from a certain fiery death. Descent 3 moved to larger, more open areas, overhauled the weapons selection system and tried to bring players from the now-dominant First-Person Shooter market in by making mouse and keyboard controls more playable. The plot also changed, with a plot and mission-oriented game instead of simply destroying reactors. Also, you are now fighting against the PTMC, on the side of your rescuers.

Unlike the original Doom, released only a year before the first Descent, and its derivatives, all three games feature the same vertigo-inducing, fly-anywhere, go-anywhere, there's-no-right-way-up, gameplay. Logical, in that the Pyro has fully functional antigravity, but for many players, these games represented the first time that they got actively carsick from playing a game.

As of April 2014, all three games are now available on Steam.


The Descent series provides examples of:

  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Both the Vertigo and Mercenary expansion packs feature other protagonists than MD 1032. In both cases, because he's busy being stranded and unconscious thanks to a malfunctioning warp core. It doesn't have any effect on the gameplay, though.
  • Asteroids Monster: Red Spiders in I, Sidearms and Spiders in II.
    • A few preset robots of different varieties, too— this was mostly restricted to Supervisor Droids near the exits in the secret levels in I (each one containing Demonic Spiders that also act as Piñata Enemies), but you never know when a random Smelter or TRN Racer in II might release a swarm Hornets, or even something more threatening...
    • With a little modding, any robot can be made into one of these, and any robot can be made their offspring. And yes, the parent and the spawn can be the same robot. This can make things very interesting in some player-made levels...
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: The third game has some issues with this. In the final level, Dravis flees the Shiva space station in Earth orbit as the battle begins and holes up in his Stronghold on Venus. The Material Defender pursues him and deals with him there. Within minutes of the virus going down, the CED blasts Shiva into a debris field, yet the MD is right there with them to help with the cleanup. In Mercenary, a colony is identified to be on Mars, but Jupiter is clearly visible in the sky, and quite close by.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Both the Final Boss in Descent 2 and the Final Boss of the Vertigo add-on are completely impervious to both energy and kinetic weapons unless they hit a glowing green triangle on its back. Made harder by the fact that unless you're cloaked, it tries to stay facing you to keep you from hitting that weak spot.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The EMD Gun and Omega Cannon in Descent 3. The EMD Gun is the only primary weapon that shoots homing projectiles, but it does so little damage and uses up so much energy per shot that spamming Super Laser or Plasma shots was almost always a much better option. The Omega Cannon is the only primary weapon that boosts the player's shields by draining them from other objects, but its exorbitant energy drain when it is sucking space or walls, ridiculously short range and a statistic cap that prevents it from recharging the player's shields beyond 99 points limits its usefulness in most scenarios.
    • The Fusion Cannon as it appears in the original game. Its shots are pretty strong if you connect with both (and it can One-Hit Kill a lot of enemies if you charge it before firing), and it does extra damage to any enemies you hit in a row with a single shot. Unfortunately, it's a bit underwhelming when you discover that the shots have extremely large hitboxes, making it very difficult to fire down corridors or through open doorways without the shots hitting a wall first. Coupled with the fact that your ship shakes rather violently when you fire it or charge it up (making aiming the thing at a distance a chore), and it generally only gets used in open areas at medium to close range. The damage was dropped significantly in the subsequent games, making it quite a bit less popular.
  • Bag of Spilling: Only between the first two games. The third game justifies this as the ship from the first two games is heavily damaged by the sabotaged warp core from the second game then tossed into a star after the pilot is extracted from it and destroyed, and you are then given a replacement ship.
  • Bandit Mook: The Thiefbot stole this example!
  • Big Damn Fire Exit: After destroying each reactor, you have to race to the emergency exit before the explosion engulfs you.
    • In Descent 3, after destroying the heat sinks on Level 8, you need to race through the base to the emergency exit, even if you shot at the heat sink from outside.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Guidebot at the end of Descent 3.
  • Boring but Practical: Markers—those innocuous glowing beacons that you can drop to mark your progress, and by far the most useful non-weapon your ship can carry. They can be navigational waypoints, message boxes, doorstops, Schmuck Bait, remote cameras…hell, Descent 2's Guide Bot drops one upon death to act as his tombstone.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Deactivating the virus, although the hand remains attached to the rest of the body.
  • Boss Warning Siren: Inverted in Descent I and II, where an escape warning siren sounds after each boss is defeated.
  • Captain Obvious: Dravis at the end of Descent II, after the Material Defender has triggered the Tycho Brahe Planetoid's self-destruct.
    Dravis: Material Defender, this is Dravis. Long-range telemetry is detecting a massive power spike from the planetoid; we recommend immediate evacuation.
    MD: Idiot. What does he think I'm doing?
  • Catastrophic Countdown: When you shoot the reactor in any of the mines, a voice announces a Self Destruct Sequence, and you have between 30 and 60 seconds (depending on difficulty) to get to the exit before the entire complex goes nuclear, while the screen shakes, lights flash, and sirens roar.
  • Charged Attack: Descent and Decent II's Fusion Cannon can be charged up to deliver a more potent blast at the cost of additional energy. The Fusion Cannon in Descent 3 has a fixed energy drain regardless of how long you charge it. Charge it too long, however, and it will damage your ship.
  • Cherry Tapping: The Flare. It does at least one point of damage on the highest difficulty level across all three games. Hence, this. Added humiliation comes in the form of Descent 3's multiplayer kill message:
    [Killer]'s Flare ignites [Victim]'s fuel leak
    — Default kill message in Descent 3 multiplayer if a player is killed by a Flare
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Colour-coded keys were used in the first two games to open a similarly colour-coded door. Used once in Descent 3, but you have to associate the key card's letter with the nearby color, rather than seeing the colour directly.
  • Code Name: In addition to the "MD" designation, the player character also goes by "Vertigo One" in the first two games.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In the first two games on Insane difficulty, enemy Concussion missiles fly faster than yours, and many weapons have a much higher rate of fire for robots on Insane than for the player. The robot weapons are actually separate weapons from the player's in the game's code. On the other hand, some of the robots, such as Drillers, Heavy Drillers, and Fusion Hulks, use code from the player's weapons, meaning they do the same amount of damage on all difficulties.
    • It is possible in the first game to have a robot fire on you with it facing away from you while you are cloaked. Thankfully averted/defied by using the Vulcan Cannon, due to its immense fire-rate and stunning properties.
    • On the third game's Ace and Insane difficulties, enemies, in addition to being Made of Iron, can maneuver way better than you, constantly dodge and have near-perfect accuracy. You can still hide from them with the cloaking device, but anything that gives away your position (whether shots, headlights, or bumping into walls) causes all enemies to unload their weapons.
  • Continuing Is Painful: You have to fight your way back to your weapons that scattered in the spot where you died. You do not get all your missiles back. In the second game, you can now drop weapons, which could be a good idea if you anticipate that an upcoming section is going to thoroughly own you and can find a safe spot to take back the key weapons you drop after dying.
    • Death Is Cheap: The third game removes the lives mechanic, so you can die as many times as you like without worrying about a Game Over.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Zig-zagged in 3. There are some places that have lava or are otherwise very hot, but your ship won't take damage unless you come in contact with the flames. However, there is one point in the final stage that has a lava pump station where you'll get burned if you fly into the lava shafts.
    • Averted on Level 9 in 3, since the stage takes place on Mercury. Because the planet is very close to the sun, going into the sunlight will burn you.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Dravis isn't too nice, and abuses contract fine print to keep the player in service of PTMC throughout the first two games. Then in the third game he's upgraded to full-fledged Big Bad.
  • Deadpan Snarker / First-Person Smartass: The Material Defender has a biting retort for just about everything, primarily on the PTMC's policies of damage control in the first game, and Dravis' corporate shenanigans in the second.
    Dravis: "This can only be done by the Material Defender in situ."
    MD: (thinking) "Translation from bureaucratese: they're hosed and I'm the only one who can cut their losses. That's the trouble with working for the largest bureaucracy in human history. Hail the glorious Post-Terran Minerals Corporation. Huzzah."
    — After Dravis explains why only he is capable of clearing the infected robots.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: Used in both the endings for Descent 1 and Descent 2, in the first one Dravis tells you that you can't be allowed to return and collect your money because your ship might be infected with the virus (elaborated upon in the opening of Descent 2 where he uses a loophole in your contract to send you out to clear out more mines), and in D2 the attempted jump back home causes your warp drive to malfunction and cripple your ship near a star. You don't get a happy ending until the end of D3.
  • Diagonal Speed Boost: A three-dimensional version. The fastest travel comes by combining a diagonal slide with forward thrust.
  • Difficulty Spike: The first game had several: level 5 to level 6, level 11 to level 12, and level 21 to level 22 were especially bad.
    • The Difficulty Spikes are a little harder to pinpoint in the second game, partly because the enemy AI improves throughout. With the expansion of AI varieties, even the Mooks introduced in Zeta Aquilae can be a lot tougher to deal with once you face the much faster, more evasive ones set to "Sniper" mode in Baloris Prime or the Omega System.
  • Disc One Nuke: Quite common in Descent 2, where the level 6 quad super lasers, Helix cannon, and Gauss cannon (3 of the most powerful and effective primary weapons in the game) are all obtainable by level 3.
  • Down the Drain: The Quartzon levels in Descent II, Level 4 of Descent 3 and Level 7 of Descent 3: Mercenary.
  • Drought Level of Doom: Level 23 in Descent II has no energy center, and you need to trigger a series of secret doors to get to the only energy powerups in the mine. Otherwise, you're limited to the Vulcan, Gauss and secondary weapons for the entire level. Incidentally, the level's name is "IWIHML", which according to some sources stands for "I wish I had more lights".
  • Dynamic Loading: There is an initial loading screen at the very beginning of a level (for the opening rooms), but once inside the level, there are none. Considering the sheer size of some of these levels, this is seriously impressive given the time period when Descent was originally made. They did it by having adjacent rooms, and only adjacent rooms, start loading whenever the player entered a room.
  • Elite Mook: Particularly exemplified in Level 12 of Descent 3. In addition to the standard array of Gyros, Tailbots, Orbots, Threshers, Six-Guns, Stingers and Tubbses, your opponent in the Level 1 Arena is an upgraded Stinger that can move very fast, the Level 2 Arena features an upgraded Thresher that is Made of Iron, the Level 3 Arena boss is an upgraded Six-Gun with Improbable Aiming Skills, and the Level 4 Arena boss is an upgraded Tailbot that shoots Frag missiles. If that isn't enough, you have to destroy another one of each of these four robots before you can face up against the boss for that level! And then, somewhat different, but still far above-average versions of the Stinger, Thresher and Tailbot show up multiple times in the last level, Dravis' Stronghold.
  • Emergency Weapon: The Vulcan Cannon in the first two games, mostly because it uses its own ammo instead of the ship's energy like every other primary weapon. Still fairly threatening because of it being Hit Scan in a game where most weapons fire very slow projectiles, despite weak damage—a problem the Gauss Cannon rectifies and then some in Descent II.
    • The Flare consumes no energy in Descent 3 if you are flying either Pyro. See Cherry Tapping.
  • Every 50,000 Points: An extra life in the first two games.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Guide Bot, a robot which guides. Thief, robots which steal your weapons and powerups. Energy Bandit, which drains your energy. Vulcan Cannon, a vulcan-type chain gun. The list goes on.
  • Expansion Pack: Each game has one.
    • Descent has the added level editor, and the Levels of the World pack (featuring the winners of an official level-design contest). The Later "Anniversary Edition" featured the original game, Levels of the World and a few extra levels designed by Parallax.
    • Descent II also has a level editor, while The Vertigo Series expansion adds twenty new levels (and three secret ones) to the game, along with ten tough new robots and two bosses. The Infinite Abyss contains the original game with updates, the editor and The Vertigo Series.
    • Descent 3 has the Mercenary expansion, a short, seven-level campaign, starring an unnamed CED pilot who eventually becomes a PTMC mercenary, that takes place before Descent 3, contemporaneous with the events of Descent II's ending. It also included a level editor, a collection of fan-made multiplayer maps, and the Black Pyro, whose most notable feature is the ability to dual-fire some missiles (although it cannot fire if there is only one of those missiles in store).
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Descent 2 gives a warp drive prototype, that allows the player to travel interstellar distances. Basically, the player travels to several different systems within a 72 hour timespan.
  • Featureless Protagonist: You, as the Material Defender, although you are progressively more defined as the series continues. The second game establishes that you are male, and in Descent 3, your face is finally revealed and you are known as "Material Defender 1032", "MD 1032" or just "MD". If you trust the three novelizations, your name is Benjamin "Ben" St. John.
  • Flunky Boss: Reactor/boss rooms contain a lot of normal enemies, as well. After all, the reactors can't move or defend themselves beyond firing slow-moving pink balls of energy.
    • Examples from Descent 3 that follow this trope are the Homunculus in Level 6 and, from Mercenary, the Alien Queen from Level 4. Examples that avert this trope are the final bosses in both Descent 3 and Mercenary.
  • Foreshadowing: Descent II off-handedly mentions the incredibly annoying Spawn robots more than ten levels before they appear, when discussing their weaker cousin the Hornet. Similarly, in Descent 3: Mercenary, in the penultimate level, Dravis has you test out three of a new prototype robot, which he calls the "Miniboss", which blow up several waves of Elite Mooks without breaking a sweat. The final boss reveals their namesake as it turns out to be the original, larger, and much deadlier model: the Gattling MP-1.
  • For Massive Damage: The final boss in Descent II can only be harmed by shooting a little green pyramid-thing attached to its back. This is made harder by the fact that it usually rotates to hide that part from you. The weak spot can be hit with an Earthshaker missile, Smart missile, or another rebounding attack, as long as it doesn't teleport.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The first level of Descent II is called "Ahayweh Gate" (Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here).
    • Also, the Portable Equalizing Standard Transbot, and the Preliminary Integration Groundbot.
    • Vertigo also adds the Maximum Amplified Xenophobe into the mix. The last new robot in the mission is called the S.P.I.K.E., but we never find out what that's supposed to stand for.
    • Level 23 of Descent II is called "Iwihml," and considering it's the Drought Level of Doom, it could be short for "I Wish I Had More Light."
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Your starting weapon, upgradable by several levels in the first two games, each of which increases damage and changes the lasers' color.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • A glitch caused the final boss in the first game to be invincible on higher difficulties. Several patches exist.
    • A similar bug in version 1.0 of Descent II caused all the bosses to be unbeatable on Ace and Insane difficulties.
    • In Descent II, the Omega Cannon is universally banned from netgames, due to the fact that it generated one packet for each frame it was fired, flooding the server and slowing everyone down. This was never patched.
  • Game Mod: Level editors developed by designers or fan programmers (at least three: the official Descent Mission Builder, the DOS-only DEVIL and the more recent DLE-XP) allow people to build their own levels and missions. Other supplementary programs such as HAXMEDIT can allow for weapon mods, custom music, textures and (except for Descent 1) even custom robot designs. Fan missions such as The Enemy Within by Dark Flame Wolf , Darkhorse and Sirius may include most or all of the above.
  • Get Back Here Boss: The first two games have an enemy robot that unloads a payload of high-damage missiles before teleporting away. Descent II and 3 have the Thief bot, which tries to sneak up, but flees upon detection.
  • Giant Mook: The four-legged Juggernaut in Descent 3.
  • Gunship Rescue: Your ship serves as this for the workers trapped in the mines.
  • Harder Than Hard: Insane, which downgrades all the shield and energy powerups, upgrades all the enemies, and all Mook Makers spawn indefinitely (in the first two games). Descent 3 is slightly more scripted with the enemy spawns and no longer makes them infinite, but instead upgrades enemies even further by making them hard to hit.
    • The custom fan made mission, Apocalyptic Factor by Darkhorse and Sirius, take this Up to Eleven by making it specifically for Co-op play. If you dare attempt this level set on any skill level, you'll be in much pain and agony. Woe to those who attempt the Insane difficulty setting.
  • Hero Tracking Failure: In full force in I, but averted in II. The robot AI was improved drastically in II, and part of that was giving each kind of robot has a specific "Aim" value to determine how well it can predict your movements.
  • Hit Scan: The Mass Driver and the Omega Cannon, though the last one is more of a short-range sustained beam. The Vulcan/Gauss/Vauss Cannons and Mercury Missiles aren't quite hitscan, but are much faster than most of the other weapons in the game. Other Energy Weapons in this game employ the same physics as Frickin' Laser Beams, which is part of why Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better.
  • Hurl It into the Sun: PTMC attempts to do this to MD-1032 by sabotaging his warp core.
  • Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: Averted, sadly, with the Bouncing Betty in Descent 3, for although it is a bouncing ball, it is not hyper-destructive, despite apparently being made for this trope.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: In true classic shooter tradition, your ship can carry a good deal more guns and missiles than should fit on the thing's physical frame ... not to mention the hostages in the first two games, who are clearly bigger than the ship itself. A ship whose cockpit shows room for only one person.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Trainee, Rookie, Hotshot, Ace, and Insane.
  • Indy Escape: One appears in Level 5 of Mercenary. Flying down a tunnel one tunnel in the ruins causes a giant boulder to drop down and chase you.
  • Infinity–1 Sword: The Laser, Super Laser and Plasma Cannon in all three games.
  • Informed Flaw: The Pyro-GL the player flies in the third game is supposed to be an older model Pyro, compared to the brand-new Pyro-GX seen in the earlier games. In gameplay terms, the two ships are near-identical, except that the GL has a dedicated storage bay for the Guide-Bot, and has a fancier cockpit, making it appear newer than its successor.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The aliens who are heavily implied to be the originators of the virus, as seen in Descent 3: Mercenary. Why they attacked humanity or wrote the virus remains completely unknown. They also qualify as Bee People: they are shaped much like bees, can fly, have a single larger Queen who commands them, and the base they built inside the Zeta Aquilae Planetoid appears to be modeled after a bee hive.
  • Interface Screw:
    • After destroying the reactors in Descent and Descent II, the player's escape to the exit is hampered by the level "shaking". And Earthshaker missiles, the ultimate secondary weapon in the second game, have their name for a reason.
    • Descent II's Flash missile (and its AI variants) causes the player's screen to become increasingly whiter the closer it explodes to the player and makes it completely white for several seconds if it scores a direct hit. Interestingly, the Flare in all three games can also be used to this effect, especially in multiplayer, as it lingers on the target for many seconds after impact, all the while burning brightly and illuminating the object it struck. Good luck hitting another player within their field of view, though.
    • In Descent 3, the player's view can be shaken by nearby explosions or distorted by Microwave shots. Some explosions, primarily from missile splash, are so strong that the player's HUD can be forced off its normal position momentarily.
  • Invisible Monsters: Variations of the Medium Lifter, brown Medium Hulk (see Palette Swap below) and Vulcan Driller in the first game and the Smelter and Diamond Claw in the second game. Some of these can take more damage and most are worth more points than their non-cloaked counterparts— the exception is the cloaked Driller, which is for some reason 600 points to its less durable and visible counterpart's 1000.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Sure, most primary weapons are energy weapons, but the secondary weapons generally aren't, being rockets, and once you get the Gauss Cannon in Descent II, would you want to use anything else as long as your ammo holds out? The Mass Driver in Descent 3 is also fearsome, but is balanced with its low fire rate and low ammo count (20 to 30 rounds maximum depending on ship).
    • In Descent 3, this trope is taken slightly further as weapons of mass are the only weapons capable of destroying glass surfaces, which is necessary in order to complete some levels.
  • La Résistance: The rag-tag Martian researchers who rescue MD 1032 from a fiery fate in Descent 3's intro become this over the course of the game's plot.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Mercury, Mars, and Io levels in the original Descent and the Brimspark levels in Descent II.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The point of each level in the first two games is to destroy the reactor, which triggers the mine's self-destruct sequence. For boss levels, the reactor is replaced with the boss robot, to the same effect.
  • The Lost Woods: Puuma Sphere in the second game, although its theme is often just labeled "Alien 2" to Baloris Prime's "Alien 1."
  • Loudness War: The Redbook music to the second game, amazingly, considering it was released in 1995.
  • Mars: Appears in the first and third games.
  • Mascot Mook: The Medium Lifter, with its distinctive triangular frame and blood-stained tungsten claws, is usually featured on box art. The humble Class 1 Drone from the original game also enjoys some in-game popularity with the fans.
  • The Maze: Even with (and sometimes because of) the 3D wireframe map, some mines are so twisty that navigation becomes a nightmare. The second game introduces a Guide Bot that can be rescued and commanded to find the various necessities. He even talks to you!
    • The Maze becomes prone to sparking anything from a bout of hopeless despair to a full-blown spaz-out episode in certain levels of the first game (especially Level 13, which almost takes the full thirty seconds on Insane) when it comes to finding the exit before the base explodes. Generally, the exit is always right next to the reactor, but for some levels you have to memorize the location of the exit in a labyrinth of corridors and rooms where the direction you're supposed to be going in could be any direction. When you start a new level and come across the exit almost immediately, a feeling of enormous dread is going to settle onto your shoulders like a cloak made out of lead.
    • More or less avoided in the third game (with CED Expediator Dreadnaught being a notable exception), but brought back in Descent 3: Mercenary.
    • The exit to the second game's fifth level is clear halfway across the map, in an out-of-the way area you're not likely to go through beforehand.
  • Mega Corp.: PTMC.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Hordes of 'em, and your only opponents until the third game.
  • Mini-Mecha: If the size of the ship in relation to the hostages in the original game is any indication, your ship has to be pretty damn dinky.note 
  • Monster Closet: Before Doom 3, the Descent series was the king of this trope. You could often find dozens of these in every single level. At least in this game it makes sense where the closets are coming from: your foes are mining robots after all, who better to carve out small passages from which to ambush you?
  • Mook Maker: Purple passages/compartments teleport in more robots. These have specific (but invisible) triggers that are usually nearby passageways. In the first two games, the passages stop working after releasing three waves of mooks (except in the second game on Insane). Descent 3 has a few situations where you may turn them off. For example, a control room on the final level can turn them off in a combination puzzle.
    • A few of the bosses in Descent II will also generate Mooks when they are hit with certain weapons (usually just the ones they're immune to).
  • Nanomachines: The Virus infecting the robots, as discussed in the third game.
  • Nerf: The Fusion Cannon from the first game wasn't anywhere near as powerful in the second, because the damage it dealt was cut in half and the new robots tended to have higher HP. The Vulcan Cannon from the first two games and the Gauss Cannon from only the second were seemingly combined into the less powerful Vauss Cannon in the third.
  • Nintendo Hard: The first game became rather hard after the initial seven levels (which made up the shareware version), although of course it has several Difficulty Levels, as well as mid-level saving. The second game, compared to the first on the same Difficulty Levels, was easier on Trainee, but a bit harder on the higher levels. The third game was generally easier except for some incredibly obtuse puzzles and gimmick sections loaded with Fake Difficulty.
  • No Fair Cheating: Using a cheat code will permanently set your score to 0, with "Cheater!" appearing thereafter every time you destroy a robot in the place of a point value in the first two games. Using codes from the first game in the second often backfired as well, for example by setting your shields to 1. In Descent 3, attempting to use cheats from either the first or second game will set both energy and shields to 001. There is even a "cheat" code that does 210 shield damage to the player.
  • No Sell: Three of the bosses in Descent 2. The Brimspark and Limefrost Spiral bosses are immune to energy weapons (all primaries except for the Vulcan and Gauss) but weak to kinetic weapons. The Baloris Prime boss, on the other hand, can only be damaged by energy weapons.
  • Nostalgia Level: In a level on the Moon in Descent 3, you must fly partway through the ruins of the first level from the first game.
    • The Vertigo Expansion Pack for Descent 2 had some elements of this: robots from the original Descent make appearances, and some of the mines have designs reminiscent of the original game rather than the second one.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The perpetual, pulse-pounding sound that the bosses from the first game make can be rather thrilling. Also, on Level 8 of the first game, you'll hear the piercing cry of Drillers and warbling of Secondary Lifters as they rush and blast you. Eventually, you get used to this, until you get to an area where you think you're safe, because you can't hear bots nearby. There's an Advanced Lifter right behind you. They are the quietest bot in the game by a long shot and their legacy lives on in the Old Scratch from Descent 3.
  • Novelization: There was a Descent trilogy written by Peter Telep that follows the overall plot and ideas of the games. It's actually very good (unlike most game-to-book conversions) and adds a lot of flavor to the setting. Highly recommended for fans of the series.
  • Oh, Crap: MD 1032 is almost always icy calm, collected, and sarcastic. The one exception is at the end of the second game, when his warp core malfunctions.
    MD 1032: Malfunction!? No, no, no, no! This can't be happening! This isn't happening! Valhalla! My warp core is malfunctioning! I don't know where it's taking me!
    Dravis: Abort jump, Material Defender! Abort jump!
    MD 1032: I... I can't!
  • One-Hit Kill: Final Bosses love doing this. In addition, Descent 3 has seven weapons that can inflict over 100 damage in one shot.
  • One-Woman Wail: Used at the very end of Descent 3's opening cutscene, when the Material Defender is extracted from the wreck of the Pyro-GX and it is dropped into the sun.
  • Only in It for the Money: The Material Defender has implied very strongly, at least once per game, that the only (and in Descent 3, primary) reason why he's cleaning up the mess that the PTMC made was because they promised him a generous sum of money if he fulfilled his part of the contract. We never see his reaction when Katelyn Harper shows him evidence of the PTMC deliberately trying to off him at the end of Descent II, but given his complete lack of issues working with the Red Acropolis Research Team throughout Descent 3, it's safe to imply that, Work Off the Debt aside, he only co-operated with them because they gave him a chance to collect the money the PTMC owed him.
  • Outrun the Fireball: the ending Cut Scene of every level in the first two games, whether in-movie or rendered. Regardless of how much time you have left when your ship crosses the exit gate, it's Always Close.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Anything that isn't a kinetic primary weapon, Omega Cannon, or Mercury Missile, as well as certain enemy projectiles.
  • Palette Swap: A few, always indicating different behavior. For instance, camouflaged enemies would lay mines rather than shooting you.
    • A few other Palette Swap Mooks were more regular, though: in the first game Platform Bots, which would shoot lasers when peach or a Macross Missile Massacre when green; Medium Hulks, which would shoot Concussion Missiles when brown or Homing Missles (and take three times as much damage) when red. The first boss in each of the first two games would later be recycled like this as well: the orange, Smart-Missile-firing Level 7 boss in the first game became purple and wielded a Fusion Cannon starting in Level 23 and the secret levels, and the Homing Flash Missile-wielding "Red Fatty" of Level 4 in Descent II became orange and wielded a Phoenix Cannon and Mercury Missiles from Level 9 on.
    • Descent 3 as its own share of Palette Swap examples, but the most outstanding is the very first Mook that you encounter. Known as the Gyro, it shoots incredibly weak laser bolts in bursts of four and flees when outnumbered. The Gyro has a red counterpart, called the Flame Gyro, that is faster and much more aggressive, circling and attacking targets with a constant spray of napalm that does enormous damage over time as well as refusing to flee even when it is outgunned.
    Gyro: Freeze!
    Flame Gyro: BURN.
  • Piñata Enemy: The Supervisor Droids in the first game usually contain several shield powerups or invincibility, but a few are more like a Chest Monster: each Secret Level has a door near the exit which opens once the reactor is blown and contains a few Supervisor Droids that split into Demonic Spiders which, when defeated, contain powerful weapons and extra lives.
    • The Gadget in Descent 3, a white robot with a wrench logo and medic logos on its sides, will blow up and spew a huge cluster of energy powerups after taking around two hits from the game's most basic weapon.
  • Player Guided Missile: Guided Missiles were introduced in Descent 2. They're slightly slower, but more powerful than normal Homing missiles. The player can also set whether the Missile Cam should be shown on the main display or a smaller pop-up.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Ogre of Skinny Puppy contributed the songs "Glut", "Ratzetz", and "Rusty" to the second game and its expansion. It also featured an instrumental version of Type O Negative's "Haunted".
  • Punctuation Shaker: Several level titles in the last third of Descent II: "Y'Tor III," "Drec'Nilbie K'Luh," "N'Neri Ring," etc.
  • Punny Name: Quite a few in the level names in II, including Level 1 being named "Ahayweh Gate" (see Fun with Acronyms above). Level 2 is named "Turnabout Bore" as a reference to its figure-8 design, Level 21 is named "N'neri Ring" and is almost all cylinders, and Level 20 (the second-to-last boss level) is "Gytowt Station."
  • Random Drop: Robots can release energy or shield boosts, or various weapons that your ship can use. The probability of the item appearing is always out of 16, unless a robot is customized so that a certain drop always occurs.
    • Impossible Item Drop: Generally done by customizing what the unarmed Supervisor Droids drop, but also the default for coded "clones" of enemies like the Omega Spawn and Spider Spawn in Descent II, which look the same as their regular counterparts but usually sound different, are worth slightly more points and can drop missiles (usually Guided Missiles) that are bigger than they are and not part of their arsenal.
  • Reactor Boss
  • Recursive Ammo: Several weapons, beginning with the Smart Missile and diversifying from there.
  • Retcon: The intro to the Vertigo expansion pack for Descent 2 has Dravis thinking to himself about the conclusion of Descent 2, saying he doesn't know what happened to the material defender. In Descent 3, however, it's revealed that he deliberately sabotaged the MD'd warp drive.
  • Robot Buddy: The GuideBot, introduced in Descent II and reappearing in Descent 3, was a godsend to disoriented Descent players everywhere. On the other hand, enough people found him annoying that Parallax programmed in a command to have him stay away from you. Then again, those players could simply not release the bot in the first place.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: MD 1033, the protagonist of the Vertigo series of levels in Descent 2. Dravis told him that the Beta Ceti mines only needed some light recon to check for leftover robots... he wound up exploding twenty heavily-infested mines with two Boss Robots thrown in. Rather than accept further assignments from PTMC, he just takes his money and jets.
  • Secret Level:
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: More than enough time to escape, but Insane difficulty only gives 30 seconds.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Robots in II tended to be either faster, more evasive or able to fire a lot more rounds at a time than their closest counterparts in the first game, and could also carry two kinds of weapons rather than just one.
    • Enemy AI was also improved a lot in II, averting Hero Tracking Failure which I played straight, and adding several new settings to assign to various Mooks in the mines. New options included "Get Behind," "Follow" (opening doors and rushing between rooms) and "Snipe" (hit-and-run tactics and a berserk firing rate). This also means making robots look like they're adapting over the course of the game as for example, the Smelter normally fires only three or five Phoenix shots at a time in Normal mode, but the last few levels with it have many set to Snipe mode.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Baloris Prime in the second game, although its theme is often just labeled "Alien 1" to Puuma Sphere's "Alien 2."
  • Shout-Out: Mention is made of a "mining rebellion on Mars". The developers of Descent, Parallax Software, split into Outrage Entertainment (the developers of Descent 3) and Volition, Inc (the developers of Red Faction).
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Limefrost Spiral levels in Descent II and PTMC Dol Ammad Fuel Refinery in Descent 3, although since you're flying a spaceship there is no sliding around on the ice.
  • Slow Doors: Averted in the first two games, where all doors open fully almost immediately after they are hit, and inverted in the third game, where some doors take a few seconds to open after being hit. You know you play too much Descent if you shoot at random doors hoping they will open by the time you get there.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Vulcan and Gauss cannons in the first two games could be used as such, picking off robots from beyond their sensor range with precise Hit Scan shots. The D 2 X-XL mod includes the option for a zoom function on said cannons for precisely this purpose. Descent 3 introduced the Mass Driver, which fit the bill more clearly: it has a low rate of fire (once every two seconds), does extreme damage, and your sight zooms in if you hold the trigger down without firing.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil / Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Both go hand in hand in Descent I, where the last new weapons are the Fusion Cannon and Mega Missiles, which come right after the Plasma Cannon and Smart Missiles. The strong missiles come into the game around the time that high-HP robots like Super Hulks and Class 1 Heavy Drillers become very common, and it isn't much later that the Fusion Hulk, the only robot to survive a Mega Missile, starts to appear.
    • Descent II, on the other hand, is a bit more haphazard, owing to the fact that there were (depending on how you count the Super Laser) 19~20 kinds of weapons to balance rather than ten. Most of the weapons that carried over from Descent I were nerfed and will be readily available by the end of Zeta Aquilae, but you'll most likely get the Helix and Gauss Cannons by the end of Quartzon, less than a third of the way into the game. With those two, you can make short work of most robots until the LOU Guard, Seeker and minibosses become more common in Limefrost Spiral. The last secondary weapon to be introduced, the Earthshaker Missile, is the strongest by far, but the last primary weapon, the Omega Cannon, is pretty underwhelming.
  • Sound of No Damage: All ineffective attacks make a distinctive metallic noise upon impact, whether the target is your ship while invulnerable, a Locked Door impervious to weapons fire or a Descent II boss robot being hit with a weapon it's immune to.
  • Spread Shot: Descent's Spreadfire Cannon, which fires three energy blasts horizontally or vertically, alternating on each shot. It is joined by the five-blast-firing Helix Cannon in Descent II.
  • Stealth Pun: Descent 2 is rife with them. To wit:
    • In the first level, there is a group of robots behind a locked secret door. If you open the door hiding them and then leave them alone, the robots will leave the alcove and spread themselves out. One of them drops the Spreadfire Cannon when you kill them.
    • Your rewards for figuring out some of the more challenging secrets and puzzles will often include Smart Missiles and Smart Mines.
    • The GuideBot's standard path to your next objective will sometimes have Guided Missiles placed along it. They're sometimes stashed near those objectives, too.
    • There are also some of these among the game's plethora of pig references. The first levels's red key, for example, is in a room containing a lava pit, two PESTs, and a PIG guarding either side of a grate. Or rather, two PIGs on a grill over an open heat with PESTs buzzing around them.
      • Continuing the pig references, most of the data files in the first two games have extensions such as .HOG, .PIG, .SOW, and .HAM. Apparently the developers must have really loved pork.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Some of the robots carry way too much firepower and armor for either mining or industrial purposes. Later handwaved as the robots starting to innovate on their original designs.
    Wingnut: "GAHOOGAH!"
  • Theremin: Descent 3's title theme, and several of its in-game variations.
  • There Can Be Only One: Proving Grounds in Descent 3 has this near the end.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: With Descent II, it is possible to destroy the GuideBot if you damage it enough with splash damage (although you can still navigate using the map). In Descent 3, it can take direct hits but it will move out of the way of the line of fire and cannot be killed since it kills Dravis for you.
    • While passing through the hangars mentioned below in Decent 3: Mercenary, Level 3, you might notice that each hanger has a control room overlooking the docking platform. You'll be able to access those control rooms later on. From there, you can use the switches to torture the poor robots guarding the hangar by decompressing the hangar, whacking them with Bay 2's crane, crushing them using Bay 3's magnetic lifts, and burning them alive with Bay 2's flame purge function. And no, this has nothing at all to do with any of your objectives.
    • Later on in that same level, you fly through the barracks. Each bunk in that area comes furnished with a docking station (the equivalent to a bed, since the crew is all robots) and a shower stall closed off behind breakable glass. A few of these bunks will have a "crewmate" droid in the shower. There is nothing stopping you from reenacting a certain infamous scene from Psycho using your Mass Driver, although do be warned; the bunks on the lower level belong to Black Stormtroopers, who also carry Mass Drivers.
  • Villain Protagonist: The pilot in DC Mercenary.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In order to access the first secret area in Mercenary Level 3, you need to get sucked out to space (i.e. kill yourself) via the secondary bay door of any hangar.
  • The Virus: A computer virus in this case, affecting the mining robots.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The first boss of Descent I is very tricky, appearing only a quarter of the way into the game. It fires off Macross Smart Missile Massacres while the strongest weapons you have up to that point are the Spreadfire Cannon and Homing Missiles, which only do moderate damage. As long as you can use the central spire to your advantage and properly dodge, you should survive, but less maneuverable players will die here a lot.
    • The strongest weapon you have at that point is the level-4 Quad Laser. Fire away!
    • The Level 12 boss of Descent II is the first boss with an uber weapon, namely the Mega Missile, and also the first one with an immunity to some of your weapons. The arena is so large that you can easily lose track of it, until it manages to find you first!
  • Warmup Boss: Red Fatty, the Level 4 boss in Descent II. None of the immunities of the later bosses, and a relatively weak weapons layout with only Homing Missiles and one dumbfire Flash Missile. Plus, there's also plenty of dodging space in the arena, which you can add to by shooting out a switch to unlock the doors around it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Origin Zero, the first secret level in Descent 3. At the end of the stage, MD seems to be caught in some pentagram web after Mission Control asks what is going on, but that action is no longer referenced when you return to the main plot.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Shoot to kill. Shoot to open doors. Shoot to activate switches. Shoot to light your way. Shoot to solve a puzzle. Almost everything that can be done in these games will be done by shooting something unless the game tells you otherwise.
  • Wolverine Claws: All three games feature robots with diamond-encrusted, swivel-mounted claw arms, ostensibly used for boring through rock...and the hull of your ship.
  • Work Off the Debt: In Descent 3.
    Harper: "We don't have anyone with your special talents. That's why we need you."
    MD: "Okay, that's why you need me. Now tell me why I need this. What's in it for me?"
    Harper: "We could have left you floating out there. You owe us."


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alternative title(s): Descent
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