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Lunge straight down mine shafts, twist around never-ending tunnels and fight your way past robotic menaces in an environment that's truly 360° 3-D...move up, move down, shooting everything everywhere. Hang onto your senses (and your lunch) as you drop straight down mine shafts on a ride that'll leave you spinning.

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. Ports to both the Sega Saturn and WiiWare were also planned, but did not materialize.

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.

The In Name Only game Descent: FreeSpace features an unrelated plot and was made by Volition, Inc. who split off from Parallax Software. Its expansion and sequel drop the title.

The trilogy is available for purchase on Steam and

A Spiritual Successor by the original developers, titled Overload, is released on Steam and

That is all, Material Defender. Prepare for tropes:

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  • Achilles' Heel: Descent 3 introduces a number of robots that have some sort of unique weakness:
    • The Orbot takes more damage from napalm weapons.
    • The Sparky's guidance system may occasionally overload if it chases you for too long, causing it to spin out of control and explode.
    • Once triggered, the Spy Hunter's Taking You with Me Self-Destruct Mechanism can be shorted out with a single hit from the EMD Gun, causing the robot to bounce off your ship and explode harmlessly if it hits you.
    • The Tracker's twin Mega Missile launcher can be shot off, removing its only way of attacking you. Destroying its rear hatch also does massive damage to the vehicle.
    • The Black Stormtrooper in Mercenary can take considerable amounts of punishment head-on, but it also carries a much more fragile crate-shaped backpack that, when destroyed, automatically results in a One-Hit Kill, and since the Fusion Cannon fires One-Hit Polykill projectiles...
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the first two games the PTMC is basically just a Mega-Corp, and Dravis is given basically no characterization, being a Bad Boss at worst. In Descent 3 they are straight up villains, with Dravis being the Big Bad who is behind the virus infecting the robots.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In Descent 3, courtesy of the PTMC framing the Red Acropolis Research Team for assassinating PTMC President Suzuki, resulting in the C.E.D. attacking the Red Acropolis Research Station, where the player is based, on the grounds that they had carried out a terror attack on Earth.
  • Always Accurate Attack: The Omega Cannon in the third game is not only Hitscan, but basically always hits anything in range as long as you are pointing in its general direction, its only weakness being its rather short Arbitrary Weapon Range and high energy consumption.
  • 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 in the case of Mercenary the events that happened during it culminated in the latter two-thirds of the original Descent 3 single-player campaign.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The mega missiles in the games have a massive kickback that pushes your craft back several feet when fired. In reality, even a really big rocket/missile won't have any recoil, as the launcher basically just ignites the rear end of the missile, from which it flies out of the launcher under its own propulsion. (It may end up helping the player to not blow themselves up with said missile, though...)
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • 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 C.E.D. 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.
    • In the first and third games, the levels set on Mars are usually Lethal Lava Land type places. Mars only has about 50 volcanoes on the entire planet, and is on average a lot colder than Earth due to being much further away from the sun.
  • 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 of 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...
  • A Taste of Power: The singleplayer Mercenary campaign in the third game starts the player off in a Phoenix interceptor, but within the first level alone, they can pick up the Plasma Cannon, possibly salvage a Fusion Cannon from destroying the numerous Threshers that populate the latter half of the level, and stock up on a huge amount of missiles, including less common ones like the Impact Mortar and Smart Missile. Shortly after the start of the second level, however, all of the player's weapons and missiles are confiscated during a security clearance check in a C.E.D. base. The player must play through at least the next two levels before they have a similar amount of ordnance at their disposal again.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The Final Bosses of Descent II and its Vertigo add-on are completely impervious to both energy and kinetic weapons unless players hit a glowing green triangle on their backs. The fight is made harder by the fact that unless the player is cloaked, both bosses try to always face the player to protect that weak spot, though aiming Earthshakers at walls behind the boss help get around this.
  • Automatic New Game: In Descent 3, when a new pilot profile is created, selecting "New Game" on the menu screen automatically plays a cutscene that, on subsequent new games, is only played if the player loads level 1 of the single-player campaign. In this particular instance, however, and only in this particular instance, the level that loads immediately after the end of the cutscene (or if it is skipped) is the training mission. In addition, attempting to leave the training mission for this particular instance gives the player an option to skip only the training mission and go straight to level 1 of the single-player campaign without having to back out to the menu screen to load the campaign manually. Any and all subsequent entries into the training mission will show the normal "Do you want to abort the mission?" question, which only has a "Yes" and "No" option.
  • 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, in addtion to doing massive damage, being Hitscan, and basically just automatically hitting whatever the closest target is, 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 Level 8 of Descent 3, you need to traverse the base as the reactor overloads, although there's no time limit. However, you need to go 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.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Subverted; in all three games, the player's shield rating is their hitpoints, but it is also possible for the ship to fly around perfectly fine with 0 shields, whereupon the next hit will destroy the ship outright. This essentially means the player ship has 201 hitpoints when its shields are full.
  • Boring, but Practical: Markers—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, etc. 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.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Descent 3 reveals that Dravis had discreetly transmitted an overload sequence to sabotage the warp core on the Material Defender's ship, resulting in a Teleportation Misfire, at the end of Descent II so that he could avoid paying money to the Material Defender once he had outlived his usefulness.
  • 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. Our long-range telemetry has detected a massive energy spike from the planetoid; we recommend you evacuate immediately.
    MD: Idiot. What does he think I'm doing?
  • Catastrophic Countdown: When you destroy 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 Descent 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
  • Clear My Name: The Material Defender has to clear his own name and Red Acropolis's name after they are falsely accused of assassination and terrorism.
  • Code Name: In addition to the "MD" designation, the player character also goes by "Vertigo One" in the first two games.
  • Collision Damage: Colliding with a robot will deal damage to both your shields and the robot, proportional to the size and weight of the robot and how hard you hit it. Expect to kill a lot of the small weak robots by accident by bumping into them while engaging a stronger robot.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Color-coded keys were used in the first two games to open a similarly color-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 color directly.
  • Competitive Balance: The three ships in Descent 3.
    • Jack of All Stats: the Pyro-GL. Balanced compared to the other two. Very similar to the Pyro-GX from the two previous games.
    • Fragile Speedster: the Phoenix Interceptor. Fast and agile at the expanse of armor and a smaller weapon loadout.
    • Mighty Glacier: the Magnum-AHT. The slowest of the three, but with the highest armor and a larger weapon loadout.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: All of the bosses being resistant to secondary weapons, mainly explosive weapons. Blast damage is ignored and explosive weapons only dish out between 0.1x to 0.2x of the damage dealt with regular robots.
  • 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.
  • Contagious A.I.: The robots you fight in Descent I and II are infected by an alien computer worm which installs a malicious artificial intelligence.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool Starship: The Pyro-GX in the first two games sets the tone for those ships playable in the third game. It's an incredibly mobile fighter-craft not much bigger than your average car, and it packs a versatile Hyperspace Arsenal. The second game adds to its coolness, giving it afterburners, an energy-to-shielding converter, and a warp core prototype (though this last one is sabotaged by Dravis). In addition, the Ammo Rack alongside a grand total of nineteen different weapons render it comparable to the Missile Boat in terms of firepower.
  • 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.
  • Critical Existence Failure: In the first two games, the player ship will fly the same regardless of whether its shield rating is 200 or 0. However, it spins out of control and explodes into a cloud of powerups the moment its shield rating goes below 0. Descent 3 pulls a double subversion as the player ship will now show damage when its shield rating is below 30, in the form of electric arcs emanating from the ship itself, but still fly as per normal until its shield rating drops below 0.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Some of the robots have only one optic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Death as Game Mechanic: The franchise has extra lives as a mechanic, and if you die you respawn at the same location you started the level in, although almost all of your weapons, ammo, and powerups are left floating around the area where you died. Notably, though, any color-coded keycards you may have picked up are not dropped, but remain with you after you respawn. Speedrunners have used this to create an exploit known as a "death warp". It works like this: if the distance between a needed keycard and the next goal (key, reactor, exit) is greater than the distance between the next goal and your starting position, what you do is rush off to get the key, immediately kill yourself, then respawn and head for the next goal. This saves you the time you otherwise would have spent flying from the key directly to the next goal.
  • Death Course: In Descent 3: level 12 "Proving Grounds". You get captured at the end of the previous level and thrown in here, why they didn't just throw you out the airlock is a mystery, though they at least had the sense to put you in a Death Trap involving a tractor beam thing holding you in place while flamethrowers shoot at you, though of course you can destroy the flamethrowers and tractor beam generators to get free.
  • Deflector Shields: In Descent 3, it is possible to see the player ship's shields from an external camera (such as via the appropriate cheat or toggling between AI cameras with the Rear View key while playing a demo) if they take a hit from most weapons while their shield level is 10 or above.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: Dravis. Despite being the big bad he never does any actual fighting and always hides behind robots, mercenaries etc. At the end of Descent 3, when his attack on the C.E.D. Expediator fails, he leaves his space station to hide in his Volcano Lair on Venus. When the Material Defender manages to get past the Hellion and confronts him face to face, he immediately starts trying to bribe him and making We Can Rule Together offers.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded Dreadnought: The C.E.D.'s flagship is their dreadnought, the Expediator, a spaceship so large that even the Descent 3 level that takes place in it only gives the player access to around half the ship's size. The Expediator has massive forward lasers and point defence turrets, large engines that give it impressive maneuverability, and a set of torpedo tubes at the bow that can obliterate space stations.
  • 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.
  • Easy Level Trick: There is a small grate next to the yellow door in Descent 2, Level 7. If you peek through it, you'll see a control panel hidden behind it. Hit it with a flare, and the wall next to you disappears, revealing a bypass tunnel around the yellow door. The hostages and the red key to the reactor chamber are both in this area, so you can pick them up and head straight for the reactor to skip two-thirds of the level.
  • Elite Mook: 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! The upgraded versions of the Stinger, Thresher and Tailbot also show up multiple times on level 15.
  • 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 hitscan 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.
  • Energy Weapon: Your starting weapon, upgradable by several levels in the first two games, each of which increases damage and changes the lasers' color.
  • Equipment Upgrade: The laser can be upgraded up to level 4, and converted into a quad laser. Descent II includes the super laser which may be upgraded to level 6.
  • Every 50,000 Points: An extra life in the first two games.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Subverted in Descent and Descent II upon destroying the reactor, which starts the countdown timer before the reactor's meltdown destroys the mine. Reaching the exit with extra time to spare on the timer will still result in your ship barely escaping the explosion, as if the meltdown began prematurely. On the flipside, you still have a few seconds to reach the exit after the timer counts down to zero, while the screen fades to white; if you manage to reach it before the screen turns completely white, it still counts as a successful escape.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Each game in the series introduces one missile that appears to be made for this trope. The Smart missile from the first game is much deadlier if it misses the target and hits a nearby wall because it would then spew a massive cluster of plasma projectiles that track and can easily destroy most robots. Descent II takes the concept of the Smart missile further by introducing the Earthshaker missile, which can deliver both extreme direct impact damage as well as spew a cluster of equally potent homing warheads if it misses the target but impacts a nearby surface. Descent 3 adds the Frag missile, which spews a storm of shrapnel projectiles if it hits a wall but otherwise does mediocre damage on a direct hit, making it extremely deadly in enclosed spaces if it hits a surface near the target without actually hitting the target itself.
  • 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 C.E.D. 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.
  • Four Is Death: The Mercenary campaign for the third game has four bosses: The Captain, The First Mate, the Alien Queen, and the PTMC mech.
  • Frame-Up: After the Material Defender collects his money from PTMC President Suzuki in Seoul, Suzuki is assassinated. Taking over control of the PTMC, Dravis accuses the Red Acropolis Research Team and the Material Defender of assassinating President Suzuki and convinces the C.E.D. that they are terrorists.
  • 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."

  • 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 boss robots in the first two games will unload payloads of high-damage missiles and teleport away upon either being attacked or lingering in one place long enough. 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.
  • Gotta Rescue Them All:
    • A secondary objective in Descent and Descent II is to rescue all hostages trapped in the mines. Each hostage rescued gives 1000 points, but if you lose a life before completing the level, the hostages and appropriate end-of-level bonus are lost. The only levels not to have any hostages are Level 27 in the first game, on account of it hosting the final boss, and the last eight levels in II, which are set on alien worlds outside the PTMC's reach.
    • While Descent 3 does not feature any hostages, a few missions still feature this trope:
      • At the end of Descent 3 mission 8, you will receive distress messages from the Nightingale, a medical frigate full of sick and injured people that cannot evacuate the refinery as its docking clamp has malfunctioned. You can free the frigate by activating some levers at a nearby control room to override the docking clamp's controls. Freeing the Nightingale is a bonus objective and slightly changes the briefing text for the next level.
      • One of the primary objectives in level 14 is to find and launch the escape shuttle housing the C.E.D. employees evacuating the orbital transmitter, which is unable to launch due to damage sustained by the station.
  • 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.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The screeching noise the Class 1 Drill robots make when alerted. At least it gives you a chance to react.
    • Both the level 7 boss and the final boss in the first game make a very loud, constant mechanical noise that's pretty intimidating. The bosses in the second game make a similar noise that makes it easier to determine when they're nearby.
  • 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.
  • Hitscan: 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 ship's warp core. It was first implied at the start of the Vertigo campaign that this was unintentional, but events in the third game go the opposite route.
  • Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: The Bouncing Betty in Descent 3 is a ball-shaped explosive that inexplicably increases in velocity the more it bounces.
  • 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.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Descent 3 has a type of turret that just fires slow moving laser beams with a slow rate of fire. There's one in the tutorial to teach you about dodging but they show up in the actual game a few times. Hilariously, their aim is so bad even if you are holding still they miss you about half the time.
  • 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 and Plasma Cannon in all three games, and the Super Laser from II and III. The Laser is the starting weapon and is accurate and energy-efficent, while the Super Laser trades energy efficiency for damage, and it's possible to upgrade both (the Laser to 4, and the Super Laser—which starts at 5—up to 6). The Plasma Cannon has extremely high single-shot damage, although it consumes more energy. Pickups for all three weapons are relatively common and easy to find, especially in the mid- and end-game which, combined with their relatively balanced and consistent performance characteristics, makes them the only weapons that hit most enemies equally hard.
  • Informed Flaw: The Pyro-GL the player flies in the Descent 3 is supposed to be an older model compared to the Pyro-GX seen in Descent and Descent II. In gameplay terms, the two ships are nearly identical, except that the GL carries 10 missiles less, has a dedicated storage bay for the Guide-Bot, and features 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.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: PTMC's CEO is named "Suzuki"... but it's headquartered in Seoul, Korea. The novelization is even worse about this, ascribing many Japanese characteristics to Suzuki and his office building, but still keeping it located in Seoul.
  • 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. Cloaks can be scripted onto most robots in Descent 3 (such as the cloaked Black Pyro that momentarily appears at the end of level 4 in the singleplayer campaign and cloaked Stingers in level 1 of the singleplayer Mercenary campaign), but the Thief will occasionally cloak itself even without any scripts in effect.
  • 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.
  • Last Lousy Point: In Descent 3 level 13 one of the mission objectives is to kill all 32 infected stormtroopers. The level is quite big, and there are a bunch of other "regular" stormtroopers, and the only way to tell if one is infected is to destroy it and see if the counter goes down. As such, its possible you may complete everything else and have destroyed all the other robots but still have a couple stormtroopers left you just can't find, and if they got bugged and fell through a wall or something you'll have no choice but to restart or cheat.
  • 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 C.E.D. 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: Mat Cens (short for materialization centers) — indicated by purple cracks — 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 (in other words, it instantly kills you).
  • No Name Given: There is an enemy type encountered late in game which has no official name but are usually called "fusion hulks" or "mini-bosses". They look just like the level 7 boss except they are a pale purple color and have fusion cannons rather than smart missles.
  • Nominal Hero: The Material Defender. Even after joining the Red Acropolis Team, he makes clear he's just in it for the money and revenge on Dravis. That said, he does have a few Pet the Dog moments such as in mission 8 when he finds a medical frigate full of sick and hurt people that's trapped in a malfunctioning docking clamp and has to free them to complete the mission, as well as all the various hostages he saves in the first two games.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The robots, as they are just malfunctioning due to a virus which makes them kill people.
  • 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 in the first third of 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In the first game's opening cutscene, the first thing to really raise the Material Defender's eyebrows is when the suit giving him the mission briefing tells him that, if he pulls this off, he'll be getting paid triple. He notes that "PTMC only throws money around when they're sincerely scared"... sure enough, a few lines later, the guy mentions that Earth seems to be next on the robots' hitlist.
  • Out of the Inferno: MD 1032 just barely makes it out alive in the level exit scenes of Descent II.
  • 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 Missiles (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.
  • Pinball Projectile: Descent II adds the Phoenix Cannon, which fires projectiles that bounce off walls, giving a skilled player a weapon to make trick shots around corners or off walls.
  • Planar Shockwave: The Impact Mortar in Descent 3 releases a very fast one when it explodes, although it isn't randomly oriented—the player always sees the "ring" head-on. If the Impact Mortar struck an enemy, the shockwave does no damage regardless of how close the player is to the explosion. However, if the missile exploded in mid-air, and the player is unable to see the ring expand completely within their field of view, their shields will take a massive hit.
    • The explosion of the Tycho Brahe base at the end of Descent 2 also produces one of these.
  • Planet Spaceship: More like a planetoid spaceship, usually smaller than most examples of this trope, but the final level of II takes place in one. We also don't get to see it move very far before it explodes at the end of the game.
    MD 1032: "The readings I'm getting on this base aren't consistent with any of the others I've destroyed. It's actually moving, maintaining speed and heading just like a starship."
  • 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.
  • Playlist Soundtrack: II gave your choice of two soundtracks. A MIDI soundtrack that played a single tune per level on repeat, or red book CD audio soundtrack which would start on a given track at the beginning of a level, but then loop the entire disc if you took enough time to finish the level.
  • 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."
  • Purple Is Powerful: The fusion cannon in the first game is the most powerful primary weapon, and both the gun and the projectiles it shoots are purple.
  • Puzzle Boss: The Alien Queen from Descent 3 Mercenary
  • Ramming Always Works: There is a cheat code in Descent 2 that allows you to One-Hit Kill robots by ramming them.
  • 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: All but boss levels of Descent and Descent 2 require destroying the reactor, which can defend itself with its own attack. Destroying it triggers the self-destruct sequence.
  • 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:
    • In Descent, found via well-hidden alternate exits on certain levels.
    • In Descent II, found via a hidden Cool Gate in a given level, the secret levels return you to the level you entered them from either you use a similar gate in the secret level, or you die. The secret levels also have reactors that you can destroy, just as in the main levels. However, if you do this, you become unable to return to that secret level for that playthrough (because it is destroyed). Naturally, some of the secret levels are built around having to destroy the reactor right at the beginning, with the player's opportunity to scour the level for goodies being limited by the self-destruct timer.
    • In Descent 3, required collecting a data cartridge.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    • The reactors and bosses in all of the mines in Descent and Descent II will activate their self-destruct sequence after taking enough damage, with the resulting meltdown causing an explosion strong enough to destroy the mine. Said explosion is time-delayed, however, so you always have enough time to escape, although Insane difficulty only gives 30 seconds.
    • The Spy Hunter in Descent 3 has this built in and will activate it once it takes sufficient damage, whereupon it Turns Red and becomes an Action Bomb. If it hits you, the explosion is roughly equal to the damage done by a Frag Missile.
  • Series Continuity Error: The Descent 3 intro shows the Pyro GX to be roughly the size of a full-sized sedan, with a cockpit only big enough to seat the pilot. There's no place at all on that ship for the two-to-a-dozen hostages per level that the previous games stressed were aboard your ship after you picked them up. The developers must have picked up on this error, because at no point in Descent 3 or its expansion pack do you pick up hostages in your own ship; they're always rescued in a separate vessel.
  • 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:
  • Skewed Priorities: In the opening cutscene of the first game, after being told that the robots' next target seems to be Earth, the Material Defender's internal monologue wonders why they didn't open with this rather more important point and accuses PTMC of caring more about their mines and profits than the apparent danger to all of humanity.
  • 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 hitscan shots. The D2X-XL mod includes the option for a zoom function on said cannons for precisely this purpose.
    • Descent 3 introduced the Mass Driver, which fits this trope better: 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 the first game, 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 the first game 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.note  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.
    • The Plasma Cannon is the only aversion of this trope in the main Descent 3 campaign, being available from level 4, which is just under a third into the campaign. The game otherwise plays this trope straight by making the Fusion and Omega Cannons, as well as the Mega and Black Shark Missiles, available only from level 8—roughly halfway through the campaign, conciding with the appearance of small/agile/durable heavy hitters like Threshers, Sharcs, and Juggernauts. The really dangerous Elite Mooks only start appearing from level 12.
    • Due to A Taste of Power being in play, the Descent 3: Mercenary campaign averts this trope entirely for all weapons and robots except the Black Shark Missile, which is only available in the last two levels, and Destroyer turrets spamming Mass Driver shots and Homing Missiles, which appear only on the last level.
  • 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 (or in an area) it's immune to.
  • Space Police: The C.E.D. (Collective Earth Defense), introduced in Descent 3, is an alliance of countries and organisations that banded together for the common purpose of maintaining peace and stability throughout Sol, while also being responsible for preventing terrorism and technological warfare. The C.E.D. monitors Earth and its neighbouring planets and has its own fleet of starships.
  • 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 II is rife with them. To wit:
    • 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 a LOT of pig references in Descent II, some of which get worked into clever puns and gags. The first levels's red key, for example, is in a room containing a lava pit and two PIG robots on a nearby grill, with a couple of 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.
    • Descent 1 & 2 each had a spider-shaped Spider robot. Both games liked to hide these robots behind hidden doors, from which they'd pop out and ambush you as you flew past them. Trapdoor Spiders.
  • 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.
  • Threatening Shark: The third game has the Sharc robots, which are flying purple shark robots, which usually come in schools or at least duos, with the penultimate level being packed with them. The omega cannon is usually the best thing to deal with them, as while it has a rather short Arbitrary Weapon Range, they only attack by biting and have no ranged weapons.
  • Turns Red: Across the games, most robots behave the same even when they are low on health, but there are a few standout examples from Descent 3 that play with this trope:
    • The Gyro's default behaviour is to stand its ground and fire at you, but once its health gets low, and if it is not accompanied by other robots, it inverts this trope, attempting to flee and find other ally robots since it knows it cannot kill you.
    • At full health, the Stinger will keep its distance from you, pelting you with a constant barrage of missiles, but once its health is low, it stops firing missiles and will attempt to close the distance with you so that it can tear your ship apart with its claws.
    • The Spy Hunter's default behaviour is to quietly fly circles around you, occasionally firing a single Microwave shot that does little damage. However, once its health is low, it will activate its Self-Destruct Mechanism and become an Action Bomb trying to ram you; the change in behaviour is accompanied by the robot emitting a very distinct beeping noise.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Just look at any of the picture galleries of the enemies you can find online. Keep in mind, these are mostly supposed to be mining robots.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: The "Black Shark" missile from Descent 3 creates what's implied to be a tiny black hole that sucks everything near by. Anything touching the singularity takes massive damage and is held in place until the effect ends. While it's very powerful and able to clear a whole room if used right, its also very easy to get sucked in by mistake, as the "suck radius" is so big.
  • 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 in Descent 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 the shower 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.
  • Volcano Lair: The final level in Descent 3 has Dravis hiding in his stronghold, which is hidden inside a volcanic cave on Venus.
  • Villain Protagonist: The pilot in the Descent 3: Mercenary singleplayer campaign.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In Descent 3 Level 11, accessing four secret areas, each protected by a forcefield, requires you to be spotted by the security camera monitoring each area, so that the resident turrets coupled to the camera will activate and start firing at you, inadvertently destroying the generator that powers the forcefield blocking off each area (which happens to be placed on the other side of the forcefield but between the turrets and your ship).
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: In Descent I, the Mega/Smart Hulk that appears at the end of Level 7. When you enter the actual room, you cannot backtrack as the door is permanently locked from the back once shut. It's specifically designed to punish the 'hide in the tunnel and take potshots' strategy you've probably been using up to that point - it fires up to 4 homing missiles that explode in a cloud of homing plasma bursts, and if you're in the tunnel, you're going to eat every single plasma burst for probably over 100 damage even on Trainee difficulty. You are absolutely going to have to learn how to fly, move, strafe and shoot at the same time to beat this thing. Even then, you have to clear the Class 1 Drillers and Red Hulks while dodging his fusion missiles. Once it's just you and the mega/Smart Hulk, the best strategy is to fly a single direction around the central spire, and when you see the Fusion Hulk, shoot at it a bunch of times while accelerating towards it and strafe up (down if it's close to the ceiling) to avoid the homing missiles. To a much bigger extent, it also teaches players to preserve rare items like Invulnerability and Invisibility power-ups for tough situations in case players have not properly utilized them; The invisibility and invulnerability power-ups are located right before the battle and more invisibility power-ups are inside the core itself.
    • 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.
    • Katelyn Harper is never seen again after the "attack on Red Acropolis" cutscene, although the implication seems to be she died during the attack.
    • In mission 11 of Descent 3, you are sent to rescue a pilot (who is never given a name), if you succeed, you and the pilot head towards the exit shaft (where the doors require two people to open), only to find it was all a trap and get thrown in the PTMC Proving Grounds. What happened to the poor pilot isn't detailed, although it's pretty easy to guess.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: 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."