Aliens: Dark Descent offers a fresh, challenging perspective with a tense, but satisfying new story

The thing I loved about Alien Isolation was the constant sense of uneasiness I felt at every turn.

It’s exactly what you’d expect from an Alien game – the genuine dread at the sound of every noise. The desire to want to just hide, wait it out and hope you never have to face that fear.

It’s surprisingly something few Alien games have achieved since. Or prior to that, come to think of it. Isolation felt like a lightning in the bottle moment and is a rare example of a licensed game capturing the mood and spirit of its material.

Aliens: Dark Descent is the closest we’ve got to a really good Aliens game since Creative Assembly turned the industry on its head. You feel the tension, but also the horror of your marines being dragged off to god knows, forever lost in action. Equally, when your small group is being hunted down or you’re in the middle of swarm with unrelenting numbers. Sheer terror.

It’s a horrifying take on the familiar XCOM saga where you feel a sense of sadness and regret when you lose a member of your core team. The marines are usually seen as cannon fodder and easy prey while the likes of Ripley get to be the sole survivor by being just a tad more resourceful and smarter in approach.

But Dark Descent doesn’t take anything away from your team, if anything it really emphasises the importance of working together to survive. Sure, you will have the individuals you rely upon to keep everything together or the one who manages to keep hanging in there in a scrap, but you have to rely on each other with med-kits, using different weapons at a time, watching one another’s backs.

This, to me, is what makes Dark Descent such an interesting subject for an Aliens game. Often, these have been solo experiences, jumping in a locker, crouching in a vent, but here you have to weld a door shut in order to get some shelter. Manage one another’s stress levels, keeping heads in the game.

Even thinking about extraction. In a worst case scenario, you lose a team mate in the field, it’s then about trying to make your way back with everyone else safely, or risk losing the entire squad. Balancing everything out, trying to determine the best course of action for everyone, not just yourself, is a key factor.

And there is precedent for teamwork in the Alien movies as well. For Ripley to be the sole survivor, she had to have people helping her get to that point and even people sacrificing themselves for her or putting themselves in danger before she gets hurt.

But you don’t just have a band of mindless grunts which are thrown in there with all the same abilities, you can customise their loadout, weapons and even tweak their classes so you can combine specialists to ensure every active member of your four person team plays a significant role which will be essential to everyone’s survival.

Dark Descent just works, more so than Fireteam Elite did, and is a really good XCOM-esque game. Probably the best since XCOM 2, actually.

It’s a smart use of a license, really leaning into the concepts that made the films so great, with an expert use of sound track, special effects, and dialogue references. It’s also hard as nails, regardless of which difficulty you put it on, which will probably be music to the ears of Alien fans.

It’s even at a reduced price point to most other games out there, and is huge value for money with a campaign that can easily push to 20-25 hours. Even longer. And to do everything, you could even be looking at triple figures.

Most impressive is the storyline, though, which is about as good as I’ve seen in any Alien game to date, and is comparable to some of the years’ best releases. Your leads are engaging, their counterparts compelling and the way it all builds into conflict with Aliens makes sense and leads to some creative interpretations of what we’ve already seen in the films.

One of this year’s biggest and best surprises for me. You have to take your time, be methodical, pay attention to your surroundings. Be willing to experiment. Expect losses and don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes. Few games really challenge you while teaching you something at the same time, but Dark Descent is a master at it.

While it doesn’t quite topple Isolation for me as the alpha and omega of Alien games, this has undoubtedly shot up to slot number 2. I haven’t enjoyed being this uncomfortable in, well, ever.


Aliens: Dark Descent does a wonderful job of blending genres, taking the familiar troop management and base building of XCOM, then plying it with stealth mechanics, and a surprising amount of customisation. There’s a tense story brewing under the surface and a genuine horror at every turn. You will absolutely feel every death. A high difficulty curve may be offputting for some players and others could encounter a glitch or two along the way, but none of it is enough that I can’t recommend this as one of 2023’s best games and a delightful horror experience that really gets under your skin.


+ Well crafted maps and objectives make for intriguing sandboxes to explore
+ Absolute tension from the moment you land, heightened by wonderful music, sound effects and commentary
+ A great gameplay loop that holds up throughout
+ Surprisingly large campaign length with a ton of content for the price.


– A rough difficulty curve may be offputting for some
– Minor glitches

Aliens: Dark Descent is out now on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation

Code Kindly Provided by Focus Home for review purposes

Played on PS5

About the author

Brad Baker

Brad is an absolute horror buff and adores the new take on I.T. He also fancies himself as a bit of a Battle Royale master but never when anyone's watching.
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