Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Lesbians Bitterly Review: Descent 2.0

Hello girls and guys, how you doin’? We’re a couple of geeky gay gamers from the home of Vegemite, and today we are reviewing a game that brought bitterness and woe upon our table top relationship.

Descent 2.0: Journeys in the Dark Fact File
Players: 2 - 5
Playtime: 120 minutes
Genre: Adventure/ Dice Rolling

It all started as an innocent gift for the GF’s birthday.  For weeks, yea months, the GF had been pining for said game, praising its merits and drooling over its figurines. Finally, the game was purchased. But like black clouds crawling across clear skies, the shadow of descent meant that our gaming was never to be the same again. (Well, for a week at least.) ALAS THE DARK CURSE COMETH. For we, once so united in our opinion of games, have become divided like so many polystyrene cups when torn apart by little children and fidgets.   

disclaimer: the following is an actual chat conversation between me and the gf

[08:08 pm] lesbigamer: Descent 2.0
[08:08 pm] The_GF: I sense that bitter tone in your voice.
[08:09 pm] lesbigamer: It is not a bitter tone, it is a well-considered and conclusive tone.


[08:09 pm] The_GF: Gorgeous.
[08:10 pm] lesbigamer: Generic.
[08:12 pm] The_GF: True, it is a genre well-trodden, but there are interesting characters and no shortage of female leads, which is nice.
[08:12 pm] lesbigamer: I have to admit I'm liking the miniatures - the detail and individualism of each one is pretty impressive. I'm not so excited about the cards. I mean the swords look... like swords. And if enchanted, like slightly shiny swords. Oh my, where do ff get their brilliant ideas?
[08:12 pm] The_GF: The illustrations are still great though, and I love the colours ... how bright and shiny everything is! Funny, considering it is meant to be a journey into the dark...
[08:13 pm] lesbigamer: Yeah.... i don't quite know about the atmosphere it creates...
[08:13 pm] lesbigamer: It is a hard game to take seriously (especially if you read the flavor text… I can’t say the character of SPLIG the fat goblin really strikes terror into my heart.)
[08:16 pm] lesbigamer: Also, I find the game incredibly clunky and fiddly.  There are so many different bits.


[08:17 pm] The_GF: So in terms of game components, there definitely are a lot of different bits -- IT'S EXCITING.
[08:17 pm] lesbigamer: (terrifying)
[08:17 pm] The_GF: It might look like a lot (too much) at the start, but-
[08:17 pm] lesbigamer: I haven’t been so scared to open a box.
[08:17 pm] The_GF: really, you aren't going to be using all of them at the same time.
[08:18 pm] lesbigamer: but you do use a lot of them it's very...unstreamlined.
[08:18 pm] The_GF:  UNSTREAMLINED? Clearly you have not played the original!
[08:18 pm] lesbigamer: I have not.
[08:19 pm] The_GF: Then say not such things. In any case, the quality of the components themselves are very good, thick chits and nice minis - I'd like to try painting them over the summer.


[08:19 pm] lesbigamer: Game play. Would you like to explain it?
[08:19 pm] The_GF: Yes.
[08:20 pm] The_GF: So, the set up requires one player to play as the Evil Overlord, whilst the other players take on the role of the heroic heroes.
[08:20 pm] lesbigamer: Which means asymmetrical game play.
[08:22 pm] The_GF: The hero characters are given equipment, and earn experience points to boost up their skills in the campaign play. Every hero has a class and very unique set of stats.

[08:22 pm] The_GF: Each one plays differently
[08:22 pm] The_GF: Which is a definite plus for me.
[08:23 pm] The_GF: It makes creating a party of heroes a joy.
[08:23 pm] lesbigamer: But makes one off plays kind of difficult.
[08:23 pm] The_GF: You will be playing through scenarios which pit the Overlord against the heroes. Each scenario is a story which has particular objectives - be it stealing crops for a fat goblin or rescuing cardinals from zombie hordes.
[08:23 pm] lesbigamer: (That’s Splig, the fat goblin of whom I am particularly unafraid.)
[08:23 pm] The_GF: You leave that goblin alone. What did he ever do to you?
[08:23 pm] lesbigamer: HE TOOK FREDERICK NOOOOO
[08:23 pm] lesbigamer: Anyway, the mechanics of the game is very much about modified dice rolling. You move through dungeons using the move points of your characters, and then you attack monsters (or heroes should ye take the evil side) by rolling dice.
[08:24 pm] lesbigamer: You also defend by rolling dice. So get ready to roll a lot of dice.
[08:24 pm] lesbigamer: There are also character "attributes" such as strength, and intelligence, which while seeming thematically random, also are tested during the course of the game. By rolling dice.
[08:28 pm] lesbigamer: Other than that there are number of useful items and equipment and things such as treasures that you can use to boost the strength of your heroes.
[08:28 pm] lesbigamer: Overlords too can boost their might with overlord cards that contain special abilities and are drawn one per turn.


[08:29 pm] lesbigamer: So let us calmly discuss what we thought of the game.
[08:29 pm] lesbigamer: (Get ready for explosion and carnage)
[08:30 pm] The_GF: It is a really fun and excellent thematic game
[08:30 pm] lesbigamer: Without the fun.
[08:30 pm] The_GF: I WANT TO PLAY IT AGAIN. But not with you. Fun-sucker.
[08:30 pm] lesbigamer: So what is fun about this game in your opinion?
[08:33 pm] The_GF: Well, you have a strong narrative to the game, for me, that means being very invested in the goals and characters. So as the OL, I will be sitting there cackling, and thinking I NEED TO INTERROGATE THIS GUY NOW. And that's what I do that turn..
[08:33 pm] lesbigamer: Right but for me the thematic element is very much overshadowed by the mechanical nature of the game play - roll move, roll move.
[08:34 pm] lesbigamer: It's not like you ever really do anything which you would describe as significantly "in character"
[08:35 pm] The_GF: You do everything in character.
[08:35 pm] lesbigamer: ....but how, if it doesn't change anything about the way the game is played?
[08:36 pm] The_GF: Well, for example, as Jain Fairwood, you will be range attacking enemies from afar, and using your speed to get past them to complete objectives. Sure, the die rolling for attacking doesn't change, but the way you play out that turn does because it is based on your characters strengths and weaknesses (stats).
[08:37 pm] lesbigamer: Well maybe…But perhaps it’s a case of approach.
[08:38 pm] lesbigamer: I approach the game looking for engaging mechanics. I look for opportunities to think, rather than opportunities to cackle.
[08:38 pm] The_GF: Ouch. Someone is sleeping on the couch.
[08:38 pm] lesbigamer: FORGIVE MEEEEEE
[08:38 pm] The_GF: Denied.
[08:38 pm] lesbigamer: Sigh…
we’ll talk about this later… So tell me, what else did you like about the game?
[08:39 pm] The_GF: I definitely like scenarios, the different maps, different unique rules.
[08:39 pm] The_GF: Lots of variety in what you're trying to do.
[08:39 pm] lesbigamer: I do like the different maps - new challenges. But I feel like they feel a bit same sameish after a while.
[08:39 pm] The_GF: Do you attribute this to the die-rolling mechanic?
[08:40 pm] lesbigamer: Yes, and the general form the objectives take.
[08:40 pm] lesbigamer: They're almost all movement related goals. Stopping or getting.
[08:41 pm] The_GF: That's true actually.
[08:42 pm] The_GF: I guess for me stopping zombies and stopping a goblin from escaping are very different goals because in my mind I am like, HUUURRRR BRAINSS shamble shamble vs. TEE HEE HEE off with the crops I go!
[08:43 pm] lesbigamer: It comes back to for you how the thematic/character elements are stronger than the game play elements.
[08:43 pm] lesbigamer: But can I say something I really don't like about this game?
[08:44 pm] lesbigamer: I honestly don't feel like the game actually pits our minds together in any sort of meaningful way. Like there's all this stuff about oh one side is hereos and the other side is the evil overlord. And how we're locked in a deadly struggle between good and evil. But that's all flavour. In the end for me the mechanic is so....mechanical that I don't feel like we are really playing each other. I feel like the game could take place without us.
[08:50 pm] The_GF: It could, but isn't it that we want to be in that game world?
[08:51 pm] lesbigamer: But i don't really get the fun in that.
[08:51 pm] The_GF: It's like when you're 10 and reading a book, and there is this ... world... of wonders and magic and swordfighting ... and everything cool and fun is taking place there.
[08:52 pm] The_GF: Well, Descent is like being put in the shoes of the heroes, dictating where they go and being part of that.
[08:52 pm] The_GF: I mean did you like choose your own adventure books?
[08:53 pm] lesbigamer: But that's a book. Not a game. I don't really read books for the same reason I play games...
[08:53 pm] lesbigamer: One other problem I would like to raise -  in old style d and d you have the figure of the Game Master, who is trying to make the game fun, but not to enact a crushing and humiliating defeat against the heroes. In Descent, you don't have that any more. You have the Over Lord, who is aiming for such diabolic victory as hitherto mentioned.
[08:54 pm] lesbigamer: What does this mean? Well, the OL has a LOT of things on his side. For one thing, he has space, the actual dungeon space on his side. For another, his abilities are more wide ranging. Examples have been noted of abilities that would give automatic wins in certain conditions. (Such as reinforce during part two of the frozen spire scenario)
[08:55 pm] lesbigamer: The OL still FEELS like a GM, but he's not. As such, as people have noted, I think the game is biased towards the OL.
[08:56 pm] The_GF: Shame, because the heroes are always meant to win, no?
[08:57 pm] lesbigamer: Sad but true. And a bit of a blow to your pro theme arguments.
[08:57 pm] The_GF: Nah, I like the evil side, they cackle more.


[09:01 pm] lesbigamer: Descent was a game that I was super excited for. So many different components, different characters, different abilities - the possibilities seemed endless! They were not. After a few hours of dice rolling, you start to feel like Descent is not a game where you have much control over the outcome. Optimal play is not a complex phenomena. Sure, this game boasts a great theme, some awesome artwork and droolable miniatures, but if like me, you're not a thematic player, you will probably find the dungeons of descent a very barren landscape.
[09:01 pm] lesbigamer: Rating: 4.5

[09:01 pm] The_GF: I like Descent. I decidedly do not like playing it with lesbigamer, because it seems to be an hour and a half of complaining about die-rolling and the futality of it all. It is her prerogative however, and I agree that it is not a game that tests our mettle. I don't play this game thinking that much, but as a light game it is great. Bit lengthy to set up for the short game time, and a nightmare to pack up (I can't get the pieces to fit in the box). But hey that should just mean we keep it out all the time...........
[09:01 pm] The_GF: Rating 7.5



  1. Very insightful. Thanks.

  2. Okay, what I would like to know (and I mean: really would like to know): How does this compare in your view to Mage Knight. I just re-read your review of that game, and you seem to both like it very much. How is this different from D:JiD 2nd ed? It seems like MK is more complex, has more mechanics, seems to be less thematic. So, LBG likes it better, since she is into mechanics more, but GF likes it also although she is more of a thematic gamer?