From Chits to Bits: Descent

My video to board game series gets an inversion in this installment. I pondered what board game would make a great transition to video games, and I thought “why aren’t there any video games like Descent?.” You can read the previous installment here.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark and its multitude of expansions dash away most of the pretenses of roleplaying games being about the Dungeon Master telling a story; instead the games embrace the truth of the DM/player relationship. It’s the DM’s job to make the player’s lives miserable.

While the heroes in Descent play the game similarly to something like Dungeons and Dragons, the Overlord plays as if it was a strategy game. It becomes a different experience for both parties, and this style of gameplay can also be seen in Middle-Earth Quest, another game by Fantasy Flight.

Most video game RPGs focus on one or more players against the computer, and the games that include competition keep such battles to arenas. RTS games always have a heavy multiplayer focus, but it’s always about two player controlled armies fighting each other. In a decade where genres are constantly being blended (Borderlands being a recent example), I am surprised no one has ever thought of combining these two genres in this way. The first Vampire: The Masquerade game allowed one player to be a storyteller, but it wasn’t a contest.

I’m reminded instead of Tecmo’s Deception series which features young girls in control of evil castles. In each level, heroes come to slay your witch, so you must set traps throughout your lair and lure the would-be-heroes to their deaths. Imagine how cool that could be if the heroes were controlled by real opponents? The avatar focus would be more realistic to develop than two separate games.

This girl looks harmless, but she will kill paladin's more brutally than that dick DM you played with in middle school.

Evil Genius, the recent Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!,  the classic Dungeon Keeper all placed you in the role of an omnicient villain, but having players control heroes in these games would be nearly impossible to develop. Not that it would be physically impossible, but what developer would have the resources and desire to take that risk when it’s easier to make another first-person shooter?  But I challenge developers to prove me wrong because it would be so kick ass to play a game this competitive.

While developing two games in one might seem prohibitively expensive to developers, they could do a simpler retro styled downloadable game for XBLA, PSN, and Steam. Imagine “Descent: The Video Game” as Gauntlet with the Overlord struggling to keep the monsters flowing at the players, and you have the makings of a winner. The Overlord’s resource management and the parties race against time are most important elements that need to carry over from the table to the TV, and there are countless ways this could be done without bringing Descent over piece by piece, dice and all.

Give me one reason that little blue knight can't be player controlled?

Fantasy Flight has yet to license out their properties to video games, despite licensing many video games like Warcraft, so they might be content to keep their settings on the table. It’s hard to deny, however, that XBLA versions of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassone (which was given away for free for a limited time) have helped raise awareness of those games. FFG has developed a rich setting with the Terrinoth games, and it might be time for them to capitalize on the value they’ve built into the brand.

Drop us a line in the comments if you love proving me wrong and know of a great game like this.

One Response to “From Chits to Bits: Descent”
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  1. […] Sep We’ve talked about board games that would make great video games and video games that would make great board games, but now we […]

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