Aliens: Dark Descent tells an original story in a squad-based RTS with high-stakes

Aliens big in 2023
(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

Where Alien Isolation captured the disquieting horror of an unseen Xenomorph on the hunt in the original movie, Aliens: Dark Descent arguably looks set to play with the team camaraderie and high stakes that made sequel Aliens so memorable. Developer Tindalos Interactive will be dropping us on Moon Lethe to stop a Xenomorph outbreak in a tactical squad-based experience that puts you in command. With the lives of a group of colonial marines in your hands, each mission will ask you to strategically lead and carefully manage the soldiers against a myriad of threats. 

While the iconic sci-fi universe is certainly no stranger to the RTS genre, it's great to see a new game return to the fold after a helping of shooter outings - with the most recent co-op entry Aliens: Fireteam in 2021. And with an original Alien story, a new enemy, and a persistent world that's impacted and shaped by your actions, Dark Descent could very well deliver a memorable tactical experience that makes the most of the setting and all its horrors this year.

In command  

Aliens: Dark Descent

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)
Big in 2023

Big in 2023

(Image credit: Big in 2023)

Big in 2023: Your guide to the most anticipated games of the year.

Nothing says high-stakes quite like permadeath, and Aliens: Dark Descent is certainly not going to shy away from it. With everything from facehuggers to alien queens and even rogue human commandos, there's no shortage of danger on Moon Lethe to contend with. Naturally, that means that losses can happen when your squad is in the line of fire. With each team made up of five marines with different starting classes and specializations - as well as unique abilities and weapons - each teammate will no doubt have a role to play and any deaths will only lessen your overall chances. 

Survival doesn't just begin and end with beating your foes, either. You'll have to carefully manage the resources and wellbeing of your squad to ensure they make it through. The possibility of losing teams looks set to bring added weight to the role in command. Personally, nothing encourages me to really think about my strategy quite like the threat of loss, and when you've spent time shaping your tactics and your team, their death will only hurt all the more. 

To add to the challenge, enemies in Dark Descent also take note of what you do and try to use it against you by adapting their tactics. It brings to mind Alien Isolation's Xenomoroph, which was so terrifyingly effective thanks to the way its AI would learn from your actions and alter its approach to catch you unawares. While we haven't had the chance to see much in the way of gameplay just yet, I can already imagine how this adaptability will keep us on our toes and encourage us to shake up our tactics from mission to mission. There's nothing quite as satisfying as outmaneuvering enemies and coming out on top, and I'm excited to see just what approaches we can take to try and do exactly that with our squad. 

Actions have consequences  

Aliens: Dark Descent

(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

There's certainly an appeal to a strategy experience that makes you feel the weight of your decisions first-hand. But Dark Descent won't just strive to deliver on this in terms of the loss of your teams. The open-level areas on Moon Lethe that you'll be navigating through will be directly impacted and altered based on the actions you take. From discovering short-cuts during missions to setting up safe zones, you will mold and change the areas as you try to rid it of any lurking Xenomorph creatures. 

From what has been revealed of Aliens: Dark Descent so far, it looks set to play around with some promising ideas that will hopefully make the most of the sci-fi setting it explores. It's undeniably exciting to think about the prospect of diving into an original story in a universe that feels right at home in a tactical squad-based experience. Of course, we'll have to wait until it arrives sometime in 2023 to find out just how and if it delivers. 

Aliens: Dark Descent is set to come to PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 sometime in 2023. For more upcoming releases to watch out for, check out our roundup of new games for 2023

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.