Sublevel Zero - rogue-lite procedural Descent

If you were as unimpressed with Descent Underground as I was, here’s the Descent-like game you’re looking for: Sublevel Zero. It’s just been released on Steam. For me it nails everything that’s important in Descent; the feel and maneuverability of the ship, the twisting tunnels and caverns, enemy robots with distinct AI, the right kind of weapons, and exploding reactors (sadly without the need to get the heck out, but hey you can’t have everything). Each level is procedurally generated, and it operates like a rogue-lite, so permadeath, randomised weapons and gameplay elements etc. There are six “sublevels” that you have to get through to retrieve the Amulet of… I mean, to beat the game (I’ve no idea if you have to make your way back to Sublevel Zero). That might not sound like a lot, but each level is pretty involved, and I’ve only reached Sublevel 1 so far. You can craft different weapons on the fly by combining the effects of two separate weapons, and there seem to be various unlocks as you rack up kills with different weapons.

So it gets the krayzkrok Descent-like seal of approval, which is a relief because most of them have been pretty poor efforts. It works very well with mouse/keyboard, but also supports HOTAS and gamepad. The devs are hoping to add more stuff post release as well.

Steam emailed me about this released as the game is on my wishlist after I saw your last comment. I have no idea if I want to spend £9.34 on it right now… but it’s definitely reeling me in.

I’m enjoying it immensely, my old Descent skills are slowly returning, so I’m having a ball just pirouetting around corners while flipping upside down to sneak up on enemies. They get decidedly nasty on the later sublevels. The reactors also get progressively more difficult to defeat; the first one just sits there, the second erupts into a disco-ball inferno of laser death when you start shooting at it, the third… well, I haven’t reached the third yet. Because it’s a rogue-like game with permadeath, the game’s combat and flight mechanics are critical (ie. it needs to be fun to replay new runs in a new set of levels). Fortunately they’re rock solid.

Are you using a controller or keyboard+mouse? I prefer keyboard… but something is weird with the mouse. I find it easier to turn using a controller or even arrow keys, but am sticking to mouse+keyboard for now because I don’t think my brain can adjust to two hands on the keyboard ;)

I recently installed the gog version of descent 3 (my descent game of childhood) and that was rough. My descent skills need sharpening.

Though, nothing beats that hectic race for the exit after hitting the reactor. Still felt exhilarating.

I too played Descent 3 lately because we had folks behind Descent Underground on the podcast this week, and WOW that game controls horribly compared to this game and Underground as well.

I’m using kb+m, although my first choice would be kb+joystick/HOTAS. I saw some complaints about this in the Steam forums as well, it’s essentially down to the fact the ship has inertia, whereas when you flick the mouse quickly the ship’s inertia makes it feel as though the mouse isn’t effective at turning. I guess I’m used to this feel from Descent so my brain is expecting it to work that way. Apparently the devs are looking at ways of making the ship more responsive to the mouse, but I hope that’s an option otherwise they risk losing that intertial feel (something they’re aware of).

You’re using keyboard + HOTAS for D3? That was always my preferred control scheme and it felt beautiful, but the mouse implementation in all three Descent games was never good. Parallax never really intended for it to be controlled with anything other than keyboard + joystick, back in the day. Even today I’ve not found a game that gave me that sense of complete control that the Descent games did, although I admit back then I was super competitive with it. Sublevel Zero has far better mouse control than Descent ever did, which isn’t surprising.

Yeah, mouse and keyboard. I’ll try my stick.

I used WA for forwards / back, AD to strafe left/right, space to strafe down, shift to strafe up, and QE to roll left/right. Then aiming and firing was controlled with the stick. If you have a hat on the stick, you can assign strafing to that, although the keyboard approach is just something I got used to (and it translates perfectly to Sublevel Zero). I know some also used stick twist to roll, for sticks that you can twist presumably. Sounds like it might work.

This has been on my wishlist forever, saw it at 50% off AND they are putting out a free expansion next month!

Fantastic! I really enjoyed both this and NeonXSZ.

Bought this during the winter sale, and only played it briefly. I need to get back to it.

Has anyone tried it in VR? Or is that coming with the expansion?

interesting, descent, roguelike AND vr? count me in!

ive played it in VR with a gamepad a good bit. it works very well, and the UI elements are scaled well for VR play. i had some issues with crashing on start, but they showed up and dissappeared randomly between some patches.

Wait, this has VR?

-Tom

yep. while not officially supported until the expansion comes out, if you enable the beta build in steam it will give you an option to start in VR mode when you launch the game.

sold.

I myself am shocked they are putting as much effort into this free expansion next month. I mean the game is almost 2 years old, and looks to have sold <20k copies.