Aliens: Dark Descent

Posted:  Jun 19, 2023
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Aliens: Dark Descent was provided by Focus Entertainment for review. Thank you!

A Xenomorph outbreak was reported on Planet Lethe and now, your squad of Colonial Marines has to come in and stop this horrifying event from getting so much worse. Aliens: Dark Descent is a top-down action-adventure where you will guide your group to infiltrate open levels to annihilate Xenomorphs, rogue operatives, and more. Level up and specialize your people to strategically complete missions, taking care of your soldier's health, sanity, and resources. Manage what you have and choose carefully, hopefully you will be able to survive the onslaught.

Aliens: Dark Descent is quite possibly one of the best Aliens games I have ever played. As a fan of Isolation, I was disheartened with other releases in the series like Fireteam Elite and Colonial Marines, but Dark Descent took me by surprise. Combining a decently deep RTS with horror and action elements in the Aliens universe was a shot in the dark, but it pays off wonderfully.

The dark visuals and general aesthetic set the mood and tone wonderfully, making for a beautiful looking game that can really scare you at times. Xenomorphs can pop out of nowhere too, really spooking me a couple times when I was trying to rescue people. The controls took a bit to get used to, but I commend the developer (Tindalos Interactive) for making sure this has full controller support. Once I did get used to it, controlling my squad and making sure we were covering everything was much more simple and I was using those shotgun blasts and setting up suppressive fire angles with ease.

I also love the elements of developing your weapons, classes, and leveling up squads at the base, allowing me to fine-tune what each member can prioritize. It is also really cool to set up perimeters, create safe zones, and use motion-trackers to make sure your team can stay safe and doesn't get stressed. There are some bugs here and there, but I didn't encounter anything that really broke my enjoyment. On top of this, I am pleased to say that enjoyment was continued on the Steam Deck.

Aliens: Dark Descent - Steam Deck Performance

Before getting into this, I will note that I was told at PAX East that this game might not be Steam Deck compatible and when given the code, I was told it was running at 30 FPS. With this in mind, I am extremely pleased with my findings.

Aliens: Dark Descent on the Steam Deck starts off a bit rocky with multiple points in its intro slowing down or dipping into the 20 FPS range, but I am pleased to say this changes right after for the most part. At the hub, looking at certain stations like the Med Bay will bring down framerate to the 20's, but otherwise, I was holding a nice and comfortable 30 FPS in the gameplay that actually matters. But there are two specific things I noticed that made me decide to stick with my settings and 30 FPS:

First, Anti-Aliasing is a MUST HAVE. With anti-aliasing below its highest quality, the game will look quite pixelated and way too sharp. This is a HUGE detriment to a game that otherwise looks gorgeous and, with AA turned all the way up, it really does. It's a night and day difference in my book, so to make sure the game can stay stable, I would keep this on "Epic" quality while all others can be on "Low".


This is with Anti-Aliasing on Low. It isn't the best looking.

Personally, I found the in-game FSR looked either too sharp or too blurry, but reducing resolution to 800x500 while keeping the game at fullscreen looked like a nice medium. While we can't use SteamOS FSR at fullscreen, this does keep the text in the game very clear and the models more sharp than if using FSR and windowed mode.


Second, I kept the framerate at 30 instead of higher. Aliens: Dark Descent is very peculiar when it handles framerate. While playing through the game, I was capped at 30 and only draining around 11W - 13W, so I could push framerate higher, but there are too many drops down that gets in the way. Even when its at 40, there are too many points where it will go down to the 30s and it feels jarring. I also noticed the game likes to crawl its framerate. Meaning if you swap to 60, it will slowly go from whatever it was before to 60 instead of just going there. This is not an issue if you are at 30 capped.

Usually, I would have multiple different builds for games, but I honestly feel this one works the best. It can drop frames if settings are too high, facing off against too many Xenomorphs, or when looking in specific areas. None of these happen often, which is fantastic, but it does happen. With these in mind, I decided keeping lower settings, but with AA up to max, with no TDP cap would be best. The highest I have seen it go is 21W without a cap, but its so rare that the average is still 10W - 14W.

The game also has full controller support, cloud saves, and has 16:10 resolution support, so no black bars while you play! The text can be a little on the small side, but it was very clear so I didn't feel myself squinting and trying to figure out what was being told to me.

If you are curious about how it runs on the ROG Ally, check out our performance overview for it!


Aliens: Dark Descent is an incredible game and has easily become one of my favorites. The blending of RTS, horror, and action all packed into one works extremely well. Tindalos Interactive deserves praise for going against the Aliens norm, which is usually first/third-person action, and crushing it out of the park. The game is deep with a good story and engaging gameplay that made sure I didn't want to put it down. With some compromises as well, the game runs really well on the Steam Deck, even after a rocky start. If I could, I would give this a 3.5 on performance, but with how great the game is, I am happy to bump to a 4.

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Aliens: Dark Descent is an amazing RTS horror game that has become one of my favorite Aliens games. And, with some compromises, it runs well on Steam Deck!

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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6 comments on “Aliens: Dark Descent”

  1. Thanks for these settings! I didn't realize that running at 800x500 with Linear would work as well as it does. It's great to see someone as interested in battery life and smooth performance as I am!

  2. When doing these tests, i would recommend you to add the version of the game and the version of SteamOS, because if any game or OS update improves the performance people won't be able to really know that it has been improved and will be making the final conclusion that it has the same performance as before.

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