Descent 3 (1999)

by Christopher
5 minutes read


Descent 3 combines thrilling space combat with challenging puzzles, set in beautifully rendered environments that push the boundaries of exploration and combat in video games.


Descent 3 revolutionized the first-person shooter genre with its unique 360-degree 3D gameplay, allowing players to experience an unprecedented degree of freedom in navigating through intricate levels set in space and on various planets.


The game takes place in a science fiction setting of the Solar System. The player is cast as Material Defender, a mercenary who must help an organization known as the Red Acropolis Research Team to stop robots infected by an alien virus.

Unlike standard first-person shooters, “Descent 3” allows the player to move and rotate in any 3D direction. This six degrees of freedom movement scheme lets the player control a flying ship from a first-person perspective in zero-gravity. The player is free to move forward/backward, up/down, left/right, and rotate in three perpendicular axes, often termed pitch, yaw, and roll.

The gameplay involves shooting enemies, turning on the ship’s afterburners to temporarily increase its acceleration and speed, and firing flares or turning on the ship’s headlight to explore darkened areas. The game also features both indoor and outdoor environments, made possible with the use of a hybrid engine that combines the capabilities of a portal rendering engine with those of a flight simulator-like terrain engine.

In addition to a single-player campaign mode, “Descent 3” features an online multiplayer mode where numerous players can compete against each other in eight different game types. The game also includes a “Zip” mode, which allows a method of rapidly crossing explored areas by skipping intermediate nodes. Areas that can be instantly traveled to are stored as thumbnail representations for rapid movement across Ages.

The mouse cursor helps to provide visual cues for player actions and movement. The cursor appears as a hand that changes depending on what the player is hovering the cursor over. For example, to move in a direction, the cursor changes to point in the intended direction. If players can view an item in greater detail, the cursor changes to a hand holding a magnifying glass.

By clicking and dragging the cursor, the player performs actions such as pushing, pulling, and tapping items. Players can capture clues by taking original photographs of Myst’s lush environments, and keep track of their explorations in their in-game journal.


The game focuses on the player’s character, a skilled pilot navigating through dangerous territories, with the guidebot returning to assist in missions.


Descent 3 is known for its complex spatial puzzles, intense combat, and the freedom to explore levels in all directions, thanks to its innovative flight mechanics.


Descent 3 stands as a high point in the series, offering both challenging and rewarding gameplay that has left a lasting impact on the FPS and space sim genres.

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