After the 'Interplay Summer Stacation', we're pretty sure many of you re-discovered the awesome Descent series once again. And even the graphics have aged over the years (it's been 16 years since the release of the first part), the gameplay is still topnotch! But thanks to the creative community at Descent2.de, you can play this revolutionary classic in HD graphics with all those next-gen, laser-blazer, supa-dupa-fly effects. Interested? Read on the writeup about the D2X-XL project made by one of its creators.
If you enjoyed Descent and Descent 2, and found yourself wishing you could play them again with a more modern look, D2X-XL will probably be the best thing you'll find. The most ambitious source port to date for Descent 2, D2X-XL takes the beloved by fans gameplay and gives it a massive graphical boost. High-resolution textures, more detailed object models, realistically shadowed lightmap-based colored lighting, and special effects like smoke, lightning, glow effects, energy shields and light trails all combine bring it to a level that arguably often surpasses that of the game's successor, Descent 3. It even includes in-built support for anaglyph stereoscopic 3D - as those who played Descent with 3D goggles back in the mid-1990s might remember, depth perception is put to remarkable effect in this game.
D2X-XL doesn't force you into using all its fancy new graphical features, though - if you just want a trip down memory lane, you can turn them all off and see the game as it was when it was released. You can also pick and choose features to match your tastes and hardware; D2X-XL's highest-quality settings require a lot of computational horsepower to run, but you can still get a great experience out of an older computer if you use slightly lower settings. Furthermore, if you preferred the first Descent game to Descent 2, you can run the levels from that as well, keeping original Descent-style gameplay, textures, sounds, robots, even AI - with the same graphical upgrades you can get for Descent 2.
Improved graphics is not the only thing D2X-XL has to offer. In the years since it was spun off from the then-abandoned D2x source port, countless new features have been added to the game. For instance, there are new multiplayer game modes - Entropy and an improved Capture the Flag style have been ported from Descent 3. A game tracker has been introduced to make it easier to find and play multiplayer games, which now support up to 16 players. High-fidelity sound and music, including custom playlists, are also supported. A full list of features can be found on the project's website.
D2X-XL also introduces a greatly enhanced level format. This allows levels almost ten times the size of the original format, and a raft of new features such as particle effects, ambient sounds, complex triggered events, and high-definition custom textures and robots. Designers can take advantage of these using D2X-XL's companion level editor, DLE-XP. There is a sizable level editing community on the project's forums doing just that, and they have produced a number of single-player and multiplayer levels to showcase these new capabilities. If you remember playing third-party Descent and Descent 2 missions back in the game's heyday, you will find these worth more than just a look.
D2X-XL is available for the Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. Naturally, installation procedures differ between them, and while there is an automatic installer for Windows to do much of the work, D2X-XL can be tricky to set up correctly. There is a detailed installation guide on its website to help new users get it going; if that isn't enough, friendly volunteers from the community are willing and able to provide help and support on the D2X-XL forums. A full installation with all the texture, sound and model packs weighs in at over four gigabytes - you won't need that much for a fully-functional basic setup though.
D2X-XL still requires the original Descent 2 - and optionally Descent 1 and Vertigo expansion - data to run, and therefore you need to own the games to play it. If you don't already have them, you can get it from GOG.com :)
You can download the D2X-XL, and all its add-on data packs here