Beginner’s Tips And Tricks For Aliens: Dark Descent

There have been quite a few Colonial Marine-themed games over the years and Aliens: Dark Descent might be the most entertaining one yet. Instead of running around in another FPS or floating behind a trooper as a ghostly camera operator, Dark Descent turns you into the Gorman of the group as you bark out commands to your squad from relative safety.



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It’s an exciting mix of real-time strategy meets tactics game that always has a curveball or two to throw at you when you least expect it. For first-timers, it can be a grueling slog across the surface of the moon of Lethe, but with this handy guide, you can pick up some tips to keep your squad alive and intact as you try to escape the infested planet.

Beginners Tips

Right off the bat Aliens: Dark Descent throws a lot of mechanics at you. There’s stress management, equipment, alien types, missions, and sub-tasks to sort through, and a plethora of weaponry to tinker around with as you get to grips with the game.

It’ll feel very familiar to those that have played the modern XCOM games as there’s a fair amount of similarity to how you’ll be managing your squad’s well-being and gear. Plus, like XCOM2, you’re operating out of a giant ship. Albeit one that doesn’t move much after crashing into the planet. To keep your team alive and churning out those side-quests, here are a few tips.

Know The Movement Speed Differences

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Walking And Attacking A Charging Xenomorph

First off a tip for your fundamentals, know the movement speed differences. There are two. One is a run, the other a normal walk. Why this is important is that whilst walking, your team can fire and suppress targets on the move. But whilst running, your marines can’t shoot.

So for example, if you’re making a withdrawal from an alien wave you’ll want to be walking so your marines can pick off any that get too close. However, if someone gets grabbed you’ll want to set them to run, then walk mode when they get closer so they can kill the Xenomorph that’s abducting a marine. Knowing when to toggle between the two can make all the difference.

Tricks For Turrets

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Setting Up A Line Of Turrets

As useful as they were in the Aliens movie, Turrets are your best friends in Aliens: Dark Descent. These bullet-spewing buddies can be dumped down and left to guard a hallway or placed in a vantage point to create the ultimate killing field in those tight corridors.

It’s highly recommended to make sure that you always have at least two with you as they’re another gun on the field and they can be left behind during extractions as reliable guard dogs. The only downside to Turrets is that they need to be repaired manually if damaged, and once they’re out of ammunition you’ll need to extract the team to get another one.

Holding down the placement button allows you to rotate Turrets into the perfect overwatch position.

Don’t Forget Your Armored Car

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Reinforced By The APC

In most missions, especially early on, your team will crash onto the scene in their armored car. This tanky and chunky boy is not just your personal heavily armed Uber, it can also work quite effectively as back-up or as a patroller in some of the more open maps.

You can easily move the APC around the map into any area that it will fit. So it’s quite useful for rolling it ahead into a big group of Xenos whilst your troops walk behind, firing in support as it trundles ahead like a shield. Also, since your team uses it for extracts, you can position it in the perfect spot for a speedy getaway when it’s time to leave.

Have A Backup Team

Aliens: Dark Descent - A Group Of Fresh Marines

It really can’t be stressed enough how important it is to have a backup team. Permadeath is an ever-present threat and it doesn’t take much to take out a squad member. So try to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket with one super-powered fireteam.

Instead, balance things out by swapping in a B-Team for each mission to level up a wider number of Marines. That way you won’t end up with a big bunch of under-experienced Rookies when you’re a couple of chapters deep into the game.

Some Squad Members will also need to recuperate outside of combat if they’re too stressed. Not accounting for this will hurt you in the long run.

Avoid Being Trigger Happy

Aliens: Dark Descent - Alien Queen Attacking During Onslaught

When you think of Colonial Marines in the Aliens universe you would expect a one-liner spewing, twitchy trigger-fingered individual. But in Dark Descent, being loud is the last thing you want. Every noise brings the attention of more Xenos, and going in loud just makes them more aggressive much faster.

Luckily you can unlock silencers later on in the game, but before you get there it’s heavily recommended that you focus on taking down targets with short bursts and avoid explosives where you can. Every big bang, every prolonged engagement just draws more attention to your team, and because the hordes are infinite, you want to avoid provoking that proverbial Hornets Nest as much as possible.

Be Aware Of The Alien Aggressiveness Metre

Aliens: Dark Descent - Maximum Aggression

As you wander around the derelict colony locations, the local Xenomorphs will start to get a little testy. This is quantified in a meter onscreen marked “Alien Aggressiveness”, and the higher it goes, the harder the fights become. It goes from Easy through Medium into the cap at Hard. With the number of Onslaughts and the amount of tougher Xeno’s increasing along with it.

The meter ticks up every time you enter combat and you’ll know when it moves as it will show little icons corresponding to the Xenos level of aggression. It’s worth watching this as you wander around as the more it fills up, the harder the mission will become. If the meter goes too high, it’s often worth extracting as it will reset when you return.

As the Alien Aggressiveness Meter moves to each tier an Onslaught will spawn and head straight to your team’s location.

Hunker Down During Onslaughts

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Setting Up A Defence From A Horde

On the topic of alerting the Xenomorphs, if you make them a little too rowdy you’ll be hit with an Onslaught. This is a brief period where the game dumps a huge wave of Xenos on you, usually involving one or two Stage Two aliens, which are just tougher and more evolved targets to take down.

You’ll have 30 seconds to set up a defense once the alarm is raised and there’s no way to avoid them. So hunker down and hold out. Don’t try to outrun it or hide, they’re inevitable and won’t end until you deal with the irritated alien horde. You’ll usually be able to avoid spawning them if you’re quiet and haven’t moved the Aggressiveness Meter too much, but if your team is making a lot of noise they’ll trigger more often.

During Onslaughts, try to position yourself in chokepoints or find a good corner to camp out in. Otherwise, it’s easy to get flanked and overwhelmed.

Check Those Corners Marine!

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Walking Into A Dark Corridor

Whilst you can stack up your Marines with equipment before you leave the safety of the Hub, there are also extra supplies that can be gathered in the field. Even though their number is finite, having an extra healing item, Flare or gadget can make a lot of difference.

However, these pickups are often hard to find and they’ll normally be tucked away in forgotten rooms and unlit areas. So if you have time or are just passing through an already cleared area, make sure to sweep your flashlight into each corner, there may be something there that you might have missed.

Don’t Get Greedy

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Recovering A Turret From An Item Box

On the topic of pickups found in the field, another good tip is don’t get greedy with every single item you find. Each level, its layout, and the items left behind on it are permanent. So if you’re hoovering up everything you find on your first run-through, you may be depriving yourself of items that you might need later.

As a general rule of thumb, only take what you need and make a mental note of where something is if you’re already full on medkits and ammunition. You may not need it now, but considering how quickly things can get out of hand, especially in later missions, having resources in reserve in a spot you know can be quite handy.

Aliens: Dark Descent - Marines Standing In The Extraction Zone

One other important tip to keep in mind is to never get stressed out about having to extract mid-mission. Though there is a time limit later on, the levels are large and you’ll barely be able to clear everything in an area on your first go, even on lower difficulties. Your playground is large and there’s a lot to do.

Often some tasks will take an entire mission unto themselves. So you could spend 20 minutes to an hour trying to do them. With stress and alien aggression levels constantly increasing, staying in combat for prolonged periods is only going to be detrimental to your Squad’s effectiveness. Plus, heading back home allows your team to rest up and rearm for the next insertion.

Use Motion Sensor Shenanigans

Aliens: Dark Descent - A Motion Tracker Being Placed Down

One handy piece of equipment that often goes underappreciated is the Motion Sensor. Just like the movies, these bulky bits of gear will send out their signature sonar ping whenever they pick up hostile movement in a specific area.

However, what most people don’t realize is that they can be used as a sneaky distraction tool. The Motion Sensors can let out a shrill noise that draws every Xenomorph on the current floor level to their location before its destroyed. Why this is useful is that if you’re about to get hit with a horde, just activate one way off on the other side of the map to buy yourself some extra preparation time, or as a way to escape without encountering any hostiles.

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Stress Level Advice

Aliens: Dark Descent - A Marine With Numerous Stress Problems

Just like in real life, high-stress levels can cause all sorts of problems. In Aliens: Dark Descent though, stress is a measurable stat, and managing it is going to be one of your highest priorities. Stress builds when your Marines are in battle and it comes in four levels. Relaxed, Anxious, Panicked, and Terrified. Plus, the percentage of stress built increases with each tier.

At the end of a mission, your team is given Trauma Points based on those stress levels, and for every three Trauma Points they earn, they get a mental health issue. This takes the form of a debuff that comes in a variety of flavors from reduced accuracy to other detrimental combat effects.

Aliens: Dark Descent - A Set Of Trauma Debuffs On Squad Members

High-stress levels also come with the risk of your Marine undergoing what’s known as a Stress Effect. These are random effects that stack and essentially cause things like reduced command points, confusion, reduced accuracy, additional damage taken, and firing in extra bursts that leech your ammo reserves more than normal. Keeping your troopers calm can take a lot of work, but as you can see it’s definitely worth it.

Reducing Stress

Aliens: Dark Descent - Soldiers Recuperating In A Rest Room

Thankfully you can reduce the stress levels of your soldiers and there are a couple of ways to do it. To start with, you can take them to Shelter Rooms marked on the map during a mission. These come with weldable doors that will let your troops take a break for a while.

The next option is using medical supplies such as Naproleve. This is a medical bottle in the ingame menu during a mission and will reduce one soldier’s stress level by 100 percent. It’s the same as taking a rest in a room, but it only applies to just a single soldier.

Aliens: Dark Descent - Morphine Item Description

Another option is to use the Medics’ Morphine upgrade. It’s only available if there’s a medic in your crew and it applies a 30 percent reduction instead of the full 100, it’s not much, but it works in a pinch. Finally, Marines can also rest at home in the Hub, though doing this takes them out of the fight for a certain number of days depending on how much trauma they need to work through first.

Stress can be affected by Bravery. This is a stat that can reduce a soldier’s Stress Level accumulation. The higher the bravery, the slower the build. Certain classes and also Ranks, like the Seargent, can also increase the entire Sqauds Bravery Stats.

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