Descent 1 – Escaping the Martian Gas Mine

Descent to me is one of the best computer games ever. That game has been released 15 years ago and I still enjopy playing that game. Graphics are not state-of-the-art anymore, but still good. It is a true 3D ego-shooter. Thanks to the DXX-Rebirth project this game still runs fine, fluently and error-free on a modern  operating system like Windows Vista.

You enter a mine somewhere on a planet or moon in a small vehicle and have to battle mad mechanic robots who took over the facility. You have to find access keys to the yellow, blue and red area of the mine, you have to find weapons, shield power-ups and energy as you make your way through the hostile labyrinth. Finally you have to rescue some hostages and take out the reactor. After reactor melt-down you have 40 seconds to reach the emergency exit opening only in that case, providing your only way out of the mine. You can read more details about that excellent and thrilling game here on Wikipedia.

After making it through all the 30 “official” levels now I am working on the 100+ levels of the “Levels Of The World” package. Descent 2 & 3 and the sucessor Freespace are still waiting to be played.

Even I play this game since years and have spent many hours on all these levels yesterday I encountered a level where I had to come up with a new tactic and learn something new to finally get it done. You think you know everything … but you never can be sure. No matter how long you spend practicing something – you never know what you don’t know, you never know whether you know everything.

This actually also is a nice example of out-of-the-box thinking: when you have done something a hundred times one way and this suddenly stops working, you really need to step back and outside your own box you created yourself ( experience can be bad, experience can be your worst enemy ! ) to come up with a solution.

In every level I played so far it was possible to get to the exit within 40 seconds after the reactor has been hit. Sometimes it was difficult: you way out suddenly was blocked by additional robots showing up or the way was really long, but it was always possible. In the level “Martian Gas Mine” I have been playing apparently there was no way to get to the exit within 40 minutes; the way simply has been too long.

I started thinking about how I can delay the reactor destruction a bit to get me the extra valuable seconds to make it. And finally I came up with this solution – and noticed that this level has been designed for this:

  1. Damage the reactor as much as possible without destroying it; two rounds of Plasma fire should do it.
  2. Get yourself a Cloaking Device and some bombs. Luckily in this level "Martian Gas Mine" a Cloaking Device can be found in the large dark chamber before the Red Area, and bombs are released by the little blue explorer robot leaving the reactor room when you visit it the first time.
  3. Make yourself invisible using the Cloaking Device
  4. Enter reactor room and place your bombs around the reactor. Don’t get too close, otherwise the reactor starts firing and things end earlier than you would like it.
  5. Leave the reactor room and start your journey to the exit.
  6. After a while bombs go off and reactor with them. Hopefully you have been getting far enough to now use the remaining time to get out.

I had almost 20 seconds left when reaching the exit. By destroying the reactor directly there was no way to get out in 40 seconds ! The delayed destruction gives you sufficient time to make it.
As it is said: there is always a way out !

The screen shot above shows how the reactor room looks like before leaving to the exit: lots of bombs have been placed around it.

On YouTube I have published a video showing the final escape from the mine.


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