I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Descent: Journeys in the Dark book The Doom of Fallowhearth by Robbie MacNiven, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

Secondly I am a friend of Robbie’s on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t best buds, we do interact with each other on occasion and I consider him a class person.

I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What’s is Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Simply put Descent: Journeys in the Dark is good old fashioned dungeon crawler whose linage goes all the way back to Heroquest.

Based very much on the Doom board game published by Fantasy Flight Games, you can see influences from across the gaming hobby, with bits from Space Hulk and Lord of the Rings being identifiable.

It’s set in the world of Terrinoth, a setting shared with Runewars, Runeage and a few other games and RPGs published by Fantasty Flight Games.

It’s a high fantasy universe and you will recognise many of the tropes and races seen in other similar fantasy style settings. It’s not particularly unique, but it is fairly well developed and interesting.

Descent is the dungeon crawler game in that universe, with one player being the evil overlord of the dungeon and the others taking in the tiles of the hero’s.

For a dungeon crawler, let’s be honest it’s one of the best out there, and the only reason it’s not in my collection is that Lindsay and Megan aren’t as enthusiastic about high fantasy as I am!

The Story

Like Robbie’s previous Descent novel, this is comfortable and familiar feeling whilst at the same time being interesting and exciting, which is a hard trick to pull off.

The great Dunwarr city of Thelgrim has closed its gates to all, something which is unusual and has stranded refugees fleeing the wars overtaking Terrinoth.

A mysterious patron hires three adventurers to travel to great city under the mountain and figure out what is going on. Raythen a thief and a drunkard son of the city is reluctant to go back, and the Runewitch Astarra and her polar opposite the Deep Elf called Shiver can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, but the rewards on offer to each of them, convinces them to put aside their concerns and figure out what the crack!

But there is more to this quest than they first realise, not only do they have to deal with each other but they find themselves dragged into the politics of the city and its various factions, but must also confront a growing threat beneath the city itself.

The Story

This book is very good and is an extremely engaging read, I read this and it felt like being in the middle of a Heroquest game or an RPG adventure.

The character development was something that stood out for me, the protagonists weren’t simple archetypes but were fully fleshed out personalities with plenty of backstory that’s revealed as the plot advances.

The relationship between Shiver and Astarra was a particular joy, this oil and water pair start off having an extremely antagonistic relationship, but this gradually thaws throughout the book and in the end they form a very strong bond that is extremely satisfying to see.

There are some fantasy clichés in the story, but these are less of a crutch and rather feel like they are there to make sure the story is assessable to as wide an audience as possible.

The dialogue is snappy, the banter is genuinely quite funny and absolutely what you would hear at most RPG tables, the world building is excellent and the descriptive writing is first rate, in fact the last part is so good, that in a section with a bit of body horror, I genuinely found myself feeling a bit sick.

I would very strongly recommend this book to any fantasy fan because it hits all the right notes, and is a great standalone book with little dependency on any previous knowledge of the franchise.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

You can buy the eBook now and the paperback gets a release on the 17th February.