Descent: Legends of the Dark, the high-concept campaign-in-a-box from Fantasy Flight Games, arrived to critical acclaim in 2021. The app-assisted board game included more than three dozen miniatures and nearly 50 pieces of cardboard terrain — a huge assortment of bits that created tabletop landscapes unlike any other. Now the publisher is ready to unveil its first planned expansion, Descent Act 2: The Betrayer’s War. From Polygon’s exclusive early preview, it’s clear that what’s inside the box looks even more ambitious than what came before.
“No idea was too crazy,” said lead designer Philip D. Henry in a recent interview with Polygon. “One of our ongoing refrains is, ‘Nothing’s entirely a joke with Descent.’ If you pitch something like, Hey, what if we did this? there’s a chance [that] yeah, we could do that.”
Descent is a cooperative board game where players take on the role of heroes questing to defend the world of Terrinoth. In this sequel, all six heroes from the original game return with new and expanded abilities. The action picks up right where the original game left off, and the app will detect the endgame state at which players finished the previous game. In this way groups are able to preserve their successes and failures from the last time they played, and the in-app narrative system can steer the storyline in the appropriate direction. Meanwhile, those who lost their save file will be prompted with a Mass Effect 2-style survey that allows them to navigate to more or less the same endgame position.
Henry was also quick to stress just how many twists and turns are expected this time around.
“One of the things the app lets us do is, we can have all of these kinds of threads behind the scenes,” Henry said, adding that The Betrayer’s War features a manuscript that’s more than 140,000 words long. “The players don’t need to worry about tracking [what happened when they finished] quest 9 in Act 1. We can check that at any time [...] and we can use that to inform the story or the mechanics, or just kind of how the story evolves.”
While we don’t yet know exactly what all is inside the box, Henry did let us in on a few important details. First, players will need a copy of the original game to play this sequel, which technically means it’s an expansion. That’s because designers leveraged all the miniatures and the terrain from the first game to make the second game’s environments even bigger. But don’t expect to have to take out a loan for a bigger dining room table.
“All of our quests fit on the established footprint,” Henry said. “[This time] we’re going taller, not wider.”
Fans should expect the play space to reach at least a full foot off the table, Henry said. Those cardboard edifices will be necessary to balance out the scale of The Betrayer’s War’s big boss — a foot-tall pre-assembled miniature that serves as the centerpiece of the entire experience.
“This was our chance to continue the story we started there and see where that took us,” Henry said, adding that a third act is also in the works.
Descent Act 2: The Betrayer’s War will retail for $159.99, and it’ll arrive in stores and online this fall. Fans should see an app update well before then, one that includes plenty of quality-of-life improvements for the original game as well as its expansion.