Descenders Beginners Guide: How To Ride At Your Own Pace

As extreme as the game is, it helps to take a step back sometimes and relax.
Descenders Main
Here are some tips and tricks to beginners and players having a hard time with Descenders. RageSquid

Descenders has been out of Early Access on Steam for two months now, and the positive consensus on this procedural extreme downhill freeriding cycling game has led to a surge in new players after the Steam Summer Sale.

It’s not surprising, to be honest, as the game is actually a lot of fun, and I’ve found myself playing it quite a lot over the weekends as you can easily drop in for a quick ride before moving onto something else. There’s not much pressure on the player, and you can just as easily chill out in the interactive lobby with other players and ride and do tricks, or opt for the real stuff in career mode and others.

However, there is a bit of a steep – pun very much intended – learning curve here, as while Descenders is quite easy to pick up, some players might find themselves getting a bit frustrated over it, which may end in players just quitting altogether. Before you hit that refund button, though, don’t give up just yet – I was once in your place, and after getting to know some of the mechanics more through a lot of playing, I can certainly say it’s worth the effort.

If you find yourself in the same predicament, then here are some tips and tricks that should help out a beginner or everyone having trouble with Descenders.

It may be procedurally generated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read it

Descenders Flip
Always remember to keep some of that vision towards the horizon, just for future reference. Photo: RageSquid

Descenders prides itself as a procedurally generated extreme downhill freeriding game, and to the developers’ merit, it works quite well. Sure, at the start there’s only four biomes to work towards, but you see a significant change in how the curvature, steepness and overall danger of the course is depending on the rating on the map (more on this later).

It’s understandable then that some players might find themselves turned off from the challenging task of anticipating the jumps and obstacles as they happen, but it’s actually quite a bit easier to read it than what they were expecting. The first important tip for this is to always look beyond what’s in front of you. Take Highlands, for example – if there are patches of trees ahead on the horizon, then it’s more than likely that you’ll find yourself in the midst of them soon, which means that you have to steady your bike to avoid getting caught up in them.

Sudden steep sections are harder to anticipate, but you can usually react to it as it happens. In any case, building up too much speed when there’s a big jump ahead is just as dangerous as building up too little, as you might find that you won’t be able to land that jump properly.

Straying off the beaten path could be an easier way out

Descenders OffRoad
Going off-road may be a great way to avoid all those curves and steep drops - if you can avoid the obstacles, that is. Photo: RageSquid

What I loved most about Descenders is that while it provides you with a path to ride on, the environment for the most part allows you to take any way you please – even off-road. True enough, one of the sponsors encourages this kind of riding, and it’s as exciting as it is dangerous.

However, if you find yourself stuck on a particularly hard section, you can always stray from the beaten path to go around it. There’re no penalties, save for that it’s harder to control your bike off-road and you go a lot faster there – which is of course very helpful if you’re trying to get a shorter time. Keep in mind, though, that there’s no telling what lurks over that small hill you might be riding towards, and sometimes they hold very nasty surprises like rocks or stumps.

Complete the bonus objectives – they’re worth the effort most of the time

Descenders Bonus
Bonus objectives are great sources of health if you think you can do it without crashing. Photo: RageSquid

Most of Descenders’ game modes have bonus objectives associated with each track, which you can then complete to gain one health back. Health is necessary, because it is used up every time you crash. These bonus objectives are usually associated with the kind of track you’re getting – for tracks that are really steep, it’s usually near miss challenges and completing the whole track without braking or letting go of the acceleration. If it’s heavy on the stunts, then you will usually have to get huge air times or do a specified trick a number of times.

In any case, weighing which objectives to do and which ones to pass on is what separates a good player from a beginner. Once you get more experience, it’s important to go for all of them as much as possible, but for now, it’s much better to always try to complete the track with as few crashes as possible, especially nearing a boss jump. If the bonus objective is a bit more challenging and requires more risk than usual, and you find yourself low on health, it’s always better to just complete the track in the safest way possible.

Carving your path to the boss jump

Descenders Map
It's up to you which path to take up to the dreaded boss jump. Photo: RageSquid

Each biome holds a boss jump, which, when completed, will allow you to go to the next biome. Each biome holds a number of tracks spread throughout, and it’s up to you which to choose in order to eventually get to the boss jump itself.

The tracks vary greatly, which you can gather from its various levels – steep, curve and stunt. Steeper tracks are usually the fastest to complete. Curved tracks require some managing on your turns and slides, as well as watching out for obstacles. Stunt tracks are littered with jumps and ramps to offer anyone the chance to do aerial tricks. Experiment with what you find easiest before tackling the boss jump, and focus on completing those first.

There are special tracks to be found, though, like medic camps which give you one health when completed even without finishing the bonus objective (usually at the cost of being harder in general). There are also opportunities for either first-person play or harder tracks, which give out more reputation for landing tricks. If you find a track marked by fire and manage to complete it, then prepare yourself for something much harder waiting for you at the boss jump.

The boss jump itself is pretty straightforward – just try to survive the track and you’ll find yourself on to the next biome. There will ultimately be some who will find the boss track too hard, oftentimes finding themselves missing the landing by a mile or coming up too short. There is a way out of this, though. Remember what I said about straying off the beaten path? Well, you can technically do that for the boss jump, too, but at a cost.

Successfully doing three boss jumps in career mode for each biome will give you a shortcut to the next biome for play, meaning that you can skip the preceding biome entirely if you opt to do so. This means that you can skip the boss jump, but at the cost of not being able to unlock the shortcut. It’s a lot less exciting, though, and as such I’m still rooting for you to practice jumping it until you land it.

Landing

Descenders Dead
There are times where you just know you're going to crash. Photo: RageSquid

Landing is one of the most essential things to learn in Descenders, as it’s integral in keeping your health, especially at higher levels of play. It’s also the one of the easiest to misunderstand, as some players will just try and speed through ramps without thinking of how they will land the resulting jump, which often leads to spectacular wipeouts.

It’s important to remember that landing effectively means lining up your bike with the ramp on the way down – overshooting said ramp is almost always a bad idea, since it’ll be like you just falling in mid-air. Controlling your speed before hitting the ramp is key, and it’s not a bad idea to let go of the acceleration at times or even apply the brakes a little to get your speed just right.

Also remember that you still have control of your bike mid-air. You can spin your bike into more of a nose dive if you find yourself propelled higher than what you’re expecting, or line up your wheels with the curvature of the ramp so you’re less likely to crash. Believe it or not, pulling tricks mid-air also helps out if you’ve overshot your mark, as it lessens your acceleration a bit – just remember to land upright.

Sometimes, boss jumps require more than just speed, but also a bit more air. For those cases, it’s important to remember the pump method, which you then release before a jump. To do this, pull back on the right stick of your controller before hitting the ramp. As soon as you leave the ramp, push it forward, and you’ll find yourself flying higher than what is normally possible. Just remember to not overshoot as well.

Play the game at your own pace

Descenders Home Base
You can mess around in the game's lobby and practice tricks before hitting the tracks themselves. Photo: RageSquid

The most important tip I can probably give is to play Descenders at your own pace, whatever that may be. It’s also one that RageSquid is keen enough to put in some of the loading screens. The game takes some time getting used to, and the learning curve is a bit higher, but it’s important to note that there’s no rushing here. After ten solid and very enjoyable hours playing the game, I’ve come away with the fact that I’m still not as much of an expert, but I did have amazing amounts of fun just breezing through the various levels in my own way. Having trouble doing tricks? There’s no need to do them at every ramp. Crashing because you’re always too fast? Apply the brakes, even if it means spending a bit longer at the track. There’s a plethora of ways to enjoy Descenders, all of which await those who are patient with themselves and know when to make that big push – or hold it off and practice some more.

I cannot recommend this game enough, so in lieu of a proper review I’m giving it the due it deserves in this little guide which I hope helps everyone who is having trouble with the game.

Descenders is now available to play on PC via Steam and on Xbox One. Check out its Steam page here.

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