- Total Score - 9.3/109.3/10
The Ascent is a love letter to dark, gritty sci-fi that feels like a marriage between Dredd and Syndicate. Dripping with atmosphere and Sweet Justice’s Carptenter-esque score, all backed by intense tactical shootouts and next gen visuals. The Ascent is easily one of this years best games.
Developer – Neon Giant Games
Publisher – Curve Digital
Platforms – Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC
The Ascent is a isometric, cyberpunk inspired action RPG that harkens back to a gritty, dirty era of sci-fi. Nobody is clean, the world is covered in filth, dirt, and atmosphere. Everybody has their own hustle, and the energy in the various streets have a buzz about them. It’s the type of feel and atmosphere that harkens back to the original Deus Ex and Syndicate.
The Ascent starts you off as an “Indent”, a slave working for the Ascent group in charge of huge city in the dystopian world of Veles. Shortly after a brief into, The Ascent group defaults, and it’s up to you and and some allies to figure out what happened to the group, why it defaulted, and try to survive the ensuing free for all chaos that takes over.
Like the Syndicate comparison I made previously, Ascent puts you in control of a your character following a brief and somewhat limited character creation suite. The basic controls and look will immediately feel like a typical twin stick shooter, but the gameplay and tactical feel will quickly wash away those initial impressions.
The one unique gimmick to the general control scheme is the notion of aiming high. Holding the trigger will have your character aim the weapon up top, which targets headshots and those can stumble high level enemies allowing you a chance to breathe in large scale fights. You can also crouch, and that combined with aiming high allows you to take cover and blind fire back at enemies. These two elements, while simple, really change the flow and dynamic of a twin stick action game.
It feels less arcadey, and more tactical action RPG. It also causes you to think about heights and enemy types. Aim high and a bunch of creatures are coming at you, and they will duck right under your fire and nail you. This is all helped by an incredible set of sound and visual feedback to every weapon and enemy you use and fight against.
Grabbing a shotgun, walking right up to an enemy and firing and watching their bodies turn to bloody mush is very satisfying, and all of the combat follows suit. Environments crumble apart, physics and debris litter the battlefield and each firefight feels violent and chaotic. The whole visual and audio package really helps sell the entire game, from the bleak cityscapes to the dingy bars and characters you meet.
In terms of general game flow, Ascent has much more downtime than you may think from all the action packed trailers. The world of Veles is carefully built, and truly feels like a massive sprawling metropolis. The game features plenty of hub areas with no combat, and plenty of side-quests and areas to discover. characters are all over the place, and almost all of them with unique voices and visuals.
Quests and more will grant you XP, which can then be allocated into 8 different attributes which flow into 4 core skills. Augmentations are abilities that can be acquired, and they scale based off those 4 core skills that you invest points into. You also have a cyberdeck that can be upgraded by finding hidden points or major quests, and that will allow you to hack and access more secrets and locked off zones as you progress.
the Ascent also features excellent co-op play that must be highlighted. The game scales based on number of players, and actually features 4 player online AND local play. The type of co-op is the best in the business and isn’t that common anymore. you can invite a friend and play the entire campaign together, even down to character creation. furthermore, each character shows up in all of the cut-scenes together, and regardless of whom picks up an item, all players get it regardless of distance.
Special attention must be paid to the score. Sweet Justice composes a fantastic and sweeping blend of hard synth and John Carpenter styled tones as you slink and shoot your way across Veles. The music always fits the mood, and it rises and falls in and out of combat with ease. A top class effort.
The Ascent is a fantastic experience from start to end, with great characters, setting, and insane action. The pacing is excellent, with plenty of time to breathe and take in the atmosphere between bouts of tactical explosive action. It’s clearly made by a group of developers with a clear goal and passion, and that passion clearly comes through.