The Ascent Early Impressions
I’ve just come from slightly under two hours solid of playing The Ascent. A game which has been on my radar since it came out but that, for whatever reason, I never picked up and played, even with it coming to Xbox Gamepass on day 1. The Humble Choice August 2022 bundle gave me a copy of my own to keep in Steam, and UnwiseOwl has given me the call to action to actually make me do something about it!
If you have no idea what the game’s about, let’s start with the official trailer and description!
Official Description: The Ascent is a solo and co-op Action-shooter RPG, set on Veles, a packed cyberpunk world.
Welcome to The Ascent Group arcology, a corporate-run metropolis stretching high into the sky and filled with creatures from all over the galaxy. You play as a worker, enslaved by the company that owns you and everyone else in your district. One day, you are suddenly caught in a vortex of catastrophic events: The Ascent Group shuts down for unknown reasons and the survival of your district is threatened. You must take up arms and embark on a new mission to find out what started it all.
You belong to the corporation. Can you survive without it?
One of the very first things I noticed probably won’t affect too many people. The Ascent doesn’t work all that well on a super ultrawide (32:9) monitor. The game crops, rather than zooms, so your field of view is… Limited.
You can only see two to three character heights vertically, which just isn’t enough, as it turns out. The cutscenes render in a 21:9 aspect ratio, and I suspect the game would play somewhat better there too. I ended up running in a more standard 16:9 aspect ratio for the rest of my playtime, though.
The second thing I noticed is likely of interest to more people, and that is the UI has very much been designed for a controller in hand rather than a mouse and keyboard. Aiming, as you might expect, works perfectly well by mouse. But it’s other smaller things such as not being able to Esc out of menus. For whatever reason, this is bound to backspace.
It’s by no means a dealbreaker, it would be easy enough to adjust to in fairly quick order. But out of curiosity, I ended up switching to a controller to see how that felt. I certainly had a bit of adjusting to do! The aim required is fairly precise compared to some other twin-stick shooters I’ve played. I acclimated to it reasonably quickly, though, without adjusting the amount of aim assist the game applies — which is an option if you wish to use it.
Those things aside — The Ascent feels great to play… Mostly. The guns feel meaty, with good impact to them, with enemies able to be staggered. In my short time of play, I’ve come across a good variety that each promotes different styles of play. And that’s before even looking at the abilities! The first one you get will let you punch the souls out of the enemy.
It’s a mechanical, hydraulic-empowered punch that attacks in a cone and looks fantastic in action. There is a slow-motion energy field left behind falling in shadow to the actual body, which might at this stage be ten to fifteen meters away.
Like I said, fantastic.
There is more than just the ‘A’ in this ARPG, though. You can level your character, then head to a specific NPC type in the city to enhance across a dozen or so skills which, in an interesting twist, then improve your stats rather than the other way around. Ooh, and the armour you get is actually visibly equipped. 100 bonus points, right there.
You can also talk to NPCs — many of which are fully voice-acted and seemingly done so with a bit of a budget behind them! No ‘Oi, you- intern developer, get over here and say these words!’ going on here so far as I can tell.
Now, circling back to that ‘Mostly’, I mentioned earlier… Although, actually, I’m still trying to decide whether I like the death and continue mechanic or not, so perhaps I’ll just leave you to make your own mind up about it. It’s very generous. The game doesn’t reset and reload you to a previous point when you die, rather, it respawns you back at a nearby checkpoint. Within reason, enemies dead stay dead — although noting that the small throwaway mobs will seemingly respawn indefinitely anyway, or at least on certain triggers — and any mission progress made will also persist.
For example, I had one mission to take out 4 heavily enhanced super soldiers (in amongst a flood of normal enemies, naturally), and I discovered that dying after killing one of these guys didn’t matter. I still had 1/4 progress after respawn.
Effectively this means you don’t really have to be good or otherwise play well to get through a mission of this nature. Just persistent. As long as you can run in and kill one before you die — you’ll get there in the end.
I suppose the main question, after these initial two hours with the game, is, do I see myself playing more?
Yeah- I do, actually.
If you have an interest in The Ascent or simply the genre — I think based on what I’ve seen so far, you could safely go in for this month’s Humble Choice without regretting the decision.