The Ascent review took a while to finish. Not because I had trouble getting through the game, but I was given the opportunity to test the Tales of Arise demo shortly after The Ascent was released.
On top of that I was already taking longer to start writing, simply because I fell in love the first hour in. Not only was I enjoying myself immensely, I was talking to the team claiming it would be my first ten I give to a game. But just like an elevator, that number eventually came down. Minor issues and difficulty spikes broke my rose tinted glasses and made it drop down a notch.
TL;DR The Ascent Review
It’s fun, it looks good, feels alive and is a rollercoaster ride from top to bottom.
|Buy if||Not for you if|
|– You like the cyberpunk setting.|
– You own game pass.
– Want a linear story without much thinking or choices.
– Like to vibe on a dope soundtrack while blasting enemies away.
|– Don’t like top-down-twin-stick-shooters.|
– Want Diablo 3 like endgame content.
– Choices that drive the story to a whole new direction.
You should probably play this if you have it on Game Pass or Game Pass Ultimate. I do recommend the PC version, the xbox one X version had insanely long loading times and aiming felt a bit off. While it has some technical issues, it really shines in its vibrant world that feels alive. The smooth combat is aesthetically amazing and feels satisfying when you clear out an ambush or bunch of thugs.
In any case, if you don’t own Game Pass or Ultimate, the €30 price is an amazing price for such an excellent game. Still not convinced? Read on below as we go into the details of what The Ascent has to offer.
The Ascent Review – Living in the Arcology
Setting the mood – The Ascent Review – Story
In the Ascent you are an Indent. Derived from the word Indentured servitude, which is a form of labor where a person (an indenture) agrees to work without salary for a specific number of years through a contract, for eventual compensation or debt repayment.
Companies send out ads throughout the galaxy to attract workers with promises of a better life. Turns out these ads are nothing but lies and the moment you arrive you’re stuck to a contract that will probably last longer than your life.
Like the Ascent mentions at the start, it’s all but slavery.
You start at the very bottom of the Ascent group corp Arcology. A big hive where the workforce lives, works and dies under abysmal conditions. The very bottom is a very literal shit-pool, you need to fix the SI (super AI) that manages the waste of the arcology because everyone on the higher levels is getting golden showers.
Higher and higher
This first level, the deepstink, functions as the tutorial and a stand-alone level later in the game. If you can manage the stench and the murderous feral creatures that want their piece of meat.
After that you take the elevator up and ascend to the next level in the arcology. Your home and main hub throughout the game: Cluster 13. You meet up with stackboss Poone, who explains the situation and how you tie into his plan. Independence for the people of this stack, true independence free from the shackles of the Ascent corporation.
From here on out you set out on several missions that ascend your status in the arcology all the way to the top levels. Slowly you begin to uncover what tragedy struck the arcology while you were working in the lower levels.
The story is a rollercoaster ride with no choices. No matter how high you get in the arcology, there is always someone bossing you around. And because you are an indent there is no real choice but to obey. The story didn’t blow me away but it was good enough to keep me engaged and looking forward to the next mission.
Pressing all the elevator buttons – The Ascent review – mechanics
Twin stick shooter with elevation in mind
Twin stick shooters tend to play on one level of height or are usually stuck on a top down camera. The Ascent took a different approach to this genre by not only adding an extra elevation to shoot from. But also adding a cover system and enemy height that work perfectly with the aforementioned shooting mechanic.
Normal fire-mode is your run of the mill hipfire, while aiming raises the gun. Not only does this allow for headshots on taller enemies, you can shoot over cover while your legs are protected. Or even better, duck and blind-fire your gun over cover, protecting your body while pumping your enemies full of lead. This works with stairs as well, when you are on a lower elevation you can raise your gun and blast away at the enemies feet. While they have no way of hitting you.
Add in a dodge or dash ability, combine it with two extra abilities and a tactical option. It’s a beautiful combination of chaos, speed and tactical fights. Not only does your position matter, but the elevation and height of your enemies plays a crucial role in your own survival.
Ascend to the next level
Going up or ascending is the whole purpose of The Ascent. Not only your location in the Arcology ascends, but your level, gear and even AI companion ascend to new heights along the way. The only way is up and you’re going through hordes of enemies to get there.
What do these different types of enemies give you? Loot, experience and upgrade materials. Like any other RPG, mechanic experience levels you up and you get to choose what attributes to spend your xp points on. Each attribute has an effect on different abilities or mechanics in the game. Like the ability to dodge faster, faster reload etc.
While experience is your run of the mill mechanic, loot and upgrade materials are closely tied together and work a bit different. Firstly, loot isn’t randomised. Each piece of armor or weapon has set stat rolls that are always the same. Secondly, if you upgrade a weapon every instance of that weapon will drop at that upgrade level. This makes it easy to farm builds and if you ever lose a weapon but want it back it will drop again eventually.
The ups have downs
My main gripe with The Ascent was that it could have sudden difficulty spikes. You could be blasting through enemies feeling that perfect balance of using cover and movement. Only to be dropped in a boss fight and get absolutely obliterated the first few tries. Boss Arenas with barely to none cover to use or room to move in. Or rooms with too many obstacles and Area-Of-Effect attacks the boss chucks at you, while you are stuck between a console and three dudes with knives.
Another major issue was the technical problems. The Xbox one X had super long loading times and frequent stutters during fights, especially with a lot of explosions. Co-op was broken for some people and certain NPC’s went missing. I was unable to pick up a side-quest because the NPC that gives the quest never spawned in.
Technical issues aside, The Ascent sometimes feels like a walking simulator. You have to cover some vast distances going from quest to quest and there is no option to sprint. While fast-travel is present it’s only at train stations you have discovered. Or with the taxi service that costs money, and only takes you to places you already discovered. For The Ascent review I put a lot of points in evasion and the dash mod. Not only did this dash go a bit faster but I could use it more frequently to cover more distance.
The Ascent Review – Sights and Sounds of the Arcology
The world of The Ascent can be summarized with a few words, astonishing and detailed. The amount of detail that went into creating the Arcology, its citizens and the effects during and after combat is insane.
Unique sights and sounds for each level
Each of the levels, depending on the wealth, had a different aesthetic. Ranging from the trash on the floor, the houses to what the inhabitants of that level are wearing. The bottom level is mainly robots and ferals, because barely anyone wants to live in waste disposal. While at the top the floors are clean, the architecture is tight and its inhabitants all wear fancy cyberpunk suits.
Lower levels are less maintained and dirty, while higher levels have cleaner streets and fancier shops or clubs. The amount of people thins lightly with every level you rise in the Arcology, symbolizing how wealth is distributed among the few that take advantage of the many.
The citizens will react to the weather, taking out umbrellas when it starts raining. They will panic and cower in fear when a gunfight breaks out. Shout that they don’t want to die today while trying to find a way out of the bullet ridden street.
Add in a soundtrack that is so on point for the combat and setting and you will be vibing to the beats while dashing across the battlefield as explosions surround you. Cyberpunk and Doom have some really good soundtracks and The Ascent made it to the list as well.
The impact of battle and story
While playing for this The Ascent review I was blown away with the amount of detail that combat and post-combat had on the world. Walls would crumble when they got shot enough, grenades left craters and blood spatter painted the walls and floors.
The dash dodge that I used for my The Ascent review build tore holes in the floor and along the path of the dash, signifying the strength your character used to increase its speed.
As you progress through the story or certain side-quests, completing them will change the Arcology. Without spoiling the main story I will explain using a side-quest. You will need to procure some steroids so a gym owner can attract more species to train with him. Each step you complete adds more species and people to the gym that end up training. It’s something small but it makes the world feel alive and your time worthwhile.
The wrap up
For a change, I decided to make a bigger TL;DR and put it on the top for people that don’t want all the details. Adding a conclusion here would basically be me saying the same as I did at the start.
Get The Ascent on Xbox one X, Xbox series X|S and Steam. I recommend getting it on Steam or Xbox series X|S as the Xbox one X lacks the power to run it as smoothly as it should. If you own Game Pass you can get it for free, if you don’t own game pass, find out how to get it cheap in this article How to save on Game Pass Ultimate. And if you are looking for a job in the gaming industry, Neon Giant is currently hiring so check out their website.