Neon Giant / Curve Digital
Developed by Neon Giant and published by Curve Digital, The Ascent is set in a dystopian cyberpunk world called Veles. You, the player, step into the well-worn work boots of an Indent—which basically makes you part of the indentured servant class. All of a sudden, the megacorp that you work for, The Ascent Group, ceases all of its operations and you must find out what has gone wrong.
As per the game’s Steam page:
“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?”
While The Ascent’s aesthetics are gorgeously dismal as any cyberpunk cityscape should be, the characters that you’ll come across are a little more static—which contrasts with the many, lively urban backdrops. They’re not terrible or anything, there’s just nothing that sets them apart from the scores of other ARPGs (action role-playing games) out there. These characters will stand around and talk to you sometimes and that’s about it. In other words, they don’t feel very impactful, let alone memorable.
Luckily, where The Ascent sort of drops the ball with its various denizens, it more than makes up for that with its stellar gameplay. After you customize your avatar, you can unleash them on Veles’ stunningly rendered environs, each of which is jam-packed with little minute details.
Since your recent employer has virtually shut all of its operations down, you’ll want to improve your avatar’s living conditions—which will be hard to do since you’re essentially still regarded as a slave.
Tasks can be accepted in Veles that will have you traveling from place to place, both near and far. These tasks are all quite different and range from simple, menial ones to frustratingly hard ones. Just like any modern ARPG, along the way you have the option of taking on various side-quests that can be rewarding in their own right.
Make no mistake about it, The Ascent is an action-packed, twin-stick shooter ARPG, with brutal, fast-paced combat. Similar to tasks, combat can widely range in difficulty. One minute I was mowing down gangs of hoodlums in rain-slicked streets—another, I was getting my you-know-what handed to me by powerful mechs within dreary industrial settings.
The standard RPG template is in effect here. You basically kill stuff, gain experience and level up, and then distribute the points you accumulate among various attributes. This amounts to improving your character and making them stronger, more durable, faster, and the like.
Weapons can also be acquitted in the form of loot that you’ll come across in the game’s world. You can carry two weapons that you’re able to switch between with the push of a hotkey. You can also wield a third, more powerful weapon that can only be utilized once its gauge fills up to maximum strength. One of the things I was most impressed with when it came to The Ascent’s combat system, was that you can seek cover behind various objects in the game’s environs and raise your weapons to fire at foes from relative safety.
In the end, those who enjoy twin-stick shooters and ARPGs are likely to get a good amount of fun out of The Ascent, especially if they have the patience to work through some of its issues, such as minor bugs. The fact that it looks so gorgeous, at least on a decent gaming PC or gaming laptop, means that some may find more of a reason to delve into it as well. While It still feels a bit rough around the edges, perhaps through further patching, Neon Giant can smooth them out with future updates.
The Ascent has great graphics so you’ll need a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. Therefore, you may just want to invest in a superior gaming rig:
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