Review: The Ascent
Developed by Swedish indie game studio Neon Giant and published by Curve Digital, The Ascent is a third person isometric view twin stick shooter set in a multi-layered futuristic cyberpunk environment…phew!
The first thing that struck me about the game was the incredibly detailed graphics and ‘living world’ that was before me. Bringing to mind an almost Blade Runner-esque environment.
The narrative unfolds over a large vertically layered map, each section of it having been painstakingly created with NPC’s everywhere going about their daily routines. I often stopped and just watched the world around me, even peering down into the levels below and watching what was happening. This is a game where even walking from one place to another (which happens a lot) is a pleasurable experience because of all the things to look at.
You play as an ‘indent’ (indentured worker…much like a zero hour contracted worker here in the UK…oooh politics!) for ‘The Ascent Group’, and when the brown stuff hits the fan you’re tasked with trying to restore some order everywhere by completing various missions for people.
And so off you go, following the main missions and picking up as many side missions as you want along the way (highly recommended). All of which give you loot and goodies to improve your stats…which is imperative as the opposition you meet as the narrative progresses get ever more tough to kill.
You can upgrade your armour across 3 sections, as well as add passive boosts and acquire a large selection of weapons that can also be upgraded (a rocket launcher is my particular favourite, coupled with an ability to unleash a gun-toting droid for whenever things get a bit hectic.
Swapping your armour and load out appropriate to the people you are fighting can make a huge difference in battles…especially when faced with the various boss battles…the bane of my gaming life!
The twin stick shooting mechanic is smooth and intuitive, with the added bonus of being able to dodge out of incoming harm (you’ll use this a LOT) and a cover mechanic where you can use parts of the environment to protect you from incoming fire while still having the ability to raise your weapon over it and fire at will.
The story is entertaining enough, with cut scenes helping to flesh everything out and giving you a closer look at the main characters.
There are taxis and trains to help travel around, though while they cut down on the walking around, you’ll miss out on passing potential side missions and loot/pick-ups that can all help to bolster your character, as well as places where you can use your cyberdeck and hack into locked areas and chests.
If you don’t want to play alone, The Ascent also allows for co-op play, both online and off. With offline giving split screen for up to 4 players. I however (as always) ploughed through on my lonesome.
The game does suffer from being a bit “grindy”, and you definitely have to keep getting enough loot and pick ups to ensure your character is equipped well enough to deal with the constant scaling up of everyone you encounter.
I did also have a few sound issues. Specifically after a battle had ended and the sound of gunfire would continue until I walked well away from the area. Apart from that though there were no major bugs which have spoiled my enjoyment…just those damn unskippable boss battles that are still somehow a part of gaming.
If you like to inflict carnage in a futuristic world, all while constantly tinkering with your characters stats, then The Ascent is what you are looking for. Just be prepared for some difficulty spikes that’ll have you swearing…and then checking your load out.
The Ascent is available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Review by Dave from an Xbox Series X review code.