Going into The Ascent I was quite excited to see it in action. A game that not only takes advantage of the Xbox Series X but also features twin-stick gameplay. I do believe we don’t have enough of these games around anymore and the thought of online and offline co-op with a deep loot system gave me Diablo hunger. The Ascent starts off great but slowly spirals into a mess as the game’s story falls flat and the characters become a pain. It is fun to play with friends but the general rinse and repeat gameplay get in the way of it going anywhere exciting. That is okay though.
For the most part, The Ascent delivers one of the most stunning worlds I have seen in a game. The sheer bustling city and rolling mechanical vistas were a sight to behold. I was in complete awe the first time I left the underhalls of the metal city and walked through the town. Hundreds of alien beings were doing their daily business. Food stalls were packed with people, vehicles were flying through the air and every single model had some sort of life to it.
Neon Giant hit the nail on the head here while creating a true cyberpunk-themed world and it puts a lot of others to shame (looking at you Cyberpunk). Just standing still and listening to the world around me forced my mind to escape for a bit into the bustling metropolis. Most important of all, the game’s visuals are superb thanks to the excellent level of detail scattered in every corner. Be it the fans that twirl next to the apartment complex or the bright neon signage that glows brightly in the distance. You can see a lot of love and passion was poured into this world and it is the game’s best asset.
Throughout The Ascent, the sheer detail in the world had me powering through the dull gameplay and it also helped carry the game’s worst moments. The game takes place in the future where massive megacorps now own everything and everyone in the world. The Ascent takes players to a planet called Veles, an overpopulated metropolis where robots and life have merged to become one. Want a metal arm sewn into your shoulder? You can get it. The Ascent tells the cyberpunk tale well through all of its finer details and the planet is absolutely thriving in life thanks to this.
The story in The Ascent is all over the place. I won’t try and pretend I always knew what was happening because that is not the case. It also doesn’t help that the game’s voice work isn’t the best and often the sheer busyness of the game world gets in the way of focusing on the overall plot. Halfway through, I stopped caring and just shot things in my way while completing the quests. I didn’t care who I was killing and why. In short, The Ascent group, a massive company that controls most of the planet has collapsed. Everybody now wants in and to take control. You need to stop that from happening.
How you go about this is by collecting quests from characters around the world, exploring the various sectors of the city and shooting things. The game follows a traditional RPG system whereas players level up, gain skill points, increase stats like health and resistance with these points and collect guns to kill things with. There’s also a big focus on cybernetics and it works great. You can mod your character with enhancements that unlock skills such as a powerful punch that sends enemies flying. There’s also a shield that I summoned to protect me from gunfire and tracking missiles.
A big part of this whole cybernetic system comes from the decks I could install that buffed certain mechanics of the game. I could hack into objects with a better Cyberdeck and even loot vending machines for health and energy drops while I was at it. The RPG system works and isn’t overly complicated to any degree. I did hate how the stats are represented by icons and not words so I always had to try and remember what resistance I was buffing. The menu system, in general, is a pain to get through. The font is annoying, the red UI is hard on your eyes and the icons don’t help here either.
Thankfully, when everything is mastered and the game’s rhythm gets going it is fun. The twin-stick shooting relies on combining an aim direction with the walking position and you just shoot stuff. Guns also come in various shapes and forms from an auto rifle-styled weapon to a rocket launcher. I was a bit let down by the sheer lack of variety in the weapons. I expected more loot and it didn’t happen. Maybe I am just spoilt?
Enemies come in different sizes and all have their own unique way to approach them. This is where the game gets exciting. Combat is pure joy in The Ascent. Running around shooting things felt amazing and combining the weapons with the augments and grenades made this all feel fantastic. There’s also a unique cover system in The Ascent that let me crouch behind a wall while also being able to raise my weapon to my shoulder and shoot over it. It felt so natural and I wonder why all games don’t have this feature.
The best moments come into play when the enemy levels completely outweighed mine. Not only were dozens of them surrounding me but I was also at a much lower level. This meant I had to take cover, I had to be careful and I had to make use of all my equipment to get through the combat encounter. These moments felt great and pushed the inventory and skills to the limit.
The Ascent is also a co-op game both local and online and it is buggy as all hell. I had characters completely wipe and lose all inventory and weapons, I had constant crashes during online sessions and don’t get me started on the number of times I got stuck while loading into a friend’s game. One evening I had five game crashes while trying to play online. It is sad because the game is better with other people by your side.
Unfortunately, the bugs don’t end there. Even playing solo I had inventory vanish, skins disappear from my list and characters lose progress. It is quite an annoying experience when you are trying to enjoy a game only for it to screw you over by crashing and losing items. Even almost two weeks later, I am still having multiplayer bugs and issues.
The Ascent Review
The Ascent is a fun game but it is not without its flaws. The story is boring and the quests become a chore after a while. The combat helps a bit to carry these issues but the bugs get in the way too. The game can only get better but I won’t be rushing back until it the issues are fixed. If you’re looking for a twin-stick shooter meets Diablo and Cyberpunk 2077 ruined the whole “cyber” theme, then give this a go.
This Ascent review is based on a code sent to us by Neon Giant
Available On: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC | Reviewed On: Xbox Series X | Release Date: 28 July 2021 | Price: R469 (free on Game Pass)