The Ascent Review: Cyberpunk shooter of a different kind

The Ascent is an action shooter with role-playing elements played via an isometric view.

The Ascent is played in a top-down isometric view. (Photo: Neon Giant)

This game plays in a densely populated metropolis that is illuminated with neon lightings and holograms of various sizes and colours. The towering metallic structure comprises of various zones and territories, all accessible through conjoined concourses, platforms and pathways.

SPECS
Price: S$40 (Xbox One; Xbox Series X|S, version reviewed; PC) or free with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription
Genre: Action shooter/role-playing

Humans, aliens and robots populate and report to respective employers, and you are one of such workers, referred to as the Indents.

You can only play as a male or female human. Apart from being able to mix and match two colours to your attire, you have limited customisation options.

An incident at the start causes the dominating mega-corporation to lose its grip and chaos ensues as certain groups turned hostile.

Presented mostly in an isometric view, you will move and aim from a fixed camera angle. Not many shooters are played this way these days, so jumping in will require a bit of time to familiarise with the controls.

FOR
+ Offers both solo and co-operative modes
+ Co-operative multiplayer up to four
+ Amazing visuals and attention to detail
+ Awesome sound effects

AGAINST
– Steep introductory learning curve
– Lack of communication prompts
– User experience needs improvement
– Various bugs and glitches

You will get cornered, overrun or flanked a lot. But there is no huge penalty for dying, as you are resurrected immediately at a nearby location without any drawbacks.

You pick up kits and packs to recharge your health, energy and battery. The only way to become formidable against the threats ahead is to get spliced with implants and enhancements.

Plenty of Asian influence in its game design. (Photo: Neon Giant)

There are a few augments and modifiers to unlock. And you can switch them around anytime depending on your preference. Gear is simplified to wearables on your head, torso and legs. It may not offer much, but this helps from becoming overwhelmed with too many accessories. The game also offers a quick button option to sell off all duplicates, so you spend less time thinking about items in your stash.

Every mission is marked with a destination icon and estimated distance. In the early stages, you travel by foot. You will be guided by a radar that points to a general direction and alerts you of approaching threats. You can also call upon a trail that illuminates a couple of metres ahead from your location for a few seconds.

This is tolerable in the beginning as you learn your way around. But without a better map display, it can be tiresome backtracking to recurring spots and locations. Fast travel options are available but are only unlocked later.

Visuals in this game are striking. If you take a moment to stand still and look around, you can spot various attention to details given to the surroundings. I like how the vendors’ stall differ from one another as well as the placement of neon signs illuminate against broken roads, dark alleys and dank corners.

Not many shooters are played this way these days. (Photo: Neon Giant)

The accompanying soundtrack as well as its sound effects enhance the atmosphere and inject adrenaline rush at appropriate encounters.

I’m especially attracted to the Asian influence in the design and presentation, such as the rows of hanging bright red lanterns, non-English signboards and huge idols statues.

But the cinematic and lore dedicated to the theme are sparse. Most missions are standard fetch quests without any highlight to the culture or character. And that is where the potential for a fulfilling backstory is missed.

You can play solo or in co-operative (co-op) mode. In co-op mode, another player can join you on the same console or you can have up to four players joining you online.

The thrill of playing online is banding together to face waves of threats with the benefit of difficulty spike, probably based on number of players.

I visited the same mission while playing solo and managed to overcome it within three attempts, compared to many more re-tries we needed while playing in a group of four.

At the time of review, I encountered dropouts, missing display of items and assignment of skills when playing online. One host player even had a graphic display error while playing on Xbox console which caused a blank screen. This caused everyone to reboot their console.

Also, remember to select a saved game instead of starting over, as that will cause you to lose your progress and hard work. The developer should add a prompt to prevent such incidents.

There were also instances of not being able to enter certain areas and complete an unlocked side mission, perhaps indirectly hindered by progress of main mission. If this is so, it should be duly informed to the player.

There are no details of additional content for this game so far. Thus, there may not be much left to do once you complete the main mission.

Nevertheless, the current state of the game offers a decently vast area to explore. If you are a subscriber of Xbox
Game Pass, there is no reason to not give this a shot.

VERDICT
The Ascent offers fun gameplay with a visually attractive and intriguing premise. It will no doubt offers you plenty of entertainment in either solo or co-op mode.

RATING: 8/10