The Ascent is releasing tomorrow for Xbox and PC and it’s a game that you should be paying attention to.
While I’ve not had quite enough time yet to give it definitive judgment, after spending considerable time with the opening hours of the game there’s one thing that’s certain. The Ascent is a much better Cyberpunk experience than anything released in the last few years and one of the most intriguing adaptations of the twin-stick shooter formula that I’ve played.
While I spend more time with the game in anticipation of my final review, here are five things that stand out about The Ascent so far.
THE ATMOSPHERE IS ABSOLUTELY DRIPPING
While it comes across in screenshots as being one of the most tonally on point and atmospheric Cyberpunk games, it’s hard to describe what The Ascent looks like in motion. Every locale I’ve visited so far is gritty and lived-in, drenched in a warm and yet oddly comforting neon glow. It’s an absolute visual feast too – with major hubs teeming with loud and boisterous NPCs. There’s even a healthy amount of voice work (in multiple languages) to help sell the atmosphere of the thriving megapolis the game takes place in.
Keen listeners of the Press Start Podcast will know how much the gang loves a good “synthy” soundtrack and The Ascent delivers that in droves. Music is such an integral part of the cyberpunk experience, and The Ascents soundtrack delivers some very eclectic mixes of electro-rock with synth-wave to give the arcology the game takes place within as moody as ever.
There are also zero loading screens once you’re in, which is great.
THE COMBAT FEELS MORE INVOLVED THAN A TYPICAL TWIN-STICK SHOOTER
The Ascent is at its core a twin-stick shooter, but it does a few things differently. From the get-go, you’re introduced to the ability to aim both high and low. Aiming high means you’ll be able to hit enemies further away while aiming low allows you to prioritise enemies that are closer. This also feeds into the game’s cover system. Right now, I’ve not yet scratched the surface enough to be able to see if the enemy types will be varied enough to actually require cover but this small feature keeps me hopeful.
IT HAS ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES OF AN ACTION RPG TOO
I’ve lazily compared it to Diablo in conversation, but The Ascent really does feel like a cyberpunk Diablo. There’s a wealth of missions (including heaps of optional ones) that you can take on to get better loot and equipment that not only improves stats but alters your character’s appearance. There are points that can be used to improve your character too, allowing you to specialise your character into a tank if you so wish. The choice is yours – as there are no character classes in the game – to mold your character to your own playstyle.
THERE’S AWESOME ABILITIES – NOT JUST GUNS
It’s once again early days for me and my time with The Ascent but the abilities in the game so far are pretty satisfying. There are obvious ones – like grenades – but the melee attack is the first one I found that is still my favourite. It’s really simple – a shockwave that takes care of enemies close to you. But it’s the feedback, the feel of it that really brings it home. It literally minces your enemies into a red cloud and never gets old. Your character also has an upgradeable deck with them always which allows for hacking of random items in the environment to both slow enemies or make extra money.
MULTIPLAYER IS HERE AND IN A BIG WAY
While the promotional artwork leads me to believe that The Ascent is a three-player affair, it’s actually playable with four people. Online modes are always appreciated, especially given that the game is on Game Pass it makes it a bit easier to coerce my friends to join me. It’s cross-play too, which is always great to bring your reluctant friends into the fray. You can play solo by yourself, though, no problems.
But even better? There’s couch co-op! An oft-forgotten feature in games today (and perhaps even a privilege in these unprecedented times), there’s something really exciting about being able to run through the world of The Ascent with a friend right by your side. The style of gameplay owes itself perfectly to players of different experience levels and it’s something I can’t wait to dive into with my mates when they’re over next.
As I spend more time with The Ascent, I’d be surprised to find that it’s anything but fantastic. So far it’s hitting all the right notes for me, but as always it’ll live or die on the variety of experiences it provides and the depth of combat it aspires to reach.
The Ascent launches for Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and PC in Australia on July 30th. It’s available for Xbox Game Pass on all platforms.