The Ascent Test – Badass Cyberpunk Action RPG Shooter in Review

In the super stylish cyberpunk action RPG The Ascent there are stark contrasts between rich and poor, light and shadow, great gameplay, and many bugs

The Ascent Test 
Badass Cyberpunk Action RPG Shooter in Review
The Ascent Test
Badass Cyberpunk Action RPG Shooter in Review

In this The Ascent review, I show you in detail how the new cyberpunk RPG shooter is played, if it’s fun, and how well the game plays. The Ascent is released on July the 27th, 2021 on Xbox Game Pass and Steam for PC and also for PlayStation (PS4+PS5) and XBox.

In the cyberpunk action RPG The Ascent, we play an Indent, a resident of an arcology on the planet Veles. The arcology (and us too) is owned by the large corporation The Ascent, and it controls almost everything. But it’s very stupid when this company goes bankrupt and total chaos breaks out. The Ascent is an aRPG with linear story and twin stick controls, it features an extensive story that can be played solo or in co-op multiplayer.

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This article is available here as text, but also as a YouTube video (German voice-over, many subtitles). This way you can choose how you would like to enjoy it most.

The Ascent Review Video

German Voice-Over, many subtitles

The Ascent Review – Intro

Hi there, here is the Zap. In this The Ascent review, you get a little insight into the new action role-playing game in a cyberpunk setting with twinstick shooter controls. I’ll tell you how it plays, what’s in it, and at the end, you’ll get a rating from me. But most of all, I want to give you all the info, so you can decide for yourself if the game could be fun for you.

The Ascent is developed by the Swedish studio Neon Giant and published by Curve Digital. The leading minds are veterans who worked on some very big AAA titles before starting their own studio.

I received a free trial key, my thanks for that. However, this should not affect my rating, as I always test all games with the thought in the back of my mind, how would I feel if I had paid full price.

Background – Cyberpunk and The Ascent

The Ascent Test 
Background Cyberpunk and The Ascent
The Ascent Test
Background Cyberpunk and The Ascent

Cyberpunk. Most people immediately think of the role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077 from the Witcher makers. The game that disappointed so many fans of CD Project Red. The marketing promises were too big, and the technical implementation was between mediocre and unplayable, depending on the platform. Although I certainly think 2077 is a good game if you play it on a good PC or a newer console.

But cyberpunk is not that one game, even though it often seems that way, as it is the only point of contact for many gamers. Actually, there is an entire genre of science fiction contained within the term cyberpunk.

Starting with numerous books, such as those by Phillip K. Dick, who wrote the novel template for Bladerunner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy, or Tad William’s Otherland. Many films, including The Matrix trilogy in addition to Bladerunner, play in this niche. And further sub-categories like steam-punk, diesel-punk, or bio-punk have emerged from it. And in the rough framework also the game universes of Fallout or Stalker line up with it.

Always cyberpunk is about a dystopian future where normal life as we know it has largely collapsed and mega-corporations and often artificial intelligences control humanity. A small part of corporate people are extremely rich and protect themselves with private armies, while most of humanity is just cheap human capital. Ordinary people are condemned to low-wage grinds and often at the mercy of an enormously poisoned, violent, and criminal environment.

And this is where The Ascent falls in line. It has absolutely nothing to do with the game from the Witcher creators, but is a cyberpunk game, in the true sense.

The Ascent – Game Type

The Ascent Review
Game Type
The Ascent Review
Game Type

The Ascent is basically an isometric role-playing game with action-shooter elements and twinstick controls. So you are permanently looking at your character from an overhead angle, and in this case, you can’t control the camera yourself. Overall, it’s a very interesting mix of great level design, good world design in general, lots of cyberpunk vibes, and steady character development.

This is a real role-playing game, with character stats, abilities, equipment, cyberware. There is an extensive story, we can gradually upgrade our equipment, push stats, complete quests, freely explore the vast world within limits.

The gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of games like Diablo or old role-playing classics from the 90s and early 2000s, mixed with modern graphics, more current twinstick shooter gunplay, and a really well-implemented cyberpunk sci-fi feel.

The Ascent Gameplay – Characters and Role Play (RPG)

The Ascent Test
Characters and Role Play
The Ascent Test
Characters and Role Play

The character creation allows choosing a male and female body and all sorts of colors and skins for the starting clothes. You can also choose tattoos, hairstyles, and hair colors from a large palette.

The faces, however, are more or less 6 barely distinguishable variants. There’s only one body shape, which is pretty disappointing. With all the graphics splendor of the game itself, it sadly wasn’t sufficient to create a few more options for one’s character.

We get experience points for every kill, discovery, and quest and level up as a result. When leveling up, we get 3 skill points that we can invest in 8 skills. Besides aiming accuracy and life energy boost, there is also faster regeneration of energy or dodge rolls, resistance to stun and stumble, or chance of critical hits.

Our weapons can deal four types of damage and also have numerous attributes such as rate of fire, reload delay, recoil, or magazine size. Likewise, our three possible pieces of armor can protect us against 4 types of damage and have bonus points for abilities or other benefits.

Over time, we can equip two of a wide range of different active and passive skills each. This can also be changed at any time. Overall, the role-playing system already does some things right but also does not really go into depth. Here you can adapt some things to your needs. However, you should not expect enormous complexity in this area.

Gameplay – World

The Ascent Review
World
The Ascent Review
World

The story takes place in a so-called arcology on the planet Veles. This is a huge pyramid-like structure owned by a corporation called The Ascent. And actually, almost all inhabitants are also more or less property of the company. And it’s stupid when the company then goes bankrupt, and total chaos erupts.

A dirty cyber future awaits us, we start at the bottom of the corporation’s hierarchy, in other words, as an unskilled worker in the wastewater department. The inhabitants are a mixture of humans and aliens, comparable to Mass Effect or Star Wars titles such as KOTOR.

The world-building is determined by a very interwoven, 3-dimensional level design. This is especially noticeable in the city, but also almost all buildings, basements, and outskirts are rather labyrinthine and nested on multiple levels.

The city is a mostly open world, with some buildings and dungeons entered via a door with a loading screen. However, there are also a pleasant amount of houses and basements that you can walk right into.

In the beginning, our access is still limited, many districts are closed for us because we just start at the bottom. But the more missions we successfully complete, the more our access into the world expands. The arcology has several floors, and after some time the huge areas of The Ascent unfold in front of us.

Since the distances become quite large over time, there are two fast travel systems. We can take the metro for free or call a cab for 1000 credits. However, both systems are always limited to the current floor, which we can only change at the elevators in the core.

The Ascent – Story

The Ascent Test
Story
The Ascent Test
Story

We are a corporate slave or Indent as they call it here. Our company, to which we owe huge amounts of money and which thus more or less owns us, is called The Ascent. We don’t know directly if it’s luck or bad luck, but our company suddenly goes bankrupt, and the lead AI goes silent. And now controlled oppression turns into huge chaos, which is really not any better.

We do jobs as mercenaries for our district administrator Poone, who in return supplies us with equipment and money. Little by little, we try to find out what happened to the Ascent AI and who has his fingers up to his elbows in this sinister game.

In addition to the main quest stories, which often proceed in cutscenes, there are numerous side quests, most of which are just launched in text dialogs. Aside from the quests, you can sometimes speak a few sentences with the inhabitants or find notes that reveal more background details of the world.

I don’t want to spoil more details of the story. But the story has a few unexpected twists and turns, and even some of the side quests have interesting and surprising details, though not all. Sometimes there are also smaller trivialities, like save the suitcase and bring it to NPC XYZ. But some things that start harmlessly become more exciting later.

You shouldn’t expect complex and branching stories, though. Nor do decisions happen at any point in The Ascent. There is no character development, away from the values, that you could influence in the slightest. Here, The Ascent is more straightforward like a movie, not particularly interactive.

The Ascent Gameplay Screenshots (Part I)

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In the enlarged view, you can scroll right and left on the edges

The Ascent – Multiplayer

The Ascent Review
Multiplayer Mode
The Ascent Review
Multiplayer Mode

The Ascent offers the possibility to play the entire campaign in co-op multiplayer. Everything is available with 1-4 players, and you can play together either with your Steam friends or locally on your computer.

The game offers great freedom in this regard. Everyone can run around freely and do everything the owner of the session can do. Overall, the multiplayer is a lot of fun and not only offers the complete game experience as a team game but also aside from the story, you can just do some slaughtering together from time to time. This is very entertaining and also works very well technically for the most part.

So loot is distributed to everyone. Thus, if one finds a weapon or a weapon upgrade, each player gets the same item in the bag. Healing and energy potions have to be distributed. But there are also a few things that are not so great in multiplayer mode.

Mates are only visible on the minimap when they are close by, and not very clear either. If you get further away from each other, you need the big map to find each other again. There is no function to manually set a marker so that you can show where you want to go. Worst of all, there is no prompt or polling when someone changes the map. Everyone ends up abruptly on the loading screen, regardless of whether another player is fighting far away, cleaning up their inventory, or in conversation.

There is also a sofa co-op mode, which apparently allows you to play with multiple players on one computer. However, this requires multiple gamepads, which I, unfortunately, did not have available. So I can’t judge how well this mode works.

State of the Game

The Ascent Test
State of the Game
The Ascent Test
State of the Game

Now, the fattest concern right upfront. After 22 hours of playing, the game crashed for me, not the first time, but this crash then destroyed all my save games. After a restart all my 4 characters were gone, the files on the hard disk had only 2 kilobytes in size.

And also the Steam Savegame Cloud was not able to restore the old state. The game apparently just stupidly overwrote those files immediately on startup, without checking to see if there might be more extensive or differing files.

The Ascent – Savegame lost – better make manual copies

So I can only recommend you copy the saved files manually frequently. The game just has glaring errors here as far as safe handling of save games is concerned, extremely annoying and disappointing. The files are located at the Windows profile in the hidden AppData/Local/The Ascent/ folder.

In addition, there are all sorts of minor technical problems, such as crashes or loading lags, which occur despite the NVME SSD and high-end CPU. Micro-stutters accompany you permanently through the whole game, but you get used to them. And then there are numerous smaller bugs and strange design decisions or errors that make the game, at the moment at least, look unfinished in parts.

I would like to give you a few examples. It happens that the quest help points to blocked doors and passages. There you stand then rather helplessly around until some time later, at a completely different place of the world, the pathfinding suddenly indicates a different path, at least sometimes.

Often this also seems to happen because certain parts of town are not yet unlocked, but you get quests there without any indication that you have to unlock the area elsewhere first. Here, perhaps the game should hide the quest objectives in locked areas until the district is unlocked, that would be less confusing. Then there are quests that on the one hand are recommended for level 3 according to the journal, but that takes you through level 10 areas and past level 15 enemies.

Or giant guard robots that shoot really blatant grenades, but if you run from them and walk across an invisible sector border, they suddenly just disappear into nothingness. If you go back afterward, it can happen that they stand there completely dumbstruck and just let themselves be shot down without fighting back. A problem that often occurs when NPCs reset.

Overall, the game seems technically immature in many places. The German version also still has a lot of English text. Overall, the whole game is so hot and cold at the same time that you could scream. On the one hand, it’s totally fancy, it’s also totally fun from a story and gameplay point of view. And then again, there are such severe design gaps, bugs in the gameplay, and just really glaring issues with bugs and crashes that it hurts.

The Ascent desperately needed another 3-6 months of quality control and usability testing. This is especially true for the PC version because then there are also some poor adaptations of the console controls to the PC.

The Ascent Gameplay Screenshots (Part II)

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In the enlarged view, you can scroll right and left on the edges

Tech, Graphics, Sound

The Ascent Gameplay
Tech, Graphics, Sound, GFX, SFX, Engine, Translation
The Ascent Gameplay
Tech, Graphics, Sound, GFX, SFX, Engine, Translation

The game uses the Unreal Engine, and to a very good extent, as well. The highly-rated graphics engine conjures consistently chic graphics on the screen. The game supports this with high-quality 3D models, animations, and textures. Special effects such as ray tracing and DLSS are available in the options.

Raytracing is implemented here on the PC via Microsoft’s DXR. So there is both a software solution, which is usable on almost all graphics cards, as well as the possibility to display improved raytracing effects with appropriate hardware from Nvidia or AMD.

The game’s controls are, as is to be expected from a so-called TwinStick shooter, designed for a gamepad with two analog sticks. However, it can also be played quite properly with a mouse and keyboard. Nevertheless, this takes a bit of getting used to at the beginning if you don’t already know this type of control from other games. After a short training phase, you should be able to cope with it, as long as you do not generally have a problem with this type of control, in which case better keep your fingers away from the game.

The sound backdrop is considerably good. Besides powerful gunshot sounds and nice cyber-synth music, there are a lot of noises and background effects that convey the feeling of a lively city quite well.

The voice acting is often in English, but some of it is in “alien”. Subtitles and texts are available in English, French, German, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese. However, the texts are with partially translated abbreviations, which makes things a little weird, since the English voice-overs use English abbreviations.

The Ascent Test – Opinion and Conclusion

The Ascent Test
Opinion and Conclusion
The Ascent Test
Opinion and Conclusion

The Ascent offers a rollercoaster of emotions. On the one hand, it’s enormously creative and chic, if you like dirty cyberpunk cities. I’m totally into it, I have to say. Cyberpunk stories like Bladerunner, Shadowrun, Neuromancer, or Ghost in the Shell have always been fascinating to me.

In addition, as a role-playing game in the cyberpunk universe, it would naturally have a chance to pick up many players criticizing Cyberpunk 2077. However, The Ascent is an isometric action role-playing game, with a fixed camera on top, which again narrows the circle of interested players enormously.

Ascent’s gameplay is also more oriented towards earlier Bioware role-playing classics, such as Baldur’s Gate 1&2, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, or similar titles, but without offering their story depth. The story is exciting but completely linear. There are numerous side quests, and you can determine the order in which you do certain things. But real decisions or even different solution paths are not found in The Ascent.

The game is also often compared to Diablo, but I don’t see it that way. Because The Ascent has far too little choice in equipment and loot for that. And with TwinStick controls, it then positions itself even more between the stools when it comes to PC role-playing fans. TwinStick is likely not the preferred control scheme of most PC gamers when it comes to RPGs.

Where there is light, there is also much shadow

Also, the level design is sometimes quite unbalanced or unfinished. In many areas there are plenty of crates and vehicles around that you can loot, or vending machines, NPCs, etc. However, as you get into the more distant areas, these things become rarer and rarer, until at some point the levels seem really empty. It seems pretty clear that they worked particularly hard on the initial areas, and then in the end either didn’t have the time or money to maintain a consistent level of the areas.

Weapon selection is unfortunately very limited but is somewhat made up for by upgrades. Sometimes you get rarer weapons for quests, however, I found an assault rifle at the very beginning that actually drops all the time. And with a few upgrades on this rifle, I played the game halfway through, even enemies with skulls were manageable with it. On rare occasions, I felt that certain boss enemies were easier to defeat with a different weapon.

I think the game would have been a lot more interesting if it had been less about upgrades and more about different items and quality levels on drops. Looting thus became a rather unimportant random event. You can earn money with it, but the stores in the city also very rarely have things that you really wanted to have and that can not be constantly looted in the world anyway.

The same goes for the armor pieces you find in the world. Actually, they are quite interesting, some of them look really fancy or wacky. They usually also give small bonus values for some attributes or side stats, so you can optimize your character a bit here.

Besides just the armor stats, though, I didn’t really feel like the equipment changed very much or had an impact on my play style. That part could have been given a lot more depth. Other games live almost entirely on their loot variety, and here this part of the game is almost completely neglected. So unfortunately there is a lot of wasted potential in the whole loot, item, drop, and NPC store area.

The findable and replaceable skills also tend to not feel very powerful. Often they have a very short duration and also the effect is not such that you get the feeling that the skill will really give you a lot of benefits.

I actually tried almost every skill I could find, some were a little less pointless. But in most cases, it was just more effective to spend the time shooting with the gun, instead of trying something with the skills that were rarely available anyway.

And hardly anything can even begin to hold a candle to the usefulness of the almost permanently available dodge roll. Skillful dodging is often a much better way to defeat skull enemies, as well as hordes of 20+ adversaries.

Also, little things in the game are sometimes annoying. So the game absolutely can not remember which parts of the tutorial it has already displayed. And in certain parts of the city, you get explained again and again, even for the 20th time, how to duck or that you can buy weapons in the weapon store. After all, it could be that you are a forgetful person.

There are also all sorts of pure-optical weapon and armor skins to find, but the game doesn’t remember which ones you already have, and you keep finding the same over and over. I think this just shows that the game could have used a few more weeks of quality control, but release dates were not allowed to be pushed back.

But in The Ascent there is very much light to the shadow

To this point, it sounds like The Ascent is a bad game. But that’s not true at all. Because actually, despite all the flaws and missed opportunities, I had a huge amount of fun in the game.

On the plus side, first of all, is the extremely snazzy graphics. Hardly any game has ever been so beautifully dirty and filthy, so broken and end-time run-down. Fancy lighting effects, reflections, and a great design of most areas of the levels make the game a real eye-catcher. The entire ambiance, in other words, the overall mix of visuals, animations, soundscape, and gameplay, is also just completely spot on.

Now, I’m a fan of the cyberpunk genre, and so the game appeals to me in a particularly receptive place. But I also think, in general, The Ascent does a lot right, despite its many problems.

Although The Ascent is no Diablo, it still has an extensive character and equipment system that allows you to make some customizations. Clearly, a lot more depth could have been added here, but this way it remains an accessible action RPG without putting too much emphasis on complex character stats and skill fiddling.

The big strength for me is the very tactical combat. With the dodging, cover system, blasting kegs, and all sorts of other tactical options like the skills, I enjoyed the actual fighting all the way through. There are enemies with special skills every now and then, in addition to the many standard mobs.

Some of the villains also take cover sometimes, try to encircle you or they retreat to lure you into reinforcements. And bosses not only have their own special skills and arenas but strengths and weaknesses that you can counter with appropriate equipment.

All in all, I wish Neon Giant had had a little more time and invested this in a better polish and somewhat extensive selection of items. The game feels like the team just ran out of time or ran out of money three-quarters of the way through.

There is enormous potential in the game. The basic concept, the arcology universe of Veles, and the art style of the game are totally awesome and engaging. At the moment, unfortunately, it’s not a megahit, but it’s a thoroughly good game, with the chance to become much more. Perhaps over the next few months, the developers will still shape this diamond in the rough into the real, sparkling gem that shimmers beneath the surface.

The Ascent Review – Rating

The Ascent Review
Rating and Scoring
The Ascent Review
Rating and Scoring

The Ascent is steeped in highs and lows. It shows an enormous amount of potential and opens up a view into a world that looks enormously interesting. But it sadly falls far short of its potential, often leaving you with a sense of disappointment as you imagine what might have been possible with more time and more money.

When evaluating the vision behind the game and the depth of the world, I would like to give The Ascent a base rating of 90%. Unfortunately, bugs, crashes, unfinished design, and unused opportunities again put a damper on the top score. For all the problems the game has at the moment, I would like to deduct 12% at this point. With the extensive story and a quite usable co-op multiplayer, the price is more in the pleasant range, so I’ll give 5% as a bonus for that.

This brings me to a final rating of 83% for the release version. However, if Neon Giant patches and updates the game after release to plug the holes in the content and give it a more stable foundation, I see the potential for the game to become a real hit and rise above the 90% mark. But whether that happens, only the future will tell.

The Ascent Test
Rating and Scoring with Numbers 83 Percent
The Ascent Test
Rating and Scoring with Numbers 83 Percent

The Ascent

Zap from ZapZockt.de

The Ascent Test (Deutsch) Krasser Cyberpunk Action RPG Shooter im Review
In the super stylish cyberpunk action RPG The Ascent there are stark contrasts between rich and poor, light and shadow, great gameplay and many bugs – My The Ascent Test

In this The Ascent review I show you in detail how the new cyberpunk RPG shooter plays, if it’s fun and how well the game plays. The Ascent is released on July the 27th, 2021 on Xbox Game Pass and Steam for PC and also for PlayStation (PS4+PS5) and XBox.
World Design
Story
Gunplay
Role Play
Controls and UI
Graphics
Sound
State of the Game
Fun per Price ratio

Summary

The Ascent is steeped in highs and lows. It shows an enormous amount of potential and opens up a view into a world that looks enormously interesting. But it sadly falls far short of its potential, often leaving you with a sense of disappointment as you imagine what might have been possible with more time and more money.

When evaluating the vision behind the game and the depth of the world, I would like to give The Ascent a base rating of 90%. Unfortunately, bugs, crashes, unfinished design, and unused opportunities again put a damper on the top score. For all the problems the game has at the moment, I would like to deduct 12% at this point. With the extensive story and quite usable co-op multiplayer, the price is more in the pleasant range, so I’ll give 5% as a bonus for that.

This brings me to a final rating of 83% for the release version. However, if Neon Giant patches and updates the game after release to plug the holes in the content and give it a more stable foundation, I see potential for the game to become a real hit and rise above the 90% mark. But whether that happens, only the future will tell.

4.2

Outro

Do you like dirty cyberpunk science fiction and action role-playing games? Or are TwinStick shooting and the game’s flaws too off-putting for you? Feel free to write me your opinion in the comments or in the community Discord.

More gaming news, game reviews and guides can be found on the YouTube channel or at https://zapzockt.de – thumbs up click on the YT Video and subscribe and share with friends certainly can’t hurt, and then I wish you a great day, ciao ciao, your Zap

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The Ascent Gameplay Screenshots (Part III)

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Dirk "Zap" von ZapZockt.de, 40+ Gamer, zockt seit 1980 vor allem Strategie Titel, MMOs und Rollenspiele. Schreibt Game Reviews, Gaming News und auch mal über Technik, Hardware und YouTube. Mehr Infos findest Du unter Mehr über Zap lesen ◄----------► Dirk "Zap" from ZapZockt.de, 40+ gamer, has been gaming since 1980, mainly strategy titles, MMOs and RPGs. Writes game reviews, gaming news and also sometimes about technology, hardware and YouTube. Click here, if you want to read more about Zap.

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