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The Ascent review
by NafaryusDestiny

TL;DR - I recommend The Ascent to twinstick shooter fans and cyberpunk fans, preferably at a discount. Unfortunately, it makes for a poor RPG. When the gameplay hits its stride, however, dodging bullets and blowing corpSec into tiny digital bits felt so, so satisfying.

My first impression of The Ascent was colored by false expectations: I was marketed a Diablo-like cyberpunk RPG with guns, what I got was a twin-stick shooter with only minor RPG elements. I expected fast-paced gameplay accompanied by heavy synthwave, what I got was a slower paced game that encouraged me to stop and take in the scenery and cyberpunk atmosphere. Once I got over myself, I actually enjoyed The Ascent for what it was, even with its flaws.

The Ascent does a lot of things well artistically. The worldbuilding, environments, lighting, voice acting, and dialogue are all perfectly executed cyberpunk. The developers put a lot of work into guiding the camera to show off the best parts of each environment, although a few times it made enemies hard to see. Photo mode, while lacking in filters and some other options, is a very welcome inclusion. The music, when the game actually decides to play its most intense tracks, is great. Unfortunately, combat encounters are short and broken up, so the music cuts in and out a lot, never really reaching the breakdown of each track. Sidequest dialogue all uses a foreign alien language, which was a nice touch. Animations could look a little stiff, but in the moment to moment gameplay, I hardly noticed. There's a basic character creator, but I couldn't find it in me to care. The UI was pretty gaudy; it felt more like it was designed for consoles/controllers, never taking advantage of the ability to navigate with a mouse. The pause menu features a codex with a ton of additional lore and information that I doubt anyone actually read. The story, while full of great dialogue, ended on an anti-climactic note.

Speaking of controllers, the default controller layout is AWFUL, and cannot be reassigned at all. Evade, Reload, and Swap Weapon (A, X, and Y respectively) require you to take your hands off the aiming joystick to press, which, if you've played a twin-stick before, is completely unacceptable. Aim-assist is pretty poorly implemented, particularly against enemies at close range. I ended up playing with Keyboard+Mouse and had a much better time.

Gameplay is nothing to write home about. Gunplay is largely uninspired. Most guns are different variations of damage, fire rate, clip size, and reload speed. There are a few more unique weapons (flamethrower, sawblades), but these came late in the game and I didn't want to spend the time and (limited) resources to upgrade them. Tactical weapons include 6 grenades, a turret, a medkit, and a single target stun. There are three armor items, with equally uninspiring stat variations. Skills have incredibly small diminishing returns, so you end up applying points to all of them instead of min-maxing. There are only 6 passive augmentations (you'll select 2). Most of the variety comes from 20+ different active abilities, which are actually pretty fun to use most of the time. Enemies have elemental weaknesses, but with only 2 weapons being equipped at once, this was more annoying and limiting than rewarding to exploit. I found myself pausing to switch out my entire loadout every time I encountered robotic enemies. Movement speed is slow, with no means to improve it. Dodging can be improved, but it still gets a cooldown, so gameplay never feels as fast as it should. The map takes several seconds to load, sometimes failing to load at all. Side-missions cannot be tracked alongside the main mission, causing you to switch missions frequently. Add onto that frequent (but fast) loading screens EVERYWHERE, and The Ascent is constantly breaking that precious state of flow.

I heard there were some bad bugs at launch, but I only experienced a couple gamebreaking ones. One softlock bug required me to restart the exe, another bug put enemies in a near-invulnerable state.

I recommend The Ascent to twinstick shooter fans and cyberpunk fans, preferably at a discount. Unfortunately, it makes for a poor RPG. When the gameplay hits its stride, however, dodging bullets and blowing corpSec into tiny digital bits felt so, so satisfying.

Other reviews7

Nice ambience that really got old really fast. I wanted to like this game, but the boring story and the uninspired gameplay put an end to that.
It's a skip for me. At least on the platform I played it (Xbox One X). Maybe it runs better elsewhere but as it stands the load times were painful as hell. The game was repetitive and towards the end you're forced to trek across the map and churn through waves and waves of poorly designed enemy spawns which all felt like dragging out the runtime of the game.

The storyline was unintelligible for the most part. All over the place and no proper anchor to keep you engaged.

The menu system was infuriating at times and both me and my couch coop companion frequently cursed it.

The one thing I will say though is the locations had some really beautiful backgrounds at times.
«Buggy as hell»
«Waste of time»
A great mashup of cyberpunk and scifi with twin stick shooting. The story, unfortunately, was just getting interesting when they ended it.

Date Completed: 2021-08-31
Playtime: 18h
Enjoyment: 8/10
Recommendation: It's good fun
A visual masterpiece that will not be replicated by other game developers for a long, long, time.

Local couch co-op with shared screen is worth buying for such feature alone.

The game is unfortunately ruined by the worse map ever conceived, limited area variety and no replayability or endgame loop to enjoy and test the various weapons and builds.

User interface fulll of amateur errors on usability, putting pretty graphics above meaningful and easy to access data for the player.

Lots of bugs, sidequests hidden behind mainquest progression and paths leading through high level areas. Add a couple crashes and the fun is quickly grinded to a stop.

Despite all that its still a contender for game of the year and an absolute new standard for all future cyperpunk titles.
«Blew my mind»
«Better with friends»
Concise Review:


Great: Visual style. Atmosphere. Particle effects.

Good: Sound design. Progression and RPG mechanics. 

Fine: Gameplay has its moments but also feels repetitive at times.

Bad: Boring Story. Too much running back and forth. Character models.


Journal Style Review:

Cool vibe to the city. First impression is gameplay feels so-so but it looks like it could become pretty hectic and fun once new guns and abilities unlock. Rpg mechanics seems decent enough. Not drawing me in so far but twin stick shooters havnt been my thing.

Gameplay has grown on me. I’m about 4 hours in. I still think the visual style is the strongest aspect of the game, but the gunplay and progression has been decent so far. I’m not caring about the stories, there is a lot of reading or waiting to listen and I’m skipping a good chunk of it. My biggest complain/ worry is that there will be too much running back and forth. 

I’m getting a better understanding of the map and how to find things which is nice. I’m also figuring out how the different attributes and perks work and it’s been fun experimenting and finding good combos. I’m liking this game. It’s pretty fun and I still like the look of it. The particle effects are well done.

I’m pretty much skipping the story bits. I’ll watch most of the main quest line but the other fluff I just mash through.

Minor complaint, but for a series X game of this nature I expect pretty much instant load times. These aren’t bad but they are still noticeable. 

Final mission sequence I enjoyed. It was very challenging. I could have used a few more missions along those lines. I had lots of side quests to beat still but I’ve done enough with the Ascent. It has its moments but it ends a low B+.

Final Score: B+