Another day, another indie game spotlight. There’s no other way to say it: indie games are fantastic! The game we’ll be looking at today is a perfect example of what a small group of talented developers can do when they have enough resources to work with. Unlike the previous games in this series, this one is much larger in scope and packs some incredible visual fidelity, but it features mostly simple gameplay and a decent story that you’ll be going through. Today’s game: “The Ascent.”
What Is ‘The Ascent’?
Coming to us from Neon Giant, a Swedish game studio full of industry veterans, “The Ascent” is an isometric, open-world, twin-stick shooter with RPG mechanics. The game was developed by just 12 people using Unreal Engine 4 and was one of the first few “next-gen” titles revealed by Xbox for their Xbox Series X|S consoles alongside the Xbox One. Is the game “next-gen,” though? Obviously not, as it’s still available on last-gen consoles, but don’t let that fool you; this game pushes visuals to new heights with incredible lighting, highly detailed textures, and a lot more that we’ll be talking about in a minute.
The game takes place in an arcology in a fictional dystopian world called Veles, far into the future, and takes heavy inspiration from the cyberpunk genre. The arcology is run by a megacorporation called The Ascent Group, and you play as an indent(a slave to the corporation basically) who is practically owned by the corporation and does what he/she is asked. The plot of the game begins with The Ascent Group mysteriously seizing control, which leaves the arcology in a state of chaos. The game literally starts you off in the sewers of the arcology as you do menial jobs and kill mutants down there and slowly ascend to the top from the bottom. There’s a lot to it, and the plot is a little mysterious, so I am sure you’ll have a good time getting to the bottom (or top, in this case) of the story.
One thing that will immediately grab your attention is how stunning this game is. As I mentioned, the world here takes heavy inspiration from the cyberpunk genre, and you’ll see how pronounced all of that is with its different districts bathing in neon lights and technology and cyberware taking precedence everywhere you look. Everything here looks and feels cutting-edge, and each weapon and attack is flashy and leaves a ton of particle effects behind. Visually and in terms of the art style, this game is stunning. The arcology itself is fully explorable and is divided into districts, each of which has its own unique visual makeup while keeping true to the overall vision and aesthetics of the game. The game can be played solo or in up to 4-player co-op, and though simple and basic, it’s incredibly fun.
As for what you’ll be doing, other than exploring the area and following story markers, you’ll be shooting a lot of bad guys in the face. Since it’s a twin-stick shooter, the gameplay is quite simple on the surface but does have some depth to it with the different guns you can find and use and the different cybernetic enhancements like exploding spider-bots, calling in a mech, or shooting a giant laser beam that is available at your disposal. You’ll be unlocking crazy guns and enhancements as you go, and since the game is also somewhat an RPG, you’ll be building your character using skill points and perks on armor sets and so on as you level up and get stronger and stronger. The enemies themselves are no slouch and come in different shapes and sizes, with some charging toward you with a melee weapon while others try to hack you from a distance or shoot you from behind the cover. Speaking of cover, there is a cover system in the game and the ability to shoot at head level or lower, which makes combat even more interesting, and I don’t think I have seen this in any twin-stick shooter before.
There are even crazy boss battles with giant mechs and other types of enemies who occupy the entire screen and are incredibly fun to fight. Because there’s so much going on, and the game loves to throw a ton of enemies at you all at once, it can get really hard real quick if you don’t play smartly or use the right weapons and perks to make the most out of each fight so keep that in mind. There are also side missions that you can accept and complete, which pay handsomely and give you a reason to explore this world once you are done with the story.
This is “The Ascent” in a nutshell. A gorgeous open-world twin-stick shooter that is also an RPG that gives us a memorable world to explore, a somewhat interesting story to see through the end, and tons of bad guys to shoot, all in a cyberpunk world with incredible visuals and an amazing soundtrack.
Should You Play ‘The Ascent’?
I feel like every time I ask this question, the answer is always yes, and it is a yes for “The Ascent” as well. Yes, you should play this game. It’s hard to say no to an indie game, as each and every one of them are so unique and so full of passion that it won’t be fair not to play as the hard work the developers put into these games is commendable, and saying no would be to disrespect their craft. “The Ascent” ‘s biggest problem is its focus on the grind, but that can be avoided if you are thorough and take your time and explore every nook and cranny. Other than that, this game is near perfect in the genre it belongs in.
The completion for this game can be achieved in roughly 12 hours if you follow it through the story, but if you are an achievement hunter like me, then it’ll take you anywhere between 15-20 hours to 100% this game. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, and it’s a game that you should definitely check out.
“The Ascent” is available for $29.99 for the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and 4, and PC and is also included with Xbox Game Pass. The game also has DLC that focuses on melee combat and takes us to a new location, so feel free to check that out if you like what you played. While the game is not completely creative or original (some parts are), it pushes indie games forward in other ways and is quite a welcoming and good title.