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Jul 29, 2021

The Ascent Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $29.99
We Recommend: $29.99
  • Developer: Neon Giant
  • Publisher: Curve Digital
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG
  • Released: Jul 29, 2021
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Reviewed: Windows

The Ascent, the debut game composed of veteran developers in Neon Giant is an absolute gem. From the piercing red glow of the menu screen to the shimmering, rain-soaked streets you explore, there’s an impeccable sense of style and substance to be found here. There’s better worldbuilding and atmosphere in ways other cyberpunk games have only tried to do, and where The Ascent fully succeeds. This is an action RPG, with a greater emphasis on the action, thanks to its twin-stick controls. The Ascent feels like the breakout hit of the year, and not to be missed on Xbox or PC.

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Unlike other games of its type, you create-a-character rather than pick-a-class. This is because it’s a game all about shooting. The Ascent Group is crumbling on planet Veles, and the idents (a fancy word for slaves, and they don’t dance around it) are free, but your life and those around you are threatened. Uncovering the mystery and preventing death are the chain of events that unfold. After the prologue stuff, you get a fancy title card with some dark synthesizer music to cap it off, and it really helps set the mood. For as serious as may seem, it doesn’t forget to have fun along the way.

Broken up into main and side missions, you’ll have your choice in what missions you take on. Main missions obviously push the story forward, and side missions unlock extra gear and give you a reason to explore the vast metropolis of this arcology. There’s no reason not to do side missions, even though you’re not given enough info to know what you’re signing up for, but none of them are outright bad. You can decline side missions, but they’re still available to be accepted later, so the consequences are low here. All-in-all, you’re looking at 15-20 hours of content, with more if you go after collectibles and all of the side missions. This is an open-world, which can be played solo or in coop with three friends. I played entirely solo, and it was such a joy.

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It won’t be long before you’ll have two weapons to swap between, and you can mix’n’match, or go for the same type. Ammo is unlimited, but depleting the magazine will only require a reload. Controls are very familiar, following the dual-joystick scheme of left stick for movement and right stick for aiming. Playing with a keyboard and mouse, I found the aiming to be a bit more precise. Though using a controller, you can have aim assist. It all comes down to preference. There’s a low and high stance for shooting, the high stance helpful when in cover. You’ll also have your share of tacticals to use, from shockwave to frag grenades, the type and size of the damage you do is up to you. While there’s nothing surprising here, the controls are tight and the weapons are a blast.

In true cyberpunk fashion, you’ve got yourself a cyberdeck, which allows you to hack nearby objects. That, or deploy your ICE for counterattacks to any incoming hacks, provided you’ve got the skill to hack that level of door. You can upgrade your secretive icepick for more difficult hacks by finding them out in the world. Which, The Ascent is constantly encouraging you to traverse every nook and cranny for things like this.

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There are augmentations like a hydraulic slam that will disrupt everything around you. Or maybe volatile is more your speed, it will mark enemies in a radius, and anyone marked will explode on death, harming those around them. Then there are modules which are passive abilities that can be installed at any time that boosts health regen or makes your tactical refresh quicker. As you level, and your new areas introduce you to tougher enemies, you’ll want to visit the gun smith to upgrade weapons for increasing their effectiveness. There’s so many vendors and means to improve yourself, you’ll be hungry for finding every upgrade you can.

Inventory in The Ascent is rather manageable and simple. There’s a finite number of weapons and gear, and they don’t have ridiculous names or anything. They will carry different colors representing rarity with different stats, but that’s about it. Any duplicates you have can be sold to vendors (there’s even a handy button for that). Money was rarely an issue for me, but you do have to spend it wisely.

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There’s a grafter to change your looks at anytime. You’ll set your biology and style at the beginning, which is rather limited, though it’s enough. You can revisit the grafter for changing up your look, but it becomes less important in the game as you’ll be equipping different gear and armor that your face eventually gets covered. Other stylish choices like colors and skins are more noticeable.

Given the title of the game is The Ascent, you’ll start in very dilapidated, mechanical, and grimy locations. As you work your way up, the higher tiers of the city begin to see the wealth and cleanliness they offer. This metropolis is very populated. As you explore, you’ll bump into civilians, and they’ll react accordingly. If you get lost, you can issue a cyber breadcrumb trail to guide you. And if you need to get places quicker, you can call a taxi or take a train for fast travel. All too often, civilians can get caught in the chaos. Since there’s no morality or penalty for killing them, but you’ll probably feel bad for doing so, because it will happen.

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Enabling DirectX 12 and Ray Tracing features are a must, even if your PC chugs as a result. It’s so immersive, atmospheric, and a part of the visual package. It’s certainly *fine* without it, but it adds so much to the game that other implementations of RTX haven’t before. From the insane glow of the neon to the realistic reflections, all the way to the lighting is just spectacular. This is a game you have to see to believe.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
– Intel Core i9 9900K @ 5Ghz (Turbo)
– Corsair H115i RGB PLATINUM 97 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
– Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
– Seagate FireCuda SSD (500GB)
– Seagate BarraCuda SSD (1TB / 2TB)

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Neon Giant has some minor performance issues to iron out with RTX and DX12. The developers have made a game that’s as complex as you want, but doesn’t overcomplicate anything. Every system has a purpose, and is a weapon of opportunity for you to overcome obstacles. I love when the game isn’t having me fight everything in sight, and allowing me to take in the world. No game has made me want DLC or more content than The Ascent has. Simply put, The Ascent is a brilliant game, that absolutely lives up to the hype.

Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes