Upon Veles lies The Ascent Group, a mega-corporation that’s taking opportunities to great lengths. Their unique arcology reaches to the sky for everyone to witness. Those who work for them must pay off their debt as indentured servants, or Indents, to live on the new planet. That is until one day that The Ascent Group suddenly collapses, leaving everyone in absolute disarray. You play as one of these Indents, and you’ll need to work your way to the top of the mystery behind the big collapse. Developed by Neon Giant and published by Curve Digital, The Ascent is available now for the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.
Neon Lights, Opportunity, and Chaos: Welcome to Veles
The Ascent is essentially a top-down twin-stick shooter with a cyberpunk aesthetic to it. Players control one stick for aiming, and the other is occupied for moving around. With a unique cover system, there is so much action to get lost in. It’s definitely one of the game’s biggest highlights, only to be further amplified with a gun-tooting party. Along with the various weapons you can equip, you can also utilize augmentations and abilities to keep the violence afloat. The fact that you can just dodge while reloading in order to get behind cover to use a grenade and augmentation is just too much – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
In addition to the action, players can hack into various systems across Veles in The Ascent. These include breaking open vending machines and ATMs to bypassing ICE security and enemy turrets. It does take some time to upgrade your hacking ability, but that only adds to the determination to explore more.
I will say, however, that if you’re on your own completing quests, the fun might alleviate a bit. It becomes tedious after a while if you’re constantly running from point A to B. Sure, you have the metro system and taxis, but they’re severely limited to how you can access them. If it wasn’t for the great music and fantastic lighting, running around would become a dull chore. But if you have a friend to help keep up a conversation, the experience will differ.
Planetary Work for The Ascent Group
As an Indent on Veles, achieving freedom is the number one priority. As aforementioned, these Indents must work for The Ascent Group all their lives to pay off their debts. And when the Group collapses, all goes into chaos. But did I feel that as I progressed through the narrative? Absolutely not. You get a lot of exposition from news holograms and supporting characters, but I didn’t sense an impact with the story.
The science-fiction concept of humanity relocating to a new planet is fascinating. With The Ascent though, the concept is essentially undermined by a lackluster story with boring characters. Not even my character felt vital to the story, even by the end of it (which I won’t spoil here). Plus, a good majority of the side characters speak in their native alien tongue. So I didn’t really find myself intrigued by the characters. Instead, I found myself enthralled by the unimportant NPCs I came across on Veles in The Ascent. Some would bicker about a crime, others would lie in junk and speak in slang. In truth, I wish I had more to say about the narrative.
Watch Your Back on the Streets
Neon lights engulf the streets, junkies look for their smacks, bounties run loose in the wasted areas. The Ascent, for a lack of a better term, is gorgeous. As I said, the neon lights are a j0y to glance at, but there is so much detail that it’s hard to stay and smell the roses. Every corner is filled with a scene, whether it be a crowd, some shops, traffic, junkies, gangs, you name it. The top-down view allows the player to see whatever they want in their vicinity. And with the retro blacked-out sections, there’s a significant focus on the highlighted areas to be walked on. It’s all honestly really cool to look at, making this game a decent treat for backseat gamers.
A great aspect of the graphics is the crumbling effects on objects and enemies. Most of the time during combat, you can shoot a foe into smithereens, with blood and chunks of bodies being laid in the street. The destroyed property will remain destroyed – unless you return to that area you previously fought at. I also noticed the loot chests remaining opened if you’ve already checked on it. This allows you to keep trucking along in your journey with all the pretty lights aglow overhead.
The Music of The Ascent by Pawel Blaszczak
With incredible music by Pawel Blaszczak (Dying Light, The Witcher, Call of Juarez), it’s easy to get lost in the world of The Ascent. He does this infusion of modern outrun music with some classic John Carpenter vibes to really sell the cyberpunk world. It almost feels more adjacent to Blade Runner as opposed to the Cyberpunk 2077 title we all know and accept. Even the opening title music gives the player a tease of what’s to come.
The music is nearly omnipresent, and it never gets dull. It never goes crazy too, as if there’s a gentle sense behind the tunes. It’s not loud, it’s not too quiet – it’s down the middle, and it’s perfect for the game’s pacing. The music by Pawel Blaszczak is absolutely another big highlight for this game, but that’s where the praising ceases.
Issues to Keep in Mind
While The Ascent is an amazing work of reflective lighting, engaging combat, and addictive music, there are some issues with the game. When I first started playing the game, there were a number of irritating bugs that would disrupt gameplay and sound. For example, some objects take time to render since The Ascent works on a seamless system for Veles with almost no loading screens. Especially during the elevator and train scenes – NPCs and small objects pop in and out.
Another example is the stuttering in the sound. I haven’t always experienced it in the game, but there were noticeable moments in breakage that ceases immersion. I know some issues have been resolved since the game’s release, but there are still some that need a good polish.
The Ascent brings together friends and twin-stick shooting for a good time on Veles. The action, the sounds, and the atmosphere are all glorious to take in. But with the uninspired narrative, technical issues, and futile backtracking, some of the moments go down to a level where the replay value is relatively within the middle ground, but more closely to the lower spectrum of it. There is some fun to be had here since Veles brings an opportunity to the player with exploration and action. But unless some worthy updates improve the game, The Ascent feels like an average bite-sized title with some highlighting elements that’ll keep it in the spotlight for now.
- Combat gets addicting once you experiment
- The graphics are a marvel to look upon
- Pawel Blaszczak's music is a win
- Technical issues break immersion
- The story quickly gets boring
- Characters are far from memorable