When it was announced, The Ascent caused a sensation: Hearty firing, terrific cyberpunk setting, role-playing elements, co-op and a bomb graphic – that made you want more! Is a good year since the unveiling passed and we take a look in the test to see whether the twin stick action plays as elegantly as it looks. In this article you will also find a comprehensive test video that contains all the important information.
The Ascent (buy now 26,98 € ) is first and foremost a real twin-stick shooter, embedded in a terrific cyberpunk setting. You are traveling in a so-called arcology, a gigantic, futuristic mega-complex in which countless people and aliens have found refuge, but in return have to work off enormous debts. There is a strict hierarchy in the huge structure that extends into the sky: the rich and powerful enjoy life at the top, while the poor, the suspended, debtors and crooks have to hang around on the lower levels. In this arcology, the Ascent Group was always in charge – at least until the board suddenly disappears under mysterious circumstances. Now the whole metropolis threatens to plunge into chaos and so it doesn’t take long before a bitter power struggle breaks out between rival gangs and greedy corporations – and of course you’re right in the middle of it.
The arcology is set up like a gigantic tower, you explore a total of four floors, two of which are pleasantly spacious. The level design has dozens of vertical elements, so you will often use stairs and elevators to reach other levels, while you are allowed to look down again and again and enjoy the fantastic view. You are not allowed to steer the camera yourself, the developers determine the image section. This creates a cinematic feeling, but basically excludes a level generator: Everything is made by hand, there are no random levels like in Diablo.
Except for the top floor, the setting is rather gloomy and dirty, but luckily The Ascent has more to offer than just gray slums, rust and piles of rubbish. For example, you are often out and about in brightly lit market and residential areas, bars, bathhouses, casinos and much more – that’s enough variety for the 15 to 20 hours of play. If you really want to do everything and open every box, you can be busy for up to 30 hours.
Those: PC Games
Good approaches, wasted opportunities
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At the beginning you quickly assemble your character, all you have to do is look after it: There is no class system like in Borderlands or Diablo, all heroes play basically the same and remain silent in dialogues. Your character is a nobody, a debt worker from the lower ranks who involuntarily gets caught up in power struggles. The plot starts promisingly, but becomes more and more insignificant towards the end and leads to a half-baked finale, which should perhaps work towards a successor – but it left us rather cold.
That would be too little for a real role play. But especially in direct comparison to other twin stick shooters, you will still be entertained properly, which is also thanks to the very good English speakers and nice characters. There is also a whole bunch of side quests, for example we have to install video cameras for a VR junkie, take out mini-bosses and run a lot of errands.
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The bottom line is that the tasks are solid and, above all, throw away a lot of experience points, but for that alone it is worth taking the side quests with you. However, for our taste it should have been less backtracking: Despite the comfortable high-speed taxi, the walking distances are quite long because you are not allowed to switch quickly between floors. That unnecessarily extends the playing time.
Blunders like these can be found in abundance in The Ascent, as not every detail seems really thought through. And yet the game unfolds an enormous effect within minutes, which it owes above all to its fantastic graphics. It’s hard to imagine that The Ascent was developed by a core team that counts just twelve heads. Wherever you look, the game shines with detailed environments, sharp textures, atmospheric lighting, great particle effects, great foresight and fluid animations. Many areas are literally paved with NPCs, which bring life to the streets and contribute a lot to the atmosphere. And in fights, brickwork is occasionally broken and then crumbled off the walls in great detail.
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The most beautiful are always the moments when the automatic camera tilts to the side in love with itself, then you get to see fantastic panoramas that give an idea of the insane extent of the mega-complex. An atmospheric soundscape and successful background music round off the atmosphere perfectly. The Ascent is thus the most beautiful and atmospheric top-down shooter that we have come across so far. The only downer: the magnificent levels are primarily a backdrop, opportunities for interaction are rare. But you can hardly blame a twin stick shooter for that, after all, you shouldn’t expect an RPG.
As an action game, The Ascent moves on familiar territory. The twin stick shootouts are fast, fun and easy to control, regardless of whether you use the gamepad or the mouse and keyboard. There is hearty hit feedback, full explosions and beautiful effects – just as it should be. The weapon arsenal is largely classic with lots of pistols, machine guns and shotguns, but a few cooler guns are added later, for example a rocket launcher minigun or a saw blade launcher. Strangely enough, there are no melee weapons – they are reserved for the opponents alone.
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Nice idea: At the push of a button you can crouch down to look for cover behind many level objects. Pressing the left shoulder button also lets your character aim high, so you can shoot over your cover. The human enemies try the same, they duck their heads, try to go around us and put us under a lot of pressure early on. That is great, but the opponents often tend to spawn out of the blue: You have just cleared an area, new enemies pop up again after a very short time, sometimes behind us. That looks inelegant, especially since you can see on the minimap how the opponents appear out of nowhere.
The many NPCs that frolic on the streets are also unusual. They flee in panic with the first shot, but still get caught in the crossfire often enough and then immediately give up the spoon. There is no punishment in the form of a wanted level or a fine, you are only later complained by a client that you shouldn’t act like an ax in the forest, please.
No Diablo makes loot yet
Although The Ascent was often referred to as a kind of sci-fi Diablo in advance, it has little in common with it. This is mainly due to the loot, which is completely static in The Ascent. You can stock up on a considerable amount of guns, helmets, armor and leg armor during the course of the game. However, there are no random values, set bonuses or special properties as you know and expect from typical Diablo loot.
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A crafting system that can be used to modify weapons is also in vain. You can collect upgrade components on the way and go to the craftsman with them, but then he only ensures that the weapon rises up a rank – this improves its basic values and that’s it. A side effect: New weapons always start at the lowest rank and are often pathetic compared to high-ranking guns. Often you only know whether a weapon is really good or bad once you have invested in the valuable upgrade components.
Weapons and armor are not everything, you can also equip your character with three active talents, some of which are very powerful and satisfying. You only have a few simple stun grenades to choose from at first, but the arsenal fills up quickly. There are, for example, powerful backpack rocket launchers, energy shields, shock drones or an oversized laser beam that sizzles even thick enemies off the screen at lightning speed.
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