Elevator Pitch: The Ascent is a twin stick shooter with some light RPG level up mechanics and a beautifully rendered cyberpunk world.
I've been playing this for the past two days and I gotta say the one thing that sticks out is how absolutely gorgeously realized the dystopian future sprawl really is. The levels are so dense with detail and everything is oozing with cyberpunk style. It's puzzling why the game starts you off with the quintessential sewer mission complete with space rats and a boring maze-like series of tunnels. It's an incredibly poor introduction to the game that already suffers from some pretty bad UI issues and aggressive upfront tutorialization.
Once you get past that intro and take the elevator ride to the "surface" the world opens up and you get to see the splendor of the "stacks" - future mega apartment blocks a-la Judge Dredd - in all their glory. There are certain moments where the camera changes perspective and shows off some monumental AI core or huge nuclear reactor and I'm really in awe how incredibly sharp it all looks. All the streets have tons of NPCs that just stand around but it does give the game this feeling like people are actually inhabiting these levels and it's not just a bunch of dead hallways. There is a story, but it's your very typical "there is war brewing among the corporations" type of stuff. The intro cinematic already compares "indents" as in indentured workers to slaves and you get the drift. This ain't Neuromancer, heck it ain't even Snow Crash, but it's decent enough to keep you moving from point A to point B. Surprisingly enough there is a lot of writing here and the voice acting is actually pretty good.
This is a very classic twin stick shooter with some abilities mixed in and a strange cover system that allows you to duck behind a wall and raise your gun to shoot over it. In certain situations this is a tactical requirement as you get outnumbered by gun toting punks and can't simply weave in and out of their fire. Later on though you do get certain abilities that help mitigate this issue and let you stay out in the open. Just recently I acquired the ability to summon tiny spider bots that seek out enemies and detonate which is fun. As mentioned earlier the main complaint is the UI. On a TV it is obviously scaled poorly. Everything is tiny and hard to read and while you can scale up the subtitles you can't do much about prompts and other elements of the HUD. There are several abilities that have active cooldowns and it is very unclear when they are off cooldown - one of those situations where a tiny dot around your reticle would make a night and day difference letting you know when your tactical or aug ability is ready rather than having to glance down at the extremely small icons on the lower right of the screen. On PC this is much less of an issue I noticed. Maybe a future patch will smooth this out as this game really does seem like it could use a bit more polish.
Apart from running and gunning you're also leveling and distributing skill points into several different areas. The game doesn't let you know this at first but depending what abilities you level will have an impact on the special abilities you equip later on. For instance you might have been leveling up the ability to earn tactical energy quicker which is a Cybernetic trait, but the current skill you have equipped scales with a different stat. So there actually is some thought that goes into your build which adds a fun layer on top of the already pretty fun shooter gameplay.
Playing on Series X the framerate is nearly rocksteady even when huge explosions are taking place and it generally feels pretty good. I do think ultimately, a mouse is better for aiming than an analog stick, but my PC was having performance issues during certain segments so I went back to the console version. This is a "Play Anywhere" title meaning if you have Game Pass Ultimate you can download it to your PC and it synchs your save across all systems letting you pick right up where you left off on your console or vice versa. It's a handy way to see if you prefer to play on your computer or console. I did hear that the Game Pass PC version doesn't have DLSS working which is odd but unfortunately par for the course when it comes to PC Game Pass.
Anyone else give this game a go?