Me and J recently completed a co-op playthrough of the squad shooter The Ascent
Cyberpunk is all about enormous, claustrophobic, decaying megacities.
Doing a good futuristic arcology is a tall order for video game designers, as they have limited compute and level designer resources. So it's no understatement that The Ascent floored me with its cyber aesthetics and non-repetitive design elements.
Neon Giant's attention to detail and production quality are equally strong in cinematics, playable areas
, and the backdrop of playable areas.
The Ascent is a squad-based top-down shooter like Helldivers and Alienation, so of course shops stock a variety of weapons and armor. Characters have a grenade equipment slot that can hold anything from a standard boomy pineapple to a deployable mech (with a longer cooldown). Since it's cyberpunk, there are also two special ability modification slots
that can be outfitted with abilities such as a missile pack, power punch, and emp spider bots.
The equipment variety is about right for the size of the game. Element/resistence types require that players bring a few different types of upgraded guns to battle
in combination with their playstyle (smg/shotgun/railgun/etc.).
Beyond the stuff mentioned in the last section, combat is fairly straightforward. Tactical choices (equipment, teamwork, target prioritization, cover) make a difference in difficult battles
while the flat track plays more like Smash TV.
The arcology is breaking down. Its AI has gone AWOL and the megacorp board is unreachable. Rival corps and crime bosses are all using chaos as a ladder.
That's pretty cyberpunk. The plot plays out over about 15 hours of linear storytelling
with optional sidequests.
Complaints and conclusion
There were a couple of film refs in The Ascent. First was the Blade Runner police building which admittedly was more obvious from the roof.
The mild annoyances:
- Navigation is... not great.
- Weapon modifications could have helped improve character customization and playstyle variety.
- Selectable and/or innate character classes would have done the same with a team composition twist.
- Money largely becomes worthless once you get the weps and mods that you want (most of which you first access from enemy drops).
The Ascent blew me away with its intricate cyberpunk environs and loyalty to the genre. Not unlike Rebel Galaxy
, it punches above its indie weight and almost feels disappointing that the artistic depth was supported by a rails-ish shooter
We got to the spaceport and I exclaimed, "Oh oh oh Fifth Element!"