Review | 2023.02.08

The Ascent BioChoice Pharma cityscape

Me and J recently completed a co-op playthrough of the squad shooter The Ascent.

The Ascent Clooone shop

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.

The Ascent cityscape

Neon Giant's attention to detail and production quality are equally strong in cinematics, playable areas, and the backdrop of playable areas.

thumbnail The Ascent intro screen thumbnail The Ascent AI core thumbnail The Ascent gilded square
thumbnail The Ascent reactor
thumbnail The Ascent elevator thumbnail The Ascent white dragon noodle bar thumbnail The Ascent dance club holographic dancer
thumbnail The Ascent Sweet Justic street thumbnail The Ascent casino thumbnail The Ascent quest bathrooms

The Ascent gun shop

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 Ascent shop transmogrification The Ascent gun upgrade shop The Ascent equipment deepstink rebreather

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.).

The Ascent dance club explosion combat

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.

thumbnail The Ascent combat ruins thumbnail The Ascent combat rooftop explosion thumbnail The Ascent docking bay crash
thumbnail The Ascent mech
thumbnail The Ascent spider bots thumbnail The Ascent combat planters spider bots

The Ascent AI sphere

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.

The Ascent cyber prison percieved eternity The Ascent hacker misplaced bodily fluids The Ascent boss lady
Complaints and conclusion

The Ascent Blade Runner police station
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:
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.

The Ascent spaceport fifth element
We got to the spaceport and I exclaimed, "Oh oh oh Fifth Element!"

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