I wanted to love this game, but it just wouldn't let me. In fact it did everything to the opposite effect, and at some point you just have to give up trying.
The Ascent is an isometric cyberpunk shooter, a game style I always liked, but one which is hard to get right, and The Ascent fails to do it right.
The game starts out fairly well, the graphics is beautiful especially considering that the game is designed for a top down view. It is so detailed, that it wouldn't look terrible even from TPS or FPS perspective. Which ironically could've been what saved it, but later on that, first let's get into the nitty gritty.
The shooting mechanics are excellent and while the aiming is a bit clunky you can get used to it. The game's difficulty is just right until about level 10, then it's like you are hitting a wall. If you spent weapon upgrades on basic weapons you might as well quit right here. I didn't even know there will be much better weapons later so I spent all of my upgrades on fairly basic weapons, so by the time I got hold of weapons that are much better I was unable to upgrade them. Which has left me utterly ill equipped to defeat higher level enemies. So if you do decide to play the game despite my recommendation against it. Hoard upgrade components as much as you can until you get the meaty weapons. Like the strikebreaker minigun or gatling rocket launcher that I can't remember the name of.
I even tried to give the game a second chance by starting a new game, but it would defy me even there. After defeating the first boss, the path ahead would not open. That was the point when I said fuck this game and uninstalled it. The bugs are almost as bad as with cyberpunk 2077, yet this game is not being dragged through the mud, but praised to high havens instead. Funny how biased people can get. I've got dozens of CTDs, especially during loading games. And I've heard horror stories about corrupted and lost saves.
As you've guessed the game only offers a single save slot and no manual save option. You can only rely on an erratic and unreliable save system, that won't even tell you when the game is being saved. Sometimes you'd be randomly teleported to a different checkpoint for no apparent reason. And when ending a play session it would be anyone's guess how far back the game will teleport you when resuming your game. And the worst thing about teleporting you back, is that enemies respawn in the areas you already cleared but loot and chests do not. You can only rely on enemy drops that are about as reliable as a 90 percent hit chance in xcom.
I touched briefly on the perspective too, which has a major drawback, the area you can see in this isometric view varies between fuck all, and 30 feet. And enemies can and regularly do shoot at you from outside your view, while of course you can't shoot back as you don't see them. And there are other issues with the camera as well, there are several locations where it is scripted to change perspective, and if you happen to be in combat then and there the camera movement will interfere with your aiming. Move a little and the camera turns, which in turn moves your aim as well.
I think the game would work much better as a TPS, the graphics fidelity is good enough for it. So then you could actually see the enemies before they are in your face. And this is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of enemies' sole tactic is to rush you. The game makes a point about drilling in the cover system, but it is made completely useless by the rushing enemies. You can't really use cover at all, because enemies reach you in 2 seconds, and there are always hordes of them, often spawning behind you as well for good measure.
We already touched on the graphics quality, but this comes at a hefty price. With RTX and 4K you'll need a 3080 at least to get smooth FPS even with DLSS. The game was also plagued with a stuttering issue however that seems to have been mostly eliminated by patches.
The sound design is very good, the sound effects are great. The same however cannot be said about voiceovers, which come off more like background noise than actual conversations. Since your own character has no voice, not even written lines of text, each conversation seems more like an exposition dump, than anything you can get immersed in. So in turn the story is completely meaningless, characters are not memorable, the game evokes zero emotion.
It relies purely on gameplay to keep you going, and it succeeded at that for about 6 hours, but then the aformentioned difficulty wall not just makes it hard to like the game, but literally impossible for me to continue playing. I might be a bellow average player, but no game that I actually wanted to beat has proven too difficult for me yet.
The pros and cons:
- Sound effects
- Shooting mechanics
- Difficulty spikes
- Prohibitive balance issues
- Awkward camera views
- Exposition dumps pretending to be conversations
- Uninteresting, soulless story
- Low visibility distance
Overall impression: 3/10
I'm sad, because with balance tweaks the game could be very enjoyable, as it was for the first few hours, but I cannot recommend a game this inconsistent. Maybe a year from now if they completely overhaul the balance. It is no fun getting mauled by level 25 enemies on a mission that has a recommended level of 14.