Over the past few years, the cyberpunk game we’ve all been waiting for has been Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt Red. We had a lot of hype about the title and after the success of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt we all expected Studio Polish will make a game of the same quality, if not better, but it didn’t. Seven months after its release, we are still looking forward to the exciting and impressive cyberpunk game that we were promised. Today Neon Giant, a studio made up of a small team of industry veterans, wants to fill that void with its next action RPG, the ambitious shooter The Ascent.
In The ascension group, a city that belongs to and is operated by a company of the same name, you play as a worker whose life is threatened after the company has closed for unknown reasons, so that the different parts of the city have a city to defend themselves. Under the command of Boone, the sector boss (or crime boss, so to speak), The Ascent guides you through the different areas of the metropolis to meet, discuss and fight rival gangs. At the same time, you must do everything possible to ensure the survival of the dark district that you call home.
It’s a fairly common cyberpunk story in which everyone but the dirty rich tries to survive in a cruel environment. On top of that, The Ascent goes one step further to reflect this idea: the game takes place in the typical cyberpunk city
However, The Ascent is also different from many cyberpunk worlds we’ve seen in video games so far because what Neon Giant has created is an incredibly diverse and vibrant place that is packed with content. No matter where you go: Every place, every street, every corner gives the feeling of having been created with the greatest care and precision and turned into something truly incredible. The most impressive part, which is partly a hindrance, is the scale of the map as the world of The Ascent is huge. Yes, for most of the game the camera gives us an isometric perspective so it doesn’t feel as extensive as a first or third person open world, but the map is so big that you’ll be spending a lot of time on it, just plain to go from one place to the next. The card could be a third smaller and still be incredibly dense, which would be useful as it would allow the unnecessary walks between mission and mission.
When it comes to fighting, The Ascent works like a dual stick shooter, which means a lot of fluid action, neatly wrapped in an interesting ensemble that is very responsive. It doesn’t matter whether you are using machine guns, handguns, or brutally powerful options; Fighting in The Ascent is always a treat, and that includes the move the title uses, which directly underscores that system. It’s not particularly easy and the way the AI enemies approach you to fight you makes it even more complicated, but it’s incredibly fun and gives you a variety of options to approach the fight differently.
As for the enemies, The Ascent has different types of rivals that won’t hesitate to kill you. Most are equipped with some sort of ranged weapon and use a cover system that basically gives them the advantage of being able to hide and shoot without taking damage. However, melee and more tank opponents prefer to pounce on you and force you into constant movement, so the fight is much more challenging, often it will be like a ‘bullet hell’ experience. Then there are the boss fights, which aren’t very common, but are the most difficult and rewarding. Each boss has its own mechanic and will likely kill you at least a few times until you get the hang of it, but the fights are action packed and they’ll get you. Overcoming them is exciting.
Indeed, it is worth noting that The Ascent is by no means an easy game. The first few hours will make you ponder, but the different peaks and difficulty curves will make you die … a lot. And there is nothing wrong with that, even if the curve could be significantly less sharp and it would still be rewarding and challenging. It’s the kind of design that can be incredibly irritating, if anything, frustrating, but if you can handle its intricate nature, The Ascent offers a thrilling shooter experience.
There is more, however: The Ascent contains many RPG mechanics. You can improve your character in a number of ways, with it suits your preferred play style. In addition to the possibility of investing the acquired skill points in main attributes. that increase your character’s stats (e.g. weapon accuracy, health, or critical hit rate, to name a few), there is also an extensive customization menu where you can choose which weapons, armor, and upgrades to use. All of these things can be looted or bought in the game world, and each of them affects the way the battle develops. For example, if you enjoy running and shooting, use skill points to improve your dodging while wielding lighter weapons like submachine guns or hand cannons.
This RPG system is wide enough to give players a lot of variety without being overwhelming or confusing, which cannot be said about the map. As I said before, The Ascent is immense and has plenty of places to explore. However, the map is very complex and in many cases it seems that you need to study cartography to learn how to use it. Either way, it is better for you to use the mission marker as a guide, as it will be much easier to keep track of.
In fact, this point can essentially refer to the positives and negatives of the game. What Neon Giant did to The Ascent is a really ambitious project, in general hits the point. It’s absolutely amazing and the world feels as alive and cyberpunk as we expected from Cyberpunk 2077. Granted, the difficulty peaks make me believe they won’t attract the attention of gamers who prefer a more balanced gaming experience, but the complexity of the game’s game fits in well with the world the studio brought to life, and that’s why it is hard to see this game, developed by a small indie team, as anything other than very impressive.