One genre that I haven’t really taken much of a look at here on Geeky Hobbies is the top-down shooter genre. I wouldn’t consider it to be one of my favorite genres, but it can be fun every so often. Released last July on Xbox and PC, The Ascent made its PlayStation debut today. The Ascent intrigued me due to its futuristic sci-fi theme as I am generally a big fan of the setting. The Ascent is a fun top-down shooter set in an interesting world that unfortunately fails to really differentiate itself from most other games from the genre.
In The Ascent you play as a worker for The Ascent Group. In the game’s world most people/creatures/etc have become indentured servants to one of a number of large corporations. This all changes one day when The Ascent Group that owns everything around you suddenly shuts down unexpectedly. Your whole district is thrown into chaos as various other corporations are competing for the now available “resources”. You must take up arms to defend your district and hopefully figure out what happened to the Ascent Group.
Probably the best way to describe The Ascent is to call it a top-down shooter. For those not familiar with the genre, the premise is simple. You have a gun and you try to shoot anything that gets in your way. You use one analog stick to move, one to aim your weapon, and then you press a button to shoot your weapon. You have unlimited bullets, but you have to reload periodically. Additionally you have access to a number of special abilities that you can equip which give you various benefits.
In addition to the top-down shooter mechanics, the game has a number of RPG elements. The game takes place in a large interconnected world. The game has a main storyline as well as a number of side missions. Completing missions and killing enemies earns you experience that can be used on various stats in order to power up your character. In your journey you will also acquire various weapons and armor to improve your character.
For the most part The Ascent is what you would expect from the top-down shooter RPG genre. Outside of some minor tweaks here and there, the game doesn’t really have any particularly original mechanics. If you have played a game from this genre before, you should know what to expect. For this reason your feelings towards this genre will likely apply to The Ascent as well. Fans of the genre will likely enjoy it, while those who aren’t big fans probably won’t change their mind playing the game.
While The Ascent is not the most original experience, I still had fun playing it. The game is straight to the point. Take your gun and basically destroy everything in sight. There is something really satisfying about the combat in the game. All you need to do is just aim and shoot, but there is skill to the game as you are almost always outnumbered. You need to keep moving as you can be surrounded quickly. You also can’t just run around in the open as you will take a lot of damage. Instead you need use cover as well as take advantage of the ability to aim high and low to hit enemies hidden behind cover.
I think the main reason the gameplay is satisfying though is that you can just cause a lot of destruction. The environments are somewhat destructible allowing you to blow things up to deal even more damage to enemies. Most of the time there will be enemies coming from everywhere so you just need to keep firing until you destroy everything. The game can be quite violent at times which will turn off some people, but the combat is exciting as you mow through enemies.
One of the reasons why the gameplay works is that the controls are good for the most part. You will occasionally get stuck on parts of the environment, but otherwise you have a lot of freedom in movement and how you fight. The game does a good job balancing between fast based combat and more methodical cover based shooting where you aren’t running right into enemy fire.
While I think the game will be fun enough in single player, I think the game will be even more enjoyable with other players. The game supports online and splitscreen co-op. I ended up playing the game splitscreen so I can’t comment on the online multiplayer. I really enjoyed playing the game cooperatively as the players work together to defeat all of the enemies. The multiplayer is seamless and I would highly recommend it if you have someone else to play the game with.
While the combat is quite fun, I was a little disappointed by the RPG elements. I wouldn’t say that these mechanics are bad, but they feel kind of limited. The game just doesn’t have a lot of different skills to invest your skill points into and the number of armor and weapons feel kind of limited as well. While you will pick up a decent number of weapons in your journey, you will regularly end up picking up the same weapon over and over again. Because these mechanics are kind of limited, I never really got all that invested in them. Instead of considering my options, I just chose one and moved on.
As for the difficulty I would say that it somewhat depends. I ended up playing the game on normal difficulty so I can’t comment on the harder difficulty. For the most part I would say that we didn’t really struggle all that often in the game. Part of this was because pretty early in the game we acquired guns that felt overpowered to the point where they could destroy most enemies in one shot. There were a few spots in the game where it could become somewhat difficult though. This was mostly due to being overwhelmed by way too many enemy units. Ultimately I would say that a large majority of the game is on the easier side, with some occasional areas where the difficulty increases quite a bit.
Let’s move onto the game’s world and story. I really had some mixed feelings when it came to this part of the game. There are some things that I really liked, but the game has its share of issues as well.
On the positive side I give the game a lot of credit for the world itself. The world is pretty large and quite interesting. The game’s visuals may not compare to AAA games, but I thought they were quite good for a top-down shooter. The world has a lot of nice details where it feels like you are fighting in a futuristic city. Some elements of the story are pretty interesting as well as the whole premise of the world is unique.
The problem is that the sum of the parts don’t live up to all of these interesting individual parts. In many ways the game’s story feels like just another futuristic sci-fi story. The story is interesting enough where you want to see how it ends, but it isn’t so compelling that you absolutely need to know what happens. The story also falls into the trap of a lot of sci-fi stories where it decides to create its own lingo for everything and unless you want to read though a bunch of text, you won’t always know what the characters are talking about. This makes the story a little hard to follow at times.
As for the game’s length, in many ways it comes down to your playstyle. The game has a main storyline as well as quite a few side quests. If you only focus on the main plot it will obviously take less time than if you would complete everything. I would guess that most players could beat the main story in around 11-13 hours. Adding in the side missions you could probably get around 18-25 hours. The game’s length is not bad, but I kind of wish it was a little longer.
At the end of the day The Ascent is a good but not quite great top-down shooter. The game doesn’t really differentiate itself much from the rest of the genre. If you have played a top-down shooter before you already should have a good idea of what to expect from the game. The game is still quite fun though. The gameplay is quite satisfying as you mow down a bunch of enemies and just cause a bunch of destruction. The RPG elements feel a little limited though. The world is large and interesting to explore. The story kind of feels like every other futuristic sci-fi story though.
Ultimately your opinion of The Ascent will likely come down to your thoughts on top-down shooters and the premise. If you don’t really care for the premise or genre, I don’t think the game will be for you. If the game sounds like something that you would enjoy though, I think you should consider picking up The Ascent.
Release Date: July 29th, 2021 – PC, Xbox One/Series X|S; March 24th, 2022 – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Systems: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Developer: Neon Giant
Publisher: Curve Games
Genres: Action, Top-Down Shooter
- The combat is quite fun as you mow down enemies.
- The game’s world is quite interesting.
- The gameplay is quite similar to most top-down shooters.
- The RPG elements are on the limited side.
Recommendation: For fans of top-down shooters that also like a futuristic sci-fi setting.
Official Website: https://curvegames.com/our-games/the-ascent/
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Neon Giant and Curve Games for the review copy of The Ascent used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.