🎮 The Ascent: only short of a masterpiece

I’ve been playing The Ascent recently and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. It’s a memorable, satisfying twin-stick shooter - RPG cross. I highly recommend it! Still, it’s not a hall-of-fame masterpiece and I can’t quite put my finger on why. I have nothing but admiration for the small (10 people or so) development team that managed to pull off this fantastic production!

The game world is beautifully crafted! This GDC talk by Tor Frick, was a pleasure to watch! Neon Giant took a disciplined approach to simplicity, powered by practical specialized tools to ensure consistency with the art direction at all times. The end result of the team’s effort is a stunning neon-colored sci-fi haven. I felt as if I’m in the world of the Neuromancer. The action is satisfying, the items, enemies and quests - plentiful.

So what’s missing… Ten hours in, which is reasonably much for me, I still don’t feel hooked to the main story and this is unlikely to change. What brings me back is the world aesthetic as a whole.

While there is an impressive amount of weapons and items, I feel I’ve quickly converged on a build and skill leveling strategy. I may be wrong, but I don’t get the feeling I can play the game in a substantially different way. That said I’ve watched some streamers with distinct styles of their own.

The Ascent is a bit glitchy on my Xbox Series S - I don’t think I’ve had any other game on this console crash on me as often. But it’s nothing that ruins my gaming experience. This is one area, perhaps, where it shows it wasn’t the biggest team making the game. Overall performance is quite good.

I’m looking forward to future productions by Neon Giant. The Ascent is an amazing, if not outstanding, gaming experience. I haven’t tried its multiplayer, but if this is your cup of tea - I imagine it delivers. I feel the game’s elusive shortcomings won’t see me complete the main story… and this is weirdly disappointing already.