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Video Game / The Ascent

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The Ascent is a mostly-isometric solo and co-op Action RPG developed by Neon Giant, and published by Curve Digital. It was released on PC and Xbox Series X|S on July 29, 2021. It is Neon Giant's first released game after they were founded in 2018, and is built on the Unreal Engine.

In the future, corporations fight each other on the market, affairs run so quickly each corporations have developed advanced Artificial General Intelligences to handle the massive numbers of transactions that keep the corporations afloat. On the planet Veles, many come from various worlds for a new life and opportunity. Instead they find themselves in indentured servitude to the various corporations who paid for their trip to Veles. Forced to work until they work off their debts, inside the massive arcologies set up by each corporation. Your character is one such "indent", working out of Cluster 13 near the bottom of the Ascent Group's arcology as muscle. However one day, suddenly, the AGI running the corporation's affair goes unresponsive, and in a manner of seconds the Ascent Group's business is wiped out and they are bankrupt, leaving the Arcology with no owner, its staff with no more paychecks coming, no one to pay for the resources needed to keep the archology going. Now as gangs, mercenary groups and rival corporations all descend upon the arcology to pick clean the corpse of the Ascent Group, your character now finds themselves in the middle of all this. Stuck between the various powers fighting to claim the arcology and its former owners' wealth, and the residents trying to seize the opportunity to be freed from indentured service. And behind all this remains one major question: What happened to the Ascent Group and its AGI?


Gameplay trailers can be viewed here and here and here.

The Ascent contains examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The Dismemberer special weapon launches massive ricocheting buzzsaws at the enemies. Digital weapons shoot bad code, and are highly effective against robotic enemies.
  • Action Bomb: Spider mechs, armed with a combined explosive/EMP warhead. You can summon a pack of them using an Aug received after defeating one of the bosses.
  • Always Night: Whether caused by the upper layers completely cutting off sunlight or any other reason, it's night all the time in the entire arcology, lit by neons and industrial lights only. Only the uppermost level(s), the Pinnacle, receive any sunlight.
  • Arcology: The core setting of the game is the aptly named Ascent Group arcology, from the "deepStink" underbelly all the way to the upper commercial floors, as well as all the abandoned and uninhabited areas you'd expect to find too.
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  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The Rojin, particularly their melee types, favour classy jackets and suit type outfits - unsurprising since they're essentially Yakuza. You can even wear the same outfits if you care to.
  • Badass Longcoat: The high-tier Runner Coat is a permanently-open trenchcoat that nonetheless offers fairly good physical protection.
  • BFG: Some of the possible weapons in this run-and-gun shooter look almost as large as the players themselves. Larger guns give a speed penalty to the player while shooting.
  • Broken Bridge: Several locations unlock along with advancing the main storyline, being locked away behind force fields, retracted drawbridges and nonfunctional elevators. However, the same locations have to be visited in order to progress side quests received earlier, with no hint as to when that happens.
  • CamelCase: The writers seem to be a fan of this, as it pops up on and off throughout the game's setting. inCon = INdependent CONtractor. deepStink = the arcology's waste management sublevels. And so on.
  • Camera Perspective Switch: Whilst the game is predominantly experienced from an Isometric Projection type viewpoint, the camera occasionally shifts into Side View or deep/long Three Quarters View for dramatic effect or to cover up the glaring lack of attention to detail, even whilst allowing you to move around (and even fight) freely. Cutscenes are all over the place, using whatever perspective is most appropriate, with third-person, tracking/panning, and so on.
  • Camera Screw: That one long narrow corridor in the Cosmodrome, where the camera shifts into Side View to hide how underdeveloped the entire area is. Considering that aiming is aligned to the ground plane, trying to shoot the enemies that unavoidably appear in this area suddenly gets much harder. In other locations, the camera sometimes gets obscured by bits of level geometry, even to the extent of the entire screen going black due to walls going right in front of the camera.
  • Character Customization: You can select gender, face, skin tone, shirt design, and armour colours. You are stuck being a human though.
  • City of Adventure: The Ascent Group arcology is a massive metropolis teeming with aliens, monsters, mercenaries, and other enslaved workers like the player, known in-universe as indents.
  • Combat Tentacles: In the form of the Tentakill Augment: when used it summons a host of mechanical tentacles that grab and slam enemies around the player.
  • Crapsack World: With the collapse of the company that owns everything and everyone, the already-grimy city quickly spirals into unchecked violence and chaos. It wasn't too great before that, either.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: The game's techno soundtrack was composed by Pawel Blaszczak, who is also credited for the OSTs of Dying Light and The Witcher.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Literally so. The weather and time of day in open areas are either neon-lit night or neon-lit rainy night. Only once you get to the Pinnacle levels do you see sunlight.
  • Cyborg: You are one, as is almost everyone else in the arcology, even if it's just something as simple as a basic interface jack for convenience and work purposes.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: You can either fire at about waist height, or around head height. You cannot aim at any vertical angle. This adds an unnecessary degree of difficulty in certain arenas (particularly when you're placed on the high ground, as enemies can shoot your shins with impunity), and certain smaller enemies can only be hit when firing from the hip.
  • Depth Perplexion: Some of the waist-high barriers you can hide behind block high shots. Of course, they cannot be distinguished from those that don't.
  • Energy Weapon: Many kinds! Whilst Ballistic weapons are the most common early on, you'll also run into Energy, Fire, and Digital weapons - which essentially shoot bad code at enemies. Harmless, if you don't have any augments - but as the game points out, almost everyone is augmented to at least some degree.
  • Fantastic Racism: Everywhere. There's at least five or six 'common' species you'll see around, basically all of which are happy to take potshots at each other over one thing or another, and one NPC considers humans (referred to as "Sapiens" in-game) as intellectually inferior to their own kind and doesn't hesitate in saying so to your face.
  • Flash Step: The Javelin Dash module replaces your standard Unnecessary Combat Roll with a short-range high-speed dash maneuver.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: The game just loves putting severely overleveled mobs near the areas that you need to visit early in the game as ill-conceived Beef Gates.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The mass of tentacles that erupts from Project Men Shen at the end of the game. You're never given an explanation of what or why but it might have something to do with why teleportation tech hasn't been successful in this universe: the space inbetween is inhabited by very nasty/hungry things. After all, they do mention that all the other attempts to create such gates have ended in failure with little to no record of what actually happened and why.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The environment is full of signs in Japanese, Korean and Russian (and one in Swedish), however some of the Korean is either incorrectly translated or mirrored.
  • Guide Dang It!: The game does not warn you that any sidequests you pick can only be completed after progressing with the main storyline, sometimes requiring several story quests to be completed first. This is confusing, particularly with the side quests "Anabolic Express" and "Lost and Found", in which critical characters are located behind main story-related Broken Bridges. In case of "Lost and Found", completing it requires having to go through several hours of unrelated main story quests. The game also doesn't have a particularly good grasp on the recommended levels for quests, as some lower-level objectives are behind groups of mid to high level enemies which may more or less oneshot you.
  • High Turnover Rate: While this hasn't been explicitly confirmed, the Co-op trailer has an overhead female voice announce that indents who do not behave will be "fucking recycled".
  • Homing Projectile: Comes in two flavors, ballistic and energy burst fire rifles, and that in addition to the Homing MIM Aug.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Acquired in Silo 86 at the end of the game is The Dealbreaker. Referred to in-game as "Defies classification" and with colorful descriptions like "minishotgun automatic" or "automatic shotminigun", it's a BFG with the rate of fire/magazine size of a minigun and the spread of a shotgun. It's only downside is a slow spin-up time, otherwise it staggers enemies and pumps out more DPS than any other Ballistic weapon.
  • Lightning Gun: The Disintegrator, which you can purchase after defeating the boss in ExMats Lab (who wields a bigger version, but curiously doesn't drop it as a reward). It works like an energy machine gun with respectable damage and no bullet spread.
  • Lost Language: Apparently whilst Korean, Japanese, and English survived, Russian did not - your IMP notes that "tokamak" was borrowed 'from a dead language'. Though there are a few neon cyrillic signs around too, oddly.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Homing MIM Aug unleashes a swarm of missiles at your targeted enemy (indicated by the red crosshair underneath them) and anyone too close to them; higher attributes/stats mean more missiles and more damage.
  • Mini-Mecha: One of the more common (mini-)boss types. They come in both bipedal and Spider Tank formats. The player can even acquire one as a Tactical option after a boss fight drop.
  • Minor Major Character: Celine, the member of Ascenders who shows up all of four times in the game: arguing with Poone when you first meet him at the club, talking to the Onyx Void boss on the holophone when you sneak into Onyx Void's base to track down the missing scientists, on the surveillance tape from Laura Lanier's apartment and finally as a boss leading the attack on ExMats lab. She does appear to have some pull in the grand scheme of things, but without much explanation.
  • Neon City: Veles is a shining embodiment of this, with neon signs in Korean, Japanese, English and more blazing from every available space.
  • Pinball Projectile: Some enemies have weapons that fire ricocheting bullets. You can pick up a submachine gun called the Crazymaker that can do this, as well as receive a buzzsaw launcher called the Dismemberer as a quest reward. However, nothing protects you against the rounds you fire from hitting you instead. In fact the Crazymaker's description specifically notes that you're sure to hit something - it just might be yourself.
  • Planet of Hats: Each species has some stereotype about them, some of them truer than others - Larkians are big beefy berzerkers, Karlans (or, colloquially, "nugs") are all tiny tinkerers, Keesh are all The Cracker or Playful Hacker, Aphorans are all calmly logical, Humans are dumb and violence prone, and Jachalan are conniving backstabbers.
  • Powered Armor: The "Quad Ripper" low level upper torso armour adds a big beefy pair of exoskeletal power arms, similar to those seen on the heavy exo suits of XCOM2. On the higher end the "Custom Sec-5 Rig" and "ED-60e Shock Trooper" do the same but combine the aforementioned arms with a high-tech chestpiece. Some leg sets also give additional exoskeletal structure around the, well, legs.
  • Power Fist: One of the very first augmentations you get is a superpowered punch. One of the obtainable special abilities grants players robo-arms to smash their enemies from above.
  • The Remnant: The Ascenders, who hope to restore the Ascent Group. Also yCorp, which was set up by the Ascent Group as a contingency disguised as an independent corporation should the company go under.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: The uppermost levels of the arcology, called the Pinnacle, are all shiny clean, dominated by white and red (and sometimes gold).
  • Scenery Porn: By the freighter-load and then some. The game likes to use tracking Side View shots and deep Three Quarters View to show off some of the more spectacular scenery during gameplay.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: There are a couple of - thankfully fairly rare - flavours, however the shield doesn't protect them from the Megaton Punch you unlock early in the game, explosions from thrown grenades and rocket launchers, or the flamethrower.
  • Shockwave Stomp: One of the augmentations available early on is a stomp that knocks nearby enemies upwards and freezes them mid-air for several seconds.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: A textbook example - The Ascent's shotguns are devastating point blank, but lose effectiveness after a meter or two thanks to wide projectile spread.
  • Skyscraper City: Veles, again, with the upper strata of the arcology planned to be further extended into space.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: The robots in the game cover everything from 1 to 5. A lot of the arcology is tended to by robots of low to middling intelligence (referred to in-universe as "monobots"), but superintelligent AGIs are very much a thing in-setting. Apparently humans (aka Sapiens) have yet to create an AGI of their own (not for lack of trying) and they require ridiculous amounts of energy to run though.
  • The Stinger: Stick around after the credits for a bonus scene. Sounds like Malhorst-Gelb was behind the whole thing from the very beginning, and has been trying to crack wormhole travel for a while now.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Serves as a means to dodge attacks and otherwise escape nasty situations. No faster than running normally though.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Averted. The flamethrower not only has a massive range advantage over the shotguns, being able to cover a considerable part of the screen, but deals lots of upfront damage in addition to damage over time.
  • Virtual Sidekick: Your IMP serves in this role, with all the idiosyncrasies you'd expect from a virtual sidekick in a crapsack cyberpunk-esque future. Once linked to the yCorp AGI she picks up a bit of an attitude, starts calling you "flesh", and seems to enjoy ultraviolence perhaps a little too much.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Have you ever wanted a personal-scale wave-motion gun? Look no further than the Neutron Beam Aug; unleash a searing beam of energy to devastate anything caught in the (relatively short) path.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: More like "what measure is a non-indent/non-incon?" - the lower levels of the arcology are host to "ferals", the various failed experiments of the corporations above. They are regularly abducted and used for testing purposes - invasive wetware, cosmetics, whatever the corporation needs tested. Hell, even high-ranking indents are at risk of being scooped up and shipped off by a rival corporation if they think they can get away with it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Later in the game, after you get conscripted by yCorp, Kira will occasionally complain whenever you kill civilians. Gets grating after a while, given how many areas have tons of civilians who will invariably stumble into your line of fire or otherwise catch a stray bullet and instantly die on account of being a One-Hit-Point Wonder.


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