Initially designed for PC and Xbox players a couple of years ago, The Ascent has appeared on Playstation at long last. However, with the ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ peak long since passed, and constant graphic revolutions occurring, will this almost-indie game manage to find a foothold?
The Ascent brings a new(ish) cyberpunk adventure to the PlayStation 4 and 5, immersing players in a visually captivating dystopian world ruled by corporations – if they renamed them Arasaka and Militech it could even occupy a different area in the same world as Night City. Developed by Neon Giant, the game combines isometric twin-stick shooting with RPG elements to continue your character’s development, whilst promising an action-packed experience in a futuristic setting.
While The Ascent excels in its striking visuals and addictive gameplay, performance challenges on the PlayStation 4 hardware might deter some players from fully embracing its potential – and it’s definitely not a AAA release worth upgrading a console for if you haven’t already.
Performance issues of sorts aside, the standout feature of The Ascent is undoubtedly its art direction. The cyberpunk aesthetics, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s iconic Blade Runner, immediately draw players into the dark, neon-soaked cityscape. The attention to detail is commendable, with every corner teeming with life (here’s looking at you again Cyberpunk 2077, with your T-posing models and buffering doors on release…), offering a sense of depth and immersion that truly reflects a dystopian future. However, on the PlayStation 4, the game runs at a noticeably lower resolution, resulting in a slightly fuzzy image quality. Additionally, there is a reduction in highlights on metal surfaces, somewhat dampening the original visual glory. Despite these limitations, The Ascent remains visually appealing on the PS4, successfully delivering its futuristic ambiance – all down to the consistent art and design choices.
Dystopian prettiness aside, the core of The Ascent lies in its enjoyable and addictive gameplay. As an isometric RPG shooter, players can dodge, take cover, and shoot over obstacles, offering fluid and responsive controls. Combat encounters are exhilarating, with a myriad of enemies and challenging boss fights that demand strategic planning and swift reflexes. The game’s RPG elements, such as character customisation and augmentations, add depth and personalisation to the experience. Alongside stat points for you to distribute when levelling up, augments enhance combat versatility and are governed by cooldowns and energy usage. Furthermore, The Ascent presents a variety of side quests, further extending the game’s replayability and overall content – and of course the completionist in me loves a distraction.
The environment is also fully destructible, say hello (or goodbye) to hovercars, cement pillars, glass floors as you fight your way through the gritty story and grimy streets. The combat can feel pretty by the book for the genre – but what’s worth noting is the level of challenge. Bordering on rogue-lite territory for difficulty, smart gameplay is a must and figuring out the best upgrades for your weaponry and skills is a must.
As briefly touched on however; despite its engaging gameplay, The Ascent on the PlayStation 4 encounters performance challenges. Load times are vastly improved compared to previous versions, but still longer than you’d want considering the time they’ve had to iron this out. The game expectedly runs at a lower resolution than its higher-end counterparts, leading to a slightly diminished visual experience. Frame rate drops occasionally occur during intense combat situations, although less frequent than in earlier iterations. While the PS4 version manages to mitigate the issues experienced on Xbox One (having badgered friends to try this out on my behalf), occasional hitches and stutters persist, detracting from an otherwise smooth experience. It is evident that the game’s technical demands stretch the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 hardware.
Fans of the cyberpunk genre will however find themselves deeply engaged in this dystopian journey, exploring the intricacies of a world dominated by corporations. While the lower resolution and occasional frame rate issues on the PS4 are noticeable drawbacks, it still manages to deliver an entertaining and memorable RPG shooter experience.
Author: Tom, Cardiff Store