Announced last year, Neon Giant’s The Ascent has become one of the more anticipated indie titles thanks to its sharp-looking combat and aesthetic. It’s out on July 29th for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC along with launching day one on Xbox Game Pass. So let’s take a look at 13 things you should know before picking it up.
Story and Setting
The Ascent takes place in a futuristic dystopian arcology run by The Ascent Group in the world of Veles. Those who work for the company are basically enslaved, including the player. One day, however, the group collapses and the arcology descends into chaos. As various syndicates and rival corporations attempt to muscle their way in, it’s up to the player to effectively hold them back (and maybe find out what caused The Ascent Group’s downfall as well). The arcology is reportedly open-world with no loading screens and the player can fast travel between different locations – like sewers, industrial zones and whatnot – using the subway system.
Gameplay-wise, this is a top-down action RPG. Players can fully customize their appearance with different tattoos, hairstyles and so on. You’ll explore the arcology, meet different NPCs and take down enemies with a variety of different weapons. The gunplay is more akin to a twin-stick shooter but with the option to aim low or high, taking cover whenever necessary in the environment and making use of different abilities. On top of combat, players can also use their cyberdeck to hack and detect nearby foes.
Neon Giant hasn’t outlined all the different types of weapons that players can acquire but there are pistols, shotguns, submachine guns and assault rifles along with different types of grenades. Melee combat is also available and you can spec into Augmentations for battering foes with your fists. You can also acquire different armor and backpacks with their own stats. One thing is for sure though – there’s no random loot in The Ascent. Everything is hand-crafted, though you can expect to see some more “exotic” or “excessive” varieties of weapons on top of the regular ones. Weapons can be upgraded with different resources and if you venture into more dangerous locations, then you’ll net even rarer upgrade materials.
Augmentations are where the build variety really shines. These provide unique abilities like summoning a robot minion to increase weapon damage, homing missiles and even a rejuvenation field that will heal allies within it. Augmentations scale off of different attributes – as you level up and gain skill points, you can increase an attribute and make the accompanying Augmentation that much stronger. The best example is firing a single homing missile or scaling the accompanying attribute to fire several off at once.
What’s especially interesting about The Ascent is how enemies behave. You may wander into a district with a group of enemies but they won’t immediately start shooting. Instead, they’ll threaten you to leave, which allows for backing off and either taking a more tactical approach or getting the drop on them with some explosives. Due to how the arcology is designed, enemies can spawn from different locations, sometimes busting through walls. While some will fight from a distance, others will rush your location, constantly keeping the player on their feet. Another nice touch is that when a fight breaks out, non-hostile NPCs will run away and seek cover, thus adding to the overall chaos.
As you venture through all of the different environments, the destructibility of them becomes more clear. Cover can be destroyed by sustained gunfire and explosions, leaving your enemies (and you) exposed. The aesthetics are also very cool looking – a firefight in a closed room will result in a mess, accentuated by the impressive volumetric smoke and dynamic lighting.
Up to four players can team together, each utilizing different Augmentations and synchronizing them in different ways to wreck foes. However, the title is fully playable solo as well and Frick told Gamingbolt that it’s “absolutely an equal experience” when compared to co-op. That being said, there are some nice touches when playing with others like seeing all of the co-op characters in the cutscenes.
Xbox Console Exclusive
Though it will be available on PC via Steam and the Microsoft Store, console players can only play The Ascent on Xbox platforms at launch. As for why this is the case, Frick said that Microsoft had actually approached the studio early on in development. “They were very impressed with what we had even back then, which of course was a huge deal for us as a brand new indie studio, and we have worked together ever since.” Microsoft has also been a “very supportive partner” for the developer throughout, which could point to long-term exclusivity but it’s possible that a PlayStation launch could happen farther down the line (like with Bloober Team’s The Medium).
The Ascent is a fairly demanding game and its PC requirements are no exception. At the very minimum, you’ll need an Intel Core i5-4670K or AMD FX-8350, 8 GB of RAM and either a GeForce GTX 660 2 GB or Radeon R9 390X 8 GB. For the recommended requirements, an i7 CPU or equivalent with 16 GB of RAM and an RTX 2070 or equivalent is needed. In both cases, 35 GB of storage space is needed.
Nvidia DLSS and Ray Tracing Support
Those who do have a GPU that supports ray tracing are in for a treat. In a recent trailer, Curve Digital showcased the game’s ray traced shadows and reflections, with the various neon lights and particle effects beautifully reflected in puddles. The footage was captured on Nvidia’s RTX 30 series but Neon Giant hasn’t outlined the exact requirements for ray tracing on PC (especially when it comes to hitting 4K/60 FPS with it enabled). The good news is that support for Nvidia’s DLSS is also included for those who want better performance.
So the real question is – with all of its customization, action RPG trappings and world-building, how much playtime will you get out of The Ascent? According to Neon Giant co-founder Arcade Berg when speaking to WCCF Tech, the main missions alone should take about 15 to 20 hours to complete. There are also “many more” side missions, codex entries and treasures to find. How many more hours that all adds is unknown but there will be stuff to do outside of the main story.
4K/60 FPS on Xbox Series X
In the same interview, studio co-founder Tor Frick talked about performance and resolution on other consoles. While The Ascent is targeting 4K/60 FPS on Xbox Series X, the developer is currently aiming at 1440p/60 FPS on Xbox Series S, 4K/30 FPS on Xbox One X and 900p on the Xbox One. Again, as Frick notes, all of this is “in flux” so we’ll know more about the final settings closer to launch.
Along with launching day one on Xbox Game Pass, The Ascent will also support Xbox Play Anywhere. This means if you pick up the game on Xbox platforms or PC, then you’ll receive a digital copy for the other at no extra charge. Cross-platform play between Xbox and PC is also confirmed, allowing for a wider pool of players to match-make with. However, those on PC will need the Microsoft Store version to partake in crossplay with console players.