Along with our most important Game of the Year Awards 2021, every member of the PC Gamer workforce is shining a highlight on a recreation they liked this 12 months. We’ll put up new employees picks, alongside our most important awards, all through the remainder of the month.
My long-running obsession with Path of Exile has given me an urge for food for giant, complicated action-RPGs. The Ascent is neither of those. It is a compact romp that you would be able to polish off in beneath 20 hours, absent any dwell service stuff to maintain you beholden to it after you end the story. It does not demand a lot of your consideration or time, so that you would possibly assume it does not linger lengthy within the thoughts, however right here I’m on the finish of the 12 months making it my employees choose.
See, regardless of my style in ARPGs, I am nonetheless a easy man who loves shiny lights, obnoxiously enormous weapons, and silly garments—The Ascent provides me all three by the truckload. The huge arcology you need to homicide your method by is a stunning however concurrently grotty cyberpunk metropolis filled with runners, company cops, and aliens, the place fights get away all over the place and the promise of carnage is ever-present.
An early weapon spews a barrage of rockets like a machine gun, and that units the tone for the entire thing. When it comes out, the occasion begins. Even bystanders can get in on the enjoyable, serving themselves up as collateral harm. There’s quite a lot of unique gear you may get your fingers on, however The Ascent does not pressure you to muck round with duds earlier than you’ll be able to earn the actually enjoyable stuff.
There’s hardly a gun that is not a pleasure to unload, thoughts. The variety of accessible weapons is nothing in comparison with most ARPGs, however what it does have is an honest roster of distinct homicide instruments—you will not be swapping one pistol for an additional pistol that simply does a bit extra harm. It is genuinely thrilling to get one thing new, and discovering the flamethrower or an enormous rifle with homing bullets is a real game-changer.
It is a twin-stick shooter that throws armies of enemies at you all of sudden, so that you’re all the time on the transfer, working and spinning round as you rack up an obscene physique depend. There is a roll that offers you a bit extra mobility, which can be improved by pouring factors into the suitable stats. Augments then offer you numerous little tips to enhance your utility, like deploying drones or swapping your roll for a elaborate sprint that is so quick you tear up the bottom beneath you.
There is a cowl system, too, which could appear stunning in a top-down, in-your-face motion romp. It is useful if you need a breather, which you will completely want, enabling you to cover behind partitions and objects whereas nonetheless utilizing your gun, firing blindly over the duvet. Enemies can do the identical, naturally, and objects would possibly block your pictures, even when your foes aren’t utilizing them for canopy. That is the place aiming is available in—letting you increase your gun to get a bead in your goal. That is additionally a great way to keep away from hitting cowering bystanders, should you’d slightly not have an excessive amount of harmless blood in your fingers.
The Ascent by no means will get in the best way of itself or the stuff it does so nicely. Whereas fights quantity to much more than pointing and capturing, it lacks any sophisticated methods to wrangle—simply extra goons so that you can blow up together with your ridiculous weapons and cyberpunk implants. As a substitute of the compulsory crafting system, it has a primary improve system that successfully allows you to maintain utilizing the weapons you’re keen on for the entire recreation. No extra throwing out good gear simply since you’ve levelled up just a few occasions.
You possibly can actually see its dedication to its momentum if you’re searching bounties. “Looking” might be the mistaken phrase. You are like a bounty magnet, together with your prey spawning in random fights, basically providing themselves as much as you. In one other recreation that is perhaps barely disappointing, however in The Ascent I need my enemies flung at me, not hiding in some nook of the map, ready for me to root them out.
The one time I ever actually stopped was once I wanted to gawk at one thing. The Ascent’s arcology is a surprise. It’s recognisable as a functioning metropolis, however one which’s completely self-contained, break up into sprawling ranges and districts with particular functions. On the high, it is pristine and exquisite, however the filthy, deserted and flooded areas beneath communicate to the company in cost’s lack of care. Even in its grottiest locations, nonetheless, there’s eye sweet. Often when one thing is exploding. It is some of the putting sci-fi cities I’ve ever explored, and due to a post-launch replace, it is doable to seize its spectacular vistas in a photograph mode.
I’ve performed quite a lot of dense video games this 12 months, each when it comes to narratives and methods, and I’ve bought no complaints, but it surely additionally meant I used to be greater than prepared to modify off and simply get pleasure from some gratuitous motion. The Ascent nonetheless has loads of stress, and you’ll chunk off greater than you’ll be able to chew, surrounded by a sea of enemies all chipping away at your well being, but it surely hardly ever interprets into stress. Chopping a bloody swath by a cyberpunk metropolis and turning my enemies into little chunks was simply the sort of healthful enjoyable I wanted this 12 months.