Game Review: ‘The Ascent’ is top-down sci-fi for ‘Diablo’ fans

The Ascent has big ambitions, bigger guns, and enough chaotic energy to fuel a one-way trip to a future that will almost certainly get you hooked.

In The Ascent, you play as a servant indentured to a slumlord type that goes by the name Poone. This disgusting, foul mouthed, Jabba the Hutt wannabe acts as your mission HQ, dishing out quests and tasks that relate to his plans to conquer all those above him. 

It’s hardly original, but it does an acceptable job of quickly providing a doorway into the world, putting a weapon in your hands, and letting you get to what the game does well: shooting everything that moves. 

Make no mistake, The Ascent is not a thinking person’s video game; and if corny dialogue, trope-laden characters, and cheesy plots are deal-breakers for you, then you may want to look elsewhere. This is an action role-playing game where role-playing translates to ‘in what fashion would you like to maim, destroy and murder those who would dare oppose you’

It’s a godsend then that The Ascent has one character that fascinates, stuns, and impresses with surprising regularity: the gorgeously rendered world. 

Despite an admitted lack of true interactivity, the world of The Ascent does a fantastic job transporting the player into an exciting far-future dystopia, one that takes its cues from Star Wars, Mass Effect, and Cyberpunk 2077

The first time the camera opens up and gives you a proper look at the fictional world of Velles, it will all start to make sense. The aesthetic alone of this huge, skyscraper-like world justifies giving The Ascent a go. 

The Ascent Tower
Screenshot: The Ascent / Neon Giant

The other thing, of course is, the combat. The Ascent gameplay is all about twin-stick, top-down shooting that gives you loads of guns, cyber augmentations (which function as timed combat abilities), and a seemingly bottomless sea of killable enemies. 

Some of the world’s denizens are big, some small. Some are aliens and some are robots, while others are plain old cyber-enhanced humans. The one thing they all have in common is that they can generally be killed without consequence. Stray bullets hitting innocents isn’t of any concern either – something which I will admit took a little getting used to. 

The action of The Ascent is a chaotic, adrenaline-inducing good time, and I’m pleased to report it only gets more rewarding the further into the game you progress.

Many of the game’s missions result in gruelling battles with unique enemies that offer a different challenge to the waves of sci-fi goblins you will become accustomed to. These longer battles offer good variation and create a sense of spectacle that the game really benefits from. 

the ascent
Screenshot: The Ascent / Neon Giant

Less successful, however, is the map system. There is a fair bit of running around in The Ascent, and the shortcomings of the navigational system left me frustrated and confused on more than one occasion. Bafflingly there is no way to set a custom waypoint which, combined with the verticality of the map and limited fast travel locations, can lead to long spells of aimless wandering. 

Because The Ascent is at its best when it’s mid-stride. When you are blasting your way from battle to battle, the hours have a habit of disappearing like a hovercraft into the polluted horizon. The stuff in between just gets in the way. 

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a pulpy, sci-romp romp that has more bullets than brains, and are prepared to forgive a few rough edges, The Ascent is a solid offering. Its chaotic brand of shooting and looting is sure to win more than a few admirers – and all things considered, it just about deserves to.


The Ascent is available now on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox Onem and PC. Buy the game via the Microsoft StoreThe Ascent is also available as part of Xbox Game Pass.

Special thanks to Doctor V’s Brain Storm, the all-natural energy drink that kept us up all night for The Ascent’s review embargo.