Review: The Ascent (PS5)

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The Ascent Review - Screenshot 1 of 10

The Ascent was met with slightly mixed reviews when it launched on PC and Xbox platforms around eight months ago, but it arrives on PlayStation 5 a much improved game. A slew of updates have fixed bugs and rebalanced various gameplay elements since the title’s 2021 release. What’s more, new content — like New Game+, a transmog system, and a photo mode — has been added. PS5 players get all of that good stuff right off the bat, alongside some rumbly DualSense functionality.

For the uninitiated, The Ascent is an isometric twin stick shooter-RPG, set in a grimy cyberpunk space colony. You play as an ‘indent’ — essentially a slave who knows how to use a gun — forced to take on odd jobs for the criminal bigshots and shady corporations that keep things running. Story-wise it’s all pretty straightforward and, at times, a bit stale — but the game’s impressively detailed and often gorgeously dilapidated setting really carries the experience.

Screenshots don’t do The Ascent justice. On a big TV with HDR in full effect, the neon-soaked bazaars and rubbish-ridden backstreets look fantastic. It’s almost like gawking at an expertly crafted and painted tabletop game — the environments are just that granular.

The title’s RPG mechanics aren’t quite as engaging — but it’s still fun to find good loot and level up your custom indent. Building a character is fairly simple with a handful of stats that you can pump skill points into, but more depth can be found further into the game, when upgrading your arsenal and augmenting your cybernetic implants becomes a priority. Stumbling across an effective weapon that suits your style of play is also a highlight.

It’s a shame, then, that The Ascent’s combat never truly feels like it evolves over the course of its 15 hour runtime. The gunplay is quite twitchy and satisfying — enhanced by haptic feedback — but there’s just not enough variation to make each fight stand out from the last. It’s not what we’d call mindless, but the later hours can definitely feel like a bit of a slog, depending on your tolerance for samey and sometimes lengthy encounters.

The Ascent’s a solid, if somewhat repetitive shooter, propped up by eye-popping environments and a reasonable amount of RPG depth. If you can stomach some grindy mission design and the occasional buggy interaction, then there’s explosive fun to be had here.

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