Play Cyberpunk Action-RPG The Ascent Before It Leaves Game Pass

Play Cyberpunk Action-RPG The Ascent Before It Leaves Game Pass

Game Pass is losing a big one this month. 2021’s The Ascent, a gritty top-down action-RPG about investigating the mysterious disappearance of a megacorporation in a futuristic dystopia, is finally leaving Microsoft’s Netflix-like subscription service at the end of July. You should give it a try before it does.

Reviews were mixed on the grim sci-fi twin-stick game when it first released, caught between the maximalist neon aesthetic and grim world-building on one hand and its shallow loot system and finicky shooting on the other. Its flaws stopped The Ascent from being an obvious Game of the Year contender, but it still punched above its weight, and remains right in the Game Pass sweet spot of something worth losing yourself in for a dozen hours despite its rough edges and lack of polish.

You play as an indentured servant exploring a vast metropolis called the Arcology. You navigate local gangs and corporate politics while blasting armies of enemies in the face with a variety of weapons. Shades of cyberpunk Diablo come not from a deep loot system so much as the fact that you spend much of the game killing things while managing cooldown abilities. Unlike Blizzard’s zen clicker, however, The Ascent requires a more tactical approach that makes use of environmental cover and the knowledge that enemies will tear you to shreds if you let them overwhelm you and get too close.

Screenshot: Curve Games

In fact, The Ascent is a great palette cleanser for anyone experiencing a little burnout with the monotony of Diablo IV at the moment. It offers a similar flow of talking to NPCs, fighting through a dungeon, and then returning to the quest giver, but its exploration and combat follows a more deliberate cadence that requires you to be more aware of your surroundings and precious about supplies.

Really though, it’s The Ascent’s art direction that makes it worth revisiting. The Arcology is rich with visual details, from busy markets to vast derelict industrial sites, that make the cyberpunk world feel more fully realized than even the story itself ultimately manages to deliver on. The density is often oppressive, which is sort of the point.

“It’s not just the amount of NPCs hanging around the cityscape, their frequency of conversations or what seems like some exceedingly clever procedural generation that’s populated all of this, it’s all of it in the same scene,” wrote Alex Walker in the Kotaku review. The soundtrack is also rife with Ghost in the Shell vibes to boot. It should be a nauseatingly garish affair, but instead it’s brutally irresistible.

The Ascent leaves Xbox and PC Game Pass after July 31. Until then you can cause cyber-implanted chaos in its serpentine streets. It’s normally $30 to buy, but subscribers can also currently buy it for just $12.


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