The Ascent is what you get when a group of veteran developers makes whatever they want

“For us it’s pretty simple: The Lord of the Rings didn’t make people fed up with fantasy; they wanted more of it.” Arcade Berg, creative director on The Ascent, makes a good point. The Ascent (announced today as coming July 29th to the Xboxes, PC and Game Pass) is a cyberpunk game, all towering industrial dystopia, body augments and neon street signs, and we’ve had a few of those recently, but like most games it is more than its genre, and even in the wake of Cyberpunk 2077’s noisy implosion the appetite for that genre is probably as strong as it’s ever been, anyway.

Berg and the rest of the very small team at Neon Giant seem especially keen to emphasise, too, that these two games are different beasts. You would think that’s pretty obvious – The Ascent is an intimate, top-down twin-stick shooter, for starters, not a blockbuster open world – but still, point taken. Do not compare The Ascent to Cyberpunk 2077.

It is tempting though. The two might well be different beasts but, playing the first hour or two of The Ascent, the impression is of a kind of alternate-universe version. It’s surprisingly RPG-heavy, surprisingly stylish, surprisingly gorgeous, frankly. The core team at Neon Giant is just twelve people strong, a new studio founded by some “former AAA” developers with a bit of lingering frustration about the “waste” that comes with big-budget development, and they’ve made a game that’s focused but also clearly quite ambitious. This is really the point here, too, more than the genre stuff. The Ascent is the type of game you get when a dozen veterans get together in a room and make whatever they want.

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