The Ascent is a cyberpunk action RPG from developer Neon Giant. Its 20-hour isometric adventure tells an interesting sci-fi tale of bio-enhancements, megacorporations, and a proletariat uprising set in an absolutely stunning dystopian cityscape. But beneath that gorgeous veneer, the game stumbles under shallow twin-stick shooter combat, unsatisfying character progression, and a handful of frustrating design decisions.

The Ascent’s progression loop can be frustrating. You come across new weapons, armor, and loot at a pretty consistent tick, and I liked decking out my character in all sorts of gaudy techno future garbs. But the stat progression never made it feel like I was getting substantially more powerful. Mowing down waves of enemies when you’re level 5 feels pretty similar to doing the same thing at level 20. Some neat abilities like a powerful incendiary punch and summoning friendly murder robots shake things up a bit, but given just how much of the game boils down to basic combat, there wasn’t enough depth to really grab me.

Couple this with a lack of any meaningful choice in how you approach missions, and bland familiarity set in early and often. In short, the underlying systems and mechanics couldn’t quite match up to the beautiful aesthetic on display throughout the world.

The Ascent is available now on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S and X for $29.99, and it’s also a part of Xbox Game Pass.

Watch our full Review in 3 Minutes for The Ascent.

Marty Sliva
Marty Sliva has been writing about video games, popular culture, and the 1995 film Babe professionally for the past decade. You can follow him on Twitter @McBiggitty.

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