The Ascent review | PC Gamer

By | December 16, 2023

Need to know

What is it? A cyberpunk action RPG with guns. Lots of guns.
Expect to pay $30/£25
Developer Neon Giant
Publisher Curve Digital
Reviewed on RTX 2080 Super, Intel i7-9700K, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer 1-4
Link Steam

Along with thousands of other galactic migrants, your character in The Ascent pays a small fortune for a ticket to the planet Veles, looking for a better life. The moment you step off the ship, however, the price of the ticket becomes a debt so astronomical that you’ll probably die before you can pay it off. Even so, the company that owns the massive city you now call home, the Ascent Group, wants its pound of flesh. You are now an indent—slang for an indentured labourer—working dirty, dangerous jobs to pay it off. So much for a better life. Those advertising blimps in Blade Runner were full of shit.

The Ascent’s setting, a mix of neon-flecked ’80s cyberpunk and grimy science fiction, is magnificent. The story takes place in an Arcology—a self-contained city squeezed into an immense skyscraper—and it’s obscene with detail. Think Hong Kong’s infamous Kowloon Walled City, crossed with Akira’s Neo Tokyo, and populated by the scuzzy aliens from the Mos Eisley cantina. It’s a dazzling urban crush of tight-knit markets, bustling plazas, cavernous concrete valleys buzzing with streams of flying cars, and colossal neon billboards casting coloured light over the cluttered, teeming streets.

(Image credit: Neon Giant)

But what really makes the setting special is how detailed it is on a micro level too. A location called Coder’s Cove—a hacker hideout hidden in a flooded part of the city—is a perfect example of this, with its ramshackle stacks of computer monitors, tangled cables snaking across the floor, hackers tapping away at keyboards, graffiti-splattered walls, and beat-up leather couches. Every location you visit, from convenience stores, to casinos, to nightclubs, to gun shops, is crammed with this kind of intricate, painstaking detail.