To say that Orlando-based studio Hapa Games’ beat ‘em up 2D platformer Ascendant is a challenge would be the understatement of the century. The question we’ll continually have to ask ourselves from this point on is this: is it a worthwhile challenge?
The indie game market has been exploding with a slew of impressive platformers as of late. With each studio fighting for a sense of supremacy, it can get pretty hard to tell some games apart – especially when you’re combining the popular brawler style with everyone’s favorite rogue-like action. Lucky for us, Ascendant stands on its own accord, and has proven to be a pretty unique entry into an overplayed genre.
Looking at it from an aesthetic point, the game is stunning. Indie games often lend a unique take where art direction is concerned, but the visuals for Ascendant really separate this game from its competition. It’s the aspect that’s bound to draw in a great deal of players from the get go. From beautiful, bright settings to dark and ominous backdrops, the visuals constantly keep you immersed in the world Hapa Games has created. It all serves as a beautiful façade for the true dangers of the world.
There aren’t too many goals in Ascendant when you think about it. Your express mission is to find the boss, slay him like the true champion you’re believed to be, and continue on your way. You’re a demi-god, and you damn well better act like one. You’re an unstoppable force that, even if we don’t necessarily understand why, kicks ass and takes names – no questions. Motivation? Who cares.
The most interesting aspect of Ascendant is the fact that each playthrough relies on randomly generated content, meaning you’ll never really be playing the same way twice. Each time you visit the world, you may or may not be encountering a different composition – meaning you’ll never truly know what’s lurking ahead of you. This creates a replayability that’s often unmatched by a great deal of games on the market.
Through the game, you’ll explore separate chambers of each area. One in a chamber, you’ll have to lay a brutal smackdown upon your foes if you have any hopes of continuing forward, as the exits lock down and require you to clear the entire area. That being said, not every room is just a hack-and-slash-fest. There are a great deal of chambers that house chests with special goodies – including new weapons – as well as bonus zones that allow for magic and health upgrades. And, like any good game, there are random shops around, allowing you to spend your hard-earned blood money on new items, but don’t get too excited – the inflation in the shops is almost as bad as it is in real life. In the end, it may be better to rely strictly on the bonus zones.
Of course, if you’re looking for a game with a deep and touching story, Ascendant may not be for you. This is largely a combat-based game, with your slaying demi-god taking center stage in a play all about mayhem and destruction. That’s where the difficulty comes into play. I originally made the mistake of playing Ascendant on my MacBook, and instantly regretted my decision when I couldn’t even power through to tutorial level. Ascendant requires a bit more coordination and finesse than a 13-inch notebook can provide. If you want to truly master this game, you’ll have to take it to desktop – or pull out that handy dandy controller. I’d recommend the controller, but hey – that’s none of my business.
There is, however, a great balance between close-quarters combat and ranged attacks, lending a diverse feel to the game and allowing players to have a little bit of control over how they attack the overall problem. You also have the option of some dodge and parry attacks that more experienced players will be able to blend seamlessly into their standard combos. Of course, don’t expert to be a total expert at first. The game is extremely brutal when it comes to punishing mistakes, and you’ll always pay the price if you’re not constantly on full alert. The weapons you’ll find or purchase along the way, as well as new spells and breaths, will aid tremendously in your effort to do… well, whatever it is you’re truly supposed to do in Ascendant.
- Beautiful aesthetics that completely immerse you in the 2D landscape
- A constant, thrilling combat that's guaranteed to keep you on your toes
- Randomly generated content on each play through guarantees an exciting playthough, whether it's your first time or tenth.
- Steep learning curve for both new players and veterans of the genre is often extremely brutal
- Lack of a true story may drive more narrative-based gamers away
- Ease of use without a supported controller borders on impossible at times