E3 2012: Ascend: New Gods

So Ascend: New Gods was one of the things that came out of nowhere at Microsoft’s E3 press event, and didn’t make much of an impact. That’s a shame, because Ascend is really a game that should be on more people’s radars. I had some hands-on time with this title, and I came away impressed at the potential of this title.

You see, Ascend is a sort of a hack and slash dungeon crawler in the vein of Diablo. It’s got an interesting premise, where you choose an alignment for you champion and you serve the god of said alignment, be it Light, Dark or Void. You generally do this by going around the world, kicking ass and taking over territories for you God by building shrines. Along the way you get loot and gain abilities, like you’d expect. It’s a pretty simple premise right? However, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s so much more.

So instead of going for a standard co-op experience, Ascend takes an interesting approach. You see, instead of playing with friends or other players online, you play parallel to them. This means, the game is entirely single player for everyone playing, but you can interact with each other while playing. You see, if you and a friend or someone else is in the same area, a short ghostly version of them is made present on your map. You can see them there, going about their business. They fight their own enemies, and get their own loot. This way you can play with high level friends as the game level scales. However, there are ways to interact.

For instance, you can assist other players by means of certain abilities. For instance, you can heal them. Or you can send them items. Or with certain abilities you can even damage or kill enemies they are fighting. Doing all of this actually rewards you as well. So if say, you send a fire attack through a portal to someone else’s universe to assist them with the enemies they are fighting, then you get XP as well. However, your cross-universe powers don’t have to be only used for good.

Say you’re being overwhelmed by enemies or just feel like being a jerk. One ability allows you to teleport enemies from your world to their world, leaving other players to have to deal with that pile of enemies that was handing you your ass. Not only that, but in the event that those enemies manage to kill the other person, you get XP for that accomplishment as well. Of course there’s nothing stopping them from sending them right back. Later on, you even gain the ability to just summon enemies into another player’s game to try and kill them. More powerful enemies are unlocked as you progress. These abilities are consumables though, so you need to collect them to use them, and you shouldn’t waste them unless you really need to.

However, there’s even more ways you can interact with the world and other players. You see, the areas you capture and hold for your god, are constantly being contested by other players for their gods. Meaning it’s a persistent war being waged by all the god factions to conquer as much of the world for their god as they can. So you as a champion of light and all the other champions of light are actively competing to take territory from other players and they to take it from you and your god. That also means you need to work to defend your areas, and you do this by setting bosses down to do so.

One way of doing that, is by sacrificing one of your champions. You see your character progresses along towards godhood throughout the game. As you do so, you ascend. Each time you ascend, you change and your previous self is sacrificed. This sacrifice can be used to defend certain areas. Since it’s based on you, it serves as sort of a ghost AI based on combat information the game has collected on you as you played. So you can leave these boss fights of yourself or other minions to defend areas you’ve conquered, even when you’re offline. In turn, you’ll find yourselves fighting other people’s bosses as well.

However, the complexity doesn’t end there, as this title is one of the first implement cross compatibility with Windows Phone. The app coming to Windows Phone consists of an arena style game where fight waves of enemies for money and items you can then transfer to your character in the full game. Not only that, but certain actions can be made from the app as well, all of the cross-universe actions like sending items, healing, assisting, or sending enemies to help friends and hinder rivals. This can all be done from your phone. Even better is that the developers promise to continue evolving both games with new content and functionality.

In my time with the title, the combat worked well although the enemies were all pushovers. This may have been simply set for the demo. Keep in mind this is still in pretty early development as well, so there’s plenty of time for balancing. Aside from that, the game looks pretty good for a downloadable title, but it’s nothing special. We were told it’s an early build so the game will definitely be spruced up quite a bit by final release. These are all minor issues though. The premise of the game is what’s intriguing, and it certainly has great potential. This imaginative title is definitely worth your time and attention and especially if you own a Windows Phone.


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