In early November I had a chance to attend my first Indienomicon meeting in the Orlando, FL area. Three games were showcased at the event including a trailer for Ascendant, a unique title from local studio Hapa Games. Ascendant melds the brawler and roguelike subgenres, and also includes some platforming elements. As the titular Ascendant, the player must battle through a diverse world of monsters and fanatics to overthrow the ancient god ruling over the realm. While it’s only three months into development, you wouldn’t know it from the impressive showing this “broguelike” puts on.
As with any roguelike, this game is going to beat the player down, and I quickly and repeatedly learned that lesson. Health pickups are few and far between, there are environmental hazards to watch out for, and of course there’s a near-constant onslaught of enemies to deal with. Thankfully, the game offers a currency system (influence) so that the player can periodically purchase upgrades, and enemies will often drop treasure chests that contain attack upgrades.
There’s also a socketing system that uses upgrades called Aspects which the player can use to enhance their weapons, spells, or armor. There’s some customization allowed in that different behaviors are achieved depending on where the player chooses to slot an Aspect. Unfortunately, I really didn’t get a chance to see how this system develops over time during the demo, but as a numbers guy, I’m interested in seeing how much you can really beef up the characters.
I’ve played a handful of roguelikes before, so I was curious if there would be something about Ascendant to differentiate itself. Indeed there was because the brawler mechanics sucked me in. Ascendant is not the kind of game where the player can simply run in godlike and mop the floor with everyone. Enemies tend to attack in packs by surrounding the player and coming from all directions. The combat system is set up quite nicely with a variety of melee attacks, ranged spells, and the ability to dodge and parry. I was warned that there’s a bit of a learning curve, and that’s absolutely true. Button mashing will only take the player so far. It took a fair amount of dying before I really studied enemy attack patterns and reviewed the controls to learn combos. Pull off some impressive combos and you can actually convert your enemies into Followers who will aid you. Even after putting in a couple of hours I find that I’m still learning, so I’m hoping that means that I won’t eventually run into combat fatigue.
Ascendant is a visual feast, comparing favorably to the stylistic direction of games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. It also reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite animated television series, Samurai Jack. The graphical quality of indie games is an area that often seems to lag behind development, so I was quite frankly amazed to see a game that looked like it had been in development for much longer than three months. It’s just an absolutely beautiful (albeit deadly) world that the developers have created, and I can’t wait to see more of the environments and monsters.
My experiences playing Ascendant left me with some mixed feelings. The game is punishingly hard, and success is largely dictated by the player’s familiarity and patience with the inherent conventions of each of the genres involved. The fact that I didn’t stop coming back to try again, though, is a testament to the promise that the game shows. Ascendant is slated to come out in February of next year, and the team has created a Kickstarter campaign to secure licensing for the music. The team has also readied an entry for Steam Greenlight and recently released a gameplay trailer. Keep your eyes on The Indie Mine for continuing coverage on Ascendant, and in the meantime, check out the relevant links and trailer below.
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