The Ascent is a pretty dang good twin-stick shooter, but some Korean-speaking players have taken issue with the cyberpunk game’s liberal (and sometimes downright incorrect) use of the language.
The cyberpunk genre has long had a love affair with Asian iconography that is often used as background decor, usually in the form of neon signs. Despite this visual obsession, cyberpunk media rarely exhibits true respect for the people and cultures from which it borrows. The Ascent, which launched for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on July 29, appears to be no different, as the devs have sprinkled its world with a ton of Korean text that barely makes sense.
When The Ascent arrived last month, folks almost immediately noticed there was something awry with the Korean text used in its environments. Some mistakes, like the mirrored text on the game’s title screen, are just plain bizarre. As pointed out by Twitch streamer GoNando, “술집” is Korean for “bar,” whereas the characters used in the screenshot below don’t even exist in the Korean language.
Similarly glaring issues were pointed out on Steam and Reddit in the days following The Ascent’s release, and with no official word from the developer, folks are left theorising that perhaps the translations were done by a machine rather than someone who fluently speaks the language. And earlier today, a series of screenshots started to take traction that purportedly show more flipped text and improper Korean usage.
Even as someone who doesn’t speak Korean, it’s easy to see where The Ascent developer Neon Giant went wrong. Take the word “부문” from one of those Twitter screenshots, for example. While a quick Google Translate indicates it means “sector,” which makes it a totally appropriate thing to have painted on the floors of your cyberpunk complex, folks who know Korean say it’s actually closer to “category” or “classification.”
It’s impressive that just 12 people were able to make a game as beautiful as The Ascent, but that’s likely what contributed to its issues with Korean as well.
Kotaku contacted Neon Giant but didn’t hear back before publication.
It’s hard to paint The Ascent as malicious in its misuse of Korean, but when you aestheticise your game with references to a language spoken by more than 75 million people, you should probably get someone who’s fluent to double-check your work.