The Ascent Is On Console But Still Aggressively PC

The Ascent Is On Console But Still Aggressively PC
Image: Neon Giant / Kotaku

It’s perfect timing for a game like The Ascent. Not much else is coming out right now, so there’s more incentive to break through its slow opening to get at some of the chunkier gameplay in the back-half of the game. It’s also on Game Pass for PC and Xbox, so you can get in, give it a try, and bounce back off it with minimal upfront investment. There’s just one problem: the cyberpunk action-RPG is a headache to play on console.

Yes, the game is a bit janky. No, the top-down twin-stick shooting does not feel great. But the real issue is that the game is a visual mess to navigate on a conventional TV screen with loads of borderline impossible to read text. None of these are new issues exactly. I and others have been complaining about tiny fonts for years now. And it’s clear that, while console manufacturers have tried to make porting games from PC easier than ever, especially on the Xbox side, the games themselves are seldom optimised for anyone not playing with a keyboard and mouse while sitting two feet from a giant-arse computer monitor.

The Ascent has been a big part of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S marketing push, though. The company listed it as one of its “biggest exclusive games lineup ever” and clearly thought it was worth locking down as a day-one Game Pass title as well. And, look, three hours in and I am still lowkey enjoying myself and morbidly fascinated by the oppressive detail and density of Neon Giant’s take on cyberpunk. At the same time, I have almost no clue what’s going on or how its progression systems work because I can’t read a damn thing on the screen:

Image: Neon Giant / Kotaku Image: Neon Giant / Kotaku
Image: Neon Giant / Kotaku Image: Neon Giant / Kotaku

While The Ascent does have a display option in the settings menu to boost the front size, it only seems to work for cutscene subtitles. Ambient conversations throughout the rest of the world and a cascade of RPG-lite menus remain incomprehensible. A few times, I walked over and stood directly in front of my 50” TV to read some flavour text or compare stats on new armour in the shop. Mostly, I’ve just been ignoring the story altogether and dumping skill points into random stats. Several people tell me this is a perfectly feasible way to play and beat the game. It is also, frankly, a bummer way to play.

There are other shortcomings with the console version. Multiplayer has been a bit of a mess. There’s no ray-tracing or DLSS (deep learning super sampling) visual features at the moment either, though they’re getting added soon. I can accept these trade-offs for the option to play a grimey sci-fi Diablo-like from the comfort of my couch, however. Maybe someday that’ll be a real option. For now, you can find me surfing The Ascent wikis to get an idea of what’s actually going on outside of all the augmented looting and shooting.

Comments

  • I agree with the small text, but for me this game has plenty of bigger issues, such as the fact that half of the time you have no idea what some of the icons even mean or could represent to know what augments, mods etc. are ACTUALLY doing.. I’m not an advocate of hand holding, but I think it needs to be a little easier to understand, ‘that icon means X and will do Y to mod Z’.

    That’s to say nothing of the broken map system which is confusing to navigate and always shows you a wavpoint by the longest route, as opposed to utilising any fast travel systems you’ve unlocked.

    The gameplay is awesome and I so want to love this game more, but it’s almost like it hates you back..

    • That was one of the things that came up when the US posted my review. Some of the commenters there couldn’t quite get their head around why I took issue with so many things, while loving this as much as anything I’ve played this year.

      Put another way, as Bajo said on stream: The Ascent is two patches away from being brilliant.

      It’s got one of the best gameplay loops going around, that’s for sure. But Christ there are so many side issues that just absolutely do not need to exist, or there’s little things that are undoubtedly a byproduct of the devs just being within a bubble of their own logic for too long.

      Great case in point: it’s natural to them to think, oh you just tap the use key to pick up a weapon without equipping it. But the game doesn’t overtly tell you that, so everyone who plays immediately wonders why they can’t just pick up items like every other game.

      Little things. They don’t stop the game from being awesome, but they’re definitely annoying.

  • Nothing says aggressively PC like ‘Press a key to start’ on the console title screen. It’s still there after the recent update.

  • Reminds me of trying to play Red Alert 3 on X360 through scart on a 24″ 4:3 TV over a decade ago! Got about a minute in before abandoning.

    Not finding The Ascent too bad but I play my XSX 2 feet away from my 32″ 4K monitor!

  • The game gets mediocre review scores, and is a average game. Of course it has theses kinds of issues. The bigger problem for me is that there is such a lack of quality games coming out of the last 2 years that we are forced to play these 6-7/10 games now for hardcore gamers that have play a lot of game hours every week.

    It’s getting to be big issue, before we would get a constant stream of medium budget to AAA massive games a year that were at least a 8/10 now we are getting a handful of the same games. I haven’t been excited about a release since cyberpunk and we all know how that turned out, and even before that it was about a year before anything major had dropped.

    Anyway, this particular game is very average just stay away all together there are much bigger issues than text size with this game.

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