Tips For Playing The Ascent

Tips For Playing The Ascent
Image: Neon Giant
At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW - prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

The Ascent is a straight twin-stick shooter for the most part, but there’s a huge difference between surviving and thriving in Veles.

Neon Giant’s debut game is pretty straightforward in terms of controls, but there are a few systems and swings in difficulty that players should be aware of. Fortunately, there’s lots of tools and tricks available to help you wipe Veles clean of anything standing in your way — provided you’re well equipped first.

This post has been updated with more tips since first publication.

Got the stutters? Try these fixes.

The Ascent‘s biggest technical issue, especially on PC with the Game Pass build, is micro-stuttering. Fortunately, some users have reused a clever trick from another game — Control — which also suffered stutters at launch.

If you’re finding the game pretty rough while using DX12, give this a go:

  • Click on the Windows Start Menu and search for Exploit Protection
  • Click on the Program Settings tab
  • Click + Add Program to Customize
  • Select Exact File Path
  • Navigate to \steamapps\common\The Ascent\TheAscent\Binaries\Win64\ and select TheAscent-Win64-Shipping.exe
  • In the window that appears scroll down to Control Flow Guard
  • Check in Override System Settings, turn the setting off, then click Apply

You can do this trick if you’re playing the Game Pass for PC version too, but you’ll need to gain access to your WindowsApps folder — here’s tips on how you can do that. Once you’ve done that, follow the steps above but add The Ascent by name, and point it to the correct .exe file.

Other things you can try are to run the game in windowed or exclusive fullscreen mode — I’ve found the stutters are less extreme in either of those modes. Also know that the stuttering will improve as you play: the game caches everything the first time something happens (like entering a new city area, a barrel exploding etc.) so once you’ve seen through the first hour or so, the experience should be smoother.

Hand in your bounties — once you have a stack of them

ascent tips
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

As you play The Ascent you’ll run into little mini-bosses — characters with a specific name and a larger HP bar over their head. These are effectively bounties you can hand in for cash, although you’ll only get the extra cash when you hand the bounty into a bartender.To find a bartender, simply look for the money bag symbol with a plus on it. You’ll see what that looks like above, and the icon will also appear on the mini-map in the top right. Don’t feel obliged to rush to hand in a bounty though: you’re only get 1,000 uCreds a piece, so it’s not worth visiting the bar until you’ve got several to hand in.

Speaking of cash…

Don’t forget to sell all your duplicate items

ascent tips
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

Any time you go to a vendor you’ll be able to sell all of your duplicate weapons, armour, tactical grenades and augmentations. (There seems to be a bug where it sells all your duplicates by using the shortcut provided, but it doesn’t actually remove all of them from your inventory unless you go through each category individually.)  You can then use those dollars to pick up a specific gun or piece of equipment if you don’t have it.

Double-check your weapon’s damage type, and make sure you equip something with fire damage early.

Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

The most important element in The Ascents weapons isn’t necessarily the DPS value, fire rate or how that all plugs into your stats. It’s actually the type of damage each weapon does, and every weapon will do one of four types of damage.

If you’re struggling in battles, it’s almost 1000 percent because you’ve got the wrong gun/damage type equipped. To make the early battles much easier, make sure you equip a fire-type weapon, specifically the HCF Heat. Even if it’s a lower level version than some of your other weapons, all humanoid creatures take massive damage from fire — even if those enemies are a much higher level than you.

Similarly, the game will pit you against robots later on. Equipping an energy handcannon or burst rifle is almost mandatory here, especially if you want to quickly deal with the robotspider boss.

Energy weapons go through shields.

The game doesn’t tell you this, but you’ll occasionally see tanky dudes slowly charge at you while holding a shield. That’s fine: just equip an energy rifle/handcannon/pistol/energy anything, and the bullets will pass right through the shield.

Make sure you have enough tier 1 or tier 2 components for upgrades.

As you can see in the shot above — although the UI isn’t as clear as it could be — weapons are upgraded using the components you find throughout the game. But guns can only be upgraded in order. So to take a gun from Mk4 to Mk5 requires 5 tier 1 components — and from Mk5 onwards, you can only use tier 2 components to upgrade that weapon. You can’t use high tier components to upgrade something stuck at Mk1, so budget accordingly.

Make sure you have at least one good AOE/high rate of fire weapon upgraded by the end of the game.

You’ll find a myriad of rocket launchers throughout your playthrough. They won’t always seem necessary because of the types of enemies you run up against — energy weapons, for instance, are far more effective against robots most of the time.

But in the game’s last act, you’ll end up dealing with a lot of creatures that swarm you at once. Having a good rocket launcher here is basically mandatory if you’re playing solo: it thins the crowd out much faster and works especially well with the Volatile augmentation. Upgrading a machinegun or minigun is another option, and you won’t have to worry about splash damage in close range, but I find the rocket launcher usually works better.

Always keep an eye on the red explosive barrels.

ascent tips
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

Just as the world is filled with seats, barricades and various pillars to hide behind, there’s also plenty of explosive barrels to do your dirty work. This shot from one of the game’s boss fights is a good example. The Siege Mech’s attack radius and AI will draw it around the pillar, and all it takes is a single shot — plus a dodge — to do enormous damage.

But there are tons of opportunities for this in almost any firefight, and you can often draw the AI into the barrel’s range by crouching and dodging around the many bits of cover available.

Remember that almost anything can be cover.

Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

The Ascent is designed to give you lots of opportunities to safely shoot enemies. The above firefight in a public transport area is a great example. You can see several targets on the mini-map, mixed among a ton of civilians who are starting to scatter at the sound of gunfire.

It’s difficult to quickly identify in a crowd all the targets, so the safest thing to do is to pick a corner or a bench. By holding down the aim button, you can shoot targets out in the open, and you’ll be protected from any gunfire. You’ll still have to run from enemies throwing grenades, but using the available space helps you minimise the amount of fights you have to take at any one time.

This ambush in a city street is another good example. It’s not feasible to continue dashing forward, but you can see several opportunities for cover as my character retreats: pillars on the edge or small barriers in the middle of the street. By crouching and circling around those blocks, you can easily protect yourself while picking off enemies at will.

Some augments are miles better than others.

You’ll get a decent range of augments through the main campaign, although it’s not always apparent which augments are the most effective. Neutron Beam, for instance, seems super awesome: it does massive damage, and it also does even more damage if you’ve invested a ton of points into your aim and reload. But the problem with the beam is that it locks you on the spot and can’t shoot through cover — so it’s super unhelpful in areas with lots of cover.

Instead, the unheralded Overclock is astonishingly useful. It speeds up all your recharge times — including health regeneration, although the game’s tool tips doesn’t specifically mention that part. I found Overclock was essential when solo’ing the final boss fight, as it spawns endless waves of enemies if you don’t take them out fast enough.

Rat Bite can be found in the Waste Disposal area, but only towards the end of the game as you’ll need ICE 2 to open the chest. It hacks nearby enemies to fight for you temporarily. Life Transfer can also be a lifesaver, returning health from damage dealt to marked enemies.

Fortunately, the penalty for swapping augs out isn’t too severe. If you’re switching augs through the in-game menu, you’ll lose a ton of energy — although that energy generally regens fast enough that it’s not an issue. (It’s worth keeping in mind if you’re swapping your loadout before heading into a boss fight though — maybe double-back and find an energy ATM you can hack first.)

Pay attention to which enemies are rushing you.

ascent review
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

Enemy behaviours are fixed, which is hugely helpful for mentally mapping out battles in advance. In practice, what that means is that you can focus your attacks on which enemies will force you to change your position (either through melee attacks, grenades or other AOE effects).

The above shot is a good example. I’m targeting the enemy to the right here, although the larger foe in the middle is a hammer-wielding character that can do attacks through cover. Their HP is much higher, however, and the skull icon indicates that I can’t withstand too many attacks if I get caught out in the open. So the sensible option here is to pick off the standard ranged enemy from cover, and then I can retreat backwards to deal with the melee enemy as necessary.

It’s also good to use augmentations to exploit AI behaviour. Some of the lower level foes will swarm you, which is a great opportunity for maximising the damage of your grenades. Another option is the augmentation that ‘marks’ enemies, causing them to do explosive AOE damage on death. It’s especially helpful in boss fights too, as the mobs that spawn often are a bigger threat (either directly or because they force you to move into more vulnerable locations).

You can even use this AI behaviour to funnel enemies into tight corridors or doorways. Once an enemy starts rushing, they will always rush your position — while other characters will default to their predefined behaviours. Take advantage of that, and you’ll find most fights become a lot simpler.

Dump a ton of points into aim; don’t spend so much on critical hit or evasion.

ascent tips
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

You get three skill points per level, although there’s some bonus skill points scattered throughout Veles. But the most important thing to know is which stats will immediately give you the most return, and which ones don’t.

I’d recommend not dumping a ton of points into your critical hit: it makes out at 20 percent, which is a pretty poor return given the rate of increase you get from the other stats. Aiming, on the other hand, is immensely useful under all scenarios. It reduces the weapon spread recovery rate for all weapons, which you can see on-screen as the aim cursor shrinks and expands after every shot:

Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

Reducing the weapon spread is a huge deal for burst rifles, shotguns and fully automatic rifles: it means you’ll waste fewer bullets clearing out enemies, especially if you’re trying to pick people off at range. If you want to run around one or two-shotting enemies with the handcannons or pistols, maxing out aim is almost mandatory. Both those weapon types can do a ton of damage, but only if their bullets aren’t being wasted — and when you have a ton of enemies rushing you at once, you can’t afford to have shots flying off target.

Some equipment will buff your core attributes as well, so you don’t need to overinvest in something like health. I’ve made my case for dumping points into aim, but I also think investing a ton into weapon handling — which improves your reload speed — is super essential too. If you want to spend more time using your augments, consider maxing out your tactical sense instead.

Evasion’s also another stat that doesn’t seem super helpful: it doesn’t improve how quickly you can dodge, or its range. So given the base dodge is already pretty quick and gives you enough room to avoid most attacks, you’re better off dropping points into the other stats first.

Set aim assist to medium or high.

This is a formal recommendation from the developers, and it’s one I’d echo. The way aiming works in The Ascent is that you’re targeting an exact spot. So if you aim behind an enemy, don’t expect the bullet will carry through them: you want to be aiming just in front, or precisely on your preferred target. That can be hard to do when you’re getting rushed, particularly on a controller, so don’t feel bad about bumping the assist up.

Some enemies will drop little healing beacons: those will heal you too.

Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

There’s a lot to keep track of in a firefight, but pay attention to the green AOE elements. They’re basically healing beacons that the enemy drops for themselves, but you can take advantage of them as well.

Keep an eye on the ATMs too — they’ll often drop small or large health packs you can use.

Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

There’s basically three types of ATMs you’ll encounter, and all of them have a small marker on your mini-map. The most expensive ones cost over 100 uCred a pop, and will spit out 50 HP packs. The cheapest ones spit out small health packs, and the 99 uCred one seen above will give you energy potions, which helps refuel your abilities/grenades.

Double check what buffs you’re getting from your equipment, especially its core attributes.

ascent tips
Image: Kotaku Australia / Neon Giant

On the right hand side every piece of equipment will be broken into three categories: a defence rating, attributes and “boosts”. The damage stats basically indicate that, in this case, the Redrunner Smooth Top provides more protection against energy weapons. It’ll also buff my evasion skill by 5 points — which is a healthy boost, but not that practical if you’re not investing points into that stat.

This is worth remembering because you want to swap your armour out to match the enemies you’re fighting, particularly before major boss fights. It’s also handy if you just want to have a top or pants to boost a stat by a little bit — like your health — so you can focus your skill points elsewhere. That said, The Ascent is pretty free with money, so if you need to visit the grafter to reset your skills, you’ll usually be able to afford it.

Note the cross-play isn’t with the Steam version of the game.

If you’re looking to play across PC and Xbox, good news: The Ascent supports cross-play. But it’s only with the UWP version of the game that you’ll get through the Windows Store, or the Xbox Game Pass app, not the build on Steam. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of playing with friends — although given The Ascent is on Game Pass for PC, as well as console, this isn’t the biggest issue.

Update your Nvidia drivers.

This is something that’s only popped up immediately since release. If you’ve got The Ascent on Steam, and the game isn’t letting you select any of the DLSS options, it’s because you need to update your Nvidia drivers.

The latest Nvidia Game Ready drivers don’t actually mention The Ascent at all, but if you want to mess around with ray-tracing, you’ll need them.

Turn the volume down if you want to use “Indent Mode”.

There’s a special audio profile in the settings: Indent Mode. It’s loud as hell, however, and it massively boosts the audio of all the background noise, and the ambient music.

It’s cool to listen to for a while, but it’s also super loud and very offputting. If you’re going to play with this, drop your audio volume by about half so you don’t blow your ears out.


  • “you have to go into every category to sell all of your duplicates”

    As far as I can tell, this isn’t true. You just have to go into one of the categories, hit the “sell duplicates” button once, and it *does* sell them across all duplicates.

    The feedback for this could be better, though.

    • That isn’t the case from what I’ve seen playing this morning.

      I’ve had to enter each category to sell duplicates.

      • So it looks like it does sell them all, just doesn’t update the UI. Selling (duplicates) in other tabs won’t increase your credits.

  • Any advice on multiplayer? I tried to do some online co-op but it only seems to let me “host” a new game or “host” and load. Are there options to just join a party?

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!