Three months on, and things have improved. In my initial review I said that this game was pushed out 6 months early. That still seems about right, because three months of patches have done a lot of good, but it still feels unstable and buggy, like a beta.
There's a lot of elements I like here. It's a mix of Underworld, Dark Messiah, and Thief, and it does a great job of giving you a lot of interesting ways to solve problems. It delivers on its promise of approaching game design as a simulation, rather than having the designers curate the solutions to puzzles. With a little more polish it'll be a solid release. It is certainly not the disaster it was at launch, but not quite ready for primetime either.
Unfortunately the game is an unrefined mess, full of bugs, framerate drops and bad physics. It’s more a puzzle-platformer with stealth and some basic rpg elements instead of an rpg dungeon crawler, and it’s not so immersive and free as the developers think. Maybe it will be improved, in fact the graphic it’s good and so the locations design, but right now it’s not the spiritual successor that backers deserved.
Underworld Ascendant touches on something but never really grasps it. It doesn't utilise any of the improvements from its long absence from the industry and even falls flat compared to the game it is meant to be the successor of.
The game is a failure due to an obviously rushed development from a team that is known to be skilled. Filled with bugs and poorly scenarised, it’s an RPG with a repetitive and bad combat system, set in a universe with a very limited art design.
Feels more like an unfinished, uninspired technical demo than an actual game. The first two leves (out of eight, including the hub) are almost ok, even though filled with bugs, but the others are clearly unfinished. Movements are clunky (you get stuck in the environment quite often); the much vaunted physics system is broken and not funny; the game lacks a meaningful save system; the missions are just a bunch of semi-random fetch quests, where you have to go through the same levels over and over, and the levels will reset after each visit (i. e. the enemies you killed, the doors you burned down, the chests you looted are all back again, like nothing happened). Finally, the user interface feels cheap: many objects share the same icon and the inventory slots give you no clear indication about the kind of protection currently in use (be it leather or steel).
Let's see, where to begin? For starters, the game has nothing to do with Ultima Underworld. The Kickstarter was basically a bunch of lies and crazy promises. The game isn't even finished: most of the later levels have holes and glitches everywhere (you can clip right through to the last level and beat the game in 20 minutes). UA is extremely buggy in general. When it does work as intended, it's not much fun, thanks to boring quests, empty environments, no NPC interactions and awkward physics-based gameplay. There's basically only one type of enemy (skeletons) because they didn't have enough of a budget to animate anything else, I guess, and their AI is prone to glitching out. To be fair, the environments do look pretty nice and messing around with the physics can be fun, but that's not nearly enough to recommend it, especially if you were hoping for a new RPG in the Ultima Underworld style.
The developers of UNDERWORLD ASCENDANT should be banished to the underworld. I've played indie games made by a team of one that are far superior to this.
UNDERWORLD ASCENDANT should be ashamed to use the name UNDERWORLD, as the ULTIMA UNDERWORLD games, being almost 30 years old created a far more believable and immersive underworld than this.
This is lazy programing: the game world consists out of a handful of levels which you will revisit over and over and over and over again to do quests - not given to you by NPCs, no, you just rip em off a board. The typical fetch x or kill x chores. The areas you revisit reset. Locked doors are locked again, enemies are back and puzzles need to be solved again.
The physics system is the most primitive thing they could get to work, it's also glitchy as hell. The art style is terrible - neon lights, bright colors, feels more like Tokyo than an Underworld. Then there's tons of bugs.
Well, at least it has to have a great story, right? No! You dream and awaken in the Underworld, and have to kill its prisoner Typhon. Yeah, brilliant, right?! UNDEROWORLD: ASCENDANT is one of the worst games ever made.
Normally I don't write reviews but it is neccessary now: I feel cheated, I paid 25 € for a joke, should have gone to a restaurant instead. I haven't played the old Underworld games so I can't compare it with them. But this gameplay is so annoying that every game design student could tell you that you shouldn't use it. So basically it follows this rule: let the player go into a level 10 times to find a generic item (the story is a joke, too), and each time everything is reset exactly the way it was before. So I have to burn the same wooden floor each 10 times to reach the generic item. That is sooo much fun, I want to do it 10 times more. Please, please make some DLCs with one new level, so that I can visit it 100 times without any change. Cause that is what makes games fun for 25 € !!!
SummaryIn 1992, Ultima Underworld changed the rules of what a fantasy RPG could be. It introduced the concept immersion, a player-authored experience, and an open-world to explore. The games is considered one of the most innovative and renowned RPG’s of its generation.