Ascent – The Space Game – What We Think:
The space simulation genre has always been surprisingly niche, so it’s always good to see a new one being developed. Ascent – The Space Game may have a fairly prosaic name, but it’s certainly descriptive of its content. Ascent is a space exploration MMO sandbox set in a randomly generated universe (with the exception of a small area that was pre-designed by the developer). Players can build businesses, establish bases, explore new worlds and do much more in this ambitious game.
Ascent – The Space Game wisely begins with a flight tutorial intended to help players get to grips with controlling a space craft. This lasts about 10 minutes and helps to set out the ways in which you can move your ship around. Whilst this is a good idea for teaching new players, it would be useful to have a quick reference for key-bindings as well; I found myself often trying to remember the correct key for a particular action, and unfortunately the key-binding menu is in the launcher for the game rather than being accessible during gameplay.
Raise The Sales!
The tutorial ended with my achieving orbit, and from there I was given a few simple jobs to get things going. I believe Ascent would have benefited from a slightly more extensive introduction to explain the way the mercantile system works, along with the various other aspects of the game that a player needs to interface with in order to succeed. That being said, games of this sort are, by their nature, sprawling.
Bogging down new players with tutorials can be unhelpful, so developers Fluffy Kitten Studios certainly had an unenviable task in providing a short but sufficiently informative opening. Intrepid gamers should have no difficulty in hunting down the information they need online, in any case.
After getting underway I found Ascent to be dauntingly vast but ultimately quite friendly to explore. The early quests help to provide a soft introduction of simply couriering supplies from one location to another, and other players were quite willing to answer my questions. These early fetch quests did feel a little protracted, but the expansiveness of Ascent soon became apparent.
Total Eclipse of the Heart
The options available for players seem broad. Sublight travel is slow, but exploration can be interesting and the attention to detail in Ascent is admirable. Celestial bodies have gravity, and by default your ship can be pulled towards them – though you can counter that force with your ship’s gravity anchor. I found myself flying into a planet’s atmosphere just to see if I could and, indeed, I ended up cruising over green fields. This freedom is a rare and exciting gift.
In terms of options, Ascent lives up to its claim of being an MMO. There are plenty of possibilities for advancement; I soon realized that most space stations were player-owned and even found that it is possible to establish colonies on randomly generated worlds in order to produce resources. You can mine asteroids, tangle with pirates and take on contracts to earn money. Even jump gates – the primary means of interstellar FTL travel – can be constructed by players.
Unfortunately, Ascent is still quite rough around the edges. I entered into combat with pirates on three occasions, only to find that they would fire in my direction for a few seconds before entering an uncontrolled spin, shooting randomly in all directions until I destroyed them.
Visually, Ascent is a little grating at times, too; as my vessel accelerated to FTL it would simply ignore anything in its way – such as space stations, planets and stars – and fly straight through as it gained speed. It’s perhaps nitpicking, but I found it harmful to my immersion. Han Solo’s warnings of flying straight into a star be damned; in Ascent they pose no obstacle.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Backstab
Ascent is a PVE game and has seemingly no interest in featuring any player versus player action. This will please some whilst putting others off, and this is simply a matter of taste. The huge wars, cunning plots and dramatic backstabbing of EVE Online will not be replicated here, and Ascent encourages an altogether more cooperative form of space exploration and industry building.
Ascent – The Space Game is a massive game with randomly generated content, ensuring that there will never be a lack of new worlds to explore and new space to build in. Its focus on PVE and cooperative trading will also be a refreshing change to those more used to having to watch their backs when mining that rare ore.
Whilst the game is certainly far from faultless, it does offer a lot of options and potentially many hours of exploration. Anyone looking for a chance to build a new interstellar corporate empire could do worse than checking out this enterprising game.
Ascent – The Space Game is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Ascent – The Space Game below: