There are a couple things that make previews rather difficult. In addition to having unfamiliar controllers, minimal time to form an opinion, only so much experience and more, it’s extremely difficult to be critical. Where is the line between bad controls or unfamiliar controller? How can you suggest people avoid something, when said thing will undoubtedly get better? These questions are more went through my head while playing Underworld Ascendant.
Some of my issues with it undoubtedly stemmed from my inexperience playing with a keyboard and mouse. Running and jumping, swapping between weapons and just getting the timing of things right are all factors, yet there is an inescapable sense that it’s either too ambitious or in the extremely early stages of development, with the latter being more likely.
The main driving force behind Underworld Ascendant is the ability to decide your own path. You can open a door or simply break it down. Fire arrows or set them on fire and burn an enemy. Regardless of what you do, it is your adventure. This makes for an interesting experience, assuming all the pieces are in place.
On a basic level everything is present. I had multiple options, there was more to see than just a simple fetch quest and timing is key. What holds Underworld Ascendant back are the mechanics. Climbing up ledges was often slow enough that traps would either kill me or it’d be a narrow escape, with some of the other mechanics requiring a bit of luck and good timing. This will likely get sorted by the time it releases, as no one likes having to wait for a blade to over your head if you want any chance to survive.
Where things get really iffy is combat. Weapons lacked a sense of impact, making it feel dull. Sure, you can swing at enemies and they’ll die, there were just no sounds, didn’t push them back/interrupt their action or anything. By the time I killed my fifth undead it proved too uninteresting to continue.
Thankfully the task was simple, get an item and return to the surface, something that was held back by questionable mechanics. One of the worst was climbing a rope, as it required looking up when a simple command to increase or decrease would go a long way.
By the end of my session I found myself questioning Underworld Ascendant’s future, especially after a solid pitch made it seem quite interesting. Odds are most, if not all, of these issues will be corrected by the time of release, it just left me underwhelmed. If nothing else, it has great ideas that may or may not be implemented correctly and that is something players should keep in mind.