Underworld Ascendant: Peek Into The Stygian Abyss

“A rogue’s view of the dwarven magic controlling the flow of lava in the Stygian Abyss’ Volcanic core.”

That is how the folk at OtherSide Entertainment teased a video for a prototype of their RPG Underworld Ascendant [official site]. I’m a sucker for wanting to peer into Stygian Abysses (provided they don’t start peering back into me) and thus here we are. They did not mention it was a very bad day to be a Shadow Beast:

Underworld Ascendant, you will remember, is a continuation of the Ultima Underworld series (although without the Ultima name – I believe that’s still property of… EA?) and is being helmed by that game’s original creators. It reached its Kickstarter funding target (and then some) earlier this year and, as OtherSide CEO Paul Neurath explains, this video is intended as an early snapshot of the progress made since the crowdfunding campaign.

The premise here is that a rogue steals a dwarven artifact which is being used to control volcanic lava flow. As a consequence she must defeat the artifact’s guardian unarmed. Well, unarmed except for that artifact you can use to control molten rock.


1. I would have run away from that Shadow Beast a LOT earlier and am thus a better rogue.

2. Actually, that’s what I would have done in real life. In a game I would probably have tried to hit it in the face and push it off the platform. That’s my favourite way of handling enemies with impressive health bars, by the way – shoving them off cliffs and ledges.

3. I felt bad about the Shadow Beast’s demise but I do now want to be in charge of the flow of lava. I can see this being a problem. I get attached to monsters in games if they seem sad or distressed and have to then factor that into playing.

4. This is only a prototype so I wonder how the lava will look and move in the final game. I went to find some videos of the different ways lava can look and its viscosity to talk about that a bit but then I found the Lava song from Inside Out so here is that instead because it’s stuck in my head. Join me:


  1. DevilishEggs says:

    This project has hovered under the radar a bit but it’s showing a lot of promise. The scale seems sort of small and tightly focused, like original UU, which means they can perhaps pour their energies into making the environments detailed and reactive and responsive to this “Improvisation Engine” concept they’re working with.

    • Dave Tosser says:

      I did a stealthy run through Arx Fatalis earlier this year and had great fun with that game’s size, though the human city consisting of 20 people and empty lower levels weren’t great. A bunch of inter-connected cthonic routes is much cooler than some fucking sandbox.

      I haven’t been paying attention to this but I’d love if it could do some of that dark, Thiefish atmosphere of Arx’s Crypt dungeon.

  2. FCA says:

    Hmm… I hope the tiny FOV can be adjusted, or that it’s just placeholder right now.

    • Mr_Blastman says:

      That’s the first thing I noticed, too. Wider FOV, please. :)

      I backed the project. I’m hoping for a true sequel/arx sequel.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        In the Kickstarter comments for the video they said the FOV will be adjustable, and will be set to 90 for default (not sure what it’s at for the video).

    • steves says:

      I wonder about this. And am glad I’m not the only one.

      I don’t get motion sick, and it’s not claustrophobia-inducing, though these are both common complaints about FoV.

      But this view looks like utter shit. What possessed them, and indeed most other modern games to make that horrible narrow view the default?

      Is it a performance thing(wider FoV = more pixels I guess), or am I just a weird outlier with strange eyes?

      • socrate says:

        So highly scripted stuff,mediocre graphic,horribly designed monster,crappy lightning effect and lava,horrible FoV(do they want to port it right away to console or what?or see if its a nice way to make extra money maybe).

        Oh and the whole light vs monster thing is a bit recent from Dark soul it was fun and underused but nothing mindblowing at this point…is Richard Garriot involved in this everything he lay is eyes on seem to wither and die horribly.

        Oh and i know ultima fanboy like any fanboy venerate these old game but quite frankly i found only 7 and underworld to be worth mentioning and even then they didn’t age well at all and although underworld was fun it was fidely as hell even back then and had tons of problem…but it did influence and forge all the game we play today…now..going back to this…i dunno..game have come a long way.

        This just doesn’t seems interesting and seems to be just fan milking and rose tinted glass people milking..they were far from perfect game…and this quite frankly as nothing to draw me in.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          I am also shocked that the footage that is clearly labeled “early prototype” features unpolished graphics and features. No, wait. Not shocked. The other thing.

          • socrate says:

            oh right i forgot that alpha are immune to being judged in this decade…and btw this is highly advanced alpha its not like it as high res texture and lightning already in it..ffs

          • Geebs says:

            Character animation is pretty darn expensive, and I don’t think these guys are on a particularly big budget. It’s probably never going to be better than mid-2000s.

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            It isn’t even an Alpha, it’s a PROTOTYPE. The game has been in development for like four months. So yeah, judge whatever you want, just don’t expect to be taken seriously.

    • steves says:

      wider FoV = more graphics calculation required before rendering *the same number of pixels*

      I can imagine good reasons why there’s no edit function, but us idiots who write wrong things would love one;)

  3. eightohnine says:

    I still remain confident in this project, but that whole segment felt far too much like playing through a setup. So when you face a shadow monster you turn on light sources (in the conveniently dark surroundings) using the artefact you just stole, which was the reason the monster is chasing you in the first place. That doesn’t feel like improvisation.

    Though I’d like to be proven completely wrong and see that same segment played through totally differently with other characters (fighter attacking the monster, thief using his own cloaking skills to hide from the monster, mage putting the monster under a spell, etc…). Or even better: Show me that sequence with the same unarmed rogue but solving the situation differently. Then I’ll be happy to believe in the Improvisation Engine.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I think the real purpose of this demo was to say “see, dummies, the game ISN’T going to look like that Kickstarter prototype you all whined about.” I’m looking forward to seeing the improvisation engine in action as they move along though.

    • Emeraude says:

      Yeah, it does look like some kind of pre-ordained, pre-scripted route rather than the demo of systems in place allowing you to tackle things the way you see fit.

      Still, a bit too early to judge. Wait and see.

  4. Stevostin says:

    Man the animation are terrible and the textures have up and downs, but the lightning is interesting. If it keeps its promise of “many solutions” it may be a nice game.

    Can’t say it reminds me that much of UW though.

  5. Emeraude says:

    Hopeful, but wary.

    This looks like it could be good.

  6. shadeovblack says:

    From now on whenever I hear this song, a dying volcanos lava will be reignited by an unwitting thief stealing an artifact.

  7. Yglorba says:

    The voice-over reminded me happily of Garret’s from Thief, which is perhaps not so surprising when you have a thief giving narration in a game by the lead designer of Thief.

  8. Blake Casimir says:

    Why are there so few first person dungeon crawlers any more? And I DON’T mean those tedious grid-based ones. Free-look, free-movement Ultima Underworld or King’s Field style RPGs / dungeon crawlers are pretty much the rarest gaming genre on the planet. And also my favourite. :( WHY ARE THERE PRACTICALLY NONE ANY MORE???

    • vlonk says:

      There is Skyrim for once and Minecrafts “whole in the ground” gave me plenty of shivers. Since all those are a few years old now… Let’s see what Fallout 4 can bring to the table before we judge 2015 on dungeons and crawling.

    • dethtoll says:

      I’d love for From to resurrect King’s Field. Their dark fantasy settings are so lovely and creepy.

  9. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Aargh hurry up and finish and release this game already.
    Also when are we going to see the original UU and UUII fixed up in the way System Shock has been? I want to play them so badly, but they look and control so badly.

  10. dethtoll says:

    So is this part of the Ultima setting or not? I never really quite saw the need for a spiritual sequel to UU and yet we already got one (Arx Fatalis, and that one was nearly as irritating as its predecessors) and now we’re seeing another. But as long as it’s not tied to Dick Garriot or Ultima I’m interested.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      It doesn’t use the Ultima setting. But it sounds like you are not interested in this at all anyway.

      • JiminyJickers says:

        My mistake, just realised. They can apparently use anything from Ultima except for the Trademark. I’m looking forward to it.