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Underworld Ascendant Unveils New Art Style

We’ve seen a little of Underworld Ascendant [official site] in action since OtherSide Entertainment crowdfunded their revival of ye olde Ultima Underworld games, but we’ve not seen its final look. They’ve been talking about what they call an “authored look”, an art style inspired by the unreality of tabletop games. Today Otherside shared a few new screens showing exactly what that means for the game’s world and enemies, starting with a chubby little skellington.

(Click for bigger versions of this and the one below, yeah?)

This style is the idea of art director Nate Wells, who joined OtherSide last year after yonks working on games including Looking Glass’s Thief, the BioShocks, and The Last of Us. In November he explained that digging up his old D&D books made him want to “recapture a retro sense of fantasy, fantasy the way our inner child remembers it” and turn away from ‘photorealism’:

“So for Ascendant, what if the world bore the Authorship of a tabletop game? Think of the old lead figures, the miniature play fields and what if Ascendant used that philosophy of everything being hand crafted and looking hand crafted? Natural, man-made… all of it. All of it looks like it was sculpted by an artist. That and bringing back some of the levity to the fantasy. We don’t have to be so deadly serious and bleak. A little more whimsy, and a little less brooding.”

I like the look of the world, the vivid colours and unreal scenes cut up with dark shadows, but textures and models seem a bit… blobby? That old fantasy style he speaks of was always scratchy and hard-edged to me, pencil sketches and cheap models. How that skeleton behaves and moves will make a huge difference, mind. I’m still delighted by how scampish skeletons in Dark Souls feel as they leap, roll, and spin.

Anyway! Underworld Ascendant is still crowdfunding through its own store, where folks can get access to prototype builds (and the full game, eventually) if they pay enough. The prototype is due to be updated with the new art style later this month.

Oh, and hey, remember that Warren Spector joined OtherSide too, yeah?

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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