OtherSide hopes you’re smarter than Underworld Ascendant in first trailer

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Underworld Ascendant is the first in a series of titles where Looking Glass studios alumni are moving to reclaim their former mantle. Under the OtherSide Entertainment banner, they’re working on a proper System Shock sequel, but the game we’ll see out of the gate next is the Ultima Underworld sequel we deserve. The Dungeons & Dragons flair is mixed into an immersive sim setup that lacks the Ultima name but keeps the spirit alive. Amidst deadly traps, evil glowing skeleton bois, and red hot liquid magma, there’s adventure to be had and hundreds of terrible deaths to meet! But not if you can outwit the game, which OtherSide is counting on.

The world is built seemingly entirely from machines that want to cut you in half and various box puzzles that can be weaponized, perhaps to defeat the traps? I don’t want to jump to conclusions. Nor do I want to attempt to jump over anything here. I feel like I’m in for reloading a lot of save games.

As Adam wrote of the game back in February, the draw here is using your wits to be a brilliant jerk to the game itself.

This is a game for anyone who has ever tormented a GM during a tabletop RPG session. The maps have been drawn up, the traps have been primed and all of the plans are coming together. You’re deep in a dungeon and the story is about to take a very unpleasant turn. And then…

“You said the spikey pillars are made of the same wood from which the ancient throne of Catharsia was carved? Fine. I’ll set fire to them.”

“You can’t do that…there are another six distinct phases of this particular peril…”

“I’m pretty sure I can. They’re wood. They’ll burn. Let’s get out of here.”

I… uh. I want that. No better feeling than a burst of knowing you’re smarter than Warren Spector. Gimmie dat brain-rush, Non-Ultima.

The first trailer is out now so… Enough gab; more stab:

As someone whose gaming history with Looking Glass is based more in the legacy it left and those who borrowed form it moving forward than in the original titles themselves, I’m excited to see how the team is modernizing their concepts. Plus dropping magic boxes on Ole Glow Bones there in the trailer looks pretty sweet.

There’s also a pretty swell developer diary series up with OtherSide Entertainment’s Paul Neurath, Warren Spector and Joe Fielder. Part The First is available here:

You can wishlist the game on Steam now.

(Wait. There’s a proper System Shock sequel coming? Did I bury the lede?)

28 Comments

  1. ResonanceCascade says:

    This looks right about how I’d want a modern version of Underworld to look. I’m glad they didn’t go for a grimdark style and kept it kind of cartoonish and fun.

    • Abracadaniel says:

      Hmm I would rather have had a more realistic art style, sound and atmosphere similar to Arx Fatalis. Current style is too kids cartoony for me. The skeletons look like they are from Sea of Thieves.

    • fuzziest says:

      I agree. This is a great look. Gritty realism is a pretty boring style and we’ve had way too much of it.

    • nifft.batuff says:

      I hate this plastic cartoon fake style.

    • Stevostin says:

      IMO the Art is terrible. I get the “old school illustration” vibe and great if done well. But it’s not. And the animation ! The plastic look on EVERYTHING ! This is better than earlier version though so there is still hope.

      Right now it looks like a lot of functional yet cheesy looking systems. This lacks weight, speed, impact. But I guess it’s easier to add that in later and that’s their current step is to have all of those systems working together first.

      Overall this is trending in the good direction though. As an UW fan I’ll keep on following updates on this.

      I hope they do something for the sound track though. The originals midi soundtracks were charming, this is the opposite of that. Generic, forgettable, loud.

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      I came here to say I didn’t like the look of it too – not so much the art style as the fact everything looks like it’s made out of shiny plasticine, and not in a good way. I don’t necessarily want realism, just non-shiny plasticineness. Reminds me somewhat of how fake everything looked in Bioshock, especially people, who all looked like painted dolls.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        I quite like the overall art direction but I do agree it would have been better if they’d done more with materials instead of giving everything the same shiny shading. Even if you’re going for a plastic toy look there are more subtle pleasing ways of achieving that look (eg Mario Rabbids).

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    subdog says:

    Looking great! I hope Bethesda is taking notes.

  3. caff says:

    I’m a backer. But I’m one of those weird people that wants to throw money at people whilst knowing as little as possible about the new project until it’s done. Hence I have skipped to the end of this piece to comment on how terrible/brilliant this is looking.

    • Sarfrin says:

      I backed too and haven’t been following progress that closely. It’s looking a lot nicer than the last time I saw it.

      • Mandrake42 says:

        Yeah, this is pretty much my position. Backed but have not really looked at it much since that time. Some of these Kickstarter projects take so long to finish I’d rather just let them do their thing and be surprised to find the full thing in my inbox one morning ;)

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      subdog says:

      I’m also a backer with a long history of the things I fund turning out to be absolute duds. This doesn’t look like those.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      I DIDN’T back this after getting stung by the hot mess that was Shroud of the Avatar.

  4. Sarfrin says:

    In fairness, I should also say that I’m warming to Brock’s writing style after initially being put off by the Great Farming Simulator Debacle of 2018.

  5. fenriz says:

    I can’t wait to see this, but i remember there was this fantasy FPS/rpg that supposedely gave one freedom. They showed this scene on a ledger: the player would cast an ice spell on the floor, the foe running toward you slips and falls. Everybody was hyped.

    but tricks get repetitive easily, it becomes a thing for show, not for play. Second problem is the crysis syndrome. You give the player all these tools to hurt, you’re like a sadistic executioner, choosing your toy to quarter the unfortunates.

    It’s not easy to balance these actions, make them work once, conceal them so they’re not in your face, and also give reasons to play in a way instead of a different way, consequences.

    • treat says:

      Is that Dark Messiah you’re thinking of? To me, games like Dark Messiah, Crysis, and the Far Crys are about abusing quicksave to choreograph cool action scenes among crazy setpieces. I honestly can’t see the appeal of those games otherwise. Using the optimal strategy (i.e., the relatively overpowered one that always works in every situation) would bore me to tears. The onus is entirely on the player to have fun by making the most out of the mechanics.

      That said, I’m really not interested in that kind of game anymore. I want to be pushed into creative solutions by difficulty-driven necessity. I feel like this is something Prey did pretty well, as the difficulty of combat and the divergence of playstyles through skill allocation often force players to approach situations in interesting ways. That really should be the key: don’t encourage creativity, *force* it. The trailer seems to imply that the game will be hard, but maybe those are just words? I don’t know.

      • Jernau Gurgeh says:

        Aaah, Dark Messiah… or, to give it’s correct name, Kicking Orcs Into Spikes Simulator 2006.

      • fenriz says:

        There you go. As you pointed out, freedom should be balanced by an urgence that’s the difficulty of the game, keeping you on your toes.

        Problem is games aren’t supposed to do that, to get you stuck anymore, ever since the turn of the century, when the best puzzle adventures were criticized for being too harsh on the players (in my opinion that’s the moment).

        Players must always win in the most accessible way.

        This has two consequences: first, the choices you make can’t give you a bad ending, so you can do whatever you want and it won’t matter; and second, the choices mustn’t concealed: in this game for example, it MAY BE that the choice to use that weird grass, or to use stuff for bridges, seems cute, but it seems too easy to do. it’s the “item highlighting” problem, designers believe they need to highlight our mouths to put the highlighted food they give us in.

        So i’m not sure how much challenge there is in this game (and that’s always my doubt). Where’s the challenge? Where’s misdirection? Where’s depth?

        Instead of picking up grass and throw it to do something, shouldn’t there be an intermediary step before that?

  6. shagen454 says:

    It’s weird, my rosy mental picture of U:U from playing it back in the day is realistic, dark & gritty. The same way Wolfenstein seemed realistic even though now to anyone playing it – it would seem simplistic & cartoony. I think Arx Fatalis style would have looked better but ultimately the gameplay is where it’s going to feel Underworld or not.

  7. welverin says:

    “Wait. There’s a proper System Shock sequel coming? Did I bury the lede?”

    No, Underworld is the real game to be excited about.

  8. ansionnach says:

    However this turns out there are already two superb Underworlds out there. Go play them – they’re still better than their successors. First one is by far the best.

  9. Babymech says:

    I find it inexcusably childish to make and market an entire computer game just so you can say “ass” without censure.

  10. geldonyetich says:

    It’s the only kickstarter I ever backed, but I threw in four times the box price.

    Here’s hoping it comes together well.

  11. poliovaccine says:

    Oh wow, awesome. I’m always down for another immersive-sim sandbox. Gotta say, I actually hate the setting – between it seeming visually boring and me being utterly claustrophobic, I don’t know how much I’ll enjoy it, though I guess I made out fine underwater in Bioshock. As long as the ceilings aren’t too low, and the map too mazelike…

    Thing is, for this type of game I’ll take almost any setting. I mean in Prey (or SS2), the sort of existential/body-horror sci-fi,is kind of my ideal setting for a thing like this, even moreso than the political sci-fi of the Deus Exes – but I’m plenty happy with that, too.

    Just not super into swords and skellingtons and magic and so forth. But I don’t hate it, I manage to enjoy Morrowind and Skyrim just fine (and Dark Souls, and Dark Messiah, and others). And if I can get over that hangup for Skyrim, I can surely do it for this..

  12. savagegump says:

    I’m not overly keen on the graphical style but its not the deal breaker for me. As a backer (and it’s the first thing I backed since the initial KS gold rush – which mostly left me feeling stung) I’m encouraged by the developer diary which shows that they are focussed on the immersive, flexible and emergent design principles which made the underworld games so awesome back in the day.

    If they deliver on this under-used approach to game-style then I will be chuffed, hopefully they will open it up to modding and then someone will likely give us a way to have a less garish palette.

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