Underworld Ascendant swings into action in September

Underworld Ascendant

Perhaps being nine years old when it was released may have dulled my appreciation of the original Ultima Underworld. Looking back, it’s a vitally important, genre-defining game, but I was just too young and inexperienced to appreciate it at the time. Decades of playing immersive sims later, and I am practically buzzing with anticipation for spiritual successor Underworld Ascendant. Today, OtherSide Entertainment (who are also working on System Shock 3) released a new gameplay trailer as well as announcing that the game is due out this September.

Oddly, the impression I get from the trailer below is less Ultima Underworld (despite invoking the name of the Stygian Abyss) and more Thief by way of Trine, both in terms of mechanics and art direction. Which is to say this is something that I am extremely on-board for; I can’t help but grin at the possibilities inherent in blending sneaky shadow-hugging, torch-extinguishing stealth with swashbuckling rope-swinging and breaking all the puzzles with magically manipulated physics objects.

Several trailers in and I’m well on board with the dense pools of coloured lighting. A little otherworldly and cartoonish, admittedly, but I can see it working. With just a few well-picked visual cues and colour coded objects, you end up with a much more visually readable environment than in the likes of Thief’s grey-brown tunnels. Looking Glass’ sneakman sims are games I love to pieces, but some details do get lost in the backdrops.

Two things about the trailer do raise eyebrows, though – first one, then the other. Quite what OtherSide reckon they’ve done to need a (provisional) 18+ age rating is beyond me, as nothing in the trailer appears to be anything past PG material. Plus, I’m not entirely sure how you’re meant to swing dramatically from a dangling rope while shooting a bow with both hands. Must be those +3 Pantaloons of Choking Grip, which may also explain the age thing.

While the specific day has yet to be worked out, Underworld Ascendant should be launching this September, and you can wishlist it on Steam here.

23 Comments

  1. Moraven says:

    Lots of press were at a pre-E3 event and got to play. Looks like the general vibe is they were not to impressed.

  2. Splyce says:

    It looks very, very clunky. That last bit with the rope and the bow, as mentioned in the article, not only defies reason but it doesn’t even seem fluid.

    I kind of like the art direction and the lighting, but it definitely gives away the safe hiding zones pretty easily, and the animations are stiff an uninviting. Which I suppose is fine if the goal of the game is more ‘first person puzzle/strategy game’ and less ‘stealth/action dungeon crawler.’

    Now that you mention Thief and after seeing this, I’m craving something that would be a deep, dark, tense dungeon delver, like a Thief/Soulsbourne hybrid, with survival/spellmaking components.

  3. DrJ3RK says:

    I don’t know, I think it looks pretty good. It’s no state of the art, but I really like the overall style. Ultima games were always stylistic and other-worldly anyway. I do see a little bit of the clunkiness, but then, the originals were pretty clunky too. If it provides the same depth of play as the older games, then I think this will be just fine. I’ll definitely play it, unless something HUGE is wrong with it.

  4. wwarnick says:

    More than anything, it reminds me a bit of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, specifically the Necropolis portion.

  5. something says:

    Befuddle!

  6. bacon seeker says:

    Looking forward to this as a huge looking glass fan. I do hope System Shock 3 is more survival horror in tone and gameplay and less cartoony

  7. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    It does have the feeling of Thief with more cartoony graphics, but even that would be a 100% improvement over the last Thief game and about 3 steps above The Elder Scrolls. I’d like to see some more footage of the interactions between systems and objects, but otherwise this looks pretty good.

  8. milligna says:

    It may be garish, but at least we don’t have to look at pictures of Lord British’s ratty ponytail in their promotional material. Wish it looked like more than a promising mod from some college kids, tho.

    • Titler says:

      What do you mean, look at it? You could BUY that rat-tail for $14,000! And his blood too!

      Sadly, Ascendant seems to have gone the same route as the execrable “Shroud of the Avatar” and so many other Kickstarters that first began in 2013; using the dwindling number of Whales still believing in the project to string out funding for year after year, and without the pressure of deadlines or standards, the core product just doesn’t shine… and only is forced into a launch when the money starts to dry up.

      Is that last true for UA? I don’t know, because the media virtually never looked again at this part of the industry after the initial hype, let alone at the financials of each project which might warn people which ones were likely to realistically survive or not. The only project which still attracts any comment is Star Citizen, simply because of the size of money raised.

      I had a half-eye on UA myself, indeed even had one of the cross over sale items for it in Shroud; but I can’t say the project as it currently is reminds me of Ultima Underworld in the slightest. So it seems to have fallen prey to the typical crowd funded game design drift, as well as the endless fund raising cycle. But at least it’s still vaguely like what was promised, unlike Shroud…

  9. ResonanceCascade says:

    It looks a little clunky (a bit like The Dark Engine, actually) but I’m still really looking forward to it. UU is one of my favorites.

    • nifft.batuff says:

      The Dark Engine is anything but clunky.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        The games built with it often were, but since you didn’t expound at all, I’ll have to reply with a shot in the dark as to what you mean:

        Your walking was simulated by a rotating brick, which could cause you to get hung up or slip on geometry. A bit clunky. Swordplay? So clunky they canceled development of their swordplay game and turned it into a stealth game. And don’t even get me started on all the clunk in System Shock 2.

        Great, great games. Maybe the best ever made. But kinda clunky.

  10. MrEvilGuy says:

    The art style really disappoints me. Not unique at all. The only recent big 3D game I can think of that somewhat stays true to the goofy art direction of games like ultima underworld is Might and Magic X.

  11. Caiman says:

    It’s entirely possible to hold onto a rope and have both hands free. You mostly use the legs and then pin the rope between arm and body. You should watch more acrobatics.

  12. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    There are a lot of boxes in this dungeon. Who is bringing in all the crates? Are the creatures of the dungeon using Ocado?

    More seriously yeah I’m on the fence about this. I’ve heard the gameplay is clunky and stuff gets caught on the environment a lot. I’m going to wait and see what people think once it is released.

    I also hope they don’t stick to this cartoony art style for System Shock 3…

  13. fish99 says:

    Hmmm…. I dunno, it doesn’t scream Ultima Underworld to me, more Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Does it have NPCs and dialogue choices?

    Also not a huge fan of the generic aesthetics.

  14. Premium User Badge

    kfix says:

    “Must be those +3 Pantaloons of Choking Grip, which may also explain the age thing“

    Thanks for that Dominic!

  15. Menthalion says:

    Although the original UU had cutting edge graphics and polish for the time, that didn’t make it the success it was.

    The world building and interlocking systems both at micro and macro level did.

    Let’s hope they nail that part so they can be forgiven for lacking the first. People could for Thief as well.

  16. Jungle Rhino says:

    Lars Andersen has studied ancient Persian texts describing how they would swing from rope to rope shooting 3 arrows at a time. He is also starring in the new Robin Hood movie!

  17. welverin says:

    It’s a sequel, not a spiritual successor.

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