Underworld Ascendant is out now, OtherSide Entertainment’s crowdfunded spiritual sucessor to Ultima Underworld. For the younger among us, or those who had better things to do in the early 90s than trawl imaginary dungeons, that means it’s a first-person action RPG with a focus on puzzling out creative solutions to problems. There’s stealth, parkour and multiple ways through every level, with your choices on a three-branched skill tree affecting your options later on. It also has a very glowy high-fantasy aesthetic that reminds me a bit of Trine. The launch trailer lies beneath.
While nobody has sent out review code yet (so far as I’m aware), some folks on YouTube have been poking around the game early. Vicariously experiencing it through them, the game looks like a blend of comfortingly familiar elements from immersive sims past. Thief’s water arrows are back and essential for extinguishing lights if you want to sneak past undead guards. The runic spellcasting system from the original Underworld (and Arx Fatalis) is back, too. Players can also place their own checkpoints (in case of death) by planting magic seeds where fertile ground allows.
Physics seem to play a major part in the game too, pleasantly reminding me of the glut of wildly bouncing objects and ragdolls we saw in games after Half-Life 2’s release. Hitting enemies with heavy attacks has a chance of knocking them off ledges or tumbling down staircases and slopes Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic style – always fun. There are also crates to be abused, stacking them to allow creative access to areas that you probably shouldn’t be in. I’m curious to see just how well designed the levels are, and how resistant it is to players getting really wild with its systems.