Right, let's get this one out of the way first: No, Underworld Ascendant is not part of the Underworld film series starring Kate Beckinsale. I know, I know, we all wanna play as Selene and go murder some dumb vampires, but this is not that game. Instead, Underworld Ascendant is part of the Ultima Underworld series by Paul Neurath and Warren Spector. OtherSide Entertainment is changing things up with this entry into the series which should prove pretty interesting for fans of player-authored gameplay and 'immersive sims' set in fantasy realms.
So, pretty much anyone who hangs out in the fantasy RPG genre, myself included.
Underworld Ascendant takes you back to The Stygian Abyss where you enjoy some classic action RPG shenanigans that are designed to maximize player choice. So you do get a decent bit of control here, the ability to change things and effect the world around you. You've got a pretty deep faction-based plot with several decision trees, fluid combat, an improvisation engine, and constantly evolving environments. Which is awesome. I'm so down for a living world that reacts to my actions as a player, especially when that world is a spooky underground dungeon.
Now, this game was demoed during PAX East, and I was pretty excited to get a chance to play around with it. The demo was basically an open sandbox to play around with, which can be a dangerous proposition. Sandbox demos often feel a bit too unstructured and leave players feeling lost. Some games do sandbox demos well, the Elder Scrolls games always come demoed this way, but it is much riskier than giving players a dungeon to run or a boss to fight.
You could argue that because all of Underworld Ascendant is a dungeon, that is in fact exactly what OtherSide Entertainment has done here. And you'd be correct, technically. Now, the demo was a bit directionless, but there's more than enough in Ascendant to keep you busy even when you're just running around trying to see cool stuff like I ended up doing. I didn't get to see much of the evolving aspect of the game environment, nor did I get to see many decision trees, but I got to experience the combat which is much more fluid than I was expecting for a game with a very, very adaptable combat engine that allows you to combine magic and physical combat. It wasn't seamless, but it was fun, which is more than I can say for some games attempting the same premise.
Underworld Ascendant doesn't have a set release window just yet, but is expected to drop sometime this year. We're cautiously hopeful for it.
Additionally, the latest teaser trailer for the game has dropped this week. You can check it out below.