Ascend: New Gods
Ascend: New Gods was one of three XBLA previews to grab the spotlight earlier this month at Microsoft’s E3 press conference. The announcement trailer was nothing spectacular, but after taking a closer look, the game is shaping up to be something truly unique.
In Ascend: New Gods, gamers play as a Caos (pronounced Chaos), a half-giant warrior sworn to serve one of three gods, Light, Dark, and Void. As players progress through the game, the main goal is to bring the world under the influence of the god that they serve. The player does this by destroying shrines to the other gods and building their own. Immediately after building a shrine, players will see the land begin to change, rapidly shifting into a form more pleasing to their master.
The three gods represent three different play styles. The goddess of darkness is the closest thing to a villain, focusing on destruction and hate. Light is not the good side. Instead, followers are more like the crusaders, who went into battle to “rid the world of heathens.” Finally, the void faction focuses on manipulation and control, mimicking the trickster archetype in mythology.
As the player progresses, there is a fourth faction, the Titans, who are the current rulers of the world. This means that in addition to fighting other gods, they will also fight mammoth bosses on the scale of Shadow of the Colossus or God of War. But Titans and rival Caos are not the only forces players have to contend with. The game offers deep hack and slash elements with a familiar combo system and a magic skill tree unique to each faction. Players use these tools of destruction as they battle monsters as well as humans, collecting loot along the way.
Humans in particular offer a unique twist on combat. In Ascend: New Gods, the humans barely come up to the Caos’ knee. Most run away as the player tries to eat them to restore their health, but some climb onto the player’s character and try to kill them. Humans in villages that Caos’ god controls will worship and fight with players, climbing onto their shoulders to fire arrows at enemies.
Much has been made of the games asynchronous multiplayer. Like Demon’s Souls, players will be surrounded by ghost images of other players in the same area of the game that they are in. These characters will be differentiated by the color of their ghosts, telling each which god they are aligned with. If players happen to see an allied Caos struggling with a boss or a large group of enemies, they can send blessings into their game. For example, a player may send a fountain that quickly restores their health to help finish the fight. On the other hand, if the player sees the Caos of a rival god, they can send curses, such as banishing enemies from their world into their rival’s world. These creatures will bear the banisher’s gamertag and earn experience points while attacking his rival.
Ascend offers a unique perspective on multiplayer. At any point, players may sacrifice their Caos to their god and restart the game. If they do, the sacrificed Caos will become a computer-controlled minion, harassing the players of the other two gods. The player who sacrificed the Caos will receive experience points, much in the same way he or she would for banishing monsters into another player’s game. When players restart like this they are not starting from scratch. Ascend rewards players who make this sacrifice by allowing them to transfer some of the power into their new Caos. As a result, players who advance far in the game may be able to use abilities from all three factions, regardless of alliance.
There’s also going to be a mobile app for Windows phones that will allow players to bless or curse their friends in real-time and keep track of their ascended Caos.
Finally, there have been rumors circulating that Ascend will be the first free-to-play game on XBLA. In an email to Game Informer, President of Signal Studios D.R. Albright III said: “I cannot confirm or deny that it will be free-to-play. I can tell you that F2P is my preferred business model for the future and for this game we are exploring alternative business models.” While we are not sure what this means, it will be exciting when we finally get our hands on Ascend: New Gods in early 2013.