Kickstarter Shout-out: Underworld Ascendant

Due to a few unfortunate Kickstarter horror stories and failures, people like to think that Kickstarter is a terrible thing since you are backing a game that may or may not be good or even finished. Granted, it doesn’t help when you have the examples of such failures like Yogventures and The Stomping Lands. Well, while we do get those horror stories, you should really see the popularity of a lot of games from last year. Most of them were Kickstarter games. Honestly, due to the huge disappointment of last year that was the Triple A gaming scene, a lot of the more well-received receptions and reviews went to these crowd-funded products. Think about it. The more interesting note, at least for me, is that the most well-received Kickstarter games were RPGs. You had The Banner Saga, Divinity: Original Sin, and Wasteland 2. Even the recently released Hand of Fate (review coming soon) is getting an incredible amount of positive reviews. That isn’t even counting the Kickstarter games that are on Early Access! The most popular Early Access games came from Kickstarter! This includes Darkest Dungeon, Chaos Reborn, and Massive Chalice. While we wait for those games to be fully finished, it’s time to look for more promising and well thought-out Kickstarters! For me, the rules still stand that you either need to be veterans of the industry, or have something well thought out and interesting, or else you won’t have much luck in terms of having your project fully funded. Luckily, if you have had time with Ultima Underworld, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Uncharted 2, and Thief: The Dark prophecy, then you will know that this team of individuals means business! This is Kickstarter Shout-out: Underworld Ascendant!

Underworld Ascendant takes place, where else, underground. The setting of your story is in a place called The Stygian Abyss. This is an entire world where everything from humans to orcs has moved underground. The Kickstarter has described the plot to be epic. You will encounter three different factions, choices made during your quest will mold the story in front of you, you will encounter mysterious beings like a group of mushroom people called the Shamblers, and basically, other elements you see and hear about in big open-ended RPGs will be in this game. This isn’t a slam against the world that Underworld Ascendant is building, but, well, I will explain my concerns in the later part of this article.

Underworld Ascendant will be, what else, but a first-person-action-RPG.  It’s by the originators of the critically acclaimed Ultima Underworld series, so I don’t think you will be getting a sci-fi multiplayer shooter out of this. Even then, it would have much more in-game content than Evolve. You will be able to choose your class of character, but later on mix them up a bit to make some interesting combinations. Want to be a mage, but carry around a sword and shield? Go right ahead! Another big element that the Kickstarter boasts is the game’s engine. You know how you play some games and there is only one way around a certain obstacle or one way to kill a boss? Well, Underworld Ascendant uses something called an Improvisational Engine. This means that you can find a multitude of ways to get out of a situation. One example shown in the Kickstarter video is a moment in time where a bunch of giant spiders are crossing a bridge while a gigantic spider is crawling down the side of the wall. You could fight them off and have to look at giant spiders up close, but instead, the person in the trailer burns the bridge down. This prevented the spiders to continue their way towards you. The combat has been described as fluid, where being on your feet is the best way to tackle a fight. Don’t just button mash your way through a fight. Outside of exploration and combat, you will also be able to take on side quests since you will be encountering a multitude of factions. There are stretch goals that include more locations and the ability to play with a friend!

Graphically, it isn’t too impressive. It’s early footage of a game in development, so of course it won’t look like Infamous Second Son right off the bat. The concept art looks nice, and the game will obviously look better as more of the game is developed. The music used in the trailer sounds epic! It’s being composed by Michael Veloso, who took some inspiration from the original composer George “The Fat Man” Sanger’s original score of Ultima Underworld. You can listen to the track I listened to by going to this link to the developer’s YouTube page. It sounds fantastic, and I can‘t wait to hear the rest of the soundtrack for this underground world. By the way, we should probably talk about the team behind this game since they are the true brains behind the project. This team has worked on games including Thief: The Dark Prophecy, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Gex, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online,  System Shock, The Last of Us, Ultima: Underworld I and Ultima: Underworld II, Boom Blox,  Bioshock Infinite, and the original Deus Ex. The big names include famous game designer Warren Spector, Paul Neurath the founder of Blue Sky Productions, which became LookingGlass, Chris Siegel, Tim Stellmach, Scot Kimball, Joe Fielder, Austin Grossman, Jeff Kesselman, Will Teixeira, Jim Berry, Robb Waters, Shaddy Safadi, Sara Girard, Brandon Laurino, and Steve Pearsall. A lot of these individuals actually worked at LookingGlass, which made the original System Shock. You easily have many veterans of the industry who won’t mess around.

So, any concerns? Well, in terms of visible gameplay that was shown off, I wish I could have seen more than the alpha build of the game. I know this is a lot more than what most Kickstarters show off, but more footage would have been nice. I also hope the overall world and lore is interesting. I think it has a potential, since how does every creature and race adapt to living underground? What happened to the above world? Is the land above livable? Where did those mushroom men come from? You get my point right? I mean, one of the people behind the game, Joe Fielder, wrote the prequel novella to Bioshock Infinite with Ken Levine called Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt. On top of that, Austin Grossman is the narrative Advisor. Grossman worked on Dishonored, Ultima Underworld II, System Shock, and Deus Ex. I want to be engrossed in this world, but they will have a challenge ahead of them. I have no doubt that they will pull off an engrossing world. If there is also a main villain or some overarching antagonistic force, I hope it is interesting. Maybe it’s because I have played many games recently where the main villain/evil force has been a bore, but we need to have more compelling forces to compel the player to defeat.

Overall, I have faith in this project. It has a bunch of industry vets who have made some of the most influential games around, and an interesting world within the game. The project’s funding goal is $600K, and they have a little under $200K left to fund the game, but about two more weeks to get the game funded. I have no worries that they will reach the funding goal and maybe some more. If you are curious as to what the entry price for a free copy and some swag is, it’s $25. It’s one of the more pricey entry fees for a Kickstarter game, but if you like what you see, then you might not mind the $25 fee for a free copy. If you love old-school RPGs from the 90s/early 2000s, first person RPGs like The Elder Scrolls franchise or  Arx Fatalis or have had a great time with Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, and are looking forward to Torment: Tides of Numenera and Chaos Reborn, then I would highly recommend you check out this game! Congrats Otherside Entertainment and everyone attached to the project! Underworld Ascendant gets my Kickstarter Shout-out!

(If you want to support this project, go to this link!)