Review by Lathissamus
"Ascend: Hand of Kul Beta Review"
Before I get into this review, I'd like to start off by saying that it is more an impressions rant rather than a complete review as Ascend is still considered to be in its open beta stage as of the time of this writing. This means that problems in the game are being sorted out, combat and gameplay mechanics are being tweaked, and bugs and glitches are still being patched and fixed as time progresses. The views and opinions I convey in this review are almost certainly subject to change, along with the game.
Now, on to the review!
In Ascend: Hand of Kul, you are tasked with creating a giant called a "Caos." The Caos is then submitted to one of three different factions: Dark, Void, and Light. The three different factions are governed by opposing gods, each of which have their own unique special traits that they bestow upon the Caos -- traits ranging from aesthetics to abilities. The factions play a larger role as well in the form of territories and challenges and granting entrance to side dungeons accessible only to a select faction. For instance, a Dark Caos won't be able to enter a Light faction or Void faction dungeon; the dungeons, however, are accessible despite this if you purchase a faction mask that allows access to the select dungeons regardless of your chosen faction.
Speaking of dungeons, a fair portion of the game takes place in these linear, cookie-cutter loot rooms that serve only to level your character and dole out items at a steady pace. This is fine on its own, it's just a shame that the dungeon designs and layouts are so uninspired that it makes me want to skip them altogether and just focus on the essential areas and story progression. I understand that part of the allure of Ascend is the loot grind, I just would have liked to see a more interesting time than going in a straight line from point A to point B in-between opening chests.
One thing you will be doing a lot of, of course, is combat; and if you've played any action game in the last ten years you'll know how to play this one. X is your light attack and Y is your heavy attack. You can have up to five spells equipped at once, which are decided based on your chosen factions. You can mix the two attack buttons and magic spells to create combos and build multipliers (although spells do not contribute to your hit-count). The multipliers are a welcome addition as they multiply the amount of souls (currency) you obtain for killing an enemy, and are essential for gaining a substantial amount of such. It's a shame that a single hit will completely annihilate your multipliers as many of the enemies attacks are non-telegraphed or hard to avoid and impossible to block. It is frustrating to have your 11x multiplier blown away by a Witch Doctor's magic bolt that you couldn't see coming from off-screen.
In terms of enemy design, be prepared for the same ten or so enemy types throughout with a sprinkling of a few unique ones along the way. Plenty of monsters are palette-swaps of earlier versions with minor changes. The combat strategies I employed for the first two hours were the same I used for the next twenty, so diversity is nonexistent outside of the opening hours.
Of course, powering through enemies is likely to see level gains. Although there are level caps constantly blocking your way from the top that need to be eliminated by "Ascending" your character, which sets them back five levels but also increases the cap by five. Each ascension unlocks a new emblem, which are nothing more than glorified stat-boosts. This system was interesting at first, but as it went on and I was on my fifth ascension, I grew tired of being set back several levels and losing tens of thousands of souls required to maintain my equipment. Another good side to ascending your Caos is the Champion it spawns to fight for territories against other players. I will admit, It is interesting and addictive to view your champion's stats against others, among other things, as time progresses.
In short, Ascend: Hand of Kul is a promising, F2P action game that falls short of its potential due to lazy level and character designs, button-mashy combat and lackluster content. Signal games has given a decent value of a game to consumers. Whether or not it's one you'll take is dependent on how much a value you consider monotony to be.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 10/01/13
Game Release: Ascend: Hand of Kul (US, 09/25/13)
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