Underworld Ascendant is Otherside Entertainment’s upcoming sequel to the Ultima Underworld games. The game returns players to the perilous grounds of the Stygian Abyss as the Avatar, a human magically transported to the Underworld. Essentially, the character is a self-insert as you’re playing someone yanked from their life into an undead-infested hellscape.
One of the first things prominent on Underworld Ascendant’s E3 demo was the lack of character classes. The game is meant to be played freely in every sense, meaning there is no definitive way to play and no abilities restricted by class. I puzzled my way through the tunnels of the abyss equipped with sword, bow and arrow, and a magic wand that let me bind my enemies in place.
It was a refreshing way to play, knowing that any type of ability (melee, ranged, or magical) was on the table without repercussions for being the “wrong” class to use it. I found the combat style that suited me best with a little experimentation, and was able to get decently far on it before falling back on the other tools at my disposal. There were a few bugs in the gameplay and some abilities that needed tweaking, but currently that’s because the development team has just entered the phase of production that involves ironing out bugs and details. Reasonably, most of the small errors I encountered won’t be there in a few months when Underworld Ascendant releases.
The demo involved a quest to uncover a coveted item, and snatch it from the clutches of the skeletons, zombie-like creatures, and specters that guarded it. Underworld Ascendant is intended to be an immersive sim, and once I found the area where my target was hidden, it was just a matter of finding a path there – either by brawn or cleverness. Almost anything can be used to your advantage if you give it some thought; at a certain point, I’d run out of arrows and still needed to get past a couple of snarling skeleton creatures. I had also noticed that the environment contained several seemingly hostile plant-like entities, so I lured out the skeletons before pulling a fast one and sneaking away, and I let the plant monsters do my dirty work. If you’re more of a mind for action, it would’ve been perfectly possible to engage in an epic sword fight or sprint past the enemies, but there was a certain amount of satisfaction watching them get attacked by their own world.