Ascend: New Gods looks like generic fantasy fluff, but beneath that ornate armoured carapace beats the heart of something genuinely revolutionary - a mixture of asynchronous multiplayer, SmartGlass integration and microtransactions. Will Signal's mass of threads cohere into a great game, or will the experience crumble under the weight of its own ambitions? We spoke to Cesar Felori, producer at Microsoft Studios, for more.
So what kind of RPG is Ascend?
At its core, Ascend is an action-RPG game in a traditional sense. You create a character, you customise, you level up, you get new abilities, you buy new armor and weapons along the way. The story of Ascend is that you align your character with one of three gods, which means three completely different progression paths with their own unique powers and abilities.
Along the way you take on quests for your god - the whole idea is that you're trying to increase your god's dominion. So you reclaim land, reclaim villages, and defeat the old rulers of the land - those are the titans, they're sort of big giant guys you'll see walking around in the world. Along the way one of the most unique and cool features of Ascend is it supports parallel multiplayer, so instead of the traditional running-over-and-beating-somebody-up, you'll see other people playing in their own instances of the game, as custom characters.
You can choose to interact with them in a number of ways. If you see that they're aligned with a rival god, you might want to send them a curve. You earn and upgrade your curse library as you go, so maybe you send a pack of wolves after your friends, and you'll earn experience for doing that. And then likewise, you can send a blessing - you'll see a friend who's aligned with the same god, and if you want to be a nice person you can send them a loot drop.
So that's how you interact with players in the game. The other aspect in terms of multiplayer is that the only way you can progress in the game is by sacrificing your character, making the ultimate sacrifice. So you'll level up your character to an appropriate point, you'll sacrifice him or her to your God, and he'll become an AI-controlled boss roaming the land, earning you money and experience and taking villages.
But each time you ascend a character it takes into account everything that you've done with that character, and it'll move you forward an appropriate amount in the net of progression, earning you new rewards along the way.
It looks like you have some QTE-style stuff in your combat system.
There are some prompted moments to kick off some scripted moves, but that doesn't happen just automatically, you have to put the enemy in a certain state to unlock the opportunity to do that. So you have to have skill, it's not just going up and playing "Simon Says" or something like that. When you get the enemy to a certain state through your actual combat abilities, using spells or weapons, it'll ask you to push a button to pull off certain finishing moves.
There are going to be times when it'll be a bit of a Rock-Paper-Scissors situation where you want to use a mix of spells plus melee combat or some of your ranged attacks - every enemy is going to be a little bit different. But certainly it's not meant to be a super-complicated combat system, it's going to be satisfying and really fun with a wide range of attack opportunities for players of all different play styles.