Quick Look – Guild of Ascension (#JustOnePercent 89/100)

Developer: WhileOne Productions
Release Date: September 21, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

Guild of Ascension is not a game that was on my radar until it was given away as part of Prime Gaming back in April of this year. Even still, I wasn’t too enthused – “Tactical-Action-RPG with rogue-like elements” feels like someone took a bunch of buzzwords and mashed them together without any thought of how that would actually play. Now, having played it, I feel like it missed on almost every front – it’s barely an RPG, and there isn’t much of anything tactical about it. It’s a grid-based action combat dungeon crawler that would be probably far too easy if it didn’t get in its own way so much.

The game starts you off with two characters, and the only “customization” you get is choosing a starting weapon. I selected a bow, and a sword & board, which meant passing on the hammer. I don’t gravitate towards melee pretty much ever, and I would have liked to see a magic user or a stealthy choice. The tutorial is overly long without actually teaching you much, but I figured it’d start to make sense as I went into the tower and fought actual battles.

Instead of quests, you have “requests”, which you will likely complete without even trying. When you first enter a tower run, you are deposited in a campfire area, which you can return to at any time to use potions, eat food, and consume your experience points in order to level up your character. When you level up, you’re given the choice of improving aggression, defense, or taking a balanced or custom route. I wasn’t invested enough to play around with custom point distribution, because by the time I spent experience for the first time, I’d already figured out that the difference between winning and losing basically was going to come down to correct facing.

There was nothing that I liked about the combat, and since that’s the majority of the game, I wasn’t having a very good time. The game recommends a controller, but I decided to stick with keyboard and mouse. I don’t think I would have found the mechanics any more engaging using the preferred input method. Moving around the board is done with WASD, and basic attack is on left click, with charged attack on right. Once you do enough of these two types of attacks, you can use the Shift key to switch to special attacks, which did considerably more damage, but I kept forgetting existed.

The monkey wrench in the works is that the combat is still turn based, and the turns are a set length of time. Getting into position quickly is key – you can only aim ranged attacks in a straight line, and if you must be facing your target. I lost count of how many times I ran into position, forgot to turn around, and then fired my heavy attack at absolutely nothing.

Although most rooms in the tower are combat encounters, you will occasionally find merchants (who sell you upgrades called Privileges for a currency called Whishes), random events, or “challenge” rooms which aren’t challenging in the least. Wander around enough, and you’ll eventually find a key, which is used to unlock the boss room, allowing you to complete the floor. I stuck it out until I managed to kill the boss for the first time, but I already knew I wasn’t digging the gameplay loop, so I saw no reason to do it all over again, but a little bit harder. I didn’t even make it a full hour, but I’d seen all of this particular title that I wanted to.

For me, Guild of Ascension just didn’t work. I can’t point to a single part of the whole that I found to be above average, and with no story to speak of and weak narrative, there was nothing to compel me to continue on. Even loot didn’t feel rewarding – opening the large chest after an encounter should have been exciting, but I found the Privilege system underwhelming, and that was mostly what was in those boxes. Everything about this one felt like it was trying too hard.

SteamDB estimates that Guild of Ascension has sold between 820 and 2,300 copies on Steam. Those aren’t great sales numbers, but most of the reviewers liked it enough to recommend it, so it’s a genre mashup that works for some gamers. It is ranked 3691 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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