Ascend: Hand of Kul – CAOS SMASH

Do you like playing as a Demi God of War in battle?
Well duh, everyone does right? – Check

Do you like smashing through waves of creeps with a massive weapon of some kind and huge beastly armor?
Final Fantasy eat your heart out! – Check

Do you like wielding magic of varying sorts to add to the onslaught of waves of enemies?
You’re telling me there is HUGE weapons and armour … AND magic? – Check for sure

Do you like smashing pumpkin headed enemies with your bear hands in a slow-mo execution move?
Chec… Errrm, what? Well I guess so … – CHECK.

If you checked with all of the above, (the last one I’ll let you get away with), then Ascend: Hand of Kul may well be your type of game.

When I first started playing Ascend I wasn’t sure what to expect of it. It is your typical hack and slash type of game, but a lot more chunky and choppy and somewhat lumbersome. It’s got all of the same features you would expect from a game of its sort, so it doesn’t really stand out there. And yet here I am, playing it a week down the line of downloading it (for free I might add). It’s a single player game in its beta stage, yet with multiplayer elements, consisting of player interaction via being a pain in the arse. More on that later though…

You play as a Caos, a warrior from an old time to serve one of the three Gods that rule. These being Darkness, your typical evil/ dark side which will tempt you with cookies and fireballs, the Void, which is related to confusion and disarray, and lastly Light, which is the good guys … but in a judgemental ‘will kill everything in the name of light’, kind of good.

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As you play through the game your energy is spent levelling up and gaining new weapons. These can either be found in handy chests or bought using souls, which I think is a pretty good mechanism. Souls make up the currency, and are obtained through taking down the baddies found throughout Ascend, they can alternatively be purchased with real money (no surprise there). I do think that is kinda cool, as opposed to your grind for gold type game, because in this way you’re always earning, because you’re always killing. Not bad. You can also earn more souls per take down by achieving higher combos; the higher the combo, the more souls you’re rewarded with for the kill. Neat.

The combat as I mentioned earlier does feel very cumbersome, it’s a bit sloppy and things feel less agile as combat in other games. It’s the type of game where spamming quick attack, throw in a few heavies, and that’s it. Repeat in different sequence, add a few magic attacks and that’s it, oh and throw in a few blocks for good measure. The good side to the combat is the blocking, mainly as you can block about 90% of attacks and how responsive it is, so once you tap it, you won’t find yourself mid combo and have to wait to finish it, it interrupts instantly, which does come in handy on several occasions. There are some executions which seem to be randomly available based on the opponents health. These, though, are not fantastic by any means; they mix up the combat scene as they are different per enemie, as well as giving you some health for doing so.

The multiplayer isn’t what you would call normal. What I mean is that you have your own world to play in, where you can see other players in your world but can’t directly fight them, as such. What you can do however is influence and affect their game. I.e should they be on your team, you can give them a blessing, should they be on an opposing faction, you can send minions of doom to interrupt them.  This generally causes a little nuisance in my experience, nothing more. Throughout the maps there are altars which are controlled by whatever faction has fought to win them. This is done by defeating the Caos player that took it last, although it’s controlled by a NPC, therefore not giving you the PvP you might have been expecting.

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The game also features a pretty cool levelling up system, which I thought was lame to start with, but eventually grew on me. As you plough through waves of enemies you level up, that’s simple, nothing new. However, every 5 levels you get the option to Ascend (which I advise you do EVERY time to reap the best benefit). This means you technically reset your character at the benefit of a permanent stat bonus and the chance to remodel his appearance and gear. With a few souls, you can pay to keep certain gear that are then classified as “Legacy” items, meaning they can be used when you next Ascend, should you not have anything better. And last of all, you get to re-pick which allegiance you go with, so you’re not stuck with one faction your whole game, which I thought was actually a great idea. As the World is ever shifting between which faction is doing well, this gives a good mix to make sure players experience each of the different factions, instead of there being one favourite that everyone chooses.

Another sweet feature, I thought, was the role humans play in the game. As you play as a Caos, a giant in its own right (though still somehow tiny compared to the Titan – the main bad dude), the humans think you’re as awesome as tomato-ketchup to a bowl of chips. Those who are on the same faction as you, worship you, their minute and frail figures bowing as you stroll around. There are two main types of humans that you will encounter. The first type serve as a mini health potion, as they are bowing at your very presence, press left on the D pad and you can swoop down and munch one down for some needed health in combat. The second is the warrior type, where with a mighty bellow, they will climb up you like little insects ready to rain down all kinds of missiles, as well as also proving to be a tasty snack for health regen. It’s a great feature, and one that plays well with the game, as they throw down their lives for the cause of the Gods. You will encounter some on the opposing factions or others controlled by NPC’s, these however do no more harm than a (human) cereal bar.

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A game that has some customisation is always going to get a bonus point from me, so Ascend gets that. Nor is it short either, with there being plenty of skins to choose from for your base character, although for the cooler looking ones, you’re going to need to use some souls. The weapons and armor aesthetics are pretty sweet even if they are all the same greyish black colour, but then again you can’t be forgetting the fact that you’re a demi God at the end of the day, not a popinjay! With weapons vary from the starting of cudgels to some pretty beasty axes and swords with glowy and swirling effects added for good measure.

The story is fairly average, nothing compelling but enough to keep you playing and to see how the end boss battle goes … I mean you (a massive giant as it is) Vs the Titan (which is about 50 times bigger than you). Add a few dungeons which are, if anything just in there to fill in the gaps / time as they are nothing but repetitive and boring and a small with variety of enemies – and there you have it, even if they do supposedly change every 12 hours …

Overall, I greatly enjoy playing Ascend, it’s a fantastic freebie for a game in its beta stage. Therefore, to end it on a high note, what I will say is that one thing the game does smashingly well, is empowerment. It makes you feel pretty bad ass as you bash aside enemies with one huge swipe, proved by the fact that when you die, you just respawn about 10 feet away, humans bow before you’re greatness and throw themselves at any who oppose you. You truly are a non stop killing machine. That gives it a win from me personally.

Developer: Signal Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Action: Hack ‘N Slash
Player Modes: Single player/ Multiplayer
Price: Free!