Underworld Ascendant opens with a problem: you must escape from a series of chambers armed with absolutely no weapons. This area is designed as an “un-training level,” with the intent of teaching you how important physical properties are.
“We found in testing that if you give people a sword early they want to solve everything with the sword,” Joe Fielder, game writer and director, says. Without a sword, you are forced to use your intellect, which is where Underworld Ascendant passes over the boundary between being an RPG and an immersive sim.
But, like with its swordless opening, Underworld Ascendant is doing immersive sims differently. The first return visit to the Stygian Abyss in over 25 years promises not only to remind us of how the Underworld games birthed this ambitious genre in the first place, but also demonstrate that you can do them without being hooked up to a publisher’s seemingly ceaseless cash flow.