Underworld Ascendant Update – Trailers, Previews, and More

This month’s developer update for Otherside Entertainment’s Underworld Ascendant recaps the team’s PAX East experiences and shares plenty of links to hands-on previews of the game. It also reminds us about the recently revealed developer diary and trailer, as well as this training level gameplay video. Here are a few paragraphs about PAX East, and you can take things from there:

Underworld Ascendant at PAX East!

Before having people play the game, we showed off a new trailer for Underworld Ascendant featuring new footage and the incredible vocal talents of Stephen Russell (Cabirus) and Fryda Wolff (Aelita), who we featured in the last newsletter.

We threw everyone into the game’s first level to help them learn the underlying immersive sim elements of Underworld Ascendant.

As we’ve mentioned, we’ve been working hard to introduce players to the logic-based systems that make up the immersive sim in a way where we teach players to teach themselves — without direct hand-holding.

The opening level is a series of rooms that can be solved in multiple different ways — with some level of experimentation and thought. Internally, we’ve been calling it our “un-training level” level, because we’re attempting to break people of assumptions of how game worlds work in other games.

We’ve also trying to make it not feel like a tutorial level and just be fun on its own. So, that’s a big challenge! But we had more than a hundred people play it over the course of the show, and it garnered a lot of positive response and we gained some excellent feedback.

Many players were quick to pick up on familiar mechanics, and others had a fun time recognizing how real-life physics would matter in the game. For example, a number of players were surprised when they started to pay attention to the listed weights of objects that they were carrying, and finally started to piece together that heavier objects could not be thrown as far.

We also witnessed multiple solutions we’d never seen before. Just when we thought we knew all the possible answers to a problem, someone would come by and demonstrate a logical tactic that we hadn’t known was possible. Many solutions were born out of players testing the limits of the physics and, honestly, we couldn’t have been happier to witness them live!

Special shout-out to those who circled back to the room outside of their appointment time to give Underworld Ascendant another run through with an entirely different skillset and play style. We walked away from PAX East with an enormous amount of useful feedback on how to further refine the level further to make it more fun and the systems more responsive and intuitive to understand.

Additionally, you can check out this PCGamesN interview with Otherside’s Joe Fielder and Tim Stellmach, where the two of them do their best to stress the importance of player freedom and agency in their upcoming dungeon crawler. An excerpt:

“The direction that we think that genre would have gone if we’d continued doing Underworld games back in the day is is not necessarily the same thing as the interpretations other people have given to it,” Stellmach says. “The systems-based design, where you’re putting the player in control of how they navigate and get through challenges, has not been taken as far as we’d want to take it.”

A veteran developer of Looking Glass Studios and the original Underworld games, Stellmach has a few ideas of where he’d have pushed immersive sims next. Those ideas are finally manifesting in Underworld Ascendant. “We’re going deeper into those elements in this game, and everything that we’re going to be making going forward,” he says.

Fielder believes that Underworld-influenced games have developed in pursuit of expansive landscapes, and in the process have created static-feeling worlds. “You’ll return to areas and you’re lucky if there’s a repopulation of enemies there,” he says. “We are instead trying to make a smaller footprint, but one that’s infinitely replayable with varying enemies.”

The Stygian Abyss may be smaller than other immersive sim worlds, but the way it changes over time should provide new surprises. “There’s a degrading world state,” Fielder explains. “As you play, creatures from the lower depths start to emerge. We have outcasts that are building different structures throughout the levels. Basically every time you return to an area it could be radically different.”

With each repeat visit to a locale you will bring with you a new suite of tools and abilities, thanks to the levelling up achieved during your time away. Combining these abilities with newly-built structures may, for example, reveal different movement options through an area. “It’s pretty new and not a lot of people are taking advantage of this sort of evolving world,” Fielder says.

Share this article:
Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

Articles: 9834
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments