Underworld Ascendant Preview

You will be encouraged to adapt and improvise as you explore the Stygian Abyss in Otherside Entertainment's upcoming Underworld Ascendant. This includes trailing slugs to set fire to their flammable ooze and throwing stacks of crates at your enemies in a plethora of unscripted events. And this PCGamesN preview article that features a number of select quotes from Paul Neurath and Warren Spector tells us why such a degree of freedom is important to the team at Otherside Entertainment. An excerpt:

The same approach to design was evident in the games made under Neurath at Looking Glass in the ‘90s. The original Ultima Underworld games, as well as Thief and System Shock, combined first-person immersion with dynamic worlds and thrived on the unexpected consequences of throwing you into them.

“We didn’t quite know what we were building,” Neurath tells us. “But it ended up working.”

Looking Glass never expected their games to be remembered - “in that era, games tended to come and go pretty fast” - but their influence birthed the immersive sim genre. Using Looking Glass’s blueprint, other developers eventually found the blockbuster audience that had eluded the genre for so long. If you have played BioShock, Dishonored, Fallout 3, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you know the allure of the Underworld formula.

“The important legacy is the innovation and that we continue to push forward,” Neurath says. “We think this category of immersive gaming is one where there’s a lot of room to continue to innovate and see what kind of new gameplay we can do. That’s really the goal of the studio.”

To that end, Otherside are doubling down on player-authored solutions. These unplanned, often inelegant moments are at odds with the slick nature of some of Underworld’s contemporary peers. But there is the sense that the studio would rather cancel the game than break from their beloved first-person view for something as orchestrated as a cinematic takedown.

Fielder’s wizard has returned to the Silver Sapling - a sort of bonsai respawn point that can be planted anywhere, encouraging experimentation. Exploiting a wall-run ability to skirt around the cavern wall to the far side of the fort, he plucks a ripper-fruit from beneath the claws of a huge river plant. This vicious flora forms part of an underground, mana-tinged ecosystem brimming with luminous life, ready to be turned to your advantage.

The wizard wafts the fruit in front of a family of deepslugs - peaceful creatures that leave a trail of flammable ooze in their wake. Coaxing them towards the fort, he begins to set the place alight - until his robes are punctured by that same vigilant skeleton. Embarrassing? A little. But this is the emergence Looking Glass once celebrated, undiluted and unedited.