Underworld Ascendant and the Future of Immersive Sims

Citing games like Dishonored 2, Prey, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided that all underperformed to some extent due to their blockbuster expectations, the editors at PCGamesN look to Underworld Ascendant as the next torch-bearer for the immersive sim genre. With its gameplay more focused and budget more manageable, Otherside Entertainment's upcoming dungeon crawler is on a quest to keep the genre alive, according to PCGamesN. Here's an excerpt from their article:

“As a smaller indie studio, it's a space that we can play in that some of the big guys can't,” Somol says. “We don’t need to sell Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, or World of Warcraft numbers. We're built in a way where we can make something that it is commercially successful for us.”

As such, Otherside have been focusing on depth of mechanics, rather than creating a broad world with many environments as in Deus Ex and Thief. Underworld Ascendant’s fewer locations evolve over time, which not only works as an interesting mechanic, but an effective method of using fewer resources.

While they’re being careful with the budget, Otherside are not worried about finding an audience for Underworld Ascendant. Joe Fielder, the game’s writer and director, points out that there’s still a huge appetite for immersive sim design. “If you look at the new Zelda, it's a game that has a lot of immersive sim elements, and I think it was fairly successful,” he says wryly.

“I think that in general there's a really big opportunity for games that you can play multiple times and have a radically different experience,” he adds. “When working on BioShock Infinite, I spent six years on that game and the weekend after it came out the entire thing was on Twitch. It was really a game that has one way to play, whereas in our game it's more of an everlasting gobstopper. We feel like things like Twitch could really help get the word out about that.”

Stellmach agrees, and points out that things like Twitch can help immersive sims find new audiences long after the launch window, and thus encourage new sales. “One of the great things about the current environment in the games industry is that it is now much more possible for a game to be out there for long enough to communicate what kind of game it is,” he says. “You're not limited to the few weeks that they would have left your game on store shelves in boxes back when that was a thing. So it is not like trying to make a big budget triple-A game in that respect, but it's another way that we live in fortunate times.”