No, it’s nothing alike, partially because we’ve actually seen a game living up to the claims in the campaign statement; you know, the original.
But let's break it down, clause by clause:
Exquisitely Realized Underworld – Plunge into The Stygian Abyss:
It’s a dungeon, and people call it the Stygian Abyss.
Bullskittles, a quest hub, with portals to tiny sections of Dungeon where you do stupid missions is in no way shape or form The Stygian Abyss; we know what’s the Stygian Abyss, it’s been in a whole series of games, one where the original Ultima Underworld was part of. This crap, is not it, in any way shape or form.
dark, ripe with dangers, full of ancient secrets to discover. A vast subterranean fantasy world made startlingly real and alive.
Really, seems rather happy go-lucky even cartoony to me.
Ripe with dangers: I've died plenty. Check.
Ancient secrets: So long as those secrets are chests, memora, or graffiti, check.
Vast: By Underworld scale, yes.
No, by Underworld scale it’s ridiculously tiny.
Fantasy world: Even if there are no chainmail bikinis, there's swords and no guns or cars, so check.
Startlingly real and alive: By '90s standards, sure. Check, I guess, though that one's weak I admit.
Real and alive? Are you kidding me? By 90s standards? Apparently you’ve never played any 90s RPGs, the 90s RPGs, especially on the PC, especially the Ultimas WERE real and alive; it was in Origin Systems slogan: “We create worlds!” Hell, the greatest software houses of the 90s, did exactly: create worlds. Just look at Westwood Studios, the 90s Elder Scrolls main line RPGs; they were real and alive. Underworld Ascending is not alive at all, it is dead, it is lifeless, it is a quest hub with some portals to some stupid missions, with not single thing you would see in a real and alive subterranean world. You know, the things you saw in the original. Hell, look at Ultima 4, 5, and 6; UA is not even real and alive by 80s standards, let alone the 90s.
Dynamic Factions – Become embroiled in an epic plot, as rival factions vie for dominance in struggles that ebb and flow across The Stygian Abyss. Your choices will alter the outcome in subtle and dramatic ways.
It doesn’t affect gameplay one whit, but it does affect the ending animation. They only promised to affect the “outcome”.
There are no factions period, let alone dynamic ones. There are only claims that there are factions, since you never actually encounter these factions, see nothing of their settlements, their way of life, just little pieces of text, those factions are not there.
Far more than a dungeon crawl,
It’s a dungeon crawl, plus some physics and sneak elements!
That’s not “plus” that’s part of any well-created dungeon crawl. Far more than a dungeon crawl, would be like the original UU; something that looked like a living breathing place, a world that actually exist with people living there and having settlements, that you interact with. Hell, considering this is a quest hub sending you on missions through the same mini dungeons over and over, it’s not too far fetched to call this thing not even a dungeon crawl.
Underworld Ascendant is a next-generation sequel to the legendary fantasy RPG’s Ultima Underworld & Ultima Underworld 2.
Next generation after the UWs, in some senses, though since they were so far ahead of their time in the social part of the game, it still feels by far the lesser game in those aspects.
No, it isn’t, in any way shape or form; this is not next generation after previous UU, this is not even the same generation, it’s not even a single generation back, this is going back all the way back to Akalabeth-generation “RPG”; and let’s face it, Akalabeth isn’t even really meant to be an actual game let alone an actual RPG; it’s just a small-scale prototype where RG could get test out his code, so he could make Ultima.
it innovates in bold new ways.
Flaming slug goo. And honestly, the magic system is pretty sweet, even though the lack of runes and high mana cost makes it very hard to love.
Not only does it not innovate at all, whatever knots you have to twist yourself into comparing with the UU, it’s all steps back, let alone that it’s bold.
Get drawn into an epic story
Well, epic’s hard to define. “As a part of the Ultimas” it’s arguably part of an epic story.
Bullskittles. If your answer is, “Go play other games in the series for the epic story” your game did not have an epic story. Hell, this thing doesn’t have a story at all, let alone an epic one.
with ties to the original Ultima Underworld games.
There are some names that you’ll recognize. Sir Cabirus, for example. And runic casting. Bashable doors. Reapers (renamed “Rippers” and bent over backwards, but again I blame EA). Headlesses (yeah, they’re skeletons, but they’re a head-nod).
If La Croix can claim to have ties to citrus flavor, then this can claim to have ties to the Underworld. Both are being hyperbolic, but neither are outright lying.
I rather this thing didn’t have any ties to the original UU, then at least it wouldn’t be sullying the first two.
It’s also irrelevant; considering EA holds the copyright, nobody actually expected this to just straight up be an Ultima sequel; the thing we were all here for, was another experience like UU, this thing is in no way, shape, or form, anything like UU.
Play as The Avatar, a human newly arrived from our earth
Again, irrelevant, hell, considering the Avatar went out in a blaze of Armageddon to take out the guardian; it would have been better if it wasn’t the Avatar, just another person from our world that stumbled through gate into Britannia.
through a mystical Runegate.
Aha! It was a dream, not a runegate! In fact, all the portals are called portals. I suspect this was an “Electronic Arts not letting them use anything Ultimaish” thing, though.
As a “stranger in a strange land” you will:
"Meet shrewd characters, with their own motivations and agendas. Some may be swayed to your cause, while others may manipulate you.
Specifically, you meet one character for each of the two cases described. The manipulation happens only in the endgame.
Except you don’t meet any characters with motivations and agendas; you meet no characters at all; the only things in the shape of characters are not characters, they’re a shop and quest-dispenser machine. And some asswipes showing up in a cutscene at the end, clearly is nothing that could possible fit that line, especially given what characters in an RPG means to anyone even remotely familiar with RPGs; you know that genre that the Ultima series practically built on its own, that the original UU fit to a ‘t’, what was clearly meant with those lines, because it is effectively describing UU.
Encounter rugged dwarf frontiersmen, fierce dark elf renegades, and strangely alien shamblers. Each faction holds a valid claim to The Stygian Abyss.
It didn’t say you’d encounter the characters. You encountered their masks, and statues throughout the game. Also met their representatives, and did quests on their behalf.
Except of course, that they blatantly DID say you’d encounter the characters; they mention those characters in the line above.
Which side will you join?
Well, you can raise their faction appreciation; the implication is you “join” them if their faction level goes high enough. Not that the trader seems to notice.
I can’t join anything that doesn’t exist.
Will you unite, or destroy?
You get to choose whether to raise their faction levels, which unites them all; or not. Destruction then happens.
Entangle yourself in a tale of intrigue and conflict as three fierce, rival factions struggle for control. Your choices will determine the ultimate fate of The Stygian Abyss.
Between “good ending” and “bad ending”, but still.
There is no tale, none at all. It’s a mission-hub with missions.
Yes, it's about the weakest possible game that would check all the boxes; but it [i]does[/i] scrape by and prettymuch check them all, if you read it with an 80s gamebox eye.
Nope, it doesn’t, in no way shape or form does check all the boxes, it doesn’t even manage to check half, if it even manages a third.
You can try asking your retailers (Steam, Kickstarter) for refunds, but read their ToS: Kickstarter just plain doesn't, and Steam has tight time constraints. You can also consider payment providers (creditcards, paypal, etc) but are unlikely to get satisfaction there.
If the developers at least have some hint of decency left in their bones, THEY pay me back.