REviews are coming in....sort of....


#1

Oh man you guys. This is so, so sad.

PC Gamer outright trashed it. Lowest score I’ve seen in months:

https://www.pcgamer.com/underworld-ascendant-review/

RPS didn’t even review it, because they didn’t feel it was fair to review a game that was so unfinished:

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2018/11/21/underworld-ascendant-is-unfinished/

Woof. As many of you know, I had a blast playtesting the game, and despite some really scary and disappointing choices (namely the lack of NPC dialogue/factions), I still had serious hope they’d pull it off. I never played the originals, so I don’t have that set of expectations, but I believed they could make something fun in its own right, in the vein of other LGS games.

This hope came entirely from the massive progress I saw with each playtest build. To progress from build 1 to build 6 was frankly staggering - so many bugs fixed, so many balance issues addressed, so much world-building, so much polishing.

I thought that given that rate of transformation, some of the bigger issues (physics, navigation, quest progression, AI) were being worked on under the surface, and would click into place before release, maybe with some more fixes added in patches. I never expected Day 1 release to be indicative of the final vision - I’ve yet to see a Kickstarted game pull that off, and I’ve backed loads. (And if there’s one thing playtesting taught me, balancing an immersive sim is insanely difficult work).

What’s becoming clear is that the core systems were too baked in to really make any serious changes in the timeframe, and that the polish we were seeing didn’t extend past the first three or four dungeon layers. The final vision, whatever it was, likely won’t be achieved even with months of post-release support.

I appreciate the sentiments on other threads of kindness and avoiding the “told-you-so” attitude (you’re a gentleman, Flug). I’ve always pushed to separate the people from the product - as someone who works in the entertainment biz, I know firsthand how detrimental personal criticism can be to a passion project.

But Christ. The lack of content here really, really gets me down. I’m sure all the devs are flattened. I can’t even imagine what’s going through their heads right now. I’m sending them all the love in the world. But it’s hard not to take this personally on some level, due to the nature of crowdfunding and the blurred line between fan and backer. Especially as a playtester - there were things in the first build that should have been easy fixes, but are still causing havok after release, that I know many of the testers reported many, many times.

I was planning to dig into the game today because it’s my first day off since release, but I think I’ll have to wait a few weeks (months?) until it’s semi-ready.

I hope the devs are taking some good healing time over the holiday. They deserve it. But I also hope they’ll be able to address what happened at some point down the line.

What a damn shame.


#2

Yup, whatever you think of PCGamer, they skewered it (score: 25)

At times Underworld Ascendant becomes so broken that it kind of starts working again.

And gamesReactor EU calls is ‘a stumble and a fall’. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

And from what I’ve seen, both are entirely justified, and simply reflect general opinion. Nobody saw the result as being as unfinished as this (like walking in on a kitchen when the chef is still getting the ingredients ready to cook).

Chris just admitted it’s his worst score over on the Quarter To Three Forums (might be an idea to post here some time?)


#3

From the second (non-)review:

“Horrible voiceovers shouting inane nonsense at you in place of a sense of story.”

If the worst bugs were fixed, I could live with all the shortcomings and still enjoy the game a lot.

What I can’t live with is the Super-Mario-meets-Sesame-Street storyline told in the most annoying way one can think of. So unimaginative, so lazy. It’s the opposite of UU, it’s not worthy of LGS’s legacy and the people involved.

Sorry, guys.


#4

There is a story here… not sure what it is… but there is no way these talented folks could have stumbled this badly without some outside interference… the first released alpha build was so promising… but then, what the hell happened? I have hope that at least since SS3 has a completely different dev team and publisher that they won’repeat this performance…


#5

…and it needs saying…as often as is necessary…

The Voice Overs were pilloried from pilar to post, from the second they first broke, directly to the developers. I and many others lambasted them for being patronising, young, immaturely-scripted bunkum…beyond Disney-esque, to the point where we started wondering if they were deliberately, ironically bad (deceptive maybe).

The response was that they would be toned down, and that you would be able to lower the volume, or replace with text unless a vital story-point. That was around Alpha time.

Come Beta…post-assurances…there are more VOs and now further characters have joined the fun. Never mind that Stephen Russell is already the ‘house-voice’ (probably seen as a plus in marketing terms, doesn’t always work that way…too much of a good thing etc).

Add to the Voice Overs to the one-dimensional characters of Aelita and Cabirus, the use of Feats, the plot/narrative…and you have a dizzy confection of plain silliness, and high camp (epitomised by the lizards). Not tongue-in-cheek knowing camp, but real camp. Pure kitsch. This was screamed from the rooftops for weeks on end - including from Testers and Backers, not just us lot.

So this one area is not a case where the devs met with a this-or-that reponse. Like most areas where the game slumped,it was said loud,early, and long. This has to be central point if there’s to be any navel-gazing. These aspects were terrible way back at the ideas stage - we said from the outset that voice overs were a de facto bad idea…you exist in your own head in the Underworld…and good god, that grunting, too!. This is where pride goes before a fall.

Whoever made those calls should know that they were detrimental to the game (assuming it is not aimed exclusively at children). It doesn’t have to be personal, just noted, and not repeated. And no, the voice acting in the original doesn’t count as justification. One thing: the German version sounds much better!


#6

This game has a lot of issues, but I wouldn’t put VOs on top of the list. Like, yeah, they’re annoying and patronizing, but the game has so, so many far more important design and technical flaws. If everything else was fixed but the VOs remained, I wouldn’t even complain.

I actually do like Typhon’s voice. It’s stupid that you hear him with lots of reverberation ( he’s speaking by telepathy in your head, remember ? ) but okay.

One thing which I remarked on the codex is that the character creation raises your expectations, by letting you choose one of three voice styles for your own character. Now the million dollars question: does anybody remember any place in the game where your character speaks ?

Yup, makes total sense.


#7

Guys, just tell me, what happened? Mastodons of the gaming industry rose from the ashes to make immersive sim 2.0, and there is such a fiasco. Is this sabotage? 505 Games forced them to release the game before it was over?


#8

If you stand in fire, the character yelps, and this does seem to use different voices depending on what you pick.

But otherwise… no.


#9

…I’m picking up on the Voice Overs because they were highlighted above from the PcGamer review. No, not the only low-point, but symptomatic of the game as a whole, especially the tone.

It reminded me of what happens sometimes when older people think they know what the younger ones like, as if it were a formula. Or the opposite: a young person’s idea of what older peoplemight find convincin. It smacks of disinterest and box-ticking…especially the stuff about not hand-holding and that side of it. Yes, Typhon is bearable, sort of …but that’s mostly by comparison. And it’s far from just the voice, over-egged as it is…it’s the words, everywhere. ‘Excreted starlight’? You’d take cod-Jacobean ‘thee’ and ‘thine’ any day…but yes, one aspect of many.

It’s not just QA at the implementation stage. This should have been stopped early on, just like Feats, Aelita…QA applies to initial ideas, not just end product. Clearly many of the ideas were out of place, irrespective of ‘player-authored’ and physics-engine priority etc. In fact that’s a good example…physics is an enabling background thing, not a game in itself. Underworld is a meisterwerk of ‘everything in moderation.’

The problem here is, to mangle a well-known quote: everything here that is good, is not original; and everything that is origina, is not good.


#10

The uh and ah when you are lifting stuff.


#11

I kind of figured there are voiceovers because without them the game wouldn’t have any writing at all.

Recurring phenomenon with this game: Backers get upset about a certain feature (or lack thereof) because they interpret it as bad or dumbed down design, when it’s really only there because the developers don’t have the means to do something better.


#12

It’s pathetic.


#13

I read that in Typhon’s voice…


#14

It is time.

I need to point out a few things here.

First and foremost, thank you Flug. Thank you. :slight_smile: :wink:

Even though I have remained this bastion of positivity throughout this little journey of ours, make no mistake, I absolutely fall into the category that you are bringing so brazenly into the light here.

Very creative. Very inspiring. Positivity.

My role was to obscure myself from the media, and constantly remind “our” team of exactly what had come before, lest they forget (attempt to take away?) the complete glory of the classic crpg era. Team Flug delved into the myriad practical and working knowledges of these nostalgic overtones.

We gave them the world on a silver platter!

Now, “something” has obviously, and not so clearly, gone massively wrong here! As my final act of positivity in this situation, I will now change my story a bit, revise, rescind(!), hone it down.

Prepare!

I know in my heart and soul, that Tim Stellmach will turn out to be the “Randy Smith vs. Deadly Shadow” of this story.

I know it.

I just know it!

It has GOT to be!!!

Now, I see I have a TON of catching up to do here! When Flug left, I left. Lets see what everybody is talking about.

/Sandro -in


#15

Sandro, I’ll have what you’re on… :wink:

Actually, it’s much more downbeat than that…appreciate the thanks but I’m not any sort of mouthpiece for the old-school or somesuch. This is just my view, one view amongst many…perhaps because some of us were here a long time, we overstate things. I wouldn’t like to think I represent anyone else (okay, maybe I line up with some of the older ones who have a huge affection for the originals). But forget age, the originals were just very good, and you dont use the name and throw out many of the core elements. Or if you do you change the title, and/ortell your followers. That didn’t help.

I’m still baffled as to how little of the orginal Underworld ideas carried over, where the substance and the obvious stuff went. I get the need to evolve…but you don’t just jettison core aspects, either of the originals, or of your own design. Nor is it just small team, limited money - it’s actual game decisions, and what you do with limited resources (not in itself a bad thing…Hendrix…four-track etc)

I think it’s tough for the devs, who haven’t always helped themselves, both decision-wise, and perhaps approach. You can pick up on things here and there.

Anyway, don’t thank me…there was a core of people here from the beginning that seem to gone quiet…Dawnrazor, Flatfingers, Trenchknife and others (Nodezsg, CyberP, MG etc etc)…

All I’d say is, be careful with those pedastals…people are only human. One of the main problems was that this was Underworld…which alone brings alot of expectation. Multiply that by 25 years…still, we can’t be blaming the fans unduly.


#16

Well, I just came off another epic rotation of Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Armageddon’s Blade, so I am PUMPED!

I even finally updated my avatar pic to Sandro from heroesmightmagic2, yes Sandro is a main character throughout not only heroes, but the main mightmagic crpg series (in case anyone missed it these past 4 years). :wink:

Speaking of CyberP, I was/am so looking forward to what he in particular has to say about this game, now that it is lept into the limelight.


#17

Another negative review, strongly criticizes the AI (I agree):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz43f_r_U6M


#18

Infinitron…not necessarily…you have the Voice Overs as a bunch of text on scrolls scattered through the dungeon or whatever. Not a lot of work, gives a flavour of the Underworld, and saves a bunch of money on voice-acting and implementation. That’s just one example.

You don’t always have to improve or change…sometimes you can just keep things pretty much the same under the hood, and update the presentation, or tweak. Case in point: the runes.

And yes, dumbing down is always an easy accusation to level. But what if it also happens to be true? Bright blue-lit signposted levers, for example…overly bright colours etc. Add the table-top miniatures look to this, and you are asking for trouble. Something has to give. Taste and judgement have to get a look-in, and that again means a good sense of judgement. You get dumbed-down when you tried too hard to appeal to too many people, or if you import too much from other games (because3 the atosphere doesn;t caqrry over, just the mechanic). The idea, that was sometimes voiced near to release, that it’s somehow hardcore and for fans of the original…now looks merely quaint, or at worst a sales tactic.
It’s precisely the fans of the originals who are most frustrated, it seems.


#19

Metacritic - 3 reviews: 2 negative, 1 mixed.

https://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/underworld-ascendant


#20

Steam back below 40% (“mostly negative”)

https://store.steampowered.com/app/692840/Underworld_Ascendant/