The Doom Clock Got Me - Game Time Element vs Exploration and Experimentation


I saw the doom clock advancing, not sure how it was tied to the game’s plot. We’ve all played games that used time differently. I was hoping that the doom clock advancement was tied to plot points, not hours of game play. But I was sadly wrong. I lost, and going back a few saves is likely not going to buy me enough time to win. So I’ll have to start all over again with a single minded focus of gaining favor, gaining influence, and advancing the plot missions.

The reason for the post is to question whether the REAL time element (vs some sort of fake time element that other games have used) is at odds with the natural inclination to explore and experiment with this gorgeous and immersive world.

It seems that the developers planned for us to play thru multiple times. Isn’t is reasonable to assume we would run out of time given the amount of discovery and experimentation that people would pursue, the number of side quests available, and the need to work through the side quests for favor and influence?

Given that and the nature of the save system at launch makes it feel like OE was shooting for some type of rogue-like, moon crash type of experience.

Personally, I prefer a fake time pressure that allows all the exploration and experimentation I desire, and a static environment with minimal respawning and reloading of inventory items when Cabirus is forced to resurrect us.

But I don’t fault OE for their design choices. I get it now. And I’ll hop back in at the start and win this time. I suppose it is wrong of me to expect more of a warning that I need to quit with my dilly dallying and get on with the main missions.

For those that are still playing thru the game: the doom clock is real. Hurry up!


If you want extra time to go side missions, or fail a few, you can gather Aether Cores from Liches and put them in the mechanism near Typhon’s statue in Marcaul. This lowers the Doom Clock. But yes, you can easily lose by time and there is little indication in the game that you approach the end.


Aw snap, Jayson! You just saved my game (potentially). I’ve got 8+ cores horded in my storage box. I’ll have to restore those save game files and see if I can wind that clock back repeatedly.

It was fun to go back and play the intro mission again. Man it ran buttery smooth on my rig (as opposed to the more “active” levels).

Thanks much!!!

P.S. Minor grumble - I did stick a core in that mechanism early on just for grins. And I did get to the mission where I was supposed to put a core in that mechanism. But I was clueless that I could affect the clock that way. Not the first thing I missed in Ascendant. Makes one wonder if I was overly clueless or if the game needs a bit more hand holding for the typical gamer.


Chucked all my cores in and got the doom clock down to 4 out of 10. Back to slow plodding and fetch quests to get those dwarves to forgive my bow sniping.

Come on Haprukala! Say something next time!!!

Apologies to anyone if this topic was a spoiler.


As I said back in 2015:

I’m not now and never have been a fan of ticking clocks in games that say they want to be about exploratory fun. I think the design goal of exploration (for knowledge-discovery fun) and the implementation of a timer (for challenge-sensation fun) are fundamentally at odds.

That said, the ability to turn back the clock somewhat is a thoughtful effort to try to blend these two things. But given its importance in that role of helping players have the kind of fun they enjoy (as opposed to helping the character progress), more visibly signposting how to slow down the Doom Counter by sacrificing an Aether Core seems like a good suggestion to me.


I don’t like the mechanic at all. I am not really sure how to get these aether cores. I thought I knew what I needed to kill, but all I get are mana cores which do nothing to the clock so I must be wrong. I am worried about my doomsday clock. It’s about half way down and I can’t find the cores to undo it.


Aether Cores are from Liches, like Nana Cores are from Eidilions. You can tell which is which because the pillar is red instead of blue. They are rare in the early game, but fairly common in the later levels.


Thanks for the clarification.

Nice to know the game punishes me for revisiting the same level over and over before moving on to the deeper ones.

I am putting this on the shelf for now. If I have to play with doomsday clocks I don’t like, I’ll wait until it’s a more stable less glitchy experience.


There’s at least one Aether core in level 1. You’re not being punished :slight_smile:

However, I’d argue that it’s really not obvious that the “gain influence” quests are “the main questline” and the faction quests are all “random cookie-cutter sidequests”. So it’s entirely possible to grind only sidequests, and NEVER get the main quest which tells you how to use the cores to push back the doom counter. Hell, I did the same, for a while, though I didn’t run out the doom counter.

It was only when I noticed that even on reloading the “gain influence” quests didn’t change, that I made that intuitive “you may need to be a game dev to have a chance of guessing this” leap that maybe they weren’t random.


I was never a fan of permanent time-based detriments or “dynamite fuses” that you can barely see but know they’re lit. I understand having to enforce a sense of timing, but knowing that there will be permanent ramifications is a dramatic step when people tend to play games their way rather than the developers’ intended way.

I keep daydreaming about that Tyball / Demon scenario and why an unlimited amount of time can pass without consequence. The simplest solution is that Tyball had to wait for us to come to them before they could start, likely because we had a unique possession in our grasp that he could not risk leaving his lair to fetch due to needing to tend to the demon’s imprisonment, nor could he compromise that possession’s integrity by having us know it was that valuable, lest we destroy it preemptively.

I wonder what would happen if this Doom-Counter in Ascendant didn’t result in anything permanent, but in something highly dangerous, like some kind of doom-walker that spawns in the hub that you have to fight off (with the help of the other factions) that drops very useful stuff on death if you can manage to defeat it, potentially using little shards of rare material that you find in the levels each time you visit.

That way you have reasons to fear and appreciate the doom counter. It doesn’t create anything permanent that you feel deep regret or a sense of loss over, but it will give you a reason to fear having a giant demon running amok in an otherwise safe space, but it also gives you a reason to hunt around in the off-shoot levels for things to defeat it and reset the doom counter. If you don’t want to deal with it, just hunt for Liches.


Having a time limit completely contradicts an open-ended sandbox. Mechanics should synergize, not contradict.


I think the time for tiptoing is long gone with regards to this particular mechanic. As Dawn is partway to suggesting, timers are the first thing you reach for in the Panic-Fallback-Out-of-Ideas-Looming-Deadline box. Fine for a bit of light relief as part of a side quest … dreadfully obvious and painful as an umbrella mechanism, even many years ago.

It is to announce you are bankrupt in the ideas dept. and furthermore, you are going to try and sidestep the embarrassment that goes with such a mechanic, by the novel tactic of bringing it front and centre.

Another one for the ‘What were they thinking?’ memorabilia scrapbook. Also to be found in the ‘How Not To Make A Game That People Older Than 15 Like’ handbook, and a number of others.


Flug, as much as I’m on record about thinking timers are incompatible with exploratory play, what are you going to do with your comments above if it turns out the Doom Counter was a feature designed into UA from very early on? How do you walk back all those “they’re incompetent” adjectives?

I’m all for thoughtful criticism of features in terms of suitability for context. And a little “I told you so” criticism aimed at specific features is maybe OK when justified by evidence. But FWIW, the times when I’ve gotten myself into the most trouble online are when I’ve assumed I knew stuff about another person that I couldn’t possibly know.

Maybe let’s wait for the Gamasutra post-mortem (which I hope is in the works) before bringing the hammer down with 100% force…?


I would even be so bold as to go one step further and suggest at least waiting until Update 2, and see how much has changed. Its early February now… update coming (very) soon???



Flatfingers… If it was designed in from the outset it makes no difference, it’s still a bad idea. It doesn’t have to reference incompetence so much as a paucity of ideas.

In a way that would be worse… it would suggest they understood their earlier games even less than supposed (there’s nothing sacred here, it happens all the time, in all walks of life).

Not only that, it suggests that for all the talk of modern day techniques and innovation, they were designing-in a year’s old mechanism. It doesn’t really matter when it was factored in, it remains a dud move, and as Dawn reminds us, totally inconsistent with good sandbox gameplay - and every single one of their own stated aims.

There’s nothing so harsh about that, it’s obvious isn’t it, like neon lit levers? There is a place for weighing fine judgments and nuance… but many features of this game remove all need. There are certain things to like (spells) but this one is not worth the fuss.

Sandro, let’s wait by all means, but be realistic at the same time.


Just a quick note about the Doom Counter tuning for our upcoming update: It has been revised so that, as it steps forward, tougher and more varied creatures more commonly associated with the lower depths appear in the upper reaches of the game. It’s now clearer when it moves forward and when the end is approaching, and its end point is also farther out, so it’s less likely that you’ll need to turn back the counter multiple times in a given playthrough. (It’s possible to beat the game now only turning it back once, during a main quest mission.)

On a related note, lower levels become unlocked more quickly, as well.


Read everything Flug wrote two posts ago, then read it again until it resonates home. Every. Single. Word.

Sandro, wouldn’t get hopes up too much, some of the dud mechanics remain central to the game. I’m gonna remind you to play Dark Souls.

Joe, this seems like the right move. Don’t waste too much time or resources on one game when you could be learning from your mistakes and creating a new, and more informed, merchandise. That said, it’s a nice move to tidy this up, and support the product after launch.

Keep thinking of how cool it would be to create a grid-based co-op dungeon crawl like Wizardry, except each character is controlled by a real player. I think I should post a thread about “what next” for the LGS team.

It is good to see you back together, even if the launch should have been in early access for informed criticism before release.


Thanks, Joe. That seems like a fair practical approach – difficulty balancing and improved status signposting.

That said, I think Flug and I (correct me if I’m wrong, Flug) are probably talking about this more at the design level: as in, is a Doom Counter something that fits with the rest of this game? What was the design thinking that led you all to conclude that the Doom Counter is a feature that supports the kind of play experience you want UA players to have?

“We’re saving that for the post-mortem article” would be a 100% valid response from my perspective. :smiley:


Ack, nooo! Damn, I wish there was a way to turn it forward as well as back. Sounds like I will now never get to see what happens when it maxes out.
I mean, if after a hundred hours it didn’t max, it’ll never max in normal gameplay, and nobody will ever see these cool nether monsters you speak of.


Flatfingers…correct. The clock mechanic has no place here
especially when it comes to design. It, and a number of other features, should never have made the whiteboard thrashing stage. This was a major letdown of oversight, management practice and production. Silly ideas are fine, but should be caught and weeded out early. Standard pre production practice.

But enough management speak. So many aspects are plainly and ludicrously ill-matched… tone dead to this game type and to the originals. No amount of silly buzzwordery changes this. Did no one see the mismatch with an Underworld ethos, even an updated one? It seems not, and that’s the scary thing. It’s so goddamn banal. QA on its widest sense and at its most fundamental - and exempt from budget and staffing concerns.