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Preview: Ascendant Infinity has heart, but is that enough to escape the shadow of FPS giants?

Even if Ascendant Infinity has merit, it'll take a lot of work to keep it from the shadow of Apex Legends and The Finals.

Ascendant Infinity key art
Image credit: PlayFusion

Not all good games are successful. I'm sure many of you out there have a game close to your heart that just didn't hit the numbers it needed to. It is possible, especially now in this whirlwind of live service tombstones we find ourselves struggling through, that a game with real charm and merit can fail to perform.

Biopunk FPS Ascendant Infinity's creators at PlayFusion are trying to carve out a space for themselves at this very unnacommodating time. A time where it seems like new games - especially those of a multiplayer live service nature - either feast in triumph or are doomed to famine. Playfusion's answer? A PvPvE game that isn't a trend-chasing extraction shooter, but one with an intriguing core game mode and distinct comedic tone that could very well set it apart.

With Ascendant Infinity, the humour and overall tone is the elephant in the room. Humour is a hard thing to nail in games. An appealing gag for one person is anything from an eye roll to an ALT+F4 combo for another. I personally didn't care for the "tactical FPS experience with serious balls" approach PlayFusion is championing. It's neither overwhelming nor distracting. At worst it's a little bit cringe, and quickly became background noise in my short stint with the game. Still, it's a punchline Ascendant Infinity follows through with earnestly, which I can appreciate. A joke you don't mess with is a million times better than one told half-heartedly.

The main mode I was able to experiment with during the preview, and a major selling point for the game, was Battle for the Biocores. This four-team objective-based gamemode is a cocktail of Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Call of Duty's Search and Destroy thanks to a limited life pool. In it, your team must dash towards three biocores on the map as they appear, grab them, and carry them back to your spawn. There, you've got to lock it in and protect it while other teams rain down hell upon you.

As far as a foundational mode for Ascendant Infinity, Battle of the Biocores (which I'll now refer to as BotBC) is rock solid. You start of with a basic loadout and can pick up upgrades and spendable currency in the world around you, either from the ground or as drops from PvE enemies. The map is large but vehicles are easily acquired from forward bases which - when combined with clearly marked objectives - made it so the action was never far away.

Holding the biocore is always dangerous, which is why the carrier gets these slick abilities that can help even out the odds. You can't jump in a buggy with a biocore and there's this massive coverless wasteland that seperates your base and the centre of the map, inviting firefights. PlayFusion understands how to cattleprod their players into the fray - you're always encouraged to get into the thick of it in spite of the limited life pool. They get top marks for balancing risk and reward in such a way as to punish absent-minded stalling. Sure, you can farm PvE enemies on the outskirts, but all the shops that allow you to cash out that farming session are bang smack in the middle of the map near all the chaos.

Ascendant Infinity map shot
This map is also hella bright, which counts for a lot in my book. | Image credit: PlayFusion

The number of welcome quality of life changes spread throughout Ascendant Infinity stood out to me - many absent from far bigger games with much larger development teams. For one, PvE enemies won't attack you while you're in a PvP fight, eliminating concerns of frustrating third-party deaths. Some items you buy from designated shops around the map such as armour or custom guns are permanent upgrades, which is great! It offers some level of permanent progression in player power in a genre that is often bereft of such things.

That's not to say the game is problem free. From the short time I had with Ascendant Infinity I felt it lacked that 'Oomph', that visceral feedback, that often flourishes in FPS games. Guns didn't quite have the kick I wanted, breaking an enemy shield didn't have the same audio or visual punch that the game's competitors do. The game is far from a full release, with a closed beta planned for next month, but by the time the public are able to mess around with Ascendant Infinity, I'd like to see the action explode out at me with the same intensity as the brightly coloured cloths you can slap on.

This is partially linked, but I frankly wasn't super blown away by a lot of the base weapons either. I emphasise base because the game does feature what seems to be a comprehensive weapon customisation feature that we weren't able to really mess around with. I'm keen to keep a positive outlook, and have hopes that through tweaking the attachments on the assault rifle or shotgun can help make them a touch more exciting to use. Otherwise this could act as a flat tire for Ascendant Infinity.

But even with those problems, I think the game still has some real heart to it. I sadly didn't see too much of the adapting map events that is seemingly a major unique selling point for Ascendant Infinity. Wait, no. I did see one. I saw a big ol' tank with a flamethrower on top that absolutely murked me and my buggy as I drove over to our base. It's a feature I would have loved to experience at greater length! But hey, we didn't run across any in the preview, which I suppose is the point of these events. You're not meant to be able to predict them - they're meant to pop up and surprise you.

Ascendant Infinity missile strike
It's a cool idea, and offers rewards for those who learn the ins and outs of the game. | Image credit: PlayFusion

I do have to touch on the world outside of the game when considering its prospects - such is the ferocious environment Ascendant Infinity finds itself emerging in. It's brutal out there, especially for multiplayer games. The game will be selling for $29.99 initially with cosmetic microtransactions - no P2W bullsh*t. That's good honestly. I think it's hard to maintain momentum right now and getting that initial bump in sales can only help keep the lights on. But with that up-front price point, you've got to really shine as an exciting product from day one to entice folks who are likely already knee-deep in another online multiplayer shooter.

I don't think Ascendant Infinity quite hits that target right now. That said, community feedback and time to tweak and improve following the upcoming closed beta will be invaluable. Despite me having a good time, I got the same feeling I had playing Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt, Rumbleverse, and other promising prospects. The game has a great core to it, for which the team deserves kudos. But I fear it'll struggle to appeal to folks other than those with a hunger for the aforementioned "tactical FPS experience with serious balls". I'm not convinced enough people will be down to play with those balls right now! Especially when they've been findommed by Apex Legends' bloated ballsack for years now.

Which makes me pretty sad. This whole preview kind of bummed me out, and it wasn't really the game's fault. I had a good time messing around with Ascendant Infinity, and an especially good time in the pre-game hub playing a dedicated Hide and Seek mode with other previewers and devs because you can feel how much care has gone into the smaller things in Ascendant Infinity. I like how they've put one of their writers in a wig to record live-action tutorial videos, and I respect the decision to go for a tone and stick with it all the way. I just don't think it'll take off in its current form.

But hey, we're living in a new world, baby! Good games being sold at a reasonable player-first price points are coming out and doing serious numbers. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong on this - to see Ascendant Infinity shoot to the stars with the power of hot pink headbands and your dad's vibes, man.

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