The Ascent: Cyber Heist DLC is a short but enjoyable addition to one of the best ARPGs of recent memory
- Developer: Neon Giant
- Publisher: Curve Digital
- Release date: 18th August 2022
- Genre: Action-Shooter RPG
- Platforms: Xbox One/X/S, Series X|S, PC (Steam, Windows 10)
- Reviewed on: PC (Xbox) and Xbox Series X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
The Ascent: Cyber Heist Review
This DLC review assumes you’ve played the main game before; if you haven’t, check out our review of The Ascent, where we go deeper into the core gameplay systems and features.
Unlike many DLC additions that allow you to explore what they have to offer regardless of how far through the game you are, Cyber Heist is reserved only for those who’ve completed the main game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as those who’ve finished The Ascent are most likely to be thirsting for extra content, but it could alienate others who were hoping the new content would be integrated with the existing offering.
Cyber Heist is a campaign add-on for The Ascent that picks up right after the events of The Ascent. Without going into spoilers, Kira, your former employer, recruits you to assist cockney cyber-gangster, Ontario, who is searching for the Ruby, which is basically just a Macguffin to drive the plot forward. Unfortunately, it’s harder to care about this plot when you never actually learn what the Ruby is – the “need to know basis” mantra is trotted out numerous times; We’re told it’s important, and that it could have far-reaching consequences for the world, but never why. Cyber Heist feels like it’s missing the crucial follow-up missions that would have made it complete. There are a couple of reasonably sized main missions and a few side-quests but it’s not as content-rich as I would have liked.
I’m not normally one for padding out content with unnecessary fetch quests or unimportant side missions, but Cyber Heist has gone too far the other way. The reason I love The Ascent is the epic gunfights, and I wouldn’t have minded them shoehorning far more random side-quests into this DLC to engineer scenarios where you face off against even more enemies. There are a few stand-out moments in Cyber Heist, and maybe I’m expecting too much, but I finished the whole DLC in one sitting. Testament to the addictive nature of the gameplay and playability, but also of its brevity.
Perhaps developer Neon Giant has further content planned that will tie this all together? If so, great, but this still feels like we’ve been treated to the opening act in a movie. And somewhat annoyingly, once you’ve finished Cyber Heist and want to replay it, you’ll have to fully complete all of the main missions from the Ascent in a new game or new game+ before you’ll be able to do so. It has certainly whet my appetite for more, but it’s been over a year since I finished the base game, and the 4-5 hour runtime of the DLC feels cruelly short – especially when the core mechanics of the run-and-gun gameplay are as exhilarating as ever.
The gameplay of The Ascent is exemplary, and it’s benefitted from numerous bug fixes and QoL updates since launch, like the very welcome transmog system. The big new gameplay feature in Cyber Heist, however, is the melee weapons. These three new weapons can all be found in Cyber Heist, and they have a standard swing attack and a powered-up secondary. It changes up the gameplay far more than I expected, and I had fun re-speccing my build into a tanky, self-healing, blade-swinging agent of death.
You can carry over weapons from Cyber Heist to your main game playthrough, but for those yet to reach the end the only melee weapon that can be looted in the main game is the uPlus bat (an underwhelming baseball bat). The massive shock-hammer called the Rock Crusher is a bit more potent when levelled up, but the star of the show is the ridiculously OP Katana, the Guillotine. Seriously, level the Guillotine up to level 10 and it can one-hit kill a lot of enemies, and combined with the Joyrun Dragon (stasis) augmentation, you can dispatch some of the most powerful enemies in the game in seconds.
A slight downside to the original game was that there weren’t enough components to fully upgrade all of your weapons, so once you’ve committed to a few weapons, the only way to max more would be to start a new game. They’ve rectified that in Cyber Heist somewhat by gifting more frequent drops of high-level components, but I still ended up a long way off having enough to upgrade everything in my arsenal. Aside from the Guillotine, however, I didn’t find anything that came close to my preferred combo of the Overwhelmer and EBR Enforcer.
I like that Cyber Heist brings more of a challenge to the gameplay. When I first played through The Ascent, there were no difficulty settings, and by the latter stages of the game, I was so OP I rarely found any fights challenging. Refreshingly, Cyber Heist instantly puts you up against high-level enemies that pack a punch, and it was refreshing to have those skin-of-your-teeth moments again. It’s a wonderful reminder of just how good The Ascent is when it all comes together.
Graphically The Ascent: Cyber Heist looks incredible, especially on a PC that can run it at max settings, and the Xbox Series X turns in an excellent performance at a stable 60fps. I still love the futuristic soundtrack and excellent audible effects, but I was disappointed that some audio glitches still remain where stuttering sound effects will sometimes be stuck on repeat as you move between areas. This only happened a couple of times, but then again, this was only a five-hour playthrough.
Like when I played The Ascent, I was fortunate to not have any game-breaking glitches. In Cyber Heist, however, I did encounter an annoying glitch with the last boss (which took me about ten tries to kill). Normally, if you are killed in this fight, you respawn right outside the boss area and can continue, but a few times the boss failed to spawn. The only way to get him back is by reloading your save, which puts you at the start of the area with a ten-minute slog through some tough enemies before you can face him again.
I didn’t play in co-op, which is where the majority of the game-save corrupting glitches are reported to be (and indeed, many complain that this still happens), so I can’t score it down based on something I haven’t personally experienced. These glitches and save corruption instances are definitely out there, though, so it’s something to be aware of. If I planned to play co-op, I certainly wouldn’t use my main character, that’s for sure!
The Ascent’s Cyber Heist DLC doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it provides a satisfying way of extending your enjoyment of one of the best ARPGs of recent memory. The reliance on a non-specific Macguffin means the story doesn’t have the agency it needs, but the excellent core gameplay makes this an enjoyable, if short, way for fans of The Ascent to extend their time in the game.