Savant – Ascent Review

Savant – Ascent is a hi-octane, adrenalin-pumping, lightning-fast 2D bullet hell. I’m normally a plodding puzzle game player so this was quite a shock to the system. My poor nerves are still jangling.

You control a masked Guy Fawkes-esque character with a purple cape on a central platform with only two positions, left and right. You dodge and jump from side to side avoiding enemies coming at you from 360 degrees, shooting at them round the clock with unlimited ammo. One certain type of high-hitpoint enemy drops quarter sections of CDs which you collect by flinging your chain-grabber out, and at this point the action is frozen for one second. It doesn’t sound like much but it gives you enough of a pause to target the next enemy.

After each 3-life death, of which there are many, the parts you’ve collected are pieced together and a whole CD awards you a powerup and a new song. You’re resurrected at the start of the level you were at with your new abilities allowing you to hopefully progress further than last time. At a certain point you ascend to the next level (of 5) with ever harder, faster, more numerous enemies, culminating in a boss. I’m embarrassed to say I’m still struggling on level 4, it’s bonkers! Please don’t look at my hrs on record.

After level 3 Time Attack and Endless modes are unlocked for your competitive replay career.

Linux

The control settings are a bit flakey in the Linux version. I did manage to get it working with keyboard/mouse at one stage after a lengthy session of plugging/unplugging devices and poking around in the game settings which kept reverting back to what I didn’t want, but for the most part it seems to prefer a controller and who am I to argue – I’m happy as long as I can avoid having to boot into that other horrid OS. It works in fullscreen (at full 1920×1200 res) or window but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would choose a window for this.

A point to note here is that most Linux-enabled Steam games these days seem to be made with Unity, which simply packages the Windows binary and DLLs with mono to run it all in Linux whereas this game has a proper native Linux binary and music files in open-source OGG format. I for one appreciate the extra effort even if it goes unnoticed 99% of the time.

Music

It’s all about the music. Having done a bit of googling I’ve learned that Savant is a prolific Norwegian electro/dance musician (check out the website); the whole game is based on his music and artwork. 6 striking tracks from various albums are showcased in the game and they are top quality, very catchy. Makes a change from the usual forgettable generic tunes in most games. In some places I noticed the enemies moving to the beat and maybe it would be even more apparent if I was a competent player.

Performance

Graphics are easy on the eye but primarily designed for speed and efficiency. There are no overly fancy 3D or artistic elements, just well-designed functional 2D enemies that swarm in packs on a static screen. The result is a highly responsive twitch-reflex environment with zero lag. Any mistakes to be made are down to human error and can’t be blamed on the computer, as much as I’d like an excuse for my pathetic scores.

Apart from the slightly flakey Linux control setup it all works smoothly, no glitches, no problems. The menu system is straightforward and includes an integrated achievements list and level selection.

Difficulty

One word…

DEAD

This is what appeared on my screen every 10 seconds for hours on end (and haunted my dreams) and for quite a while this was followed by “Highscore: 0”. I was proud to eventually receive my first points. If there was an achievement for a bazillion deaths I would get it in no time. I daresay if you’re a 14 year old with housefly-like reflexes you should fare better than I did.

When using keyboard/mouse, part of the challenge is keeping track of your aiming cursor which can easily become lost in the busy pyrotechnics of gunfire. It has to be placed near the CD part to pick it up. With a controller this doesn’t seem to be necessary, you just pull the trigger and the part is retrieved even if you’re facing in the opposite direction. The mouse does feel more natural though so it’s a tradeoff.

Steam

No cards. 14 achievements. I haven’t managed to get any yet but hope springs eternal. Apparently some of these achievements tie in with the gameplay, unlocking new abilities. This is an interesting concept I’ve never come across before. Steam leaderboards are also included but I won’t be troubling myself with that.

Value

Everything about this game is tight and compact and the (full) price is no exception. The story mode, at 5 levels, is short but there’s a lot of replay in Time Attack and Endless modes. Excellent value.

Verdict

This game makes me feel like a doddery old fart* who accidentally wandered into a rave party. I shuffled around on the dancefloor with lasers bouncing off my bald pate, blowing a whistle and waving a glo-stick, surrounded by a gaggle of attractive young ladies who said I was sweet. Now I need a nice cup of tea and a lie down.

I highly recommend this to all young whippersnappers in a hurry to shoot stuff.

* Disclaimer: JimDeadlock is an unfeasibly handsome bronzed adonis, in the prime of life and sporting a magnificent mane of golden hair. Fact.

Good

  • Fast, exciting game with bullets flying everywhere
  • Good original music

Bad

  • A lot of dying, fast reflexes required
  • Nice graphics but they are limited in scope
7.7

Good