Underworld Ascendant
Developer(s)OtherSide Entertainment[a]
Publisher(s)505 Games
Director(s)Joe Fielder[1]
Producer(s)Paul Neurath
Designer(s)Tim Stellmach
Artist(s)Nate Wells
Writer(s)Joe Fielder
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
ReleaseNovember 15, 2018
Genre(s)Action RPG, dungeon crawler

Underworld Ascendant is a first-person action role-playing game developed by Otherside Entertainment and published by 505 Games. It is the sequel to Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds. Players assume the role of the Avatar, as they return to the Stygian Abyss. As in the original games, there is an emphasis on non-linear progression, simulated systems, and emergent gameplay. It was released on Microsoft Windows on November 15, 2018.


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Players assume the role of the Avatar, a human magically transported into the Underworld. As per the original Underworld games, players create their characters by selecting an assortment of skills. They are not restricted to predetermined character classes. The game is played from a first-person perspective.[2][3] The Stygian Abyss is inhabited by three factions vying for its control, Dark Elves, Dwarves and Shamblers. The player can also encounter non-player characters of no factional alignment. Supporting any faction will affect the balance of power in the Abyss, and how factions react to the player.[4][5]

The game aims to present multiple unscripted solutions to scenarios present in the game, using simulated systems dubbed the "Improvisation Engine," allowing for emergent behaviour with a wide range of player options rather than discrete puzzle solutions.[2][3][5]


Paul Neurath, the designer of the original Underworld games, had been in discussion with EA on-and-off for 20 years regarding working again in the Underworld universe. In 2014, EA granted Neurath a license to use the Underworld setting, lore and characters, though this did not allow for the use of the Ultima brand. With the license in place, Neurath founded OtherSide Entertainment, and Underworld Ascension was announced in July 2014.[6]

In February 2015, OtherSide took the game, renamed Underworld Ascendant, to Kickstarter. OtherSide hoped to raise $600,000 towards development of the game, and the crowdfunding campaign concluded in March 2015 with $860,356 raised. Though successful, the campaign left some goals unfunded such as modding tools and cooperative gameplay.[4][5][7] Recognizing that a demanding RPG such as Underworld Ascendant could not capture a mass-market audience, Neurath limited the game's budget, believing that, "if you’re spending 50 million dollars you need to reach as many people as possible. You can’t experiment."[8]

With a core team of only six, Neurath describes OtherSide as a mini-studio with an "almost tribal culture", where "everybody knows each other really well, they know their strengths and weaknesses and foibles", allowing for close communication and collaboration.[2][3] The team at OtherSide included other Looking Glass Studios veterans, such as Tim Stellmach, Steve Pearsall and Robb Waters. Advisors include Austin Grossman, the lead writer of Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds and Warren Spector, producer of the original Underworld games.[3][4]

After the Kickstarter campaign, the game continued to raise funding on its website, going over US$932,000 with an estimated increase of more than US$60,000.[9] In August 2017, 505 Games announced that they will serve as the game's publisher.[10]

In February 2018, Steve Gaynor of Fullbright announced that two of the company's level designers, Nina Freeman and Tynan Wales—as well as the studio's 3D environment artist, Kate Craig—would be contributing additional work to Underworld Ascendant.[11][12]

Though originally slated for a September 2018 release, OtherSide released the game on November 15, 2018.[13]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2018)

Underworld Ascendant received generally negative reviews, with an aggregated score of 37/100 on Metacritic.[14] Many critics noted the game appeared to be in an unfinished state, with many software bugs and partially implemented features. IGN concluded the title was "just broken," [20] Gamespot noted " wherever you go your progress is constantly chafed by an all-pervading lack of refinement."[15] Rock, Paper, Shotgun declined to review the title, asserting that it was "just not in a fit state to be released, and as such, not in a fit state to be reviewed."[21] Particular criticism was given to its limited and poorly telegraphed save system that, upon loading, would send players back to the start of the current level regardless of progress.

On February 14, 2019 Otherside Entertainment released a substantial update aimed at addressing many criticisms of the game at launch. This update brought with it the inclusion of a functional free save system, changes to the level design and game flow, refinements to gameplay mechanics and enemy behaviors, optimized lighting, and numerous bug fixes.[22]


  1. ^ Additional work by Fullbright


  1. ^ Purslow, Matt (April 27, 2018). "System Shock, Thief, and BioShock devs are reinventing the genre with Underworld Ascendant". PCGamesN. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Scott Butterworth (2015-10-26). "The Legendary Designer Behind Thief and System Shock Returns with Underworld Ascendant". GameSpot. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  3. ^ a b c d Andy Chalk (2015-02-04). "Underworld Ascendant interview: making a sequel to a 22 year old classic". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  4. ^ a b c Peter Parrish (2015-02-06). "Underworld Ascendant Interview: Paul Neurath on immersive design". PC Invasion. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  5. ^ a b c Rich Wordsworth (2015-02-17). "Underworld Ascendant: A monster from the deep". Red Bull. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  6. ^ Robert Purchese (2014-07-30). "Underworld Ascendant: The game that took 20 years to sign". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  7. ^ OtherSide Entertainment (2015-02-04). "Underworld Ascendant". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  8. ^ Adam Smith (2015-02-10). "Beyond Looking Glass: Underworld Ascendant Interview". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  9. ^ "underworld ascendant". underworldascendant.com. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  10. ^ Wawro, Alex (August 17, 2017). "505 signs on to publish OtherSide's upcoming RPG Underworld Ascendant". Gamasutra. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  11. ^ @Fullbright (2 February 2018). "Something fun we're getting to do: between major projects at Fullbright, we're helping out some other studios-- including @hentaiphd & @whining contributing level design to @OtherSide_Games's upcoming immersive sim revival Underworld Ascendant!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  12. ^ @Fullbright (2 February 2018). "Oh, and I almost forgot-- @koalaparty just signed on to help out for a few months with decorating their environments-- so if you catch a hint of the feel of Gone Home's mansion or Tacoma's space station in the Underworld.. that's Kate! :) Thanks for having us, @OtherSide_Games!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  13. ^ Lemon, Marshall (August 20, 2018). "Underworld Ascendant gets an official November release date". VG247. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "UNDERWORLD ASCENDANT". Metacritic. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Underworld Ascendant Review: Going Under". GameSpot. November 25, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  16. ^ "UNDERWORLD ASCENDANT REVIEW". PC Gamer. November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  17. ^ Evans-Thirlwell, Edward (30 November 2018). "Underworld: Ascendant review - a strangely essential development disaster". Eurogamer. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  18. ^ Schmeyer, DM (29 November 2018). "Underworld: Ascendant review - a strangely essential development disaster". IGN. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  19. ^ Hanley, Joe (14 January 2019). "Underworld Ascendant Review". RPGamer. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Underworld Ascendant Review". IGN. November 29, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  21. ^ "This is not a review of the wholly unfinished Underworld Ascendant". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. November 21, 2018. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  22. ^ Horti, Samuel (16 February 2019). "Underworld Ascendant devs overhaul world structure, story and quest design".