The Ascent beginner’s guide, combat tips, and best early builds


The Ascent’s cyberpunk world is a violent one complete with rampaging punks, brutish monsters, and plenty of exploding red barrels. Throughout the game, you’ll be literally fighting your way to the top of an evil corporation in the middle of its own financial collapse. Surviving this unforgiving and futuristic world won’t be easy. We’re here to help.

Polygon’s The Ascent beginner’s guide explains how to upgrade your character’s skills so you can have the best build from the start, as well as tips and tricks about combat, the map, and how to get good loot at the very beginning of The Ascent.


Table of contents


How to create the best build

There are eight skills to upgrade in The Ascent. As you level up by defeating enemies and completing quests, you’ll receive points to spend on skills that enhance your character.

The character skills screen in The Ascent

Skills affect Attributes
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

Each of your skills falls into one of four larger Attributes: Biometrics, Cybernetics, Frame, and Motorics. These broader stats affect the power of your augmentation abilities. For instance, the Hydraulic Slam augment deals more damage the higher your Motorics level is.

Below is a list of each skill, what it does, and which attribute it affects:

The Ascent skill and attribute relationships

SKILL EFFECT ATTRIBUTE
SKILL EFFECT ATTRIBUTE
Tactical Sense Determines how fast your tactical charge meter builds up when dealing damage Cybernetics
Critical Hit Rate Each level increases your critical hit rate Cybernetics
Weapon Handling Reload and weapon swap speed increases with each level Motorics
Aiming The amount of weapon spread decreases with each level Motorics
Balance Boosts resistance to stun, knockback, stagger, and movement speed when using heavy weapons Frame
Evasion Decreases evasion cooldown speed with each level Frame
Vital Signs Increases max health per level Biometrics
Body Battery Increases max energy capacity per level Biometrics

One of the first skills worth upgrading is Weapon Handling, which increases reload and weapon swapping speed. As you engage in combat, you’ll have to dodge both bullets and melee attacks. Having increased reload and weapon swapping speed means you’ll have less downtime when trying to dispatch a dozen enemies at once.

Increasing your Aiming skill also helps if you plan to fight enemies with long-range fire versus close-range weapons like shotguns. The better your Aiming talent, the less spread your bullet fire will have as it travels across the map, thus making you more accurate.

Both of these skills affect the Motorics attribute, which increases the damage of an early augment you find: Hydraulic Slam. This ability lets you deal a massive amount of damage at close range, which is handy when enemies close in on you. Instead of running for cover when you get surrounded, you can attack multiple enemies at the same time with Hydraulic Slam.

By following the advice above, you can easily get the Motorics attribute up to level 3 within the first few hours. At that point, Hydraulic Slam became strong enough to defeat multiple enemies in a single shot.


How to choose the best gear

Armor in The Ascent doesn’t just protect you from all sorts of damage. It can also increase your skills.

When buying armor at a shop, pay attention to what sort of protection it offers. There are multiple forms of damage, such as digital, energy, fire, and physical. Each piece of armor provides varying degrees of protection for each type of damage.

Each piece of gear can also boost your attributes and skills.

A gear shop in The Ascent

Gear also boosts skills
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

Below each piece of armor’s protection stats is a section that details the enhancements that they offer. Keep these upgrades in mind when buying new gear. You can equip three pieces of armor that cover your head, body, and legs. Mix and match armor to not only cover your bases against different sorts of damage but also to gain boosts for your attributes and skills.

Choosing the best gear is a matter of deciding whether you want gear to further boost skills you’ve put upgrade points into or using the upgrades to cover any deficits you have.


Learn how to aim high and shoot from cover

As you travel across the game’s cyberpunk world, you’ll randomly get ambushed by enemies. In most cases, you can run around and dodge their gunfire and melee strikes, but that won’t keep you alive for long. You’ll need the game’s cover system.

Press the crouch button, and you can hide behind cover like dumpsters or large planters, which offer protection from enemy fire. To shoot from cover, hold the Raise Weapon button, which lets you aim and shoot over cover. When you raise your weapon over cover, you only expose your weapon, so you don’t run the risk of taking damage.

A combat scene in The Ascent

Duck behind planters to block bullets and aim over them
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

You can also raise your weapon to shoot even when you’re not behind cover — and you should since it has two benefits:

  1. When aiming high, you can shoot over the heads of smaller enemies to attack larger ones. For instance, early in the game, you’ll face off against a large boss and smaller minions. Normally, if you tried shooting at the boss, the smaller enemies would get in the way. However, if you aim high, you can shoot over them and directly at the boss.
  2. Raising your weapon also applies stagger damage at a much higher rate. Staggering large enemies, especially those with melee attacks, is a key tactic. By aiming high and showering a big enemy with bullets, you can stop their advance when you cause enough stagger damage. You can see how much stagger damage that you’re inflicting by looking at the yellow bar below an enemy’s red health meter. When you fill the stagger meter, large enemies stumble back for a moment. This causes them to stop attacking for a brief time. Use this occasion to reposition if they’re getting too close.

Enemies adapt to you

Using cover, aiming high, and fighting from a distance are all good battle tactics. However, if you focus too much on a single style of combat, you will get punished.

In a gameplay deep dive, the game’s developers explain that enemies in The Ascent actively learn your tactics and adapt to disrupt them. If you rely too heavily on shooting behind cover, the game sends more melee attackers at you. If you fight from a distance too often, you’ll soon notice enemies spawning behind you. If you stay in one general area for too long, your opponents begin lobbing grenades that force you to relocate.

This design choice encourages you to keep moving and switching up your tactics.

A battle scene in The Ascent

Stay behind cover too long and melee attackers come after you
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

The opposite is also true. Some enemies use tactics that force you to adapt to their fighting style. For instance, some enemies only fight you from behind cover. Like them, you must adapt to defeat their tactics.


Use the map to find loot

The Ascent is filled with debris, dozens of non-violent NPCs, and electronic hardware in every direction. The world is so dense that it’s difficult to tell what might be a loot box and what’s just a random piece of the background. If you look at your map, you can easily pinpoint where loot is hiding.

A red-colored map screen in The Ascent

New areas are littered with loot
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

The crowded map highlights the location of loot in any given area with an orange loot icon. When you navigate toward a piece of loot, you’ll see a white loot icon on your minimap. Special items like gear components, which you can use to upgrade weapons, have a colorful glow to them. Loot boxes become highlighted when you are close enough to interact with them.

As you explore each area, seek out loot because almost every zone in the game is littered with freebies.


How to get good gear early

Once you speak to your handler Poone at a seedy bar after the game’s introduction mission, he’ll send you on a new main quest. After you chat, you’ll learn about side quests and how to identify those looking for your assistance. Any character that’s offering a side quest has a yellow diamond-shaped marker above their head. There will also be a yellow icon on your map, which makes them easy to find.

A cyberpunk bar scene in The Ascent

This robot will give you free money.
Image: Neon Giant/Curve Digital via Polygon

After you learn about side quests, there is a character right next to you in the bar that has a mission for you. Don’t ignore them. They’ll give you a side quest called “Gear Up!” which requires you to meet up with an armor vendor, a weapon’s dealer, and a grafter who can help you with upgrades. The character gives you some spending money, too.

This side quest is worth doing immediately as all the missions moving forward have you facing off against hordes of enemies. Getting a fresh batch of gear early on makes these encounters far less challenging.



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