Do you like free stuff? …. Of course you do who doesn’t like getting things for absolutely nothing?!. Well rejoice if you’re an Xbox live gold member, you are entitled to signal studios action RPG “Ascend: Hand of Kul” for the same price as air.

The gods of old were spirits of the spirit world once worshiped by ancient humans and seen as the divine rulers of the world. They would frequently visit the physical world to lavish in its beauties but soon got greedy and cruel, then they discovered their lust for human blood and feasted on their worshippers. This act stopped them from returning to the spirit world and soon they lost their memories turning them into the huge mindless beast called “Titans”. Some of the old gods stirred from slumber many centuries later, their goal to destroy the Titans stranglehold on the world and reclaim their dominance over the human worshippers. You play as a Caos, a warrior who represents their aligned god (Light, Dark and Void) in the physical world and is tasked with crusading against the enemy. The plot shadows the Caos as he follows and completes tasks assigned from their master across the world, that spreads the influence of that God while weakening the titans ready for one final conflict.

Picture 2
Squaring off against the dreaded Titan…… bit of a size difference

The background story to the game is very interesting and detailed but the actual story for the game basically revolves around recurring missions from your slave driver god mostly, “destroy this”, “kill this” and “convert this area”……..Well chop chop lackey. I wish the story was more engaging but not a lot is said and the only other form of information is from discovering lore tabs across the world depicting its history.

Hand of Kul is labelled as a action role playing game and even though it has RPG features such as a levelling system, inventory management and item customization, I would argue it not at its core. I would call Hand of Kul a third person hack and slash game combined with a major dungeon crawler influence. This game is more accustomed to people who enjoy the Devil May Cry and Darksider series. You control your Caos in a open world where you are assigned a destination to follow the story but are given the freedom to venture where ever you like (as long as you’ve previous explored it), during your travels you will come across the many dungeons with multiple levels where enemies become harder the further you go down, this would be the major dungeon crawler aspect I mentioned earlier.

The game has a good selection of equipment such as armour, weapons and runes to equip your Caos with, which you purchase with souls you collect from defeating the many enemies crawling around the world. Your equipment takes damage over time and requires fixing, which seems frequent … very frequent. During my time playing the game I found I was constantly fixing my items to the point of not having the currency to do it. I feel this area of the game was intended to push the sale of mirco-transactions as the game may be free but they offer soul packs usually X amount of soul for X amount of pounds.

Picture 3
good selection of equipment, plenty on offer if you’ve got the souls to purchase it

To play you are required to be online all of the time as the game interacts with other online players. While playing you will encounter the outlines of fellow gamers who can’t be interacted with directly but can be aided or cursed. This is a fun aspect of the game where you might see a player of a rival God and decide whether to give them a statistic boost (bless) or send a horde of trolls to attack him (curse) through special runes. Hand of Kul also features a cool element of “ascension” where your character can ascend and become a NPC that will attack the other players world as part of your crusade.

Combat is typical of the hack and slash genre and will consist of a light and heavy attack that can be sequenced to form a combo,  as well as spells which acts as both a magic and range attack to add some flavour. The developers promote that the combat requires tactics and varieties to tackle its many enemies. Though this may be true it doesn’t get much more complex than whaling on smaller enemies and hit and run tactics on bigger opponents.

Visually the game is fairly solid with the design and art work which fit the feel of the game. Nothing spectacular but it could be a lot worse. The game isn’t completely polished though, there was a few instants of enemies getting stuck on textures and chests half hidden in the walls. Not only this but the game can suffer from frame rate issues when too much is happening on the screen. The game even crashed a few times on me (though this isn’t necessary the games fault).

Picture 4
The world of ascend in all its grey, brown and green glory

Overall Ascend: Hand of Kul isn’t a perfect game and could do with some more polishing and fixing some of its visual bugs. The story could of been fleshed out a bit more which is a shame because the amount of backstory given set the foundation for an amazing plot. I’ve focused a lot on the negatives, but Hand of Kul has some really interesting elements in the gameplay such as the influencing other peoples game (which is hilarious to fuck with people but beware they can easily do it back!) and the crusade aspect really makes you want your side to succeed. Not a magnificent game at all …. but then again it is free so who can complain.