Whatever happened to Ascent: the Space Game, Aura Kingdom, and Fragmented?
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately?
Ascent: the Space Game
Despite being a very small, very indie MMO, Ascent earned our respect around here for pulling off an ambitious PvE space sim sandbox with a dev team of one. While it wasn’t the best-looking game in the world, Ascent’s feature list — which includes 270 billion star systems, colonization, trading, farming, and politics — is downright amazing. For a while there, we were mentioning this game a lot, especially to disgruntled Star Citizen backers and antsy players looking for a challenging and complex game.
Unfortunately, “small” has dwindled to “near nonexistent” in the case of Ascent. Back in May 2017, the developer said that he was in talks with investors and grants to fund further development of the game, although he also confirmed that without their backing, the title could continue operating almost indefinitely. The idea was that with investor backing, the game would be relaunched as Ascent: Black Sky with a new engine, visuals, terraforming, and (why not) nukes.
The money so far hasn’t come, and the developer ended up putting Ascent on the backburner due to his full-time job and some work on a new/integrated title called The Medieval Game. The few players commenting on Ascent on Steam report that the game feels dead and abandoned.
“Black Sky was always contingent on the grant he is still working to get,” a studio liaison reported. “He will have his answer December 9th . I am quote excited because of what he is developing for The Medieval Game (TMG), which will retrofit into Ascent. Black Sky is planned to be a release with the new Unity Engine. [Lead Developer] Jam just told me this past week that it looks like a month of work to get Ascent to work in the new engine, so no new client this month. If he gets the funding, then he progresses with Black Sky, then shifts to TMG. If he gets no funding, then he starts working on Black Sky on the side and finds gainful employment. Development on Ascent has slowed this year because of the time and efforts Jam has been making on financing. Without additional financing, he has to go back to full time work and work on Ascent on the side, which will slow development even more.”
Further updates on that progress, however, haven’t arrived.
Sometimes I choose games for this column not because I’m worried that they’ve fallen off the face of the earth but because we simply haven’t covered them that often and they could use a little love and attention. That’s the case for Aura Kingdom, a colorful eastern MMO that dwells in the World of Warcraft clone territory with a large dash of anime influences. It also has a fantastic soundtrack, which is neither here nor there, but I thought I should mention it.
Anyway, Aura Kingdom had a couple of bursts of activity last year that kept its playerbase busy. September’s Patch 36 introduced the goddess Kitami (who is apparently “quite shy”) as an ally, upgraded mounts, and opened the doors to Sarpa’s Forbidden Laboratory, the Dimensional Hall and the Tomb of the Ancients, all high-level dungeons.
Even bigger and better was Patch 37, which arrived in October with the brand-new Lancer class. This character not only used his namesake weapon but also fire and ice abilities to wipe out foes. Then Patch 38 came to wrap up the year in November, giving players an early Christmas as well as the Eidolons Justicia and Michaela, more floors to the Vault of Eternia, more housing features, and more alchemy options.
A mobile spinoff of the MMO was announced back in 2016, but unfortunately the game came out only in Korea and other Asian countries.
In one of the sadder stories in the MMO genre, indie sandbox MMO The Repopulation — the game that looked to follow in the vein of Star Wars Galaxies — ended up struggling mightily with limited resources and finances years into its development, reportedly compounded by Hero Engine licensing entanglements. In a move to raise money, satiate backers, and stall for time, the studio created and launched a standalone survival sandbox in April 2016. Fragmented is now Above and Beyond Technology’s only property after the company ended up selling The Repopulation to Hero Engine company Idea Fabrik, which relaunched the MMO in early access back in Q1 2017.
While we are concerned about the fate of The Repopulation, what’s going on with Fragmented? The survival title officially transitioned out of early access to a full launch in August 2017 following 30 patches and 16 months of active development.
Above and Beyond’s devs said at launch that they “want to stress that this does not mean the end of updates for Fragmented,” yet their ensuing track record speaks to the contrary. Apart from the occasional sale (including a recent one that took the game’s price down to $2), there haven’t been any patches, hotfixes, or content updates since the game’s release.
So we can give it some time to see if the studio has any plans for 2018, but right now the future isn’t looking that bright for this once-hopeful savior of its big brother.