Who was Kul? And where's the rest of him? Just two of literally three or more questions you may have about Ascend: Hand of Kul, Signal's free-to-play action-RPG for Xbox Live. The game is now in open beta, and is shaping up to an entertaining if clumsy romp, laced with intriguing multiplayer and level-up mechanisms.
The stars of the show are "Caos", over-sized, over-muscled Messiahs who roam the land in search of ancient relics to bludgeon, souls (read: cash) to spend on new toys, and non-believers to eat/stamp on/hurl at other Caos. For a top-down take on the game and its thus-far-inoffensive microtransaction system, here's our Ascend hands-on. For tips to deploy during the beta, scroll down.
Don't spend all your souls on your first character
You'll get 3,000 free souls when you start up. You'll be presented with three tiers of equipment - the free tier, the affordable tier, and the "purchase more souls with real money" tier. If you must buy anything, just get a weapon. The game isn't hard enough to warrant investing too much at this stage.
Be choosy when you Ascend
"Ascending" your Caos sacrifices it to your god, allowing players to carry over a handful of items and abilities to a new character, and pledge fealty to a different god. This also generates an AI-controlled version of the old Caos, which may then turn up as an enemy in a rival's gameworld.
You'll transfer weapons, gear, spells and whatnot during the Ascension process by placing them on plinths, of which there's only one to begin with - more plinths are unlocked by, you guessed it, spending Souls. 15,000 souls will unlock four plinths, allowing you to carry over a complete set of armour. Be sure to change gods the first two times you Ascend, at least - you'll get a free beginner spell after levelling up in the service of each god.
If in doubt, choose Void
The God of Void is a solid starting pick for the amateur crusader, not so much for the attendant boosts to magical damage as for that entry-level ice spell, which freezes foes in their tracks for a few seconds. This makes chasing down floating troll shamans far less annoying, though it's ultimately no substitute for a nice, beefy Claymore.
Don't take a hit
If you want to earn your Souls fair and square, rather than by digging into your real-life pockets, you'll want to make a clean sweep of each and every battle. The longer the combo, the more Souls enemies will drop when they're unceremoniously booted off this mortal coil. You can block in the middle of a combo without interrupting it, providing you strike another blow shortly after, but taking damage resets the multiplier. The block move is pretty responsive, thankfully, and you don't have to be facing the attacker to pull it off.
Keep a spare set of clothes
The durability and repair system of your items sinks a lot of your money. The repair costs of purple items can be prohibitive, so keep a set of decent non-legendary kit in your inventory to use if it breaks. In fact, why waste your legendary weapons on bog-standard trolls, when you can...