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Underworld Ascendant reveals a tabletop miniature-inspired new look

"To bring back more whimsy and less brooding."

Underworld Ascendant has revealed a new look designed to replicate the feel of playing with tabletop miniatures.

"There's a 'reality bug' going around in TV, film, and games where fantasy has become inundated by gritty photo-realism," said the game's art director Nate Wells, who was art director of BioShock, BioShock Infinite and the Last of Us, no less. "With Underworld Ascendant, I want to bring back more whimsy and less brooding."

The result is a chunkier toy-like appearance that isn't overly cartoony, and it's worth remembering while perusing the new screenshots that this is a crowdfunded game made for roughly $1m.

The emphasis in Underworld Ascendant will be on do-as-you-like gameplay and making a game that supports your improvised route through the dungeon. It's the sort of gameplay that made Skyrim so popular, because once upon a time the Elder Scrolls games were inspired by this game's distant relative, Ultima Underworld - and the original creators are back on board.

Improvising your way is so much the goal, even, that Underworld Ascendant's engine is called the Improvisation Engine, and it claims to allow you great freedom in overcoming obstacles.

Do you want to try and swim across a subterranean river guarded by a tentacled lurker, for instance, or do you want to distract it by sending a tasty rotworm down first? Or do you want to - and this is what I would do - charm a giant spider to take you up and over the watery hazard? Imagine that! That's an example given on the game's website.

There will be story and characters complimenting the real-time first-person dungeon crawl, and there are stretch goal ideas for things like an Underworld Builder Toolkit, so you can make your own dungeons, and Doppleganger Gems. The latter replicate your friends when they're offline so they can still join your adventure. Nifty.

The game is being helmed by Paul Neurath, who made the original Ultima Underworld games, and his new OtherSide Entertainment studio. Video game legend Warren Spector was brought on board as creative advisor earlier this year.

Underworld Ascendant's new look will be in a playable build going out to backers this month.

Underworld Ascendant is a PC game that moved into full production this year. I can't find any word on release date so I'll be surprised if the game comes out in 2016.