REVIEW: ASCENSION: CHRONICLE OF THE GODSLAYER / RETURN OF THE FALLEN

Some readers might be familiar with the game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and its expansion Return of the Fallen from its original iteration as a trading card game, along the lines of Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon. As the flagship title of Gary Games, Ascension debuted at Gen Con in 2010. The game immediately gained attention as a number of its designers played on the Magic: The Gathering professional tours. Now, through the game developer Playdek, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and its expansion Return of the Fallen has come to the iOS platform.

Players can purchase this 2011 Golden Geek award winner (Best Mobile/Handheld Game) for $4.99 and then purchase the expansion in-game for another $2.99. While I am not usually a fan of the in-game purchase, the manner in which the Return of the Fallen expansion integrates into the original actually makes sense in this instance.

Ascension: Return of the Fallen Expansion

Ascension: Return of the Fallen Expansion

Game Mechanics

Part of what made Ascension a success was its balance of elegant yet intricate gameplay. The game has many nuances to its involved strategy and to focus on the mechanics of the Ascension game itself would be too lengthy, instead, the focus in this part of the review is how well those mechanics translate over to a video game version.

Ascension consists of two game modes, Offline and Online play. If the player has purchased the expansion, then the game can either be played as just the original, Chronicle of the Godslayer, or just the Return of the Fallen expansion, or as a combined game. The difference here is the different cards to which the player has access. Each series contains a unique set of cards, offering the player a nice choice of gameplay.

Choosing the Offline option, the Player can go against one to three computer opponents, over three different difficulty settings. The computer opponent’s AI truly varies with the different level settings, demonstrating a well-designed program. Even experienced players will find a hard set AI a welcome challenge.

For the online portion, the Player can choose to either create their own game or join someone else’s game. The options available Offline are here as well. Whoever creates the Online game can choose between the original, expansion-only or combined deck sets as well as set the number of opponents from one to three. Unfortunately, there is not any system in place to communicate with your opponents, for better or worse. Moderate trash talking can be an enjoyable enterprise. Otherwise, online play is smooth and unfettered by excessive lag.

As per the actual in-game mechanics, the player takes turns with their opponent- playing cards, acquiring cards, winning honor and much more. The player performs all their actions through drag-and-drop or tapping motions. A good way to understand the in-game mechanics is to imagine playing the classic PC game Solitaire, but with a touch screen. The touch-controls operate without a flaw; they are tight and precise.

Playdek brings Ascension to the iOS with as near perfect mimicry of a trading card game as possible. The game provides a full array of options and executes them flawlessly. This app sits the player right at the gaming table, and will keep them coming back for more.

Game Mechanics        Score 5 / 5

Player's Turn

Player's Turn

Ambience

The presentation of Ascension’s gameplay is both its weakest, yet most efficient element. In game, Ascension’s action takes place on the same unchanging scene. The single scene is meant to mimic table-top gameplay. The player’s “hand” and cards are on his side of the screen, with the absent opponent across from them. There are not any flashy effects or graphics during gameplay, or elsewhere, in this app. However, Ascension’s setup is efficient and easy to decipher. With a game as involved as Ascension, it is more important to have a display that the player can quickly scan to assess the game status.

A picture or a portrait on the actual cards has become a standard of the trading card game genre. The cards in this app share the same pictures as their physical counterpart. One of the few negative critiques of the physical card game was that the card portraits were not as “pretty” as other trading card games. While this may be valid for a player who wants to admire a physical object, perhaps when it comes to electronic gameplay, card portraits are not as important. With that in mind, when previous trading card games transitioned to video games, visual animations were added for in-game events. All but the most basic animations are absent from Ascension.

Lastly, Ascension’s soundtrack is mediocre. The music sits comfortably in the background, but does not add anything to the game experience. Upbeat, with a techno-flair, the most that can be said about the soundtrack is that it stays out of the way and does not distract from the game. Players will probably turn off the music and go with their own soundtrack.

Ambience                    Score   3.5 / 5

Ascension In-Game Layout

Ascension In-Game Layout

Fun Factor

The Ascension app brings the table-top game experience to iOS in a very enjoyable manner. Most of the games finish under thirty-minutes, which leads to a fast pace not just of play but replay. When the player completes a game in such a short time, Ascension’s addicting gameplay draws them into starting up another one right away. In this way, Ascension has a very high replay value.

Online play is a great experience as well. The only missing component would be a visible ranking system. This system would be useful for when the player looks at the various games available to join; they could see a ranking or skill level associated with their opponent. The way the online play is setup, a player does not know whether the person they are about to engage has played a thousand games before, or less than a dozen. This can lead to devastating defeats or overwhelming victory, neither of which are a super experience.

As mentioned earlier in this review, Online play is not the only way to find a challenging opponent. The computer opponent difficulty setting is very accurate and fulfilling. Offline play is also a great way for players to hone their skills without playing Online or having an internet connection.

Fun Factor                  Score   4.7 / 5

Card Gallery

Card Gallery

Guidance

Ascension is a complex game, and in a smart design move, the player’s initial game is a tutorial mode. The tutorial is necessary, but honestly even after its walkthrough, the player probably still will not have a firm grasp on the game. Thankfully, the tutorial mode can be accessed anytime through the menu. Otherwise, the tutorial is thorough, taking the player through the game step-by-step.

Two other functions available for the player are the Rulebook and the Card Gallery. With the Rulebook the player can review the finer points of the game at their own pace by flicking through pages of descriptions and details. This extra step really demonstrates a coordinating visions between Playdek and Gary Games, that they are truly interested in bringing the best experience to the player.

The Card Gallery might seem like a simple afterthought, but since all the cards have play directions written on them, it is a very useful function. The player can use the Card Gallery to thumb through the various cards and read their play-actions outside of the game. With these three functions, the designers give the player all the tools they need to grow an appreciation of the strategy involved in the Ascension game.

Guidance                     Score   5 / 5

 

Tutorial Mode

Tutorial Mode

Final Thoughts

I have said in earlier reviews that I appreciate reasonably priced games. Many games out there provide great quality for a small investment. $5.99 might seem expensive for an iOS game, but Ascension delivers on its price tag and the small $2.99 fee for the expansion is a great deal.

It’s easy to figure out that I really enjoyed this game, and continue to do so. I think the biggest compliment I can give Ascension is that after playing the app I will probably go out and purchase the actual game and expansion.

Final    Score   4.6 / 5

Written by Andrew

GD Star Rating
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REVIEW: ASCENSION: CHRONICLE OF THE GODSLAYER / RETURN OF THE FALLEN, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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  1. […] while back, I reviewed the iPad game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and its expansion, Return of the Fallen. Developed by Gary Games, Ascension was originally a […]

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