iOS Board Games

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iOS Review: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Brad Cummings
United States
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch (Universal)
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Playdek, Incinerator Studios
Version: 1.0
Size: 20.4 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and Play, Online multiplayer.
AI: Yes, two difficulties.
Itunes link:

The Good:
- Great menu and interface design.
- Easy to find and play an online game.
- Surprisingly good information design.
The Bad:
- Could use a leader board etc online.
- AI is weak but good for learning.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is a deck building game from Gary Games. It plays to different crowd than say something like Dominion, edging further away from eurogame and close to Magic: the Gathering.

In Ascension players receive a starting deck of cards and draw a hand of 5 cards each turn. Each turn players will use the cards in their hand to purchase new cards or defeat monsters. Cards offer players many things including: runes (currency used to purchase more cards), power (used to fight monsters) and honor (endgame VPs). Purchasing cards give the players new powers for their decks where as defeating monsters gives the players an honor reward as well as other bonuses (such as forcing all other players to discard cards). The honor pool starts at certain number based on the players in the game and the game ends when the honor pool is empty. The players then score honor for the cards in their deck (each card has an honor value) and the player with the most honor wins.

There are four factions in the game and much of the strategy comes from playing combos and synergies between them. Players also must decide whether it is more important to invest in fighting monsters or gathering high point cards. The game plays fast but there is certainly a lot of strategy hidden underneath the surface than may appear at first glance.

I am certain due to the overwhelming popularity of the Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer that I will be accused of either being too easy on or too hard on the app. But alas I cannot control this so here we go.

The graphic design in Ascension is beautiful. From the splash screen to the game end victory screen, everything is done with style. Luckily for us iOS users they have used and maintained the interesting art from the original game and have even found creative ways to use it (such as having certain characters selectable as in game avatars). Incinerator Studios is aiming for a certain crowd and I feel they have nailed it while avoiding campy-ness. The menu layout is pretty standard but uniform in both design and font. The in-game interface works surprisingly well (and makes Gundabad feel archaic) and I was impressed by the information management. There is a lot of information in this game to consider, such as what is in your deck, what has your opponent purchased, how many cards are left in the main deck etc., and it is all presented in a generally clear fashion (the built in tutorial also helps you through the major functions). I won’t go as far as to say it is intuitive (I am not sure that is possible) but after a play through I was surprised by the information I could quickly access. This is especially useful when playing async online and coming back to a game after a day or so, you can quickly look at what is in your deck and remember your planned strategy. Some have commented on the designers choice to use the full card art from the games, rather than editing them into something more fit for the iOS, however, on this point I disagree. I feel that maintaining the card look allows the game to more easily attract its target audience: Magic players and the like.

As mentioned above Ascension has a great in game tutorial. For about 1/2 of a game the game leads you along telling you what to play and what to purchase and also teaches you some basic combos of the game. I was very excited to see that suddenly the training wheels came off and I finished the game on my own, making my own decisions. After completing the tutorial the AI does over a good initial challenge and way to learn the game. However, the AI, with its current 2 difficulty levels, will soon become easy to beat. I do feel that AI can still be used to test new strategies and modes of playing, so I would in no way discount the mode of play. However, to create a greater single player experience a stronger AI would be welcomed. The game also features a pass and play multiplayer feature right at launch. I have not personally tried it as of yet (my wife is put off by the game’s art and theme) but I have heard good things. It is a great feature to have, should the need arise.

The most talked about feature is of course the online multiplayer system. Much like other successful apps Game Center is incorporated into a system that allows for multiple games at one time and asynchronous play. The system is fantastic and despite the lack of players early on, it is now easy to quickly find a game and get playing. Due to the information management built into the game system it is easy to play multiple games at once and recall what you were aiming for. The game also alerts and notifies you when it is your turn in a game, and I have never seen it fail to do so. One lacking feature is the ability to quickly switch from one game to another. Currently you must select menu, game list, and the game you want to play. I would love to see a “Next Table” button that quickly takes you to your next active game. Ascension, being a universal app is also great for online play allowing me to play anywhere and anytime. One lacking part of the online experience is the ability track stats. There is no leader board or achievement system. This types of systems would be great to see implemented in the future and will add to the online experience, which at this point works great but feels slightly incomplete.

My wish list for Ascension would include expansions and promo cards, and perhaps a campaign mode (a la Gundabad) but this would just be another layer of icing on an already delicious cake.

I have heard much discussion about Ascension being the new standard in iOS gaming. It is an amazing game and ranks up with Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Samurai. However, I do not think it has become the new standard. Ascension is phenomenal because it targets an audience that needs more attention, and quality attention, on iOS. That is the trading card game player. Ascension is a great crossover that can appeal to both TCG and board game players, taking elements from both genres. For that reason it is successful and I am happy to see it as I have been hoping a game of this type would be released. However, as the standard of iOS gaming I still hold Carcassonne as the go to example. Ascension is still lacking that final layer of polish (such as the features I mentioned above) and the wide almost universal appeal that a game like Carcassonne can garner. But please do not get me wrong Ascension is in the top echelon of iOS gaming.

Ascension is an amazing game for the iOS and fills a gap in the iOS catalog of board games. It has an excellent multiplayer system and great design. It is one of the great iOS board games.

Rating: 4/4 One of the Best
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Subscribe sub options Wed Jul 6, 2011 2:00 pm
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