Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ascension on iPad

I love my iPad, no question. This device allows me to bring about 80% of my entertainment with me wherever I go, and even though I don't have a 3G version I can still do a lot of stuff (with a little planning ahead, especially for video) when I don't have good wi-fi access (like most hotel rooms).

Up until now, the games have been fun, but I've found myself turning back to solitaire card games like Klondike or Spiderette on a regular basis. No more, now that Ascension is implemented.

Ascension is a "deck-building game" along the lines of Dominion and Thunderstone. What differentiates the game is that the Portal deck is always in play, but only six of the cards are visible at any time. You always have the three 'basics" to pull from, but there is no "scenario" like there is in the other DBGs where you build a pool from the available cards. Also, there are no limits on how many cards you can purchase or attack during a turn. The result is a very fast-playing game (against the AI, which is quite good) that you can hot-seat or play over the internet. The app came out only about a week ago and I think Alex and I logged something like 40 or 50 games between us at Sunriver, about 10 of them hot-seat. You just can't put it down.

The game isn't perfect. The Reactor Monk doesn't seem to give you the promised discount, and some of the constructs that should work automatically (like those that grant you an extra card draw at the start of your turn) require you to activate them. The game also works on an iPhone, but I would struggle to play on that platform for more than a game or two before my eyes started to bleed. No question it's a game for a tablet device more than a phone, but I'll almost certain call on it in a pinch. You'll also want to take careful note of how you sequence your card plays - there are no takebacks once a card is played, which will frustrate you if you've played the physical version, but that's normal for electronic versions of almost every game I play on the iPad.

The game also needs leaderboards and some other social elements (chat, for example) and the interface can be confusing at times (want to kill a game? It requires you to make some non-intuitive menu selections). I also struggled to keep a network connection during my one online game, which was annoying to the point of me wanting to play against the AI, but I'm not sure if that was the host servers being overwhelmed during the launch of a popular game or the fragile network at Sunriver. I am quite confident that the publishers will have all of these things added in shortly.

I should note that I came to this game as a relatively experienced Ascension player, having logged something like 25 games using the card version. Right now I prefer the iOS version even with missing the Rat King, the expansion that just came out, and my good friend KC's excellent Cultist variant, but I'm hopeful they'll add in the other elements as the game matures.

I will also note that I have no idea if the game is available on Android, but if it isn't it will be soon. It's far too good to leave on a single device brand, even if it would be a "killer app" for a lot of gamers or even those who have the chops to learn it as is.

I am not an employee of Gary Games nor anyone else involved with any implementation of this game, nor is anyone involved a personal friend or family member. I'm just completely blown away by how perfect this game is as a 5-10 minute timewaster (which has turned into a day waster on one occasion already).


Greg W said...

The Reactor Monk seems to work for me. Note that the discount only applies to the first construct you purchase on a turn. (The price will be shown reduced on constructs before that).

I know what you mean about the All-Seeing Eye, the construct that gives you a card every turn. However, there are subtle reasons why you wouldn't want it to draw automatically every time. For example if you had the Druids of the Stone Circle in hand you could play it to put a card on top of your deck then use the All-Seeing Eye to draw that card.

Now they could build in logic to detect when it could automatically draw but there are definitely cases you want to wait to tell it to draw. There are some other cases where they could also automate decisions but overall it seems to be pretty solid.

They definitely have some work to do with the GameCenter integration though I can't tell how much of that is deficiencies in the app or deficiencies in GameCenter. One of these days we'll actually have to play a game online. :D (And I still need to try the expansion)

Greg W said...

Oh, meant to comment on the AI. So far I think I'm about 50% on the higher difficulty. Based on the UI you'd think that would be moderate difficulty and there'd be a higher setting, perhaps that's for a later update.

PresidioDelux said...

I'm new to the game. My friends in our game group have played it at game night a little but then I heard it was available on iPad. Now I wont look like such a newb when I finally do get to play it at a game night. I really like it and if you are wondering about the AI, I think it is superb. I can beat it consistently on easy and I am a little less than 50/50 on Medium. If you are googling this game wondering if you should drop $5 on it. DO IT! Its great even if you have no clue that the paper version even existed.