AppThat: Ascension

AppThat: Ascension

One thing that I’ve found myself doing more recently is playing games on my phone just because we can’t as easily game in person and some games just don’t work well over something like Zoom. I wanted to talk about and review the apps themselves and how well they implement the game.

Ascension is one that I started playing a while ago, but just recently came back to it. Ascension is a pretty straight forward deck building game where you are trying to get the best engine going of buying power and fighting power to get the most honor points. You get honor points by killing monsters during the game, but also then from the cards that you purchase. The game is straight forward and has a nice rotating market that can be frustrating if you don’t get what you want or the market just becomes monsters and you’re just about buying things. On your turn you play out five cards and basically do what they tell you, that is generally adding up attack and purchase power and then using them, but some cards will have special abilities like additional card draw, or they’ll be constructs, cards that go into play permanently and give you some bonus that way. You can find my whole review here.

So let’s talk about the app and how well it works on a phone. Now I’m just doing phone only as I don’t have a tablet that I use for these. The app implementation on the phone is actually really good. The game plays extremely quickly, much quicker than in person. Or at least playing solo on the app does. Pass and play with someone in person does as well, but you can also play it online against other people. The interface is very good and the tutorial gets you up and running fast in the game and the game takes care of some of the extra work for you. Of course you don’t have to shuffle, but negative monster affects, those can run automatically, and it keeps track of your purchase and attack power for you each turn so you don’t have to mentally track that and reminds you if you have any left.

Image Source: Stone Blade

Let’s talk a bit about the AI. I tend to think that it’s just okay. On hard I win most of the time, so a lot of the time when playing it I am more interested in trying out a new strategy to see how that works or to see what score level I can get to. On easy, the AI basically goes all in attack every time, which means that the game goes fast but you don’t really have anyone competing with you for the good cards or combos. I think with adding in some of the expansions, which are additional purchases it could keep the game more fresh and interesting, but I do think the game can get a bit repetitive over time playing against the computer, no matter the level of AI. Now, playing against people online, that’s going to obviously be more engaging in terms of strategy, but obviously takes a considerable amount more time.

Some of the bells and whistles in the game are nice though. You might want to know what constructs your opponents have, you can look at that. You might want to see what you have in your discard you can look at that. But the information isn’t dominating the screen, those are all things that you can look at versus stuff that clutters it up. And you can expand all the cards, so even though I’m playing on a small phone screen, if I need to read what a card says, which I don’t now but did before, I can just hold it down and it’ll pop up for me so I can see it large enough to read.

Overall, the game feels very intuitive in what you are doing. The game play is very fast as you go, so I can probably now get through a game in 10 minutes playing solo against four AI opponents. But, the game does lose some replayability over time against the AI just because their strategy isn’t always the most unique. I don’t think it’s a bad AI and I don’t win every time, more due to luck of the draw than great AI play. But it’s still a fun time to sit down and play fast, and I could easily buy some expansions to make it more diverse in my game play if I really wanted. This is a good app implementation, and if you really wanted you can play it online with friends or as a pass and play as well, which will give you a good representation of the real game. Definitely an app that I’d recommend.

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