Ascension Deckbuilding Game PC Steam Review: A Host Of Nuisances Cannot Diminish One Of The Most Addictive Titles Available

By Steve Buja , Updated Jan 14, 2015 03:02 PM EST
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When Stone Blade Entertainment and Playdek announced that they were releasing a PC version of their beloved game Ascension, I was slightly incredulous. As an avid mobile-gamer, Ascension was mine, dammit, and those glorious PC master racers should leave my beloved game alone. "Some things just work better on mobile," I say.

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As it turns out, my initial - and very hasty - opinion stands true. Ascension just works better on a phone or tablet. The touch controls make for a more intuitive, smoother and far more enjoyable game in all respects. That is not to say that Ascension: The Deckbuilding Game is not enjoyable - Ascension gets more use on my phone than all other apps combined - but that experience gets lost in translation.

Fundamentally, the game is entirely the same. Four factions, constructs, heroes, monsters. It even can link to your mobile account so you can start a game on your phone or tablet, then finish it on your desk or laptop. It looks like Ascension, it sounds like Ascension and yet it is... not quite Ascension.

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The main culprits that prevent Ascension from (ahem) ascending are the tracking boxes that let you interact with cards, the speed at which the game moves. and the lack of intuitiveness on behalf of how to initiate certain moves. On the last one, the in-game tutorial - nearly the same as found on the original Chronicle of the Godslayer, the game's first iteration - does not cover the nuances of gameplay found in later versions. Activating a Construct's ability, for instance, is no longer a simple double-tap.

Which leads to the game's biggest frustration: hit-tracking sensitivity. For starters, even slightly touching any of the cards in your hand with your mouse enlarges them so that newcomers can read the effect. This feature, while useful, cannot be turned off, and upsets the flow of the game. You want to click on this card, but this other card gets too big, preventing you from clicking on the original card. Yet, the same effect is not extended to cards in the Center Row; cards you may not know the abilities of (because you don't have them). While I can see the purpose for this mechanic on some but not on the others, an option to enable it would go a long way to making the game flow better.

Clicking on cards to activate the abilities is oftentimes very unintuitive. Your gut tells you that double clicking on this or that card will bring up the option to activate, play, discard, but that is not the case. There's all sorts of right clicking and, when that fails (and fail it will), dragging to the discard pile.

To say nothing of what happens when you have a card that allows you to put a card directly into play. The card gets stuck, freezing the match and you have to go to the menu and refresh the game. Is it an easy workaround? Yes, sure. Should it even be a workaround at all? No, absolutely not.

Were I not coming from the game from the point of view of a longtime player, I am sure these little hiccups would be less 'dealbreakers' and more 'quirks' to be handled with and understood. Though the game does not run as smooth as its mobile counterpart - and let that sink in for a minute - the PC version offers up the same wonderful gameplay experience. Assuming you can look past its flaws.

When the bugs and little flaws are fixed, it will be amongst the must haves for casual PC players. The much hoped for Tournament mode will work beautifully on a desktop or laptop and we hope that this expansion into that market signals the eventual release of it.

The PC version is at times hard to love but I'll be honest, I just can't quit the game. The mobile version will always be my first choice to the prom, but the PC port is a worthy back-up when date number one cancels at the last minute.

Ascension: Deckbuilding Game 
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Ascension was reviewed using a developer code provided by Stone Blade and Playdek. It's currently available on Steam for $9.99, which includes five expansion packs. 

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