Ascension: Deckbuilding Game Review
Build the perfect deck
Ascension and its many expansions could very well be described as the perfect gateway card game for people wanting to get into the Deckbuilding genre. While the physical games might be a little pricey, averaging $30-$40 a game or expansion, the digital version is actually on the opposite spectrum. For a while, Ascension has had a pretty fantastic port on iOS and Android devices, bringing the fun of deckbuilding to anyone, anywhere, without any sort of set up necessary. The base game was free with the ability to purchase expansions.
Playdek has now brought that same digital title to bigger screens, as it made its PC/Steam debut last month. While it ditches the free-to-play pricing structure, the asking price of $9.99 isn't all that crazy considering the game comes with every expansion thus far, giving you a combined pool of almost 700 cards. But is the transition to a touch-free platform a good one?
For those not familiar with deckbuilding card games, they essentially work like standard card games in reverse. You start with five basic cards, and over time build up your deck by purchasing cards from a joined center pool by spending resources. As the game goes on, those cards that you picked up will eventually be shuffled back into your deck to be able to play against your opponent. The goal of the game is to have the most Honor Points by the end of the game, which comes from defeating monster cards, and acquiring powerful and costly resource cards.
It's one of those games that are the very antithesis of games like Hearthstone, which require you to either grind to acquire new cards, or outright pay money for booster packs. You have all the cards right there, no need to purchase anything extra. And with the five expansions as well as four promo decks, you will have a lot of variations to play around with.
The game itself is a straight up port of the mobile game, which is slightly a shame. Of course, everything is legible on larger monitors, and all the art is just as beautiful as before, but when you see prompts like "Swipe to turn pages" in the rulebook, it's clear that Playdek simply took the mobile game and blew it up for bigger monitors.
It's not like the game ever required any sort of special or flashy animations, especially since it moves at a relatively fast pace, but some newer card animations or even pretty 3D representations of the cards would have been a nice touch. After all, Duel of the Planeswalkers is very much just a standard Magic: The Gathering card game, but the presentation is top notch. It's a minor gripe sure, but I would have liked to see the PC version spiced up a bit.
Outside of that, the game unfortunately managed to crash on me quite a few times, and I don't seem to be the only one with that problem. A quick glance at the Steam product page reveals that users seem to having the same issue as well. The game crashes very oddly too, because the game partially freezes, but everything is still clickable. For instance, the animation of cards will freeze, but clicking on the cards to zoom in on them, or scrolling through your Discard pile still works, but the game just won't continue from there. Luckily, the game has an auto-save feature that lets you start from where you left off in the game, and that's not only handy, but very much appreciated.
You can also play against real opponents via the game's built in multiplayer mode. While I haven't seen a ton of matches, usually never going past the first page, it was never really hard for me to find one, whether it was joining someone or allowing someone to join my created game. Oddly enough, I haven't encountered any game breaking bugs during my online matches thus far, and the game ran pretty smoothly. You will need to create a Playdek account to play online though, so keep that in mind.
It's certainly not a perfect port, but if you enjoy deckbuilding games like this one, or even Star Realms, be it through their physical editions or their more portable digital renditions, this one's a worthy investment. Hopefully Playdek stays on top of the game and continues to iron out the nasty game breaking bugs.