App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I'd never heard of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer until its debut on the App Store, but apparently it's been around in physical form for some time now. Since then, it's been met with fairly universal acclaim and has recently received a stand-alone expansion pack titled Return of the Fallen. Oh, and they released said iOS version.
What makes Ascension so special, aside from being a complete joy to play, is its very structure: It's similar to a collectible card game, only the deck-building takes place during each match. Players take turns using default starter cards to "purchase" more for their individual decks. Once obtained, each hero, construct and whatever else is shuffled in to the player's draw pile where it can eventually be used during their turn. Typically to purchase even more cards or to kill monsters. Killing monsters yields Honor, which is a kind of score-currency, and the player with the most Honor at the end of a match (once the Honor pool is empty) wins. Of course it's not as simple as just offing everything: Some cards can earn Honor as a special effect, and a good deal of them will bestow their owner with even more at the end of the game. It's a lot like the farmlands in Carcassonne, actually.
Much like the supremely popular land-grabbing game, Ascension isn't all that big on direct conflict between players. Instead, it's more about clever distribution of resources, planning ahead, anticipating an opponent's movements and so on. Just like other more strategy-oriented titles, the winner won't be decided until the very end. No matter how many creatures they've slain, there's still no way of knowing if victory will be snatched away at the last second by someone who's hoarded a lot of valuable cards. And once it's over, win or lose, there will be a strong compulsion to immediately start up another round.
I have to admit, I'm really loving the multiplayer here, too. Ascension supports both online and offline play and save a little slowdown when there are three or four players present (AI or otherwise), it's incredibly smooth. Offline games can be set up round-robin style with one device, while online games support both simultaneous and drop-in/drop-out play. These are both great options and aside from a lack of any kind of chat support, no "Hard" AI setting and the aforementioned slowdown, there's practically nothing to take issue with.
Ascension: Chronicles of the Godslayer may make the frugal pause with its five dollar price tag, but it's totally worth that and then some. It has an active multiplayer community so there are always a few games available, and when I made my own it was joined within seconds. Literally, I set it up and was playing online with another person faster than I could say "Wow, that was fast!" Gary Games and Incinerator Studios have done a great job of both creating a fantastic card game, and porting it to iOS. Now they need to get started on porting that expansion, too.