(This post is from 2012. I’ve written more recently about Ascendancy II, which you can read here.)
Never (I won’t say in a million years, but maybe a hundred) would I have anticipated writing this post before the one about the original Ascendancy. Ascendancy is one of my all-time favorite games, one of the most influential experiences in my life, and a defining moment of my childhood. To say that Ascendancy, and by extension, The Logic Factory, is dear to me is an understatement of near-criminal magnitude.
So, of course, I was planning a long love-fest of a post on the topic of Ascendancy at some point down the road. Maybe when I had a few more readers, to do a gem like it at least some of the justice it deserves. That love-fest is still on the way, but in the meantime, I’m compelled to comment on that news I never quite believed I would hear.
Ascendancy II is coming. (And we only had to wait seventeen years for it.)
So, why aren’t I jumping for joy right now? It all sounds great. All the features that are planned, the direction the music is going in, even the name — Ascendancy II: Multiverse — gets me all bubbly. Where the universe of the original was immense and full of wonder, the sequel’s name alone implies an even grander scale and greater vision.
So… what’s the catch? What could possibly temper all the pent up excitement I’ve carried with me since my youth? Well, it’s summed up pretty well in this quote from Todd Templeman, head of the Logic Factory, during an interview in April: “We may end up being exclusive on iOS for all time.”
I just don’t know how to feel.
As happy as I am to see a sequel, as happy as I am to see these guys successful again and getting the attention they deserve in this new mobile gaming scene, it hurts to hear Todd say his company is giving up on the PC market. I mean, serious gut-punch hurt. A sinking feeling — sort of a sad resignation.
It’s not that I have anything against Apple or the devices they create; I’m not going to get all fired up about this. No righteous indignation, no railing against Apple for destroying gaming or any of that nonsense. I guess I’m just going to kinda feel disappointed and mope around the house for a few days. Maybe break out that carton of coffee ice cream that’s been sitting in the freezer, flop down in front of the TV, and watch Star Trek reruns.
It may seem like a petty complaint, but here’s the thing:
I don’t own an iPad. I don’t own an iPhone, even. And if I could afford one, I don’t think I could ever justify the colossal price tag to myself. That selfishness aside, I tried out the recent Ascendancy port on a friend’s iPad once — long enough to know it wasn’t working for me.
The mood inherent in these devices is just all wrong. An iPad, an iPhone — they’re on-the-go devices. Even when you’re relaxing on your couch, gaming on iOS devices feels like a casual experience; it feels like you’re still on the go somehow. That intention is lacking: that determination, of a PC or even a home console — that “I am going to play a game now”. It’s commitment and immersion that are missing, and a game like Ascendancy lives and dies by those two things.
Partly, we have the method of input to blame. The touchscreen is an impressive advancement in technology, but I would argue it’s a step backward in the realm of gaming. Compared to a mouse or a controller, a touchscreen is more tiring and less precise. When I played Ascendancy on an iPad, I found it frustrating, constantly selecting the wrong thing, placing buildings in the adjacent square to where I meant to, and generally making a mess of things. At the end of the day, I was enjoying myself, but it took longer to make the same progress I could have made in the PC version, and tired out my wrist getting there.
Bottom line — would I play Ascendancy II? After everything getting in the way, I don’t know. Maybe I could borrow an iPad again, but even then, I feel like I would be playing a vastly diminished version from what it would have been on the PC. (And what it could be on the PC is a masterpiece. A triumph. A return to that childlike sense of wonder and discovery.)
I’ll just hope that when it comes time for the game to see the light of day, the guys over at The Logic Factory throw a bone to the fans who fell in love with Ascendancy on their PCs back in 1995. I hope…
Hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things. And… well, you know the rest.