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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004


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by The Logic Factory
What the game is about:
Ascendancy is an empire builder in the science fiction genre. You start as one of 21 races, none of which are human, and expand from your home world, researching tech, building colonies and ships as you expand outward. As you colonize more planets, you will run into three to seven of the other races, some friendly, some not so friendly. You have the option to conduct diplomacy with these races or prosecute a campaign of death and destruction, cleansing the galaxy of all the heathen alien scum to make way for the one true race. Yours.

The Review:
When I first got Ascendancy, I was excited. I had finally found a game that might replace Master of Orion as one of my favorite titles. The graphics look excellent. The game play looked decent. With the large number of races, and the fact that none of them were human, I was sure that this game would give me hours of lost sleep. Alas, the game did not live up to my admittedly high expectations. It has earned My dreaded, "Nice Try" award.

The graphics in ascendancy are actually quite good. You can gain a pretty good understanding of what your planet structures are without much trouble. The system map and galactic maps are done in 3-D and you can rotate them about to get a good view of what is going on. The perspective takes a little getting used to but is interesting none the less. I've been waiting a long time for someone to come out with a 3D interface for this kind of thing. The graphics for the various races' ships are also very well done. Although each race has the same classes of ships, each race's ships vary greatly in appearance. This is a very nice feature.

The user interface is functional and not cumbersome. You can get context sensitive help on most topics with just a (SHIFT)-CLICK. This can be very helpful at times. Building facilities on your planets is straightforward. You select the location you want to build in and then what item to build there.

Ship building is quite easy as well. You select the hull size and place engines, generators, shields, sensors, and of course, WEAPONS! My only complaint here is that you cannot create "classes" or "templates". You must design each ship you wish to build from the ground up. Fortunately when you get the technology, you can "refit" your ships. This allows you to modify a ship instead of scrapping it and building a new ship.

Movement in a system is done from the system view. Select the ship you want to move and where you want to move it. The ship lays in its course and moves toward its destination. If it is to a planet it will automatically go into orbit; if to a starlane, and you have a starlane drive, it will enter the starlane.

Combat is done much the same way. Unfortunately it does not work all that well. You do not have any idea what the range is from your ship to your target. Of course, knowing the range of your target is not very useful since you have no idea of the effective range of your weapon! Combat turns out to be quite tedious and not very exciting.

This brings up another point: the lack of information on what the various items do in the game. You have no idea if weapon A is better than weapon B. This is the case for all tech. There are only vague descriptions of what each item does. This is very annoying when you are trying to build an efficient space fleet. A better description of what each item did would be most useful.

Your tech research is accomplished one item at a time, with all planets contributing. When you finish researching one item, several more areas of research may be available to you. This system seems to work. There could, however, have been several things done differently to make research more interesting. First, do away with the three-dimensional display of the tech tree. This only serves to consume more space than necessary. Make some tech lines unavailable to some races. This could be a random thing so you might play the same race twice and have different tech available to you. As it is, you just have to work at it long enough until you get all the tech. You don't even have to trade for tech if you don't want to. In fact, I wouldn't recommend trading for tech. You don't want the other races to get a leg up and give you any trouble in your goal of galactic domination.

Galactic domination isn't a real problem in this game since the AI leaves a bit to be desired. The races don't seem to have much stomach for war and they don't attack you unless attacked themselves. You can just sit around and out tech them and when you have all the tech, you fly around with one or two ships and lay waste. It would be very nice if the computer players were a bit more aggressive.

This might be a problem though, since invading planets is a snap. You just beat down the orbital defenses and drop an invasion module (It could take a couple). The colonists seem to give up without much of a fight. When an invasion is successful, the planet is yours, mostly intact. I found this to be a viable strategy. Find my victim's good planets, invade them and, PRESTO the planet was on-line and producing almost at full capacity. All the colonists had mysteriously converted over to my cause; do you blame them? A few turns later you build orbital installations and no one can touch you.

I have read that an "Antagonizer" upgrade will be made available to address some of the AI shortcomings. I have read on the designer's home page that they took out the harder AI because they felt the game would be too hard. I think that more aggressive races would probably make the game "too hard", as your planets could be invaded quite easily before you had a chance to defend them. We shall see.

The Bottom Line:

A pretty game with an excellent idea; however poor implementation of certain aspects, and bad AI, haven't made for a classic game. Coupled with the lack of net/modem support, I'm of the opinion, "Wait for Master of Antares."

--Jack Ambrose