Monday, March 12, 2018

Ascendancy - Part 3

Ascendancy - Part 1

Ascendancy - Part 2

Today I am continuing my playthrough of the fantastic 4X game Ascendancy.  My Nimbuloid empire continues to exist while struggling against the tyrannical Fludentri, conniving Chamachies, and war mongering Marmosians.  My goal for this post is to eliminate at least one of these opposing species so I can get to a good stopping point to wrap up my coverage of Ascendancy.  The game is great fun and I'm enjoying my time playing it, but this is the third post covering the game so I think it is time to finish it and move on to the next game.  If I can't get to total galactic domination, at least I should be able to wipe a few of these other species.

Click below to continue to follow the rise of the Nimbuloid empire.

Let's take a look at the galactic map to get a recap of what the situation is:

I need to defend myself in two main systems: the Aquila system (current selected) and the Brilliance system.  The Aquila system has 2 unmapped star lanes from which Fludentri ships keep appearing.  So the Fludentri have some colonies somewhere out there through those star lanes.  The Brilliance system is the system in the middle of the screenshot above at the end of a red star lane.  This is the direction Chamachie and Marmosian ships keep coming from.  I can see at least one from each species in the star lane right now.  The green triangles indicate that I have ships in each of those systems right now, so I am building up a defensive fleet.  I am also starting to build more invasion ships.

I've finally researched "Large" ship hulls (it goes up to one size higher than Large) so I can afford to put both weapons AND invasion modules on the same ship:

Notice some of the new, weird stuff I can now put in my ship, like Plasma Coupler or Mass Condenser
The downside to making a bigger ship like this is it will take 81 days to make, which is a lot of turns.  You can see I am using a lot of the "Plasmatron" weapon, which is the silver gun with the red barrel.  This weapon is very weak but it has a really long range.  So I can stay out of range of planets and other ships and blast them while they use all their turns trying to get close to me to get in range of their better but shorter range weapons.

Here is a shot of my Plasmatron hitting an enemy Fludentri planet, a Marmosian ship, and the Marmosian ship blowing up:

Explosion from destroyed ships are white
I think I'm going to conclude this playthrough of Ascendancy.  It is a fantastic game but I'm ready to move on to something new.  Here is a look at the galaxy as I am leaving it:

And I finally ran into the final other species:

Their name sounds like a coffee drink
I did a good job of building up my empire and clearing out other species from within my borders.  I did a little bit of expansion but not much.  I'm stopping now because they battles can drag a bit at this point in the game as it can take upwards of 10 shots to destroy an enemy ship, and the whole time that enemy is moving to get out of range of my shots.  So it ends being a lot of chasing, cat/mouse type thing that can take a long time when there are 2 or 3 ships to chase down and destroy. 

I tried the game without the Antagonizer patch, and the AI is pretty crappy without it.  It would make the game go a lot faster though.

- Review -

To be completely honest, I found Ascendancy to be really really fun.  It is one of those games where I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't playing.  It would be turning over strategies in my head and thinking about which systems to attack and which to defend.  It reminded me a lot of a much more simple Civilization in that I was always thinking about the larger big picture strategy and it gave that recognizable feeling of "one more turn".  

When compared to other 4X games like Master of Orion 2 or Imperium Galactica or the more recent Stellaris, Ascendancy is much shallower in depth.  There is no economics, happiness, or much in the way of diplomacy.  I completely ignored planetary development and allowed the AI to handle it with no drawbacks that I could discern.  As I mentioned before, there is also a complete lack of any numbers or stats.  Determining whether a weapon or engine or device is appropriate to use takes trial and error, the manual, and intuition based on its name and how far it is along the tech tree.  

It sounds like everything I listed above is a negative, but this is actually not the case.  Ascendancy is a clever game on a number of levels.  At the most basic level, the names of all the technologies are interesting and very memorable.  At a higher level, the game frees you from having to worry about things like economics or happiness and so lets you focus more on grand strategy, more so that most 4X games.  So while it is a more simple game than some others, it has a great focus on macro strategies, almost like a game of Risk.  

I also really enjoyed the music and artwork.  The alien designs are all appropriately alien and the music, both at the menu and in game, is great.  The interface is also fairly impressive for an old DOS game.  Right click centers on units, ESC backs out to maps, and there are no nest menus.  Its amazing to me that a 4X game can get by without having nested menus.

Like a lot of 4X games, this game tended to drag once I got to the middle game.  I did not get to the late game so I can't comment on that, but once my opponents got "Large" ships and better engines it made combat pretty tedious.  It was the same thing over and over: Enemy takes 1 or 2 shots at me then runs away and I am forced to chase them for a few turns until I finally whittle down their health and destroy them.  I know later on the game there are weapons that are much stronger and so make combat go faster, but I wasn't willing to continue to playing right now to get that far.  

This is an easy game for me to recommend.  If only they could have produced a sequel.

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