Ascendancy in Review – Ascend from the darkness, come to the light of the App Store!

Looking at the power of modern mobile devices, it’s no wonder then that more and more of them are the target of developers, looking to get more life out of their classic titles. And this is even more true with the iOS family, with a single point of sales and an extremely low entry barrier – costing a measly $99 per year for a developer’s license. I can’t say that every such upgrade goes without a hitch, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from trying. Ascendancy has been universally praised back in the mid-90s and we’ll soon find out if it still has the spunk to reach out to today’s iOS gamers.

Ascendancy is a classic 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) space strategy game. You control one of the 21 available races in their struggle for control of the universe. There isn’t a single storyline; instead, each race has a short intro, illustrating their motivations to reach for the stars. What happens next is entirely up to you.

If you’re not familiar with the premise of 4x strategy games, think Civilization. You control the fate of your people in all aspects, from building up the infrastructure to rallying the army to making scientific breakthroughs. Ascendancy is all of that plus more. And in space! The playground is vast; you can customize the starting parameters a bit, but ultimately you’ll have a whole galaxy and up to 6 potential opponents to face. The galaxy consists of individual systems, connected by wormholes called “star lanes”. Each system has planets of varied sizes and structures, influencing how they are best utilized. And all of this goodness is presented in full 3D gameplay wise – you can rotate the galaxy and the system display, and when ordering movement, you take into account not only the x and y axis, but height as well.

Ascendancy offers amazing amount of depth, rarely seen even in the most hardcore of 4x games. The city/planet building, for instance, involves not only choosing what buildings to construct, but how to place them on the planet to maximize the efficiency. Instead of having preset ships to choose from, you’ll be able to populate the empty shell with whatever components you see fit. And speaking of the races – each has a distinct style associated with a special ability to augment it, as well as dedicated ship graphics and theme music.

In your journey across the universe, you’re bound to meet other races; whether they will be friend or foe will depend on your actions. Ascendancy offers quite a strong diplomacy component, allowing forging of treaties and alliances, trade technologies and more.

The only really controversial point in Ascendancy is the controls. Unlike most of the hardcore games, Logic Factory decided to go with a vertical orientation, with the main screen occupying about the top 2/3 of the screen and the control panel the bottom third. While this may ok on the iPad, on the iPhone it feels like a serious waste of space. Many menus are not too intuitive, i.e. no drag-n-drop in the ship design or the planet building screens. And controlling your ships is a bit frustrating as well, though it has become a lot better with the most recent update.

Ascendancy is a mammoth of a game, with enough material to write a review 5 times longer. But in short – if you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, there’s no excuse not to add it to your app collection. Logic Factory have put in a lot of work and caringly ported their award-winning title to give us the definitive hardcore strategy experience on the iDevice.  The core is perfect in almost every way, though the interface on the iPhone has still some ways to go before it can be considered truly friendly enough even for the more casual crowd of iOS gamers.

With this I declare Ascendancy officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Ascendancy Developer: The Logic Factory
Reviewed Ver: 2.17.2 Min OS Req: 4.1
Price: $4.99 App Size: 40.95MB
  • Deep strategic 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) gameplay
  • 21 distinct races to choose from
  • Universal app
  • Retina graphics in all 3d screens
  • Portrait controls
  • Frustrating interface to do some everyday actions (build stuff, design ships, move the fleet)
  • 2D graphics could use a touch-up


A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well):

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