Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

Ascendancy (DOS)

78
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  lucian (37)
Written on  :  Nov 24, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars

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Summary

A good, addictive space sim

The Good

This game kept me awake for days and nights, until finally I beat it on a very dense quadrant, peaceful galaxy, and playing as the Govorom (efficient planets, it's better to have a few quick shipbuilding planets than a lot of slow ones)

The aliens are creatively made, each one having a different ability: block starlanes, compress time, turn planets into eden, instant research, invulnerability for a day, infinite population, etc. This should give a different playing experience, but it doesn't, most of these qualities are worthless/unnecessary against the very clever AI.

The Tech tree is 3-D, zoomable and rotatable. Each node may have multiple roots and multiple children - technologies are creatively diversified and scientifically believable.

The research through the discoveries made at buried alien sites is rather unbalanced. You may end up having a very powerful weapon/shield/artifact, but a weak power source - rendering it unusable in a given ship (all your ship power may never be enough for that hyperwave nullifier). Some weapons do not require power, and there is no relation between weapon strength, power used and the tech level.

There's a graphical representation of power used/produced when building ships, instead of plain numbers. Each ship is unique in its design, making easier to correct errors. There's no way of telling how a device will precisely work (i.e. range, strength, power used) in the field.

Combat is well-made and AI is competent. Lots of times I saw it making a retreat or blocking the starlane to its systems (even though you can't tell what the effective range of your weapons is.)

The Galaxy looks huge because of the very restrictive starlane system. Often, you'll spend hundreds of days marching through them and finally arrive in a system very near to your home planet (but the AI forgot to place a starlane between the stars).

It's fun to use your special power when it finally arrives (after 150,68 or 83 days)

The Bad

It's very, very, very boring after you set 7-10 colonies to get reports EVERY day about finished constructions. Some have free pop, others don't, to go there and instruct them to build another facility on another coloured area

So, you automate most of the planets and concentrate on 1-2 to grow and become ship-builders, only to see that all the other planets filled up with lots of missile launchers, surface shields and orbital shields, so you have to scrap all obsolete facilities and let the AI to build modern ones. Later you see that the very clever AI again filled them all with obsolete/unnecessary tech on the wrong colour tiles and forgot to expand population.

So, you got a ship,right? Filled with lots of starlane engines to make the painful assault on the enemy located at the END of a very long array of starlanes. But the AI slips some ships through the lines and occupies some of your less-defended, new worlds. So your new ships get scraped because of the loss of star systems.

In order to win, you need only to hold 2/3 of the quadrant OR all alien home systems. In a very dense galaxy this will take thousands of days.

If you have the antagonizer AI and play in a hostile galaxy, aliens will get allied with you. Park some of their ships in your systems, make a force build-up there, roam the galaxy in search for undefended planets and then declare war.

When building ships, the AI NEVER uses shields and has a good preference for obsolete weapons and devices.

The Bottom Line

Good classic space game, has a good feeling compared to Master of Orion (1, 2 or 3) and realistically-made physics, technologies and time scale (if you consider each day equal to one year, actually).

There is lots of micromanagement, the AI behaves strangely and it takes a lot of patience to win.