Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer ($4.99) is the first officially licensed deck-building card game for iOS. Anyone even remotely interested in the genre will find plenty to love in this app. I would add that it sets a very high bar for the apps following in the recent resurgence of deck-building card games.
Ascension has its origins deeply rooted in the daddy of all deck-building card games, Magic: The Gathering (MTG). This should be no surprise, as three of the creators have MTG tournament championships under their belts. The way Ascension plays, however, differs in a few respects. Unlike MTG, there are only 50 unique cards in Ascension. To the uninitiated this might seem like a lot to keep track of, but compared with the literally thousands in MTG, 50 seems just about right. There is a card gallery built into the app to help players get acquainted with the function of each card. This, coupled with a great tutorial that takes you through the first rounds of play, made learning how to play a relative breeze.
While the tutorial did quite a fine job of introducing the mechanics, it would be nice to see a bit more explanation of the strategies that will be needed when facing experienced players. Fortunately, games are quite short for two players. I was able to learn a lot about how cards interact with each other just by playing a few quick games against the two levels of AI opponent.
My online experience with the app was just as enjoyable. On every occasion, there have been eager opponents ready to play, and the games have gone just as quickly and smoothly as I would imagine the physical game does. Some have complained that online opponents will sometimes quit before finishing the game, but I've never experienced this problem. Typically, a two-player game will finish in approximately 15 minutes or less, making this app great for times when you want to get a quick strategy gaming fix, but don't have 60 minutes to devote to something more involved.
Art and sound in this app are really top-notch. Every card in the game was designed by Eric Sabee, and there is so much detail to appreciate, it borders on distracting. The game interface gets very high marks, as well. Nearly every detail serves a purpose, from the way card animations show how each card is being used, to glowing highlights that indicate possible moves. This is how a deck-building card game should be done for the iOS.
An expansion has now been added to the physical card game, and it shouldn't be long before the iOS version follows. Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is such a faithful and flawless adaptation of the physical game, that I eagerly await the inevitable expansions. It also sets the high mark for the genre, in my eyes. Other popular deck-building games, such as Dominion and Thunderstone, probably will get the iOS treatment before long, and I think developers of these apps would be wise to attempt to match the polish and quality that Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer exudes. I give it my highest recommendation.