I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the point of a sequel is to improve on the original. In more simple terms, it’s a chance to look at the ashes and see what went wrong. This also gives rise to another of my favorite phrases that I came up with: Everybody sucked at one point, even Dickens.
In short, your first attempt at anything will be riddled with issues. But the point is to do it anyway, so you can learn from those mistakes and grow. Nowhere is this truer than with writing. It’s why I always encourage fan fiction writing of any kind. Yeah, the first fics you produce will be Mary-Sue-driven, plot-hole-riddled monsters, but how else are you gonna avoid writing it again if you don’t make that first mistake?
And that was why I was super happy when I kicked up the second chapter of Ascension, our coming of age story for the impulsive little thief, Aida. Because, for all the first chapter did right, we had some glitches and story issues to spoil things somewhat. But, now that we’ve had our first try, what do we have to show?
Now, if you haven’t read my post on Chapter One, I suggest you go do so. Otherwise, this entire post will be nothing but spoilers. Otherwise, well…
After being tricked by Diago into opening a gate to the Old Kingdom, Aida is presumed dead. But the lucky girl somehow survives a tower collapsing right on top of her. Aida tries to protect her friends by hiding out on Sundrop Island, but she’s been plagued by terrible nightmares of silver-skinned people calling her to join them. And she can’t shake the feeling that something sinister is going down.
She’s got a good reason to be suspicious
Of course, she’s right; the Eagles are looking for the other gates to the old kingdom, and a great evil is coming whether Aida hides or not. The King and the Silver Order are ready to tear open the gates to gain some mysterious power. So she’s gotta show her face again and find a way to stop those gates from slipping wide open, lest the whole country be wiped out.
Rinmaru mentioned on her page that Ascension was her first visual novel, and the bumps in it make that obvious. Round two, however, smooths most of them out and adds some new material in the process. We are still heavily immersed in this story, but now we have far more dynamic scene changes, more frequent action sequences, and even some more actual interaction.
Press forward for the creepy
As for actual gameplay, we’re in familiar territory. We interact in Aida’s world from her perspective, jumping to about three different intractable areas in-game. Each area has several sub-areas to explore, with clickable objects and people. You’ll either find items important to quests later on or dresses/earrings Aida can wear, so it’s advisable to explore as much as possible. You’ll even get a friendly warning when you’re about to leave an area and be unable to collect stuff anymore.
But when you aren’t being a kleptomaniac, you’re chatting with your peeps. Once again, our only means of shifting the story around comes from how you, the player, shape Aida as a person. Each conversation you have with characters will produce three different responses: goodwill, cunning, and aggressive. However, they aren’t color-coded for easy use this time around. The only ones that are color-coded are the romantic responses, ranging from cute to aggressive. The romance mechanic has been expanded upon this time around. This time around you can flirt with all theromanceablee men, but you will be forced to pick one at the end.
You can earn these points in each home area. Each area has a “hub” where you can click on items that are supposed to represent your friends. This is where you can continue to raise Aida’s traits or throw in a little romance should you wish. It raises the relationship stats either way, though I can’t tell if it affects anything besides your romantic partner.
The second time around also shows some visible improvement in Rin’s art style, though it still remains uniquely hers. We still work with bright, flashy cute images. But now we have nearly twice the amount of artwork we normally ge. You get to cosmetically alter Aida’s hair, add some tattoos, and change the look of your companions (mostly the hair). This helps make each playthrough more visually interesting.
The static art, meanwhile, looks more clear and sharp than last time as well. We have some beautiful artwork with places like Ildis, covered in crystal snow, and even the sunny beaches of Sundrop Isle. It’s a far cry from the somewhat boxy streets of Northcliff and I like it quite a bit.
Now here, the game got interesting. Last time we only had two options to choose from, a la tween fantasy. You can pick up where that romance left off, thanks to the above-mentioned customization screen, but you can also start fresh or pick a new third option. In other words, Aida’s story has some more flexibility.
The sarcastic and brooding moon elf has returned. You’ll find him teaching a tribe of lith children in Taran, a make-shift penance for the way his people treat them. It’s added a mother-bird like trait to his personality but the dry-wit and pensive parts of him are well intact. Course now, with better control of his magic, you’ll find a refreshing splash of confidence to his attitude.
You have the choice of picking up where you left off first game, in which Zander promptly freaks out and gets real clingy, or you can romance him here in game. Since the ending is the same either way, the new romance does feel a little rushed. BUT the pick-up romance feels like the much-needed fleshing out from the first one.
Y’all remember the dude-bro, drunk, fairly perverted ex-knight from game one I’m sure. Well, when he learned the big secret behind Aida and Diago, he decided to head back out to Ildis and restart up his Knight Order. He is “Knight-Captain” Jace now, far more disciplined, but still the “Loveable idiot” that the girls surely fell for last time. I was still unamused by Jace, proving that there really is no accounting for taste.
Just like Zander, you can already have Jace on your arm or pull him in via some flirts. Once again though, the ending is much the same.
Our new addition is a sun-elf: a tanned, tattooed, forest-y elf who rarely seems to smile (if at all). You meet Faelern on Sundrop Island, his new home after someone very close to him was killed by a moon elf lord. He sees Aida purely as “Solyn” or “the key,” and the two get along like chalk and cheese. Or, if you play your cards right, she is the drug he’s desperately trying to tell himself he can’t have. But enough prodding and communication can do just about anything, including an unlocking of a stubborn heart.
As mentioned, Faelern is the new romance for game two. I am always a fan of the cold jerkass, as I’ve made it clear several times, but girls here should be weary: He will not treat you that much nicer this time around.
Chapter Two of Ascension is the expansion that I was craving when I first played number one. It’s visually a lot better, with more meat on the romance, and a story that looks to be building up quite a bit. With more content, more places, and just more immersion overall, the game proves that you can build something great on the bones of your first try.
Next Time: Ascension Chapter 3