There really is a beauty in watching a writer go from rough draft to finished product.
That’s how I viewed the Ascension series when I got to the third and final chapter. The beauty of this series splitting into three parts is that it shows us the journey that Rinmaru took when she made it. How she must have felt when she revisited chapter one and two to make this portion. Do you think it felt like opening that first fanfic from your high school days?
“DON’T READ THAT!”
But this retrospective has really helped me appreciate what Ascension became, despite its odd format. Chapters one and two can best be described as eating your veggies and meat; now it’s time for the dessert. Let’s cap this adventure and see where the magic takes us.
This next part spoils a great deal of Chapter Two, enter at your own risk. See the rest of you in the next section.
Aida’s life changed a lot in the past two years. She’s risen from the ashes of death twice now: once with a fresh batch of emotions, and then again with the new title of secret crown princess. Now that it’s clear she isn’t after the immense power of the old kingdom, The Eagles are using their vast wealth of resources to help Aida defeat her evil twin brother, the current king, but things are tense. They get worse when Aida hears that the king has kidnapped her good friend from Sundrop Island; Victor.
So, Aida suits up and gets ready to infiltrate the castle and get him back. But the best plans of Mice and Men oft go awry, and this one goes belly-up so fast it has whiplash. To fix the mistakes she’s made, and make her homeland safe again, she must defeat some inner demons and get a country of strangers to rally behind her against the deadly Silver Order. Easier said than done, but this girl is used to a little danger and a lot of help from her gaggle of misfit friends.
Here is where Rinmaru needs to shine the hardest. We’ve had three different games now, meaning two chances to sift through ashes and recover what was good. I am proud to say that Rin didn’t play it safe; she polished what worked and took some rewarding risks.
We’ve kept the far easier UI from the second game, but made it much easier to interact in the world. We’ve plopped down once again into Aida’s perspective, where we move around and interact by clicking objects, arrows, and people. But everything has been stylized and simplified in these nice, compact hubs. Now, instead of random people sitting around, you see symbols that represent NPC’s you can mingle with. If they got a quest, you’ll even see an MMORPG style question-mark above their head. Our companions are different as well and get their own portraits.
The aforementioned quests introduce our new mechanic: reputation. Once again, when we interact, we get to choose the goodwill, cunning or aggressive response. However, these points now go towards your success in solving a variety of problems, either by persuading, lying, or intimidating. Your success depends on how high your points in any of these are, meaning your best bet is to spam one trait for the whole game. The kind of solutions you pick will increase your reputation: Are you known for being clever? Peaceful? Fierce? You get to decide?
Our last bit of tasty-flash candy is a mixture between the last two games. We have the return of the mini-games from the first game, but far more involved than chapter two. Chapter two and one had one instance of a little minigame, while three features an alchemy maker, a gambling card-game, and a broken ship fixing game. It also borrows game two’s “finding” mechanic. Basically, some NPC sends you out into the wild to collect items hidden on the screen for some quest. I wouldn’t mind this collec-a-thon if this incarnation wasn’t so damn infuriating.
Find the items in this image. I dare you.
Talking for all three of these games was always a bit rough. Because, all through the series, the art style has basically remained the same. It’s still the same bright, cheery, anime-esque look, but sharper. We still have the same, awesome customization skills, and the only real change now is the addition of one moving scene that may be rated T for teen.
But Rin still deserves props for being so ambitious. It can’t be easy to make game scenes for a variety of different hairstyles on each character and an impromptu love scene.
When it comes to love and love lost, here we come to a crossroads. If you so desire, you can make Aida the independent, loveless warrior-princess who has avoided romance all this time. But if you called out for one of three eligible bachelors in the last game, they are now your Beau for the rest of the game. However, there is also a third option for one last romantic hurrah. Otherwise, it’s time to expand upon our favorite relationships one last time.
The moon elf lordling from Ildis has grown up considerably now. While he’s grown a bit stuffy, he still has that soft heart for his friends and loved ones that really sold me on him way back in game one. Essentially, his character has been refined to a proper, well-rounded specimen, making the romance that follows more interesting. Now he and Aida bounce off each other like a straight man and comic foil, and it is hilarious and sweet. If you like them pretty and slightly broody, then Zander is now most definitely your guy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have perpetual jokester and all around bro, Jace. We’ve thankfully slid away from the fratboy-esq knight we met in Northcliff all those years ago and solidified into a more jovial goofball who just so happens to be really good with a sword. He’s still far from my ideal date, but his heroic sense of right and wrong, combined with his skill in battle, is sure to trigger the princely attraction for someone. But if you were expecting him to be any more mature, be prepared for disappointment.
Grumpy McSomber Sun Elf has returned, now completely attached to Aida at the hip (not as literally as she’d like, alas.) As the resident “older man” of this dating pool, he’s got some nurturing tendencies that hilariously manifest as snobbish rants. But hey, only the best for his selfish and immature Solyn, the key to him. For all his strict, blunt, and insulting tendencies, there still beats a heart that’s fiercely loyal and protective of all under his care. You’ll get some hard truths if you take this route, but the relationship in question is very solid.
Last, but certainly not least, we have our newcomer to the party. Kole is a Kalek, a race of nomadic bards in Valond that are known for their sweet voices and utter mysticism with any instrument. Kole lost his tribe when he was young due to his blindness being perceived as a curse. He joined The Eagles shortly after due to his amazing skill with his fists and has been assigned to be Aida’s bodyguard. Kole is a stuttering sweetheart most of the time, but a dangerous man when angered or thrust into a fight. The relationship is a bit hurried due to this being the last chapter, but still enjoyable for what it is.
As I said in my intro, revisiting this series was a blast for me on so many levels. The first chapter is a bit of a nostalgia-coated slog, but game three really is where all Rin’s hard work shines. It’s slick, well-written, loaded with interesting places to explore, and easy to get lost in. Aida’s a fantastic protagonist and the cast of characters around her make this whole thing one of the more enjoyable rides.
But now, it’s time to say goodbye.
Next time — Mystic Destinies: Serendipity of Aeons
Have you enjoyed this journey? Was this game a sueish-pile of garbage? Whatever your opinions are, feel free to share in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.