Well, that was a surprise. I set out to dislike Ascendancy. It was a deep, 4X strategy game when I wanted something quick and arcadey. It was mission-less and freeform when I wanted direct and easy to complete. It was something I'd never heard of when I wanted something familiar. But Ascendancy got its hooks deep into me. It epitomises the one-more-go appeal of these kinds of games. A true hidden gem for me. It begins, as all these games do, with picking a race. Here, though, there aren't the usual 3 or 4 races. Here there are 21 completely unique races, each with a different special ability powerful enough for you to build a strategy around. I, of course, chose the scientists, as I always do. The equivalent of mages in a fantasy game. I'm in it for the long game, I want to see everything that it has to offer. And so I sit in my little corner of the galaxy, hoarding science, tearing through the tech tree. I send out a scout ship as ambassador, offering peace to everyone I meet, biding time for my research work. There's a decent tech tree here - mostly incremental upgrades to existing tech, but also a bunch of new random stuff that can turn the tide of a battle. With my lizards' scientific nous, I'm soon way ahead of the other races in the research race - I may not have an army to my name, but I know things. I keep going until I know everything. There's no science victory here, so at that point I switch all my planets from science to production and start cranking out the biggest warships science has to offer. Enormous leviathans packed with the latest nanotechnology. I break my non-aggression pact with my weakest neighbour - a race of space amoebas called the Mebes, and the long war of attrition begins. I have better weapons, he has better numbers. In the end, it comes down to who can rebuild their destroyed ships the quickest. I just have the edge, and slowly but surely start taking his planets. As each falls, he loses the resources needed to maintain his huge navy, and my victories eventually start to snowball. I thought I'd have to keep at it until he was completely wiped out, but after capturing an insignificant planet about halfway through his kingdom, a message flashes up on the screen congratulating me for winning the game! Apparently I only had to own two thirds of the planets in the universe, and I'm amazed that I did. And what did I do after I completed the game? Why, I carried on playing it, of course. I wasn't going to let those darned Mebes get away that easily! Is it a perfect game? No, of course not, travel between systems takes way too long, and there's no way to select multiple ships so navigation and battle with a large fleet is way more tedious than it should be. For all its flaws, though, and for its time, it's an excellent game that I'm really glad to have discovered. Onwards!
Next up on the randometer is...Monuments of Mars! Never heard of it. Apparently, it's an early Apogee platform game. Another hidden gem?