Silent Hill: Ascension Made An Absolutely Terrible First Impression
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Silent Hill: Ascension Made An Absolutely Terrible First Impression

Silent Hill fans have had it rough over the past few years and whatever hope we had that Silent Hill: Ascension would offer us hope we quickly dashed on Halloween when the game made a terrible first impression.

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It has been nearly a decade since the last Silent Hill game was released and even more than that if we’re not counting Hideo Kojima’s stealth Silent Hills demo P.T.. Fans had rightfully assumed after that whole debacle that the Silent Hill franchise was dead in the water and we would have the classic games for comfort and solace (and some of the Western developed ones too I guess). But hope came last year in the form of the Silent Hill Transmission, which announced not one but one but five Silent Hill games. Or rather, four games and one interactive series, that series being Silent Hill: Ascension.

Upon its announcement, it was pretty unclear what Ascension’s whole deal was other than it was an interactive series by Genvid Entertainment, who did a whole host of what they call Massively Interactive Live Events, or MILEs. But I still held out hope for it. When it became clear that Ascension was going to be the first of these five projects to be released, I was still relatively excited for it despite not knowing much about it. Hell, I wrote out a handy little primer about the game not only to educate others but also so I myself could try to figure out what the hell this thing was going to be. Ascension was set to premiere Halloween night and as I lay ready to experience it in between watching Color Out of Space and Hereditary, all I could think about was if this interactive series would be any good.

While the series may still be good by the end of it, I can safely say that the chances of that happening look astronomically slim. Silent Hill: Ascension made an absolutely terrible first impression to the point where I don’t know if I’ll stick around with it for the whole six months of content planned.

An image as part of the article Silent Hill: Ascension Made An Absolutely Terrible First Impression. The image shows the UI for Silent Hill: Ascension, including the chat and egregious microtransactions.
Screenshot captured by The Escapist

After waiting for a bit to log in, something I don’t hold against the game given that it was launch night and servers were probably slammed, I was greeted with several videos introducing me to the series and the rules about how to play. The intro didn’t really do much to clarify anything regarding its plot, but the rules were explained pretty clearly and also made it abundantly clear that Silent Hill: Ascension is a greedy microtransaction laden experience. Players need to vote on decisions and have a limited time to vote, but your votes matter more if you pay Influence Points, or IP. The decision that has the most IP will be the one the narrative goes with. Now, I’m not a mobile gamer, so I may not be the most qualified to judge when a game is exploitative, but man oh man does this feel and look bad in so many different ways.

The decisions of Silent Hill Ascension aren’t even presented in an interesting or unique way. So far at least, all decisions can be broken down into three different branches, Redemption, Suffering, and Damnation. The series outright says that Redemption options are the good ones, Suffering options are neutral, and Damnation ones are bad. This removes any and all moral ambiguity from the experience because you know which options are meant to be right and wrong. If the options were presented plainly and then afterwards it was revealed which category they belonged too, then the moral complexity may amount to something, but nope! Blue is good, grey is neutral, red is bad. The original games were laced with moral ambiguity at every turn, so this is just a fundamental misunderstanding on Genvid’s part.

I guess this is to enable some level of discussion within the Silent Hill community, but so far there’s been little, if any discussion about the in game events. I’m a member of several small online Silent Hill communities (shout out to the Fogposters!), and so far virtually none of the discussion has been around the actually game itself or the events within, but rather the gross microtransactions that are the real driver of which decisions are made, the commodification and commercialization of the franchise, and how this was a terrible direction for the series to go in. No discussion was being had within the game itself since the prominent on-screen chatbox was spamming bread emotes and making it clear that there is no content moderation going on with the chat and people are just saying whatever the hell they want. Nothing says a harrowing psychological experience like seeing a pinned comment about how someone wants to have sex with Heather Mason who is, you know, a minor.

Do you want to know what people are saying in the dedicated communities outside of the game though? People were saying things like “this makes Downpour look like Silent Hill 2″ and that they now have faith in Bloober Team. That’s how bad Silent Hill: Ascension was.

An image as part of the article Silent Hill: Ascension Made An Absolutely Terrible First Impression. The image shows the UI for Silent Hill: Ascension, including the chat. The image sees someone off screen talking about how the person they're talking to says they love her.
Screenshot captured by The Escapist

Plus these decisions carry little weight when players have no idea about who or what we are actually voting for. Ascension’s dual narrative has us split between a town in Pennsylvania and Norway, but we have no idea who any of these characters are. Apparently in Pennsylvania we’re following a woman named Rachel, who is a member of a cult and all of her decisions are centered around her actions in a failed ritual. We’re told that we need to decide how Rachel will present her account of the failed ritual and why it failed, but we have no reason to care about any of it. The same goes for the Norway plot, where an elderly and bitter woman dies and we’re then asked if we’re going to hide a syringe we found, destroy it, or leave it be due to how it may affect a man named Karl, the husband of the dead woman. Who cares about the syringe and how it will impact Karl? I don’t even know who he is!

Events just kind of happen without any rhyme or reason as we’re just assailed with ideas at a breakneck pace. For example, as Karl is walking around outside, he’s suddenly attacked by monsters and flees, with his remote cabin in the world’s distorting into the familiar dingy metallic Otherworld like it was straight out of Silent Hill: Homecoming. There’s no context or reason for it, it just happens, which makes me believe that Ascension will just take iconic imagery from the games and throw them in without rhyme or reason. I know it’s still way too early to tell, but first impressions are important, and if my first impression of Ascension is that it has no idea what it’s doing with its story or characters, why would I want to continue my involvement with it?

Will I stick around Silent Hill: Ascension a little bit longer? Maybe, but I don’t see it getting any better. After years of nothing, a part of me almost wishes that the franchise did stay dead. It’s generating discussion, but in all of the wrong ways. Fans are mad, their decisions feel like they don’t matter unless they penny up, the in-game community is just saying nonsense for the lols, and the actually story the game is centered on did absolutely nothing to hook me or excite me. While it may be a bit too soon to tell, Silent Hill Ascension may actually have a chance at being the worst Silent Hill piece of media made, and that’s saying something when your competition is a Diablo clone and a damn pachinko machine.

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Jesse Lab
Jesse Lab is a freelance writer for The Escapist and has been a part of the site since 2019. He currently writes the Frame Jump column, where he looks at and analyzes major anime releases. He also writes for the film website Jesse has been a gamer since he first played Pokémon Snap on the N64 and will talk to you at any time about RPGs, platformers, horror, and action games. He can also never stop talking about the latest movies and anime, so never be afraid to ask him about recommendations on what's in theaters and what new anime is airing each season.