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Under the microscope: Here's what's wrong with Silent Hill: Ascension

Genvid’s Massively Interactive Live Event has attracted considerable criticism from fans just days after launch, but it's not too late to turn this ship around
Under the microscope: Here's what's wrong with Silent Hill: Ascension
  • Silent Hill: Ascension is the first new game in the franchise in over a decade
  • Fans are unhappy with the title’s monetisation strategy, while the multiplayer experience has been affected by trolls

Halloween saw the premiere of Silent Hill: Ascension, the latest MILE (Massively Interactive Live Event) by Genvid, and the first step in the official revival of the long-dormant Silent Hill franchise.

The game follows two families caught up in the spooky happenings of Silent Hill, a town in Maine with a dark history and a habit of periodically sucking its visitors and inhabitants into a nightmarish netherworld. Rather than playing as a traditional game, Ascension unfolds like a streaming series with a twist - viewers can make decisions to influence the story as it airs.

With a story set to unfold over a period of six months, the title was set to bring a new dimension to the series, but unfortunately it appears that following its Halloween launch, fans aren’t that enthusiastic…

MILEs to go before I sleep

Discontent began in earnest shortly prior to the game’s release with the announcement of the airing schedule. New episodes are released daily at 6pm Pacific Time/9pm Eastern and, while some decisions are open for longer, allowing international players to take part, other descisions which directly influence the events of the episode can only be voted on while the episode is streaming. As such, players outside of these time zones risk losing access to a core aspect of the experience due to inconvenient scheduling.

However, controversy really took hold with the revelation of several other factors at play. Among these is the fact that in order to vote, players need to spend Influence Points (IP), an in-game currency which can be purchased or earned through completing puzzles or challenges. Players can spend more IP to allow them greater influence when making choices, opening the door for a small number of high value players to exert more control over the story.

Additionally, the game offers a Season Pass, offering a variety of rewards ranging from cosmetics and stickers to IP and even the chance for the player’s avatar to appear in-game. The season pass costs $20, but £20 in the UK - the equivalent of $24.46 at the time of writing. Given that new episodes air at the inconvenient time of 1am in the UK, some players are frustrated at being charged more for a lesser experience.

Making matters worse is the fact that, while Season Pass owners get access to all of the puzzles, those who don’t purchase the pass are limited to one a day - and with puzzles being one of the best ways to earn IP, this limits the earning potential of those who have chosen not to upgrade.

Power to the people?

While these issues alone have caused issue, the straw that has really broken this camel's back has proven to be the disruptive and anti-social, fun-busting of the games own audience. The collaborative experience touted by Genvid soon faced issues thanks to the unmoderated chat, which quickly resulted in spam, and eventually saw the chat function disabled entirely due to obscene comments. Adding to this, viewers can have their comments and stickers float over the video, rendering some scenes obscured and unwatchable for other players, making the whole experience spoiled and pointless.

The gameplay experience has also been criticised, with accusations of voting being available after decisions had already been made, or even bots being included in the voting due to low participation.

Is it fair to call Ascension a failure? Not quite. Genvid has been in the business of MILEs for some time, but the participation of companies such as Behaviour Interactive and Bad Robot Games, as well as being part of the long-awaited Silent Hill revival, has arguably made Ascension its biggest MILE yet, and brought the format to the attention of legions of new users.

As such, what may have worked previously, such as with the much better received The Walking Dead: Last Mile, doesn’t necessarily work anymore, and with Ascension only three days into a six month lifespan, there’s plenty of time for the company to course correct.

Notably, Genvid CEO Jacob Novak is aware of the criticism, posting on X (formerly Twitter) to state that some aspects of the experience are being addressed. As such, it’s possible that given time, players will get the experience Genvid intended - and that we’ll truly see the potential of MILE’s. Here’s hoping that Silent Hill: Ascension finds is feet as long-time fans continue to wait for more games in the long-awaited revival.