Silent Hill: Ascension is off to a rocky start

Silent Hill: Ascension's debut has been derailed by criticism, with many calling out its UI, microtransactions, and graphics.
silent hill ascension

Silent Hill: Ascension is a neat idea, in theory. It’s an interactive, live streamed television show where viewers can impact the outcome by voting on certain story-changing choices. But after the debut of its first few episodes, it appears Ascension‘s future is looking uncertain.

The show aired its first episode batch on 31 October 2023, with keen participants invited to watch via the Ascension mobile app or website. Viewers have 24 hours to vote on story decisions, but crucially, these votes are reliant on solving puzzles to earn “influence points” aka in-game currency.

While players can earn these points by completing puzzles, they can also pay real money for the USD $20 Silent Hill: Ascension Battle Pass, which includes influence points, or purchase them outright in large bundles. Notably, players who spend money on the streaming experience will have more sway over the outcome of certain scenes.

This has been a source of criticism for the experience, with many calling out its unfair microtransactions, and its constant prompts for players to spend money (certain puzzles are locked behind the season pass). That’s not been the only source of criticism, however, as nearly every aspect of Ascension has caused turmoil in online social media spaces.

Some viewers have called out its poor graphics and animation, which appear stiff and unnatural in some scenes, creating a disconnect with viewers. The ability for viewers to paste stickers onto the screen has also been criticised, with dramatic death scenes seemingly being undercut by viewers constantly placing ‘No Way!’ and ‘Whoa!’ stickers on screen.

silent hill ascension game
Image: Genvid

Those who purchase the game’s Founder’s Pack also unlock a sticker that reads: ‘It’s Trauma!’ and this has near-instantly become a meme, with players seemingly spamming the sticker in tense moments. As a comedy slapstick, clips of this in action are hilarious – but that’s not really the point of the horror-focused Silent Hill series.

Beyond these instances, Ascension is also facing other, more crucial criticisms – notably, that its UI is cluttered and overwhelming, and consistent scrolling text distracts away from the action in some scenes. There is also the matter of moderation. This aspect is reportedly a “mess”, with many viewers seeing uncensored obscenities and slurs in the chat during Ascension‘s premiere.

Speaking to Kotaku, Genvid CEO Jacob Navok put this down to unprecedented demand for the game, which has prevented in-depth moderation. “Like several other systems, moderation was strained by overwhelming volume on premiere night and, yes, [it] is a critical priority already underway to improve and scale,” Navok said.

“Several blocklists that we had uploaded well in advance were not being respected by the system we used, or were being respected arbitrarily, and moderators who were there were finding that their moderations were taking 10 minutes to go through. We’re working with the company that develops the chat to fix this.”

This issue, at least, is a high priority for Genvid and will hopefully be addressed quickly. As for the other criticisms currently facing the experience, they range from unfortunate, to frustrating. Silent Hill: Ascension is built on a very neat premise, as a new form of interactive media that could provide unique opportunities for player interaction.

As it stands, it appears the experiment has been shaken by a range of factors – both in audience participation and behaviour, and in some of the ideas backing the project. While the tide may turn with Ascension‘s next chapters, it appears overall negative sentiment may lead to tough choices about the experience in future.

Those keen to follow along with Silent Hill: Ascension should visit the project’s website.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.