Suggested By:Rich C
Transcendence's developer, George Moromisato, says his game is inspired by Elite, Star Control II and NetHack -- at first glance, a rather odd combination. After all, the first two are open-ended space games, and the third a Rogue-like; yet on second thought, both game styles share certain characteristics. Both create algorithmically generated universes -- that is, instead of having preplanned levels, both generate the challenges faced by the player at runtime, in a semi-random fashion. Both give the player control of a single game token: in the case of Rogue-likes, a character, and in the case of Elite-style games, a starship. And both measure progress by the increasing capabilities of your game token--in terms of levels for Rogue-likes, and in terms of ship improvements (and newer and more powerful ships) in Elite-style games.
Combat in Transcendence is 2D and shmup-like, with arrow keys used to turn and thrust, and other keys to trigger fire; in fact, the interface is entirely keyboard based, with the mouse used mainly on menus. Each solar system consists of a series of planets and asteroids, with a variety of installations (think "shops") scattered across it, along with enemy ships and stations. Somewhere in each system is a stargate, but only one; going through it takes you to the next star system.
At first, there's a bit of a sense of disappointment that the universe is as constrained as it is; one of the strengths of Elite-style games is the open-ended nature of their universes, the sense that you can go anywhere (though some places are initially too dangerous for an early character), and do anything -- well, do a great number of things, including piracy, trading, and bounty-hunting. Transcendence instead is a set of linear systems; the backstory has it that you must get to the "galactic core," which you do by passing through one system after another through their respective stargates. Yet in a sense, this is Rogue-like; dungeons are linear, too.
Similarly, while there are escort missions and occasional bounty-hunting opportunities, as well as trade, the main focus of the game is on combat with the enemies in each level, and in this lies the greatest opportunity for profit.
As you explore deeper, however, you find that whatever Transcendence loses by its linearity and focus on combat it makes up for with its Rogue-like variety of encounter. In addition to a huge number of enemy ship types and weapon systems, there are the equivalent of magic items: chips, cannisters, and devices the purpose of which you can only learn by using them. As in a Rogue-like, some of these are very useful--and others quite dangerous, doing things like flooding your ship with industrial acid.
In short, the initial impression that Transcendence is an Elite-style game is mistaken; while it borrows heavily from the genre, it actually provides a unique experience, an interesting meld with the randomness and variety of a Rogue-like game. If you want a purer Elite-style experience, you're better off with Flatspace II, but Transcendence is worth experiencing in its own right.