Monday, March 29, 2010
Transcendence reached version 1.0 this past week, so I have been playing some of that. George Moromisato has been developing it in his spare time for the past fifteen years. Transcendence takes the basic flying and shooting action gameplay of the Escape Velocity series and enfolds it in a game that is otherwise heavily indebted to Nethack.
After picking a trader/fighter/balanced ship, you are off on a quest to reach the galactic core or some such. You get there by warping through a series of semi-random solar systems.
Each system has jump gates connecting it to the next and previous systems; exactly like the up/down stairs in Nethack. Instead of rooms forming a dungeon you've got planets which orbit around the central star(s). At the planets you'll find friendly bases with shops and quests, or hostile bases which will deploy a bevy of fighters against you. Looting wreckage supplies you with things to use or sell. There are space analogues for magic potions and scrolls of enchantment. You have a deity to whom you can make sacrifices and from whom you can request aid. You've got tinker bases that will transmute junk into items according to their own recipes. There is a gladiatorial arena for earning money by fighting other spaceships. You can even acquire robotic sidekick ships. And behind it all is the ticking clock of your fuel consumption: run out and it's game over.
Unlike Nethack the universe is not wholly hostile. Trading ships ply the major routes within each solar system, and the friendly bases may have fighters that will launch to defend their allies.
The game's interface has some holes that I wish would be patched up. It's cumbersome to examine your ship's current configuration for comparison while shopping, for instance. When you are submitting items to the tinkers for transmutation it would be nice if the list would only show things they accept; nicer still to see recipes for things so you know what to be on the lookout for when you're collecting loot. Quest management could be improved as well; there isn't currently any way (that I've found) to remind yourself of the details about what you're supposed to be doing.
I wish there were more ability to communicate with other ships in the area. Being able to respond to distress calls or request help would do a lot to make you feel more connected to the world. Also there seem to be quite a few space bases that don't really do anything which just makes the universe seem more boring. I haven't figured out what the pubs and nightclubs are for yet, and since I've never been able to figure it out I've stopped looking into them. If they ever do become useful I won't know, and that's just bad design.
On balance, though, the game does do a fairly good job of encouraging you to play just a little bit more to see what new things you will discover. It's free so give it a try if you are at all a fan of space games or roguelikes.