Transcendence was first introduced to the world in November 2003 as version 0.7. The independent development brain behind the project, George Moromisato, inspired by the epic open source roguelike Nethack (which has been actively developed sine 1987), explained at the time that he expected to be working on the game for many years to come.
The game is a realtime space combat and adventure game that spans the galaxy, even beyond the boundaries of human occupied space. Drawing inspiration from the procedurally generated gameplay elements of classic roguelikes, Transcendence offers up random star systems on each play through. When combined with over 100 different types of enemy and rich story which can only be fully uncovered after multiple play-throughs, the game contains a wealth of gaming goodness for those who like to sink their teeth into something meaty.
Of course there is no shortage of activities to keep one occupied as they explore the great void and uncover the history of the galaxy. There are space-pirates to be thwarted, black markets to trade on, ships to escort, asteroids to mine, economies to manipulate, militias to join, gladiatorial battles to be fought, fortresses to be destroyed, galactic civilisation to be visited, research to be done, aliens to make first contact with, and the mysterious Domina who resides in the centre of the galaxy calling the player to her. This is but a small sampling of the activities available to the player throughout the game.
The gameplay mechanics are straightforward enough: the arrow keys guide your craft through space, and there are a few buttons for blasting things to pieces. The game is presented in a slightly isometric top down perspective, reducing the galaxy to a 2D plane. The graphics are colourful and detailed down to the last asteroid, and there are myriad different space stations, planets, and other interesting objects to investigate.
Since the public release in 2003, Transcendence has grown a strong community of followers who have contributed ideas and support over the years. The game has steadily evolved and the release of v1.0 is a milestone in what is bound to be an extensive lifespan.
There is an active modding community producing some great content and missions for the game, should one plumb the depths of the vanilla original. The official website contains a trove of guides and lore to supplement the game.
The best thing about Transcendence is that it is completely free – a project of passion for all to enjoy.
Whilst it may not offer the graphical eye-candy of AAA’s such as Mass Effect 2, it surely offers just as much – if not more – depth of gameplay and story (and you don’t have to pay for crumby pieces of armour – mods are free).