By: Derek Yu

On: August 15th, 2007


Transcendence is a space-faring action game that’s, by the author’s account, inspired by two of the (arguably) greatest games of all time, Nethack and Star Control II. Oh boy, do I love those games! Well, while Transcendence doesn’t really match either in terms of depth or sheer enjoyment (but then again, what could), it’s still a gem in its own right.

In the game, you play an anonymous starship captain who must journey to the Galactic Core and unravel some mysteries and stuff. If you’ve played games like Escape Velocity or Flatspace, you know what’s in store… space pirates, galactic federations, mysterious aliens, and laser battles in space. Spend credits to upgrade your ship’s shields and weapons. Earn credits by looting wrecks, escorting freighters, and exploring deep space.

Transcendence is not a terribly deep game, but it’s more than competent all the way around. The clean graphics and simplicity of the interface make it very easy to get into, and the Roguelike-esque randomization and number of options gives it plenty of replayability. Definitely worth checking out.

(EDIT: I should also mention that the game is currently at v0.98 and that the author has a more content planned for future versions.)

  • sinoth

    The game has potential, I just found the ship controls to be too poor to be fun. It felt like I was constantly fighting to get my ship go where I wanted.

  • haowan

    Oh shiiiit I’m all over this when I get home!

  • Pragma

    I’m with @haowan.

    FWIW, I noticed that the game is somewhat hackable:

    The author totally admits up front that it doesn’t match the depth of Nethack as-is. This utility seems to be an open invitation to fix that.

  • idiotmeat

    I just happened to download this the other day. The controls were pretty frustrating at first (try quickly hitting a target with a missile), but you’ll get used to ’em after a while. The planets kind of annoy me, however. You can fly through them (I guess that’s technically “above” them), but your shots still hit them.
    Annoyances aside, for some reason I couldn’t stop playing.

  • MedO

    Yupp, I played this about a year ago, and it was horribly addictive. I only stopped when I got into a stupid situation where I was surrounded by very strong enemies I was unable to destroy, but who were unable to penetrate my hull. The hull was indestructible by most kinds of weapons (I thought it was a bit odd to put something like this into the game, IIRC it was called Worldship Armor). And the enemies kept hacking my ship with a virus or something, which disabling flight controls so I couldn’t attack back most of the time. Very frustrating deadlock situation, that.

    But still, the game is very good IMO. Maybe there was more work done since I last played, to prevent this kind of situation.

  • MedO

    Uh, looking at the news page now, there was definitely a lot of progrss since I played last. Have to check out the new version now. There goes my productivity for the next days. Curse you, Tigsource! :)

  • Skyleak

    I was addicted to Escape Velocity back in my old Mac Performa days. That was an amazing game, let’s see how this pars up.

  • soilworker

    There’s more depth in this game than you might think at first. Mostly thanks to the vast variety of different weapons, armor-combinations, objects and trading goods. I mean look at the weapons list. That’s ridiculous!.

    Unfortunately you can only choose between three ships. But this will change in future versions. Hopefully we will be able to fly all ships (there are over 60), sell them and buy new ones during the game.

    Also don’t forget that the game is completely moddable and there’s quite an active community. Check the forums both official and unofficial for great new stuff.

  • Rz.

    i haven’t really tried this yet, it looks interesting though. i’m just curious however, how is this a roguelike, exactly? it doesn’t seem to even be turn-based.

  • Derek

    I dunno! But I’ve seen it grouped with other RL’s in a few places, so I figured, why not?

  • Zetetic Elench

    The key ingredient of roguelikes isn’t turn based gameplay, or even RPG-style stats; it’s exploration and strategy, and a wide range of randomized, unknown items (until you use them). This has randomized maps, randomized items, and that dungeon-level-to-dungeon-level play, but I think it’s missing any real strategy, or at least it moves too fast to give the player a chance to implement it. Which is a shame.

    So, it’s basically roguelike super-light.

  • idiotmeat

    Well, the only real strategy I’ve found so far is to take your dogfights into an asteroid field. Sure it’s harder to hit the enemies, but it’s also harder for them to hit you. Same goes if you find a 3-planet cluster.
    I think for kicks the author just add flying “E”s to remind us that yes, killer elephants can fly in space, and they can also kill spacefarers as well as dwarves.

  • Derek

    Dwarf Fortress 40000! Now THAT would be awesome.

  • Kon-Tiki

    Awww, c’mon, no mention of your source on this one? ;)

  • Chris

    Roguelike? heh

    do you even play these games? :)

  • Chris

    Okay, so I won’t criticize without being constructive about it:

    Some more information:

    The author of the game also produced a turn-based strategy game in the 80’s called Anacreon, which takes its obvious influences from Isaac Asimov’s lengthy “Foundation” series. Moromisato rebuilt the game in 2004 with updated graphics, etc.. which is free on his site also. Transcendence is, in a sense, the natural real-time extension of Anacreon that gives the game more of a ‘single ship’ atmosphere.

    One of the major reasons Transcendence outstrips a lot of the Escape Velocitylikes is that it has almost fully customizable map/missions thanks to extensive user-editable XML files. That’s not something EV, SketchFighter, or Lunatic Fringe (does anyone remember that game in After Dark?) can boast. I’ve worked a much earlier build of Transcendence’s XML files – and they’re pretty simple. Lots you can do to build weapons, space stations, etc.

    I’m too nice.

  • Derek

    It’s on Wikipedia’s “List of roguelikes” and is described as a roguelike everywhere it’s mentioned, from Retro Remakes to Roguelike frickin’ Magazine (I think).

    In other words, yes, I play the damn games!

  • Chris

    yeesh .. just checking ;)

    (and they’re all wrong – it’s as much a roguelike as Monkey Island is interactive fiction)

  • Kon-Tiki

    Yup, Transcendence is more a traditional an RPG than a Roguelike RPG (which, to be honest, is traditional as well, in its own style)

  • Derek

    Heh. I’m a bit testy this morning. ;)

  • Rz.

    yeaaaah, i love you derek. hot steamy manlove, but, after playing this… it really isn’t very roguelike. it does seem pretty sexy though. sexxxxxxseeeexxxxxxxspaceseeeexxspacenutsoooooshiiiiiitttttbaaaaarrrrrffffooooookkkaaaaaaajjjj
    oh, pardon me.

  • Calanctus

    Meh, it’s got randomized environments and items. That’s always what’s set roguelikes apart from other games to me, because all the other stuff you guys mentioned has important exceptions.

  • Kon-Tiki

    The environments aren’t even random -_- Aside from that, you can go entirely different routes from each map on, not just up or down. Thirdly, the deeper you get into the game world, the better stuff the shops sell, instead of it being random. That’s not even listing the scripted events, quests and such. It’s got more elements of Zelda than it has of a Roguelike.

  • MedO

    So there are no alternative routes in Nethack or DoomRL? I must have imagined that. Many roguelikes (most notably maybe, Rogue) don’t even have shops, so how a shop should behave is not part of what makes a roguelike.

    I wouldn’t call this game a roguelike myself, though, just like I won’t put that genre to Diablo. In fact, I think the relation of this game to Diablo is much closer than to Rogue.

  • Kon-Tiki

    Alternative routes is something else than entirely different routes. Alternative routes suggests that you end up at the same place. Entirely different routes is that you end up at an entirely different place. It’s more like moving around in a game world, going from star system to star system, and depending on which one you’re in, you can go to another connected star system. I’ve yet to see that in Nethack or DoomRL or any other Roguelike.

    As far as shops in Roguelikes goes, alot have them. ADoM has them, Lost Labyrinth has them, I.V.A.N. has them, and plenty others have them as well. They usually sell random items, though.

  • Zetetic Elench

    Like I said, guys, the things which most surely define roguelikes is the randomization of maps and items, and the depth of strategy you have to employ to overcome obstacles. All the other things you’ve listed have very popular exceptions to them.

    Exploration and strategy are the *heart* of RLs.

  • Zetetic Elench

    Also, Kon-Tiki; what say you about ADoM’s wide variety of quests, and its overworld? How does that fit in with your assertion that true roguelikes don’t offer entirely different routes?

  • Kon-Tiki

    ADoM isn’t a typical roguelike. On the variety of quests and overworld part, it’s pretty much unique (at least I’ve yet to find another roguelike that has that), which makes a sweet addition to the genre, but isn’t something inherent to it. Shops, on the other hand, are in many roguelikes, and seems to be part of the genre, and up to the designer to decide whether or not to implement them.

  • Derek


  • Kon-Tiki

    Ugh, righteous Derek is here again. I’d better shut my mouth or he’ll spray his Indier-Than-Thou junk again because he likes crap games and doesn’t like hearing they’re crap.

  • Kon-Tiki

    (Not to mention that he doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about when putting these games up, and doesn’t seem to care that any of his ninnypants know what they’re talking about or not)

  • Derek

    You know, Kon-Tiki, you take things really, really hard. I just want to say that I honestly bear you no real ill will and that I’m even sorry that I insinuated you were an elitist.

    But I feel completely justified for banning you because it was obvious you weren’t going to get along with anyone on the forums and your attitude was poisonous to any kind of worthwhile discussion. I would only hope that eventually you just let go of all the spite you hold toward other people. Life’s too short to be arguing about who’s indier than who and it’s a hard and lonely road to hate everybody who thinks differently than you.

    And if you do make a list of the best freeware games, just e-mail me and I’ll be happy to post about them.

  • Kon-Tiki

    That list’s almost done. Made it, cut down on the overload, revised it, and it’ll be done by saturday evening, latest. Might be fast, but then again, I know my stuff, so it doesn’t take me ages to make a varied list of the top games that will have at least a few games that will appeal to any reader of it.

    As far as the spite to other people goes… I can get along just fine with people, just not with people who don’t live by their own words and can’t take any criticism. The very core of a discussion is listening to what the other person has to say, not ignoring him, or dismissing their opinions or suggestions as “not indie” or “poisonous”, as such an attitude is what poisons discussions and renders them worthless, not people with an opposite opinion.

    To be honest, I don’t give a shit about being indie or not. I care about good games and people making games the way they want them to be. That’s how I make my games, and I enjoy doing it that way. That still doesn’t mean all those games are automatically good. Some still are just crap. Some of my games are crap, even though I put my very soul in them. I won’t suggest them anywhere then (except to a few people who want to see it). It’s something I expect from others as well, however. Crappy games shouldn’t be praised and hyped, and people shouldn’t be told off when they disagree and show the games as they are. Best example of this is Stair Dismount, which, for some weird-ass reason, made it to the Top 50 list on here.

    Another thing that spites me, is people not taking their responsibility. This goes from drunk drivers over people who don’t do snot at their job so others have to work twice as hard to people who have a position of telling others about games, but not knowing the game itself entirely or its background if it’s got to be known. Again, if pointing out that such a person should know their stuff, it should be taken into concideration, instead of people that point it out getting dissed for it. Guert moderating a list of games that are concidered the top of indie gaming while not even knowing who Pixel is, is like a reviewer for magazines writing about console games while not knowing who Nintendo is. The job simply can’t be done properly that way. Same thing goes for suggesting a good space trading/traveling/exploring RPG and claiming it to be a Roguelike. It gives off the feeling that you didn’t even play the game further than the intro, which breaks down all credibility of all other suggestions. It might even mean some games have a nice intro and start out well, but then could have the player’s character turn into an orange penguins with mosquitonets as mittens for no reason whatsoever, completely breaking the entire game that way. It only makes it worse if you, instead of fixing this and reinstating at least a bit of the site’s integrity, you just mock people pointing this out behind their backs. That won’t help your site, and it just ticks the people involved off.

    One last thing… I never said one game is indier than the other. That’s only true for a comparisson like Halo 2 vs. Cave Story. Both are huge names, but only one actually IS indie, and so’s indier than the other. However, I never said that Akuji the Demon is indier than N, for example. I said it’s better, more professional. That’s something completely different. I also never claimed I was indier than Guert. I said he should at least know the basics when moderating a list of recommendable indie games. The result of this lack of basic knowledge was an initial list that was of a monstrous size, and games in the list that never should’ve even been concidered (Stair Dismount being the most obvious example).

    The very last thing that’s a bother, is basic courtesy when mentioning suggestions from others. You have to mention your sources. If you were at university and had to write a paper, while not mentioning your sources, no matter how good your paper is, it would fail miserably. At least the universities around here don’t take kindly to no sources mentioned or leaving them out, up to the point of it being concidered plagiate now and then. It’s basic courtesy towards the person who suggested it or where you got it from, and basic honesty towards your visitors. On the other hand, if a game is suggested on your forums, and a few days later, it appears on your site, and when the person suggesting it asks why you didn’t mention your source, then you saying you got it from another source than him, it’s just too suspicious to be viable, especially for a game that’s been around for yeeaars. I’m glad this problem is fixed for Transcendence, but it’s something that should be taken more care of in the future.

    As long as this place doesn’t realize all this, there’ll always be people like me who try to participate, but pretty much get hit over the head by the entire attitude over and over again, and get a short fuse after a while. If you ban them for getting frustrated and dissed for seeing all the painful flaws, then it’s just a confirmation of it all and sends bad blood to more people than just one, even if you don’t notice it directly. There’s a certain level of professionalism and maturity to uphold, which has been lacking severely here. I hope to see it change someday, so you and your site can live by the ideals you preach.

  • Zetetic Elench

    Kon-Tiki, I’d really like to see a brief list of what you consider to be core features of a roguelike; the soul of them, if you will. This isn’t an argumentative challenge – I’d genuinely like to understand your position a little better.

  • Kon-Tiki

    Zetetic, the strategy & exploration values you’ve said make Warcraft and Command & Conquer Roguelikes as well. A Roguelike more has exploration, character building, randomly generated dungeons with randomly spawning monsters and items and a very open story. The main thing that sets a Roguelike apart from other RPGs, is that other RPGs have a bigger focus on story and have designed dungeons, while Roguelikes focus more on the getting as far as possible aspect. Another thing that sets Roguelikes apart from other RPGs, is the usual one-use savegame. When you die in a Roguelike, you’ll have to start all over again.

  • Kon-Tiki

    Oh, for the record… if Transcendence is a Roguelike, that makes Elite, Vega Strike and all other Space Exploration games where you start with a rather crappy ship and make your way up to the top a Roguelike, along with games like Tradewinds, which follow the same core concept, and have randomized cities. Nobody in their right mind would call them Roguelikes, though.

  • Derek

    1. Kon-Tiki, I added you as the source for Transcendence, but in all honesty, it was not from your link that I eventually came to play the game and then review it.

    2. Don’t compare this site to a university paper because a) it isn’t one, and b) I haven’t seen you cite any sources on your own website.

    3. The categorization of the game as a Roguelike is only a bother for people who get caught up in labels and strictly defining them.

    And that’s the last thing that needs to be cleared up from my end of this discussion. Please don’t come back to this site if you find the attitudes expressed on it to be offensive.

  • Kon-Tiki

    1) Just too much of a coincidence.

    2) We do cite our sources. We cite: a) The person who reviewed the game and b)the person who applied the game, unless they specifically asked not to (or I happen to be both myself). It’s, as I said before, a matter of basic courtesy and honesty, not because university papers do this. That was an example, and accept that as an example, instead of twisting my words again.

    3) You’re the one who labeled this game a Roguelike to start with, for crying out loud!

  • Derek

    Yay, list arguments!

    1. You’re right. It’s such a crazy ass coincidence. There’s no way I could have heard of the game from somewhere else in (over) a month’s time. Plus, I have so much to gain from leaving you off as the source. Massive conspiracy, dude. And guess what? Kornel Kisielewicz was the one who first brought up the game in the forums. In February, you fucktard!

    2. I don’t have to accept shit from you. I also cite my sources whenever possible.

    3. Right, I’m the one who labeled it. I’m not the one who’s crying about it.


  • Kon-Tiki

    You really ARE a twat, aren’t you? “Yay, list arguments!” snide comments while starting these yourself… again! Anyways, here goes:

    1) I mentioned this game 9 days before you placed it here (See ). The game’s been around for several years, so if you got it from another source, you would’ve gotten it earlier. Stop covering your ass with that lie.

    2) You don’t have to accept shit from me, but I also don’t have to accept shit from you. Don’t give me shit and you won’t be thinking I’m giving you shit. If you’re consequent in citing sources, ok. If not, then start doing so. You’ve shown to be not consequent in it, so suck it and behave. Got to accept that people tax you on your behaviour, and so far, you’ve just yelled and kicked them like a little crybaby.

    3) You’re the one who labeled it as Roguelike, then calls people names and tells them they’ve called it that instead of you. That’s just ridiculously childish of you… again.

    I suggest you catch up to your age and get your act together, or piss off and don’t tell people what to do and how to live, as you don’t do what you say yourself and just twist reality to fit your puny little world.

  • Derek

    What, I really like list arguments! I use them all the time.

    1) If you knew me, you’d know that I would never try to cover my ass about something as meaningless as this. Ask yourself why I would lie about it? I have nothing to gain from it.

    But here’s exactly what I did, though, just so you know that I still love you…

    First, I went to Soldat Movies, which I’ve cited as a source plenty of times on this site. On Jared’s post for TAGAP, he has a link to Weapons of Distraction, a German indie game site. I followed the link:

    And would you look at that, Transcendence is the latest entry! Granted, you posted about it two days after WOD did, but is it conceivable to you that I don’t follow every link on the forum?

    So if anyone deserves to be cited, it’s WOD. But I’ve heard of the game from other places, so I didn’t think to cite. It was WOD, however, that made me think to try it out, and not you.

    2) You really like using my own insults against me. Can you at least cite me as a source first? Something like “…a little crybaby _(Source: Derek Yu)_” would be just fine.

    3) I’m calling you names because you’re starting a big debate about whether Transcendence is a Roguelike and whining about labels AGAIN, right after causing a big shitstorm on the forums about the definition of “indie” and telling everyone to fuck off. Well, why don’t YOU fuck off, because this isn’t your website. You can’t make people leave their own house, but you can sure as hell leave yourself!

    4) I’m 24, I’m fucking tired of you, and I’m acting like it. And I don’t twist anything except for your mother’s nipples in the bedroom. If you want me to get nasty, boy, I’ll get nasty. You’re the first person I’ve run into in a long time that I think actually deserves it. And in the mood I’m in, I’m actually enjoying myself.

  • haowan

    I love how a game being “inspired by nethack” suddenly makes it a roguelike. and that’s an argument that’s certainly worth having!

    heh, what

  • Derek

    It’s… a grey area whether it’s a Roguelike or not. It probably doesn’t fit the strict definition, but there’s more to it than just “inspiration.”

    For one thing you have these star systems, which are analogous to dungeons. They ARE randomized, even though KT would have you believe otherwise. Only a few star systems are fixed, including the first. And every star system has a jump game that is more or less a “stairs down” to the next system (dungeon).

    Also, the deaths are “hard,” I believe. You die, you get a memorial, and then you start over. This is very much a game made to be played over and over, and the story that’s in place is not very deep at all.

    It’s much closer to what you would call a traditional RL than other space-exploration games.

    So what _doesn’t_ make it a Roguelike, in my opinion? Well, I don’t know… do RL’s have to be turn-based?

    Again, I debated categorizing it a RL and eventually decided that I should, mainly because the game shows up on WP’s list of roguelikes, as well as Retro Remakes’s roguelike article (and I believe it also got a mention in RL magazine). In any case, it’s close enough that it SHOULDN’T BE SUCH A BIG DEAL IF I PUT IT IN THAT CATEGORY.

    Does that make sense or am I crazy?

  • haowan

    Seems fine. Permadeath is the one thing that hasn’t been mentioned that I think is more a cornerstone of RL games than anything else that’s been mentioned.

    tbh I just think kon-tiki has gone way over the top here with this pointless debate, to the point where he’s strawmanned you in to having said that it actually is a roguelike instead of what you did say, which was that it was inspired by one meaning that it takes elements of one. If it WERE a roguelike then it’d be a fucking text mode turnbased game. I just honestly don’t understand what there is to get so angry about.

  • tim

    a 22-year old and a 24-year old arguing.

    Popcorn, anyone? ;)

  • Champ

    The *author of the game* said it was ‘inspired by’ Roguelikes. Who the shit said it was a Roguelike?
    Now that’s out of the way, let’s list all the ways it’s NOT like Star Fucking Control II – that way we will be able to prove that Trancendence is not, in fact, Star Control II but is instead Transcendence.

  • Derek

    Let’s not and say we didn’t, also.

  • adimetro

    no flamings

  • adimetro

    2 thumbs up for me

  • adimetro

    the current version is 1.01