Video Game / Ascendancy

Ascendancy is a turn-based 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy game set in space by The Logic Factory and with strong influences from Master of Orion. Players select a species among the available 21, set the galaxy's conditions (size, number of rival species controlled by CPU, atmosphere - peaceful, neutral, hostile) and begin a race to make their species the dominant one... or let it be destroyed.

During the game, players must research and evolve their civilization, buiding factories, laboratories and spaceships in order to explore the galaxy and expand their empire. Every planet is divided in squares, each one providing a bonus for some kind of structure (red squares enhance industrial structures, blue ones enhance scientific ones...), but black squares don't let you build any usual structure.

Another matter players have to deal with is their relationship with the rival species, be it neutral, friendly or wary. Each species has a special ability to help them in their progress.

The variety of technologies, the Turn-Based Combat and the different species made this game quite popular in its time. However, the poor AI was also well-known, even though The Logic Factory released a patch to make the rival species a bit more intelligent.

There are several ways to win this game: by conquering other species' homeworlds, exploring 2/3 of the galaxy, being friends with all species or annihilating them. In any case, the game continues and even if you achieved one of the previous goals, you can still keep growing your empire.

In 2011, The Logic Factory released a version of the game for iPhone and iPad.

Ascendancy provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 2-D Space: Rather beautifully averted in the star cluster (like in Star Control 1, only better) and solar system views (including the battle engine), except for the sprite-like ship and planet graphics: as you rotate the view, the planets and ships remain face-on to you. Ships also don't point in the direction they're moving. Similarly, although there's beautiful high-resolution art for the planets, when you build on them, the buildings show up on an isometric 2-D grid superimposed on the sphere in a rather bizarre way.
  • 4X
  • Absent Aliens: Inverted. There are plenty of aliens but not a single human. Despite this, there are star systems with names like Philadelphia, Nougat, Bob, Oslo, Crimea, and Sophia.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: When controlled by the computer, the Frutmaka and Shevar are very aggressive with declarations of war. It's not uncommon for them to be at war with literally everyone else, or to be annihilated before you even meet them. (The Dubtaks, on the other hand, are very hard to stay at war with, as they will pester you and ask for peace).
  • Ambadassador: The Baliflids are the diplomats in this game. Their special ability allows them to make peace with other species. Automatically. No exceptions.
  • The Assimilator: The Minions appear to be the most Borglike of this game in that their dialog consists of very direct statements of the sort the Borg would issue, and their special ability is that they are masters of invasion: only one invasion module is necessary or used up when invading. However, ALL species actually meet this criterion, because when ANY of them invades a planet owned by another species, the planet's population does not change. Thus the entire population of the planet as owned by the previous species has in fact been assimilated - changed into members of the conquering species. This is made clear when you conquer a race's last planet. You get a message saying that they are now extinct. This would not be the case if you merely enslaved them.
  • Auto-Pilot Tutorial.
  • Beeping Computers: The Minions' theme includes this. Apparently, even extremely-advanced killing machines need to let people know they're working through annoying beeps.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Marmosians.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Damaged ships maintain full functionality of all equipment (shields, generators, engines, weapons, etc.) as long as the ship has even a sliver of hull integrity left. However, there are also gadgets specifically designed to destroy or temporarily disable equipment.
  • Death Ray: One of the gadgets you can use in your spaceships.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: For creating a ship, aside from choosing its size, you have to fill the empty vessel with gadgets on a "deck map".
    • You can also refit existing ships, but that requires a completely different orbital structure than the one used to build them. Go figure. You can change any device on a ship but not a ship's size.
  • Disc One Nuke: If you get lucky, you can access super-advanced technologies early on by way of Xenoarchiological Ruins, though they can also fall under Awesome, but Impractical if they're so advanced that it would take forever to exploit them with your current technology (Research Campuses, for example, will take almost one hundred days each to build when you still only have one basic Factory).
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Shevar definitely have traits of this. They are extradimensional inorganic beings that are hostile to all other life, and, to quote their starting description, "they aren't purposely hostile or evil, but their values are incomprehensible and they do not recognize the creatures of this universe as living beings". However, they are no more powerful than the other playable species.
  • Faceless Eye: The Oculons.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Chamachies' special ability allows them to end any technological investigation in one day.
  • Green Thumb: The Govorom, able to turn a desert into a paradise. This borders on Game Breaker in the mid-to-late game.
  • Hive Mind: The Minions and the Ungooma.
  • Humans Are Average: Distinctly Averted; unlike most other space-based 4X games, there are no humans, but a broad choice of 21 Planet of Hats species.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Starlines, blue (normal) and red (slow without an advanced hyperdrive).
  • Impossible Theft: The Dubtaks steal knowledge. Even from those species they've never met.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Capelons' special ability allows them to 'hide' their colonies from other species for one day.
    • Averted with the cloaking technology you can research. The cloaking device/satellite/building don't hide ships or planets. They just make it impossible to view the contents of the ship/orbit/surface (respectively). Pretty much useless against a computer player.
  • Living Gasbag: The Nimbuloids.
  • Long-Lost Relative: The Frutmaka and the Swaparamans are the only species in this game with a common ascendancy. But Frutmaka's fanaticism forced the Swaparamans to leave their home planet.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Every single alien theme song. All of them are of high quality, but barely last 30 seconds and only when you speak with that species you'll get its melody. So much potential wasted.
  • Lost Technology: Some of the planets you explore contain Xenoarchaeological Ruins.
  • Magitek: Some gadgets are explicitly described as magitechnological.
  • Massive Race Selection: 21 different species. But in terms of gameplay, there are no differences except for their special abilities.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: The Minions.
    • Due to their inorganic nature, the Shevar, warlocks from another Universe, would count towards this too.
  • Non-Entity General: The player character takes on a role as the supreme leader of their species in some form or another, but is never addressed in-game.
  • Planet of Hats: the various species all constitute this, what with having a single special ability each that goes along with their Hat, sometimes to a ludicrous extent (they can see all star lanes, because they're super astronomers, because they have just the sense of sight, because they're just a freaking eye on legs, and they're called the Oculons! Do you get it yet?!) In fact, many of the special abilities are stated to exist because all the members of the species can decide to concentrate all at once to make it happen.
  • Planetville.
  • Precursors: Implied with those Xenoarchaelogical Ruins. Also, the Minions seem to obey the orders of extra-galatic masters, but that's just the background story. Every species in the actual gameplay starts with 0 technological progress and minimum infrastructure on day 0 so no one gets a head start.
  • Prepare to Die: When you declare war on another species, you choose the option "We declare war on you. Prepare to die." Pretty explicit.
  • Psychic Powers
    • Mind over Matter: The Frutmaka are sentient fungi who use telekinesis to compensate for their slow pace and can teleport enemy ships out of systems they occupy.
    • Telepathy: The toroidal Hanshaks' special ability allows them to speak with any of the other species.
    • Slowing down time: The Chronomyst can change the rate at which time flows. They use this for extra fast space travel.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The Orfa theme has this.
    • The Hanshaks have throat singing as part of theirs.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Ungooma.
  • Religion of Evil: The Frutmaka worship a black hole they call Graveesha. This has turned them into quite violent and intolerant fanatics, even forcing another sapient species from their planet into exile.
  • The Reptilians: The Chamachies. Kind of. They have six limbs, so they're not like any reptiles on Earth.
  • Shout-Out
    • The intro cinematic looks too much like the beginning of Carl Sagan's series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage to be just a coincidence. Many of the technologies and discoveries also contain shout-outs to actual advanced mathematical terms, the real life versions of which have absolutely nothing to do with the technologies themselves. There are "Fourier Missiles", and "Fergnatz's Last Theorem" (Fermat's Last Theorem), and Megagraph Theory (Graph Theory - ok, that one pertains a little to what it allows - an "Internet" of all things) for instance.
    • For that matter (what is this trope called), there's a low-level technology that comes early in the game called "Momentum Deconservation", and a high-level technology that comes late, called "Megagraph Theory", which allows the building of an internet. In the real world, of course, building an internet is much easier than deconserving momentum. In fact, a technology that would allow momentum deconservation would go hand in hand with perpetual motion and therefore be a sort of holy-grail omega technology.
  • Starfish Aliens: All of them. However, one of them (the Baliflids), do look like Earth rodents, and being tetrapods, aren't really that far from human, and another one, the Govorom, look like naked ladies, in a cartoony sort of way. Really! They do! With 3 boobs too!
  • Super Senses
    • The Kambuchka can see other species' home planets from the beginning of the game. It is implied in the game that this is due to vibrations the Kambuchka are able to feel.
    • Also, the Oculons' sight is so incredible they're living telescopes, able to see all star lanes from day 0.
  • Tech Tree: The one used in Ascedancy is a three-dimensional structure that is simply stunning in its scope and variety.
  • Terraforming: Black squares in planets don't allow you to build anything but communication rails or global projects. But when you've researched Terraforming, you can turn them into white squares. However, the Orfa don't need Terraforming: they can build anything on black squares.
  • Wise Tree: The Arbryls, being a species of calm sentient trees.