Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Video Game: Transcendence
Start your journey.

The Goddess Domina calls you to join her in the galactic core, home of the gods. Thus, you left your life behind and try to reach it. Of course, between you and the core, dozens and dozens of pirates, slavers, genetically-engineered humans, and other stuff are waiting to kill you.

Transcendence is a video game described by its creator, George Moromisato, as the fusion of NetHack and Star Control. You choose one of three starships to travel between systems, gathering things to upgrade your ships to survive the more and more dangerous enemies, and trying to make it out alive.

Can be found here. The game is partly funded through the sale of expansion packs that tell further stories within the same setting, but the game client and the main scenario are both free downloads.

Do not confuse this with Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Has nothing to do with the Johnny Depp film, either.

Welcome to Tropescendence!

  • 2-D Space
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The game would be very different if the game used realistic physics (invisible lasers, relativity, among other problems).
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Luminous Drones and assemblers are controlled by a rogue AI. This is also the fate of the Huygens Explorer.
    • A certain class of Auton will also malfunction when used and turn on its owner.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Played straight, but with good reason: friendly fire is always on, so it's better to have this than if you accidentally destroy a friendly station that is half a system away, getting you more enemies.
    • The Relativistic and Howitzer weapons are nearly an aversion of this trope—they fire to well outside your scanner range, way, way beyond what can actually be seen—and if they hit someone friendly, they do a metric fuckton of impact damage.
  • Ballistic Discount: You can blow up corporate stations and plunder them. However, they send a heavily-armed corporate cruiser after you to discourage this, and you'll be arrested if you ever set foot on another corporate station.
  • BFG: The Ares Plasma Archcannon. Its projectile looks oversized coming from anything smaller than a Phobos Dreadnought.
  • Big Bad: Oracus, an unknown entity, supposedly bent on destroying the galaxy.
  • Boss Battle: Several of them, some of which are entirely optional:
    • Warmup Boss: Arco Vaughn, leader of the Centauri Warlords.
    • Boss Rush: Once you get past the qualifying rounds, the Arena is this. The final boss of the Arena is The Slicer, who flies a custom gunship equipped with a suite of linked weapons.
    • Degraded Boss: This was true of the old arena final boss, the Tripoli-class destroyer, until it was replaced with The Slicer as the final boss of the arena.
    • Boss in Mook Clothing: Charon Frigates, an early-appearing vessel armed with a pair of turreted turbolasers and a hold full of homing missiles.
    • Flunky Boss: The Fortress of the Charon Pirates, and the Xenophobe Ark.
    • Wolfpack Boss: The squadron of Aquila Cruisers you can choose to fight in the Dantalion system.
    • Climax Boss: The Iocrym Command Ship, encountered just after the player character breaks the quarantine. Can be disappointing, since it moves slowly, and it's difficult to get this far without installing a point-defence weapon that negates its only long-ranged attack.
    • Bonus Boss: The Xenophobe Worldships and Ark.
    • Damage-Sponge Boss: Quite a few enemies are poorly-armed, but capable of taking a tremendous amount of damage.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Most of the lower-level kinetic type weapons have no ammunition limits.
  • Call to Adventure: Domina calls to the player to venture to her at the core...
  • City Guards: The guard ships at friendly stations, the heavy weapons on the station itself, the Corporate Cruiser which pursues you for destroying a corporate station, and Ferian Warriors for a Ferian station. However, if you manage to somehow fight off these hazards, nothing stops you from going on a piracy spree.
  • Continuing Is Painful: If you bought insurance, the next time you buy it, it costs considerably more. If you choose to resurrect without insurance, your score takes a massive hit.
  • Debug Room: A certain switch can be used to run the game in a debug mode, allowing scripts to be entered into its console.
  • Disc One Nuke: The X-ray Laser. While it's a rare item, when it does appear, it's found very early on, delivers high damage at a fast rate of fire, and since it's a laser, you can use a collimator (also found very early) and get an unmatched weapon until particle weapons come along.
    • Similarly, the dual flenser, which is a slightly less rare weapon of the same level. Used in conjunction with a cannon accelerator, these things are fugly. Dual flensers also do more damage to enemy stations and have considerably longer range, making them viable basecrackers well into midgame.
  • Difficulty Spike: The Charon system. After St. Katherine's Star, the curve got considerably steeper too.
  • Digitized Sprites: Almost every sprite in the game is really a screenshot of a 3D model. Even the thruster exhaust sprites were real 3D models until version 1.2 came out. Most of these models were released by George Moromisato for non-commercial use.
  • Dummied Out: A number of stations and ships appear in the game's resources that are unused. Since then, modders have taken to including them.
    • The game's code also means that any item above Level XII will never be available for sale. At least until the game itself is expanded beyond the Heretic system.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Earth was (partially) destroyed when Syrtis Conclave suddenly decided to annihilate Earth. Mars was turned into a radioactive charred husk of a world.
  • Escape Pod: Never seen, but mentioned by certain characters.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Take a look at this picture (spoiler, though). See the names in red? They're all trying to kill you, the one in white will turn against you if you so much as land a shot on them, and the ones in green and yellow can be turned against you if you shoot them enough. If you piss off the friendly or neutral factions, then literally every ship in the game will shoot on sight.
  • Excuse Plot: Subverted. The game starts out like NetHack where you are given very little explanation as to why you are travelling to the Galactic Core. As you progress through the game, you can interact with several NPCs who will reveal more details about the game's backstory. Then suddenly the story shifts to a massive struggle between higher powers and why one of them is using an alien race to destroy humanity.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Wind Slaver and the Anarchist battlepods are insanely fast and can out-turn almost every other ship in the game, but they will fall apart if you sneeze on them.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted, unusually for this sort of game.
    • Played straight with several stations hostile toward the player, however. They can freely shoot at you without hitting anything from the same faction.
  • Game Mod: The game supports making modding a very simple process, easy to do; the developer even goes out of his way to make the game more modifiable! This has resulted in a spectrum of mods exhibiting various tropes (primarily quality-related ones).
  • Global Currency Exception: Get out far enough, and you will encounter genetic-engineered humans that don't accept credits, but use Rins instead.
    • Eternity Port, an official expansion to the game, has factions that use yuan or euros as well.
  • Guide Dang It: Fabricators. Getting the most out of them is all-but impossible without either script-diving or reading spoilers.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: The Black Market has some of the harshest law enforcement, in the form of bounty hunters.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The alien technologies of the Iocrym, Ancient Races, Domina and Oracus are all used in this manner.
  • Infinity–1 Sword: The IM90 Multitarget Cannon and Iocrym Fracture Cannon appear to be favourites among seasoned players because they can at least be bought in the last few systems with thousands of rin.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: The Lamplighter Archcannon and the various halo gems, particularly the Gem of Contrition and the Gem of Sacrifice.
  • Interface Screw: The Heliotropes' blinder cannons will temporarily obscure your HUD. A Defective Visual Display Enhancement ROM will do this as well.
  • Leet Lingo: The style of the words is played straight in the dialogue with the Luminous and Zoanthropes as well as on the labels for some of the Luminous-related control cubes. The Leet style of grammar however is not used as often with them.
  • Lost Forever: A few old ship designs from the early alpha versions of the game were removed prior to the first public release of the game. In the in-game sense, non-randomly appearing items can be destroyed permanently in many ways, including placing them on wrecks or in boxes and destroying the wreck or box. Some unique ships and the unique items they hold do not always leave wrecks, resulting in those items also being lost forever.
  • Knights Templar: The Syrtian leadership believe they are acting on the words of Domina and will commit any acts in her name (and they apparently believe themselves, though nobody else in-game would think Domina would cause the 80+ year long Syrtian war). The Iocrym use the same reasoning.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Ares' Deimos-class destroyer and the Commonwealth's Britannia-class gunship are AI examples. If you set up your ship right and survive all the way to the final system, you are most probably this as well.
  • Lockdown: The Iocrym initially disabled the Sol stargate because they found life on Earth, and made it a nature preserve. After humans reactivated the gate and started exploring space, the Iocrym made first contact with them, studying the cause of the gate's activation, and then locking humans out of the rest of the galaxy "because of an unspecified threat". Turns out it's the first of Domina's 2-stage plan to exterminate human race to stop Oracus from waking up. Maybe.
  • Made of Explodium: Station and capital ships explode rather violently, especially late in the game; also anything with enough fuel and ammo will explode rather gratuitously too.
    • Subverted with the Iocrym Command Ship and the Teraton stations which have rather underwhelming explosions.
  • Made of Iron: The Salvager Nomad. This brown behemoth mounts a single turbolaser cannon, but is equipped with 36 quad titanium barricades - four layers of the same kind of armour used to reinforce space stations - placed evenly across the whole ship.
    • It has since been nerfed to only 16 segments of double titanium barricade, but in the early stages of the game, it still qualifies.
  • The Many Deaths of You: In spades, including: dying in a dead spaceship because you ran out of fuel, being murdered by a criminal mastermind, being executed, being frozen, dying in a range of horrific medical experiments, and the rather charming experience of being eaten alive by a tentacled horror.
  • Mighty Glacier: Both the Iocrym Sentinel and the Iocrym Command Ship can easily reduce any other ship in the game, as well as every single space station in the game, into their component atoms in a matter of seconds, but they are painfully slow and lack long-range weapons. Ships twice as large as the Sentinel, such as the Ares' Phobos-class dreadnought, are more able at hauling their weight around.
  • More Dakka: The Ares' Lightning Turret, as well as the Fast-Fire Laser Cannon, among others.
  • The Mothership: The Worldships and Arks of the Bennin Xenophobes.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Aside from being killed by other ships or finishing the game, the player can also be arrested, die in a variety of rather gruesome medical experiments ("anything for science!"), be eaten alive, run out of fuel, or die from radiation exposure. This game is inspired by Nethack, after all.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Katana Star Cannon is probably the most famous example.
  • Physical God / Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Dominia (and Oracus) are presumably one or the other.
  • Point Defenseless: The game provides several different ways to avert this, and doing so is all-but essential by the time you reach Heretic.
  • Poison Mushroom: Various examples. Several of the game's usable items have defective versions, and barrels that could contain anything from armour-repairing nanos to high-level radioactive waste tend to have extremely uninformative labels.
  • Portal Network: Stargates
  • Power-Up Letdown: After you upgrade an item, further upgrades have no effect. So if you try out a random barrel, odds are you'll permanently stain your armor with something you don't want.
  • Religion Is Magic: Give the right offerings at Dominia's temple-stations, and she'll grant you physics-breaking powers.
  • Saving the World: That's what the entire premise develops (literally the word of an in-game god-like entity ... and also as given by the developer - so far) into (stopping Oracus), but other bits of the plot hint that the player may be the one destroying the world (or at least humanity).
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Oracus was this, apparently.
  • Shout-Out: Lots of these, some better hidden then others. A number are references to the usernames of some of the more prominent members of the community.
    • One illegal cargo you can find is "Bootleg Star Wars 3DVs"
  • Space Friction: Averted, unless you have an inertialess engine, which causes you to stop as soon as you turn off the thrusters. Flying in purple nebulae also causes your ship to slow down after a while.
  • Space Pirate: The Centauri Warlords and Charon Pirates in general, but there are other smaller factions that count too.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Played straight with the Ares, including several classes of light ships, a freighter, a missile boat that is essentially a space gun, a destroyer, and even a dreadnought. The Commonwealth and Sung also play this trope straight to a degree. Subverted with several of the other factions, a few of which use only light ships.
  • Spoiler Opening: The main menu in 1.0RC7 and later shows a lot of ships that the player will be facing much later. If anything, the screen saver shows even more of them.
  • Stone Wall: The Commonwealth Star Carrier. It is the slowest thing next to a space station, and it is only equipped with four TeV 9 blasters which, compared to most other weapons used in the outer regions of human space, are mere peashooters. However, it can easily fend off everything short of a dreadnought simply because it is equipped with nigh-invulnerable, regenerative hull plating.
  • Take Your Time: You can simply decline most missions, no matter how urgent they sound, and come back later. Korolov Shipping is an aversion, though, as if you refuse to escort a freighter it will eventually leave without you, and when they prepare to assault the fortress in a system they will launch the attack whether or not you agree to join them.
  • Time Stands Still: The effect of one of the three halo gems.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The player, depending on the player's style of gameplay. A number of players will skimp on upgrades for an absurdly long time to save enough money to prematurely buy an extremely powerful piece of equipment or two (usually a Hyperion reactor, the most powerful reactor in the game and a high power-use weapon or shield) - they go from skirting on near-death all the time to kicking everyone's asses without the slightest bit of trouble. Also used to happen where incredibly strong armor could be made from ores mined in the first system.
    • Inverted with Kate Morgental, where she goes from having an absurdly overpowered ship (at least for that level) to a ship without a single weapon on it.
    • Some mods also allow wingmen, autons or even entire factions to do this.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The neurohacking minigame, which uses the rules of a lunar lander game. And yes, installing a quantum CPU on your ship does help.
  • Units Not to Scale: Planetary objects are on scale, though it's an exponential scale.
  • Useless Useful Spell: While weapon special effects can be useful when they are first introduced, they quickly become obsolete. Radiation-immune armour, for example, appears very quickly once you've gained access to radiation weapons. Even enemies suffer this — you can easily obtain a full set of disintegration-proof armour well before meeting the only enemy in the game with a disintegration attack, for example.
  • Vendor Trash: The game has a dizzying array of different trade goods, although few of them are absolute examples—many items can also be donated to various causes, in exchange for various benefits such as information, future assistance, and even new Domina powers. Some items also have obscure uses—having the right medical supplies will make you more likely to survive medical experiments, for example.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Ferian miners show up as friendlies and are inoffensive miners who ordinarily retreat when attacked and carry precious ore ripe for the taking. You can freely play Space Pirate and attack the little fellows ... but if you're careless, you can then die in the space of a second when they decide to swarm you instead of running, cutting you into fragments with their surprisingly-powerful plasma torches. Like many things in the game, they can also call in some more powerful reinforcements if necessary.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Iocrym are very fond of overwhelming their targets and everything between them and their targets with a gigantic and virtually-endless torrent of plasma from their Fracture and Avalanche cannons.
  • Wham Episode: Anything that happens in the final system at the edge of human space, but especially the Iocrym Archive and the fate of the Huygens Explorer.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Fuel here serves the same purpose—consumed at a regular rate, and if you run out, you die. Different reactors require different kinds of fuel, but the game provides ways to get this free of charge.
  • Wrap Around: In the very late game, you can encounter systems with 'event horizons' that do this.
  • X Meets Y: As mentioned above, the creator calls this game "Nethack meets Star Control 2".

Tales of Maj'EyalRoguelikeToeJam & Earl
OrbiterFreeware GamesSkiFree

alternative title(s): Transcendence
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy