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Video Game / Ascendancy

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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. Sadly, the conversion of all apps from 32-bit to 64-bit has left the game behind: it was not updated and is no longer available.

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
  • Ambadassador: The Baliflids are the diplomats in this game. Their special ability allows them to make peace with other species. Automatically. No exceptions.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Your maximum number of ships (no matter the size) is dependent on the number of star systems you control exclusively (above a certain minimum). Partial system control doesn't count, which can be annoying if another race colonizes a tiny planet in your system that you've been ignoring, leaving you one less ship you can build.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The game's AI is far from genius-level. Taking a look at most AI-controlled planets reveals a dismal sight of colonies with barely any industry/research/prosperity, while your own planets will probably be full of factories and labs. By the late-game stage, the computer will be trying to build huge ships with high-end equipment on such planets, which is likely to take hundreds of turns.
  • 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: And quite a long one, too.
  • 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.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Shevar do nothing but brag about how evil they are while negotiating with the player.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Tiles on planets are colored based upon whether or not they provide any benefits or drawbacks: blue ones boost research, red ones boost production, green ones boost prosperity (which leads to population growth), white ones are average, and black ones cannot be inhabited. Building a structure that produces the resource associated with the tile’s color will boost the amount of that resource produced (for example, a factory on a red tile will cause a greater increase in production than a factory on a different colored tile would). A late game technology allows you to turn black tiles into white ones.
  • 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.
  • Deflector Shields: Shields are important in allowing a ship to survive more than a few hits. Depending on the strength and power supply, they either absorb or mitigate the damage. All but one type of shield is a heavy drain on the power plants when active. The remaining one consumes no power but is extremely weak. Planets can have orbital shields that prevent enemy ships from entering orbit, but they don't actually protect orbital or planetary structures from harm. Their only use is to prevent the enemy from launching invasion modules (which can only be done in orbit).
  • 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).
  • Domed Hometown: At the start, the only way to increase the maximum population on your planets is to build Outposts. Later on, you can build larger Habitats, which also provide prosperity. Both of these look like large transparent domes with structures underneath.
  • The Eeyore: The Swaparamans are like this in diplomatic negotiations - they even introduce themselves as "the sorrowful Swaparamans".
  • 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. During diplomatic negotiations, however, they are Card Carrying Villains.
  • 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: functionally, this turns all the tiles of a single planet (that they own) to red, green or blue, even if the planet is completely inhospitable (such as a barren world, with all black tiles), and they can do it every 150 days. This is an absolute Game-Breaker: barren planets are more common than garden worlds (garden worlds being planets that have only red, green and blue tiles) and garden worlds are already 150% more productive than a normal world. With the ability to turn a huge barren planet (0% production) into a garden world (150% production), the Govorom can out-produce, out-research, and out-breed any competitor, making any planet they find hospitable, while other races will have to search for appropriate planets.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: 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).
  • 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.
  • Kill Sat: You can build three types of active orbital defenses. An Orbital Missile Base has an okay range and dose decent damage but can only fire once per galactic turn (nothing prevents you from building several of these, though). A Short Range Orbital Whopper has the same range and deals the same damage but can fire up to three times per turn. A Long Range Orbital Whopper is the ultimate orbital defense structure and can fire over half a system away, although it's the same as the short-range version otherwise. Few shipboard weapons can out-range it.
  • Living Gasbag: The Nimbuloids.
  • Lizard Folk: The Chamachies (see page image). Kind of. They have six limbs, so they're not like any reptiles on Earth.
  • 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: Inverted with 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.
  • Mega City: You eventually learn to build those. They're a bit of a Master of None type of structure, providing small amounts of industry, science, prosperity, and population space. Individually, higher-level structures that are focused on each aspect provide a lot more, but they can be a life-saver on small planets.
  • 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.
  • Orbital Bombardment: If a planet is too well protected, you can bomb it to hell with Phase Bombs, each of which takes up a slot in the ship's configuration and is gone after a single use. It does, however, destroy a number of random structures and can even be used to depopulate a planet completely. However, it can only be done when a ship is not in orbit (i.e. the planet's orbital screen) but in interplanetary space very close to the planet.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The Endless Party is a planetary project that boosts the planet's prosperity based on its industrial output. Prosperity is what allows a planet's population to grow.
  • 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.
  • Reactionless Drive: Some of the drive systems have flavor text that describes them as this. In game terms, though, the only difference between all drives is speed and power consumption stats.
  • 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.
  • 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. In an extreme case, and with plenty of time and patience, you can turn a lifeless husk planet (consists entirely of black squares) into a pretty nice place to live.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: You can accidentally end up with one, if one of your Xeno-digs nets you a late-game weapon tech near the start of the game. Sure, you can get a gun that can One-Hit Kill any enemy medium-size vessel, but it'll take you forever to build a ship with it using early game industry, and the weapon will likely require the amount of power your ship can barely provide, meaning your warship will be mostly full of power plants just to be able to charge the cannon. The ship's power will probably be drained after each shot, leaving the enemy to pound your ship for the rest of that turn with the other ships they were able to build while you've been building your one. Since most shields require power to function (and the one that doesn't barely blocks any damage), your ship will be, effectively, defenseless.
  • Wise Tree: The Arbryls, being a species of calm sentient trees.
  • Xeno Fiction: 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.