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Video Game / Transcendence

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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). See also Space Friction further down.
  • 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. Another will malfunction to similar effect when given certain orders.
  • The All-Seeing A.I.: Salvager nomads know where every shipwreck in the system is, and will consistently beat you to whatever loot they may hold. Finding clusters of empty shipwrecks is often a good indication that there’s at least one salvager nomad in the system.
    • Some stations will send ships after you in retribution when you destroy them. They will always know exactly where to find you unless you’re in a different system by the time they catch up to you, and even then they’ll be waiting for you if you ever go back.
    • Don’t bother using a blinder cannon on enemy ships. It won’t affect their aim.
      • Somewhat inverted if the player has either tracking or omnidirectional weaponry. If you lock onto a target, even being blinded won’t stop you from hitting it. Even if you don’t have a lock, it will still aim normally at the nearest available target. …Of course, keeping in mind that automatic locks like that are still chosen by the AI
  • Arbitrary Weapon 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.
  • Artificial Meat: The low-level meats are described as being synthetic or vat-grown.
  • 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.
    • There has been speculation in the community (with varying degrees of seriousness) that Domina Herself, while not as malicious toward the galaxy as a whole, does have the extinction of the human race (and the derivatives thereof) on Her agenda.
  • 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.
    • Final Boss: Luminous is this in the Eternity Port scenario (the expansion also adds them to the main scenario, but as a Bonus Boss with no associated mission).
  • Bottomless Magazines: Most of the lower-level kinetic type weapons have no ammunition limits. Some of the less powerful blast and fusion weapons also qualify.
    • One of the official expansions adds a device that generates ammo for a specific ammo-based weapon, effectively turning it into one of these as well.
  • 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.
  • Development Hell: Like the main game itself, the most ambitous mods (particularly the official ones) undergo very long development times.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: There's an optional mission just before Sanctuary, in which you and Benedict sneak into a Pentient sanctum using one of their gunships.
  • 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.
  • Equipment-Based Progression: There is an invisible Experience Points system for using repair items and analyzers, but everything else is based on upgrading your ship's equipment. 1.8 allows you to upgrade your ship to something better as well.
  • 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.
  • Everyone Is Armed: Nearly every ship is equipped with some sort of weapon; just one explorer ship is an exception. However, most of the ships docked at stations will simply flee to the nearest stargate if they're under attack, leaving the guards to deal with the assailant.
  • 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.
    • The Corporate Command and Eternity Port expansions have their own plotlines which are much clearer early on.
  • 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 Fire Index: When the AI does this, it’s usually Category D or E. When the player does it, it’s just as likely to be Category A or B.
    • Some of the friendly NPCs have a reputation for friendly fire in the community, to the point that getting killed by a friendly NPC is often called “getting Nasser’d” (after Anton Nasser, the most Egregious offender). This has resulted in a sort of tongue-in-cheek Fanon amongst numerous players that Anton Nasser falls into Category A or B as well, and that his generally friendly nature in-game is only a façade. Given that his weapons are obscenely powerful for when you first encounter him, you won’t likely survive a bout of friendly fire from him unless you’re well into midgame.
  • 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 their own 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! In fact, modding is one of the major draws of the game. This has resulted in a spectrum of mods exhibiting various tropes (primarily quality-related ones). Some of the best modders are offered the chance to become registered developers, authorized to make official expanded universe material for the game (though it is, of course, still subject to approval from George).
  • Gladiator Games: In the Rigel Aurelius system you can sign up to fight in these.
  • 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, introduces 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 note  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.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Inverted. Kinetic weapons and laser weapons form the lowest tier of damage types in the game.
  • Knight 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mugging the Monster: In the beginning of the game, Starton Eridani always seems to be attacked by a handful of Centauri raiders, who are promptly slaughtered by the well armed ships guarding the stations.
    • If the Teratons think your ship is weak, they may mug you if you enter one of their trading posts. While they will overpower you since you're outside your ship, they can't do much to stop you from undocking and blowing up the station with your "weak ship" to take back whatever they stole from you.
  • 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.
    • To say nothing, of course, of the most common way of getting killed: Having your ship shot at until it goes kaboom.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Certain weapons are capable of dishing out swarms of projectiles.
  • 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.
    • Weapon optimizer ROMs can make most weapons up to level 6 fit this trope.
    • One of the gladiators has an enhanced dual turbolaser cannon that fits this trope, with More Dakka than is normally achievable.
  • 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.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Exclaimed by Fiona in Eta Ceti.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Katana Star Cannon is probably the most famous example, but Ares micronukes are good at this, too.
  • Outrun the Fireball: You can pull this off if you destroy a station that makes a big enough boom. Firing the last shot while going over top of the station starts the explosion, and if you’re flying away from the station when you do it, it’s entirely possible to stay just ahead of the shockwave if your ship is fast enough. Trying this in a freighter is more likely to turn into an Out of the Inferno moment instead (as long as your shields aren’t completely roasted in the process).
  • Permanently Missable Content: 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 for good.
  • Person as Verb: As mentioned above, Anton Nasser.
  • 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).
  • Screw Destiny: What Rama says if he joins you. He was told his destiny was to die on a journey to the Core.
    Rama: To hell with destiny!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Volkov and Jenna may eventually decide to leave you:
    • Volkov will leave if he finds his wife Helena. Helena's body is in a wrecked EI500 freighter, in one of the systems after St. Katherine's Star.
    • Jenna becomes homesick once you reach the later systems. After that, she'll leave once her armor receives any damage.
  • 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."
  • Slave Liberation: In the midgame, you can destroy Sung Slave Camps to free slaves, and if enough of the slave quarters survive, you'll be rewarded with slave coffins to take with you. Freeing the slaves in these coffins is optional; you can release them at any Commonwealth station or give them to a Domina temple. Alternatively, you can sell them to the Black Market or feed them to a Teraton Fabricator, and you won't be punished for doing the latter.
  • 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.
    • Played straight with shipwrecks, though. Ships that are destroyed and leave wrecks eventually slow to a stop.
  • 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 numerous other factions. Several field only a single ship type, and others have only a small assortment of light vessels.
  • 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.
    • Ships and stations are on a completely different scale from natural interstellar bodies. And yes, it’s s still 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.
  • 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.
  • Wetware CPU: The Sung empire uses slaves for computing power. The Huari use slave coffins for this as well, though they claim to only use those who can't recover.
  • 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.
    • In his own playthrough of the game, the creator himself rightly declares the successful resolution of the Huaramarca mission to be one of these.
  • 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.