Free Fun: Transcendence
Welcome to the first article in the Free Fun series, bringing you great free gaming experiences every month. This month’s game is Transcendence, a space roguelike available for Windows.
Transcendence is a space adventure game created by George Moromisato. The game is an open world top-down sci-fi roguelike. It is the galaxy from the perspective of a starship. You play as a starship pilot in the year 2419. Human civilization has colonized vast portions of the galaxy thanks in part to a network of alien stargates. Human controlled territory is not a peaceful place. Warring factions, pirates, and raiders scatter the stars. Your mission is to navigate through the galaxy towards Domina, a mysterious hyper-intelligent being who called to you. You must traverse the ancient alien stargates to reach the Galactic Core where Domina resides. Along the way you will meet many friends and foes. You will experience a vibrant galaxy and live your part in it. Let’s get started.
Your first task is to choose a starter ship. There are currently three to choose from: the EI500-class freighter, the Sapphire-class yacht, and the Wolfen-class gunship. The EI500 is the best ship for looters and traders. With a starting cargo space of 200 tons, this ship is the most efficient at hoarding or transporting goods. It’s also equipped with an auto-aiming laser cannon, making it a surprisingly good choice as a skirmisher. The Sapphire is the all-purpose ship. It has a decent starting cargo space of 50 tons. This limited space is enough for stashing your loot until you reach the nearest trading station but it fills up quickly if you are keen on looting every last bit of broken armour off a derelict ship. It has a decent but arguably the worst of the three starting weapons. The Wolfen is the best fighter ship. It has the most thrust, the most firepower, and the most durability. However with a measly 35 tons of cargo space, you will have to make frequent trips to sell your spoils from combat.
Each ship plays like a different class early into the game. Piloting the slow, bulky EI500 feels significantly different from the fast, maneuverable Wolfen. These differences slowly blur as you progress into the game. There are hundreds of items to install or use. A new propulsion drive will make the EI500 feel just as fast as the Wolfen. Likewise, a cargo expansion will let you haul tons of exotic ore on your Wolfen to fulfill your EI500 jealousy. The ships ultimately converge later in the game through technology upgrades. Their main differences are their respective limitations in terms of armour mass, cargo space, device slots, and appearance. So choose the ship you think looks best and let’s go on an adventure.
You start off with a ship to pilot, credits to spend, and maybe some scraps in your cargo hold. There’s no time to waste. You need fuel to maintain your ship’s life support systems. Your reactor is already expending fuel rods and your starting credits can only buy a dozen more. You want to earn credits ASAP. Credits let you purchase and install better technology, refuel, make repairs, and purchase commodities for trade. There are several different ways to progress. You can destroy any ship or station and loot its valuables. You can escort freighters across pirate territory. You can smuggle illegal goods. You can join the Commonwealth fleet. You can mine asteroids. The game has no boundaries. You are one ship in a universe. You can do whatever you want. If you want to mine ore for a living, the game rewards you for doing so. However, there is always the looming depletion of resources. It ultimately pushes you through the galaxy towards your main goal.
Your goal is to reach the Galactic Core. The galaxy is represented through star systems connected by stargates. At the end of this star system chain is the Galactic Core. Each star system contains an ecosystem of planets, stars, asteroids, stations, and ships. Freighters with escorts transport goods from station to station. Pirate stations and pirate ships are scattered around. Ships enter and exit stargates. Miners extract precious ores from asteroid fields. The galaxy feels very vast and empty, yet at the same time lively.
There is always a sense of exploration. The star systems are initially unmapped. This leaves you to explore each system and discover its life. You might fly past a derelict ship, discover an abandoned crate, or find a residential station being raided by pirates. These discoveries provide you with opportunities for income. You can salvage the derelict ship and sell the parts, open the crate and hope it’s filled with valuables, and earn credits or valuable commodities by fending off the raid. Every ship you destroy adds strength to your own. Every bounty you collect brings you closer to the core. The progression is very satisfying.
Transcendence is a deep and mysterious game. The galaxy is yours to explore with very little aid provided by the ingame help screen. Everything is waiting for you to uncover. Experimentation is essential to prospering in this galaxy. Enemies will hunt you down without warning. Items can be helpful or harmful and most of the time you won’t know which until you use or install them. The game gives you one save file and autosaves on exit. Your actions are permanent and you will face many setbacks. It is a cold, harsh, unforgiving, and distinctly roguelike game. You will very likely regret some of your decisions and want to restart many times. Fortunately, the star systems are mostly randomly generated, providing you with a new unique adventure every game. If you do want some extra help on your journey to the core, the Transcendence Wiki is a great resource.
The game runs smoothly on many older or cheaper computers. Its graphics are dated yet look really nice. Objects in the game are detailed 3D model sprites. However, every ship in the game has a limited amount of angles rendered. As a result, aiming in the game is granular, limited by the amount of facings a ship sprite has. For example, the player ship has 40 facings. This limits your possible angles of attack to 9° intervals. In terms of gameplay, this limitation adds extra difficulty to combat. It raises the difficulty for dogfights and adds to the incentive of auto-aiming weapons. Once you get used to this limitation and develop strategies around it, the game’s combat is thoroughly enjoyable, whether close range dogfighting or long range bombardment.
Transcendence is a great sci-fi space roguelike. In development for over 15 years, Georgo Moromisato has crafted a deep, rich galaxy bustling with life and full of adventures. You play as a lone pilot, destined to meet Domina at the Galactic Core. On your journey you will meet many friends and face many foes. There are hundreds of items to use, many ships and stations to see, and many mysteries to find. The mysteries are yours to unravel. The galaxy is yours to discover. You can download and play Transcendence for free here and check out the Official Transcendence Forums for the latest news and discussions on the game. Good luck out there!
Bo here. Transcendence is one of my favourite games freeware or commercial, so naturally I wrote a lot on it. I think most of my articles won’t be as long as this one but the content quality will remain the same. You can expect my future articles to cover various elements, such as gameplay, story, or graphics, relevant to the game. I will try to publish at least one article a month on freeware games. Feel free to send game suggestions to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Free Fun Game Suggestion” or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!