Considering that every Brit on the planet seems to have made a name for themselves reviewing stuff (Zero Punctuation, Dr. Ashen), I have endeavored to join the fad.
So, where better to start than a review of our little space adventure-RPG-shooter-sim, Transcendence. Other stuffs shall be reviewed soon, mostly not-quite new games. Supreme commander is my next target.
The world seems to be experiencing a drought of games that are produced with players and not profit in mind. With a few notable exceptions (Valve being one big example), It's been up to small developers and individuals to produce games with care and intelligence, instead of a pair of breasts and a cliffhanger.
Transcendence, produced by George Moromisato (not that he needs an introduction here) is one of these individual developments. Having been in development for years, It's a solid game with a small devoted following, ever willing to offer up new improvements and bugfixes. George, listens to his audience, a feat that most large development houses could do well to heed (though the nature of Transcendence's release, a new beta once certain updates have been implemented in a mostly stable way, really helps the community assisted development). Several features have been implemented from player suggestions or even mods (more on mods later), such as space stations exploding in a spectacular fashion when destroyed.
Wait, Space stations, I hear you ask? Well, where do you think those enemy fighters refuel? Or where do they build those battleships you keep nuking?
Yes, combat is the core of Transcendence, so be glad it works well.
The game is based around traveling along a linear series of star systems, each linked to the next and previous by stargates, alien devices that instantly move you from one place to another. Though the game is a whole is linear, It's a pretty broad corridor of action- your only goal is to get from A to B, but you're free to take it at your own pace- do you speed though, looting what you need to be as fast as possible, or do you take every side quest and kill every foe? Of course, you'll be compelled to follow the main quest for the promise of new, more exotic enemies, and bigger guns, or even strange alien devices.
I haven't mentioned what sort of game Transcendence is in great detail yet, mainly because most inhabitants of this forum will probably know. But for the few who don't, It's a space adventure game which owes a significant little to nethack, A game I never played but have been repeatedly been told that Transcendence has something to do with. Irrespective of this, the game is a fun 2D top down space adventure. The graphics are 3D renders, and are fantastically good looking. As I said, the main goal is getting from A to B, and I mentioned side quests. But you will end up taking a few, because of the beautiful, randomly generated star systems, inhabited by detailed interesting ships and varied factions- everything from pirates to solar energy collectors, to the warring factions that inhabit the end of the game. There are a hell of a lot of factions, each with it's own back story and rendered ships and space stations. The game pulls you in to the little stories playing out between many factions, so you end up taking a pretty scenic route from A to B. So it's probably more "A to B, Via C,D,E and Z".
The game is still in development, but is getting near a version 1 release. At the moment, it has everything in human space (as aliens with unrememberable names have blocked the way to "non-human" space. There are few aliens, which would be a disappointment, but you won't notice with the massive variety of groups that could be alien as far as the player is concerned.
So, a solid game, great fun and with enough variety to make you forget the linear, currently mostly undeveloped main quest. What's missing?
Mods, that's what. Anyone with a basic knowledge of scripting can cobble together a new ship or gun and have it in game in minutes, thanks to the game's XML extensions. More experienced modders have created some fantastic mods and the recently introduced adventure system allows you to add new quests and galaxies without disrupting the main adventure.
I've been putting it off, but there has to be some criticism. Music and sound- there's one track of music and about three weapon sounds, which could do with some expansion- it's slightly off-putting when your new Nuclear-howitzer-doom-cannon makes the same pathetic click as the bog standard recoilless cannon. The difficulty can get irritating at some points- sometimes you'll cruise through to the halfway mark of the game, picking up particle cannons and fusion reactors to put Duracell to shame , but other times you'll be blown away in your third system by a hail of lasers and missiles. Of course, with the game unfinished there's plenty of time to fix these irritations.
So, good game, strong graphics, engaging factions, but disappointing sound and schizophrenic difficulty.
Best for deaf masochists, but still fantastic for anyone willing to take a look.