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Ascendancy (video game)

Background

Ascendancy is a 4X science fiction turn-based strategy computer game for DOS, released in 1995 by The Logic Factory. The game is a galactic struggle to become the dominant life force, to ascend into a higher plane of existence.

The player chooses an alien species to play: each have unique traits unavailable to the other computer opponent players. During the game, each species develops industrial, technological, and social abilities through galactic exploration, planetary colonization, construction on planet surfaces, construction in orbit, and research.

Technology is related to spaceships, planetary defense and planetary development. Initially, the player cannot leave their home planet. Ships and technology must be developed. The starlane drive is the technological breakthrough allowing travel between solar systems.

Play style is similar to the Master of Orion series. The primary display of the game bears a similarity to a three-dimensional map. The display can be "zoomed out" to show a rotatable model of the galaxy, detailing each solar system by their star, the starlanes in between each solar system, and what, if any, civilizations inhabit each solar system. At its most "zoomed in", it will show the surface of a planet, which is a globe of varying size and topographical makeup. The topography is expressed as various colored squares. White squares are general purpose, green squares are best used for food production, red squares are best used for factories, blue squares are best used for research facilities, black squares are uninhabitable, and orbital squares are used to build ship facilities and planetary defenses. Ruins of civilizations are occasionally found, granting player a random technology they have not discovered. These advances can significantly alter the game.

The game won a handful of awards, including Best Strategy Software in November 1995 by PC Gamer magazine, and the Codie Award for Best Strategy Software in 1996.

As of early 2006, The Logic Factory announced work on a sequel had commenced.

Gameplay

As a 4X game, players begin with a single colony that they must use to develop their civilization and expand it to nearby planets. Development consists of building on varying terrain types on the planet, specialized for giving bonuses to the different types of structures. Structure types include production (factories), agriculture (farms), research (science facilities), and localized defenses (weapons and shields, etc.). Besides being able to build upon the surfaces of planets, players can build orbiting structures such as missile batteries, energy shields and tractor beams; usable by the player to affect nearby ships (attacking them, pulling them in, etc.). Through the development of research, players achieve growth in their units and structures allowing a constant element of the need for change; in which players must balance with other gameplay elements such as expansion and alliances.

AI (Artificial intelligence) release problems

When released, the AI was not challenging to certain players. (It is possible to load the odds of winning by choosing a favored race, and rejecting galaxies that would be difficult to play.) An AI patch was released online (see external links), however since this game was released in 1995 when fewer people had Internet access, many players did without it. With the patch the game was much more playable and challenging.

Unique features

Ascendancy featured an early 3D galactic map which allowed starships to travel in a more realistic galaxy than in games such as Master of Orion 1 and 2 (a very similar 3D map was adopted for Master of Orion 3). The system map of Ascendancy where all combat and ship movement was done was also presented in a three dimensional manner. The game also averaged much fewer ships than the games of Master of Orion and other popular series, rarely having more than 30 ships allocated to any specific race (the number of ships was dependent on the number of star systems the player controlled).

The GUI was innovative, and introduced a predecessor to mouse gestures; moving the mouse pointer into screen corners enabled an exit menu.

Star systems are randomly generated. The player can choose to play against up to six races, chosen at random by the computer (from a possible 20). These two factors lead to a unique game each time.

Species

Each of 21 species has a unique ability. Some abilities can only be used at intervals, while others are passive and continually influence gameplay.

  • Arbryls

The Arbryls are tree-people who evolved on a huge eden planet containing only plant life. They are peaceful, slow-moving, and highly intelligent. They are not used to conflict and their philosophy is towards isolationist. They can usually be found standing perfectly motionless for huge amounts of time, thinking their tree thoughts, pondering the world.

The Arbryls can disrupt the flow of space. They can block all star lanes entering their colonized systems. (Active)

  • Balifids

The Balifids evolved on a hospitable but competitive world where they developed the ability to disarm and win over their competitors. Other creatures instinctively feel protective of Balifids. The Balifids have a huge capacity for fun--they take nothing very serious and are friendly and curious. Despite their naive and harmless image, the Balifids are deeply intelligent and highly perceptive. They survived as a species because of their keen awareness of the outlook and motivations of other creatures.

Balifids are disarming diplomats. They can force all aliens to make peace with them. (Active)

  • Capelons

The Capelons are masses of flowing fibers who can rearrange their bodies quickly to assume any shape. They evolved on a highly predatory world where their camouflage and shape-shifting were useful for catching their scarce, elusive prey before competing predators could. They eventually developed the power to repel competing predators as an extension to their camouflage ability, making themselves so unnoticeable that the threatening being forgets what it was thinking about, allowing the Capelon to make an escape.

They can make all their colonies invincible for one day. (Active)

  • Chamachies

The Chamachies are able to discover major breakthroughs quickly when under duress - stress heightens their scientific abilities and amplifies their determination, much like adrenalin heightens physical abilities. In the past a huge, highly advanced alien vessel passed through their system. The aliens discovered that the star lane energy points in that system had drifted into an unstable configuration, and that the forces released from the cataclysm would destroy everything in the star system. This sent the Chamachie society into a frenzy of scientific and technological advancement.

The Chamachies are brilliant scientists. They can immediately achieve any discovery they are pursuing. (Active)

  • Chronomyst

The Chronomyst are a deeply religious and philosophical race who spend much of their time in trance-like meditations exploring inner space. When one with their god, they can float through time and space at a different rate than that experienced by those not ascended. They have discovered a way to use this to access star lanes and accelerate through them.

The Chronomyst can change the rate of time passage. They can move quickly through star lanes. (Passive)

  • Dubtaks

The Dubtaks are a race whose entire scientific knowledge was primarily stolen from other races. They are opportunistic and seek alliances through which they can attain more knowledge without actually having to research anything themselves. They evolved on a world full of aggressive, competitive life. If a dangerous animal was set down anywhere on the planet, it would be consumed in seconds. Although they are not especially aggressive themselves, they survived by excelling at hiding and watching. Their senses cover a vast spectrum of phenomena, so they can tell that something is headed their way. They move like the wind and can fit in small holes and cracks easily.

The Dubtaks can copy scientific research from other races. (Active)

  • Fludentri

The Fludentri evolved on a world covered with ocean. They are composed of polymerized liquid. When a Fludentri is injured it regenerates in seconds, its fluid anatomy knitting together immediately after physical damage occurs. A Fludentri dies only when its entire body is disrupted at once.

The Fludentri are resilient. They can repair all damage to their ships. (Active)

  • Frutmaka

Frutmaka share a common home world and ancestry with the Swaparamans. Their black-hole god, Graveesha, has given them the ability to warp space.

The Frutmaka are able to repel. They can warp alien ships out of their colonies stars. (Active)

  • Govorom

Govorom are spirits of nature. They transformed their once-barren home world into a lush paradise. They are guarded but trustworthy.

The Govorom are nature-goddesses. You can turn your least populated colony into a rich world. (Active)

  • Hanshaks

The Hanshaks can communicate telepathically with other sentient life. The Hanshaks are few, but they are renowned for their wisdom and intuition. After an early technological surge, they dismantled their cities and returned their world to its natural state, developing a culture devoted to enlightenment and living symbiotically with nature. They have managed to retain a knowledge of technology in their druidic society.

The Hanshaks are telepathic communicators. They can talk to all other races from the start of the game. (Passive)

  • Kambuchka

The Kambuchka evolved in the dense, fog-like atmosphere of a large planet. They see by feeling the atomic vibrations of their surroundings on their convoluted membrane bodies. The Kambuchka cannot move quickly in the atmosphere of their home world, so they evolved the ability to detect faraway living things, both to help them find food and to help them avoid predators.

The Kambuchka can sense life forms from far away. They can see all alien home stars. (Passive)

  • Marmosians

Marmosians are territorial insects. They use complex pheromone signals to manipulate other creatures into protecting their territory for them.

The Mamosians can create hatred. They can cause alien species to strongly dislike any species at war with them. (Active)

  • Mebes

Mebes are large single-celled creatures that reproduce at will. They are extremely expansionistic and communication with them is difficult.

The Mebes are good at populating. They can increase the maximum population of all their colonies. (Active)

  • Minions

The Minions are a species of artificial life-machines that serve the purposes of their extra-galactic master-species. Eons ago, the master species seeded the ancestor-units of the Minions on a planet chosen to accelerate their developmental programs. Their ultimate programming lay dormant throughout their history until reawakened by their cosmic masters. No one knows anything about the location of the masters or their purpose.

The Minions are masters of invasion. Their planetary invasions will always succeed. (Passive)

  • Nimbuloids

The Nimbuloids arose on a planet with a thick, reactive type atmosphere. They are composed of gases, and move through the atmosphere by chemically attracting and repelling the molecules of the gases in their environment. They see reality in terms of the intersecting flow of what they call currents: the karmic forces that, they believe, determine destiny. With great effort a Nimbuloid can transform matter from solid to gas and back.

The Nimbuloids are extremely productive. They can boost the progress on all their colonies projects. (Active)

  • Oculons

The Oculons have only the extremely acute sense of sight. They evolved on a thin-atmosphere planet orbiting a bright sun. Their culture is strongly astronomical (they are essentially living telescopes) and they have amassed a great deal of knowledge about the galaxy. They are more mystical than intellectual, and are considered superstitious by other races.

The Oculons are ancient astronomers. They can see all star lanes. (Passive)

  • Orfa

The Orfa are grazing animals that evolved on a hostile world. Their bodies are very dense and tough, and they are as happy in a pool of lava as pigs are in a wallow of filth. They prefer vegetation and a diet of complex organic molecules but they can subsist on raw minerals. They are not harmed by the radiation, heat, cold, chemicals, or physical buffeting of any known planetary body, nor do they require an atmosphere.

The Orfa are unfazed by hostile environments. They can build on black planet squares. (Passive)

  • Shevar

Little is known of the Shevar. They are sorcerers, masters of dark forces from another universe. They are an inorganic lifeform—--they follow most definitions of life but are composed entirely of inorganic substances. They are able to harness an anti-energy that draws in and consumes energy and life force. It is believed that the Shevar came from another universe with different physical laws. They experimented with their arcane arts until they opened a way into this universe, and the pathway they opened led to a planet teeming with life. This was an unimagined bounty to the Shevar and they utterly devastated this world, feeding on its life force.

The Shevar are power-sappers. They can wipe out the power of all alien ships in systems they occupy. (Active)

  • Snovemdomas

The Snovemdomas evolved as pack-hunting predators in woods and tundra plains on a very high-gravity world. Snovemdomas are about the size of a bear, and their stocky build is deceptive since they are quick and graceful in motion. To the inhabitants of the other worlds, they appear to be imposing and massive. On their own world, the Snovemdomas prey on much larger and tougher creatures, bringing the prey down by overwhelming it with numbers and speed. Their bodies evolved strength and lightness (too much mass being detrimental in high gravity), and their bones are made of a hollow but nearly unbreakable force-distributing honeycomb lattice.

The Snovemdomas are mighty and tough. Their ships all have double-strength hulls. (Passive)

  • Swaparamans

The Swaparamans evolved on the first planet of a binary star system. The dual-star configuration influenced the development of duality inverse-reality structures that continually build in the minds of the Swamparamans like electricity charging a capacitor. Once charged, the Swamparamans can release their stored potential. They evolved on the same world as the Frutmaka, but were driven from their home world. A tiny number survived and were able to flee in space vessels that they patched together in secret.

The Swamparamans produce extra power. They can double the power of all their ships. (Active)

  • Ungooma

The Ungooma are a species of adaptive-intelligence beings that evolved as thought-parasites and later developed their own means of thinking and taking control of animals, using the bodies and minds of their hosts for their own needs. They are tiny, and their intellect is derived from the combined thoughts of many thousands of distinct composite personalities which they have. They currently no longer possess the ability to take over a host, but they retain the vestigial ability to exert a limited form of mind control at a distance.

The Ungooma are mischievous. They can bump all ships in star lanes backward to their stars of origin. (Active)

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