Transcendence: Eternity Port
Eternity Port, the latest adventure set in the world of Transcendence, starts off with a bang: Your hero leaves the quiet life of a station for the adventures of open space only to be ambushed by pirates and left for dead in a derelict ship. However, you’re revived and repaired by an agent of Eternity Port, a collective of virtual intelligences who are facing a threat they need your help in conquering.
In many ways, the pacing and plot of this expansion to the top-down space shooter Transcendence out class the previous expansion, The Stars of the Pilgrim. Eternity Port is able to sustain a fast pace by keeping the player on their toes with constantly changing objectives, plot reveals, and interesting side objectives. The new cyber abilities granted to you by the people of Eternity Port also breathe fresh air into the game play.
Yet the core identity of Transcendence remains unchanged: You pilot a ship, much in the style of the classic arcade game Asteroids, and explore the galaxy, taking on missions from whoever will hire you, all the while upgrading your ship and discovering new sections of space by jumping through star gates. A problem that occurred in the previous iterations of Transcendence was the lack of immediate and meaningful missions early on the in the game. A player could go two or three star systems before finding a quest giver willing to doll out a job. While this problem isn’t entirely gone from Eternity Port, it has been greatly reduced, leading to more interesting missions and a greater investment from the player. For example, early on I was tasked with spying on an intruding vessel by staying within a short distance of it while the ship’s computer scanned it. It was challenging, and it took several attempts before I was able to complete it, but it felt rewarding once I had.
The problematic difficulty curve remains, and new players to the game will have to spend some time getting used to it. It’s possible to be completely outclassed when you jump to a new part of space, and players should be cautious wherever they go. One area where the difficulty borders on ridiculous is buying vital ship upgrades, such as armor and weaponry. Several times the amount of work needed to minimally upgrade my ship was more than that of one or two missions. Still, for those that enjoy a weighty challenge, Eternity Port offers it in spades and the sense of accomplishment when you finally upgrade your ship to the way you want it is gratifying.
The expansion brings with it three additional ship classes: Hercules, Raijin, and Spartan. The Hercules is a jack-of-all-trades freighter with many customizable upgrade slots, the Raijin is a nimble dogfighter, and the Spartan is a versatile gunship. In my play through, I had the most fun with the Hercules, mostly because of the massive amount of customization it offered.
The world of Transcendence is deceptively complex. A player can run through missions and the main storyline without realizing the depth that the societies in the game have. For those that dig past the surface, what’s waiting is politically and culturally nuanced. Even something as small as a having multiple forms of currency, such as the seemingly ubiquitous ‘credits’ to more specialized currencies such as Euros hints at unseen histories. The blocks of descriptive text that accompany each important action you take flesh out the world in short order, giving an immediacy to each part of the story.
On a graphical front Eternity Port looks great, sporting detailed models for the new ships and art direction that feels at home and expressive in the sci-fi world. In particular Eternity Port itself is a thing to behold, an elegant but bewildering station that stands out amongst the usual variations of space stations. Updated explosion animations and sound effects also cement the player in the world and give the minute-to-minute gunplay a sense of excitement. The soundtrack recalls other space shooters, like the classics X-Wing and Tie Fighter.
As an expansion, Eternity Port takes what made Transcendence a successful game and gives you more, while also making some modest improvements to the core experience. If you had issues with the central elements of Transcendence then this won’t fix them, but for those that enjoyed the combination of top-down shooting and space exploration, this is an expansion will have you excited to journey into the stars once more.