By Jacob Grindstaff / September 28th, 2020
|Release Date||Sep 8, 2020|
|Genre||Roguelike, RPG, Strategy, Tactical|
|Platform||PC, Switch, Xbox One, Mac, PS4|
|Age Rating||E 10+|
Every time I think I’ve seen everything in games, I’m always blown away by what developers come up with. This is especially true when it comes to indie titles which can always be a hit or miss for me. So, when given the opportunity to review a game that looks as gorgeous as this, and made by a small studio, I had to try it. Will Star Renegades land among the stars, or form a massive crater in the earth below? As always, I like to start my reviews off with this one question for the readers: Is this game fun?
Star Renegades is a rogue-like tactical strategy RPG created by the developers of Halycon 6, a cult classic among lovers of tactical turn based RPGs. Upon first bootup, you’re greeted with an intro cinematic that provides a good amount of backstory as to what happened in the world. Starting a new game, your character, Wynn Syphex, crash lands on a local planet after helping her brother, Davian Syphex, destroy a Imperium mothership. What’s interesting about this setup sequence is that it’s a complete tutorial all the way through, which teaches the player about game mechanics. This is very much appreciated, as rogue-like games have the tendency to just throw you in and say “figure it out.”.
Star Renegades cuts to a scene, where you find out that a scientist has been working on a dimensional hopping robot to help save realities. For those wondering, this is how the game introduces its looping mechanic. Every time your characters die the Imperium destroys that reality then moves on to a new one. Being a cute robot and all, J5T-1N is a key figure in how you progress throughout the game. Every dimensional hop the robot takes on, they gather more tech, information, and experience to a new reality in hopes that the reality they land in can be finally saved with all the information gathered previously.
Experience gained is in the form of tech points and intel. Intel gives you more traits for your renegades, while tech points allow you to recruit new renegades that you’ve unlocked. In addition, every run grants Imperium technology which allows characters to buy weapon drops and upgrades for J5T-1N. Every time you dimensionally hop you choose 3 renegades to try to save that reality.
Star Renegades’s battle system is immaculate and shows that old school can still be cool. At the start of each battle, a bar appears overhead on the HUD and shows you when enemies are going to attack. Hovering over the enemy icons on the bar highlights which enemy it is and what action they’ll take. Furthermore, you can inspect enemies by pressing the ‘inspect units button’ at the top right.
The battle bar isn’t just for show either. If you hit with any attack before a enemy makes their attack, you will critically hit against them. Critical hits do numerous things based off each characters attacks, and provide different effects such as bleed, armor break, etc. If one lands a critical hit, it also push enemies back on the bar allowing characters to break them. Individual renegades have different staggering effects to break them, with some characters being able to stagger almost every round. Breaking enemies is a huge part of strategizing in this game because Star Renegades doesn’t play around when it comes to difficulty. I really enjoyed the way they tackled turn based combat. By giving players the ability to negate enemy turns, it gives players the agency to ignore enemies or purposefully take hits.
A cool system in Star Renegades happens to be the Imperium elite overview. The overview is very akin to Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system. Whenever elites die, they’re replaced by other elites on the next playthrough. Additionally, if the characters are killed by an elite, that elite gets promoted to a different planet. This becomes important whenever you hop to different planets, because these elites are in different areas in each planet. Elites have different ranks; Commanders and Lieutenants. Generally speaking, Commanders have more special effects, strengths, and fewer weaknesses. Enemy variety between the elites and random enemies on the map is very good, and doesn’t repeat super often.
After each dimensional hop, the renegades start out on a planet named Menku. Moreover, each planet that you travel to has randomized overworlds to complete the mission objective. There are numerous paths to the objective that are littered with resources and gear to help your renegades face the behemoth. Renegades have three in-game days until the behemoth shows up, so the game encourages you to explore. J5T-1N, the helpful robot, has to break through barriers to get to locations on the planet. They get three charges to break these barriers, meaning you can only do 3 events in one day. After a day, certain areas become locked meaning you can no longer go down specific paths.
Once a day has passed, you get the ability to camp with your fellow renegades. During this camping sequence, the renegades can grow affection towards each other in the form of camping cards. These cards allow individual renegades to give specific buffs or heal. The affection meters work different for each character pairing, and these character parings can unlock stat boosts and combo abilities to use in battle. Furthermore, some of these pairings unlock character progenys that you can unlock via tech points at your home base. Progenys are usually alternatives of pre-existing characters, though there are some secret classes that you cannot obtain unless you mix and match your heroes. This feature is lovely – it gives a good way to care about individual characters as they grow together and reveal their past to one another, as well as providing incentives to do so.
Unfortunately, I wish I could have liked the planet overworlds more. During my playthrough, I was wishing that there were more things to do on the planets as I geared up to face the behemoth. There are a few secret events that can happen at night, depending on who you defeat the day before. Besides a few quick and funny puns from reading specific landmarks, I eventually stopped caring about the overworld and just tried to grind through it as fast as I could. Not only this, Star Renegades can absolutely decimate your run if you decide to go down a harder path. This made for a more frustrating and tedious experience, because it felt like the game was giving me bad paths intentionally. It didn’t help that I couldn’t go back to specific areas due to the lock mechanic mentioned earlier.
However, most of these run ending paths can be avoided. The problem stems from the fact that it was hard to gauge what paths were safe until you go through a few runs. Consequently, new players might pick up the game and drop it in a few hours, reasonably complaining that the game feels unfair.
I previously mentioned that there were upgrades in this game after every dimension hop, as well as progeny’s that you can unlock via camping sequences. As cool as these things are, nothing really changes the overall gameplay of the game. Yes, the weapons are useful and make your characters stronger, but the gameplay loop was the same.
Progeny’s are also lackluster, excluding the secret units. At no point in my playtime did it feel like it was worth it to buy an alternative class progeny for 15 tech credits. Some of the secret units, however, are actually really cool. More disappointingly, however, is that nothing really changes the battle system. Most of my battles consisted of “break the dudes, guard my units, support my units with buffs, and kill dudes”. Although I enjoyed the battle system and enjoyed the romp, I know that players may get bored of this over time. Combine this with some incredibly difficult AI units at later parts of the game, and Star Renegades starts to become frustrating.
Star Renegades doesn’t have much of a story to tell, yet. I went into this game expecting a story due to the intro cinematics, and left feeling like there was a piece missing. After beating the game once and viewing the bonus goody, the game then just repeats itself. Beating the game grants access to harder difficulties for runs. This is expected of rogue-likes, but I feel like there’s an intention to add a true end to the game later. I mention this because I know it’s important to players, though I personally have no problem with non-ending roguelikes.
The art style and writing however? Goofy, fun, and adorable. This game is very pleasing to look at, and got a few chuckles out of me from various dialogue pieces discovered throughout the game. This game had my eyes darting across the screen looking for various pieces of pixel candy. More importantly, the art style is consistent and doesn’t break the aesthetic at any point. J5T-1N, the dimension hopping robot is freakin’ adorable. Seriously! I want a plushie of him and would shell out cash easily.
Even though the game made me frustrated and angry at points, I couldn’t stay mad at it forever. Yes, this game has issues. Yes, this game can get very tedious. But the art style, goofy puns, and battle system kept me determined to go through the game again and again. The game is full of content and plenty of unlocks to fill your time.
That, and it’s so lighthearted – Star Renegades does very well when it comes to making fun of tropes from various sci-fi media, making it feel goofy and fun rather than rude and condescending. To answer the question at the beginning of the review – this game is fun, if you can get over the numerous issues it has. I spent 20 hours before writing this review, beating the game, and I haven’t finished unlocking everything. I will mention that playtime may vary, as tactical RPGs aren’t my strong suit. At 25 dollars, this game is worth it if you like rogue-likes and tactical RPGs. Additionally, a road map with future content updates will be released very soon, by Massive Damage, thus adding more to the games value.
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PCpixel graphicsReviewrogue-likestrategyTactical RPG