Title: Star Renegades
Developer: Massive Damage
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Raw Fury
By design, roguelite games can be a bit intimidating. Throw in some RPG elements and various leveling progress, and you have a game that can be downright brutal. Star Renegades, by developer Massive Damage and publisher Raw Fury, rolls the dice with a punishingly challenging sci-fi RPG. While this tough roguelite may alienate some players, it’s all built off an undeniably well-formed foundation and presented with beautiful dynamic visuals.
In Star Renegades, you play as a rebel team in an intergalactic battle against the imperium. A robot named J5T-N1 helps guide your group through multiple dimensions with the hope of finding a reality where your party is victorious. It’s a nice bit of plot that tries to make sense of your various deaths as just an alternate dimension.
Star Renegades is ultimately broken into four worlds. Each is procedurally generated upon visiting, but some constants remain. Elements such as a day and night cycle, which limits your traversal of the world, need to be taken into consideration at times, which forces you to study your surroundings and prioritize which path is the best for each run.
Visits to a world are broken into a three-day cycle. At the end of the third day, a behemoth forces you into battle. If you reach the behemoth before the cycle is up, you can choose to jump straight into battle if you feel confident in your odds of survival. Exploring the world more will help you level up, find new items and weapons, and opens the possibility of camping.
Camping takes place at the end of each day and allows you to use cards that you have acquired throughout the run. These can restore health or give you buffs for future battles. Using cards will also boost your team’s connection with each other. Upon reaching connection levels, more stat boosts are unlocked. The possibilities are rather vast here as you can unlock some devastating attacks.
Battles are classic turn-based. Above the battle screen is a timeline telling you specifically every member’s upcoming move order. Before you select your move, you can see how each option can affect the timeline. Each move will also show you a potential outcome of that action, like remaining health or if your action will leave you open for a K.O. However, just because these are possible outcomes doesn’t mean they are set in stone. Variations in critical attacks, accuracy, and buffs all play a part in the actual execution of moves.
Moves range from light, medium to heavy attacks. Lighter attacks may put your attack first but will cause less damage, and the reverse for heavy attacks. Each attack can stagger an enemy, which sets their turn back on the timeline. More moves are unlocked with each level making every character’s moveset feel unique to them.
Members of your party and enemies have HP, armor, and shields that all play into a character’s vitality. Shields typically need to be worn down before any damage can be done to HP, while armor determines how much or how little damage is inflicted.
While actions play out on screen, the camera dynamically zooms and pans following the events. Somehow this was never disorienting; instead, the feature enhanced the sense of action dramatically. During these battle scenes, if you are feeling like picking up the pace a bit, you can fast forward through them using the “skip” button. This was a nice feature that helped the battles from overstaying their welcome.
As one would imagine, there is a variety to each character’s stats and abilities as well as enemies that you can fight against. Meaning different strategies and planning are crucial to advance the narrative. Even with the help of the timeline bar, I found myself contemplating all of my options before acting in particularly dangerous situations.
If your team member is knocked out, they will be revived at 1 HP if you successfully defeat the battle with your remaining members. However, occasionally upon revival, that character will have permanent damage, which directly affects their stats.
If every member of your team is killed, you are sent to the overworld hub and must start from the very beginning. In addition, the only thing you keep are points to unlock new characters and new job roles for those characters, many of which provide stat boosts. You can also use some acquired points for a chance for better weapon and item drops upon your next run. All levels and any other progression is wiped away.
The first time I made it to the second world and died, I assumed it might just take me back to the beginning of that world, but I was in for a rude awakening. It was at this moment I realized Star Renegades wasn’t messing around. Given that conquering one world can take you easily over an hour to do, it’s pretty unforgiving and, at times, downright discouraging. I imagine the majority of players won’t have the patience for this or the will to continue after the first couple of tragic losses. But it’s clear death after death beating the game entirely is reserved only for the most diehard and persistent gamers.
The downside to so many repeat runs is you become incredibly familiar with the enemies you fight. While each has their unique skill set and attacks, some just come off feeling very similar in appearance. This is exacerbated by the seemingly slight or minor variations of the enemies present in proceeding worlds. Enemies that would typically be relatively strong in a standard RPG just don’t feel like the variety they’re perhaps intended to after numerous runs.
Behemoths and mini-bosses are pretty fun and have some cool designs. They can also make for a nail-biting experience as they are certainly your most significant threat of progression loss. Anytime you beat a behemoth, the sense of accomplishment feels pretty rewarding but then knowing you have to do it again after a death weighs down on this experience.
Along with these cool character designs is a bright and vibrant world. The depth in the battle scenes and its backgrounds, in particular, stood out to me as simply amazing. Even though you see the same worlds again and again, at least they are pretty to look at.
Star Renegades offers players a fresh and unique experience that sadly loses its appeal after its punishing roguelike systems have you experience the same elements over and over. Even through the repetitive enemies that you face along the way, there’s no denying that the characters and environments that make up this world make it a must-play game within the genre. Still, the best parts are reserved for those who are seeking a genuinely challenging roguelite RPG sci-fi adventure, which may leave others lost in space.
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