Roguelites have become the indie game genre of choice, and it seems like every new indie title features some variation on the increasingly common genre. From Hades to Dead Cells to Children of Morta to Enter the Gungeon, hardcore difficulty, procedurally generated dungeons, and loot, and in the case of those last three, some rather nice sprite work are all commonplace items you'll find in your run of the mill rogue-lite.
I don't mean to generalize these modern indie classics — they are all very worthy titles, each unique enough to stand on their own while borrowing gameplay ideas from older platformers and shooters, or even from one another. So how does Star Renegades stand out from the crowd? Taking the well-worn roguelites trappings and blending them into an RPG, Star Renegades finds an effective way to stand on its own as one of the best indie games this year.
A timeline worth saving
Bottom Line: Star Renegades blends everything we know about rogue-lite and pours it into an old-school RPG mold, creating a unique and very accessible tactical RPG.
- Unique combat system keeps things fast-paced and high risk
- Lots of replayability
- Excellent visuals and music
- Lack of enemy variety
- Very similar to other roguelites
- Not as much depth as the games it pulls influence from
What I loved about Star Renegades
Star Renegades chronicles the battle between two opposing factions, the Rebellion, which you are a part of, and the Imperium, the tyrannical, multidimensional empire that seeks to control the galaxy across all realities. You're introduced to J5T-1N, a service robot from a doomed dimension, sent across dimensions to warn the rebellion of the incoming Imperium onslaught. And that sets up the game's dimension-hopping exploits — when you die, you'll restart your run in a new dimension, with alternate versions of the same rebels to choose from.
And once your run ends and you die, which will happen often, you'll be able to use your acquired intel and currencies to acquire upgrades and purchase characters that will make your next run that much easier. It's a simple concept borrowed from other roguelites that reward the player despite their loss.
Star Renegades review Multiple possibilities, familiar personalities
The gameplay is what really sets Star Renegades apart from other games in the genre. It's a turn-based RPG game, first and foremost, with a battle system that is reminiscent of 16-bit JRPGs of the SNES era with a twist. Players can see the battle order at the top of the menu, and if they strike the enemy with the right attack, they can push that enemy further down the attack order or interrupt their attack completely. This adds an extra layer of strategy to the game by asking players to set up combos that will stop enemies from attacking completely or to seriously put a dent in their damage output.
|Developer||Massive Damage Games|
|Platforms||PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch|
|Available on Xbox Gamepass||Yes|
|Price||$25 on Xbox|
Outside of battle, players move their conga line of rebels through a map separated into sections. You must breach into a section to initiate combat or explore further. After three breaches, you can camp, which gives the player a moment to trade stat-boosting cards with their party to build companionship between the characters, which will, in turn, unlock special team-based moves. After three in-game days, ready or not, the party will fight the main boss of the planet and either succeed and continue to improve their party or die and hop to another dimension and try again.
I really liked the RPG elements of Star Renegades, which were more accessible to me than the twitch shooting or action-based hack and slash of other rogue-lite. That, coupled with the catchy music, snappy dialogue, and striking pixel visuals, made every run entertaining and made every crushing defeat a little easier to stomach. The developers also seem keen on continuing support for the game, so I'm excited to see how the game will expand down the line.
What I didn't love about Star Renegades
Star Renegades can be completed in a few hours, but its crushing difficulty, even on easier settings, means that there's a chance that you'll be seeing a lot of the same characters and boss types over and over again. The repetition starts to set in when you've destroyed the same set of Imperium droids for the umpteenth time. You can fast forward through encounters, but there's no incentive to skip over fights. Despite the odds, Star Renegades still manages to sneak the old-school RPG grind into the mix, which doesn't always sit well after being beaten within an inch of my life after a tough enemy encounter.
The repetition starts to set in when you've destroyed the same set of Imperium droids for the umpteenth time.
That's the issue with most rogue-lite games, and that's evident here. While other rogue-lite like Hades egg the player on with story and character development, there's no meaningful progress made in the story department with each new dimension, aside from the changed color palette. So your rebels feel mostly like pawns in a chess game rather than fully fleshed-out characters.
Star Renegades does a good job at explaining its combat system, which is somewhat daunting at first, but once you get the core mechanics down, it doesn't get much deeper. Encounters start to feel similar, and you start to realize that Star Renegades doesn't necessarily have the depth that the games it pulls inspiration from do. It's definitely not a bad thing, but aside from the RPG coating, you're looking at a lot of familiar rogue-lite territory.
Is Star Renegades worth the download?
Star Renegades will be very familiar to RPG fans, fans of rogue-lite, and indie games in general. The dialogue, visuals, and combat are fun and compelling enough to hold my attention a couple of dozen runs. The progression is purely logistical, however, so fans who enjoy uncovering lore in these type of games will come away empty-handed. While Star Renegades doesn't do much new, what it does, it does well. It's one of the better games in the rogue-lite genre and is a great entry point for those interested in the genre, but not the fast-paced action gameplay the genre is normally served with.
Star Renegades is a fun tactical RPG with a healthy dose of rogue-lite sensibilities. It's visually appealing, the gameplay is tight, and the dialogue is witty. It just doesn't do much different — but then again, it doesn't really have to. As it stands, Star Renegades shines like many other roguelites do. It combines multiple genres to make a cocktail that's easy to drink and hard to finish.
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