Starward Rogue (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 17.02.2018

Review for Starward Rogue on PC

The hydras, a once proud alien race, are now facing the threat of extinction. Well, at this point, they are about 99.9999995% of the way there. Apparently, it wasn't enough for poor Hydral to be the last survivor of his kind; he also suffered a grave injury. All that's left of him is his head, which has since been attached to an assault mech. This abomination of biomechanical engineering was locked away in a labyrinthe prison known as Megalith. Now, the only way out is through the Warden. Oh hang on, there are several floors of deadly traps, ultraviolent prisoners, and behemoth bosses to contend with, as well. Unfortunately, there's no mercy for Hydral, the exceedingly unlucky fellow. Welcome to Starward Rogue!

Admittedly, this critic has a love/hate relationship with rogue-likes. Actually, love/hate is being generous. It's more like hate and more hate. Nevertheless, every now and then a quality title manages to slide in-between the cracks and warm these cold innards. Starward Rogue is a legitimately entertaining twin-stick shooter that is perfect for all skill-levels. Anyone who just wants to kick some mecha behind, collect awesome gear, or die miserably a hundred times over is guaranteed a good time.

Screenshot for Starward Rogue on PC

The best way to describe this rogue-like is that it's a bullet-insomnia. Never heard that one before, right? As is common in the shmup genre, there are thousands upon thousands of tiny orbs. Colliding with even one of them usually results in severe pain. In a single play-through of this game, so many bullets fly about that they permanently etch into the viewer's eyes, like the burn-in from an old plasma TV screen. Anyway, it gets to the point where players can't sleep. Whenever they close their eyes, all they see are the bullets, writhing and spreading like the little devils they are. The game is over, but sleep never arrives. Lulled into a restless state, the insomniac goes back to the computer for another attempt.

Before starting the game, one must first decide on the level of difficulty and their mech. The difficulty setting determines factors such as bullet density and speed, as well as starting health. Choosing the right mech is a bit more complicated. There's one for practically every style of play, and a few have their own unique features. The Flame Tank is practical in that it destroys everything with a flamethrower. Then there are the more peculiar models, like Humble. Humble earns more credits than the other mechs, but also has a special weapon that drains its wallet. There isn't a best mech for every situation, so experiment and prepare for the worst.

Screenshot for Starward Rogue on PC

Each floor is comprised of several rooms, all housing a myriad of enemies, traps, and treasure. As is standard for the genre, whenever Hydral enters a room with enemies, the doors will lock, and there's no escape until everything is destroyed. Kills lead to experience, and the resulting level-ups can be cashed in for perks. It's worth taking the time to thoroughly explore each floor, as there are shops and treasure rooms to be found. As would be expected, death is permanent. Not only progress reset, but all of those wondrous perks are lost to the ether. Unlike a handful of similar games, there aren't any permanent upgrades to earn; Hydral always starts from scratch. However, given enough successful play-throughs, new items can be discovered, which might make subsequent attempts a little bit easier.

Succeeding in this procedurally-generated Hell depends on both the skill and knowledge of the weapon mechanics. A strong arsenal can wipe out bosses very quickly, which means less time spent dodging their relentless firepower. Luck does play a role in finding the right weapons, so there are times where Hydral has to make do with what he can get. On one floor, he could come across a shop selling AI drones. However, the most useful of the three available could require a different strategy, in order to properly utilise. Case in point, there's an AI drone that drops bombs, much like the classic Bomberman videogame series. Said bombs are only dropped when close to an enemy, and who wants to get close in a bullet-hell twin-stick shmup? Being able to adjust one's play-style to fit these changing circumstances is essential to survival. It goes without saying, but all of these variables lend a ton of depth.

Screenshot for Starward Rogue on PC

One of the other aspects handled especially well is the enemy design. The bullets spewed are arranged in a clever manner. It's not just a matter of weaving through pixel-wide spaces. Some bullets dissipate, only to be replaced by smaller orbs that switch directions, or move in a unique pattern. Also, since multiple foes are firing all at once, the possibility of getting trapped increases tenfold. If Hydral makes the wrong approach, or focuses on the wrong enemies, the situation will rapidly descend into chaos. The shield and health meter can mitigate a few mistakes, but they are not to be relied on too much. Still, no matter the odds, neither the controls, nor interface will ever fail those at the helm. Weaving through scores of bullets is relatively easy, and all pertinent information is superbly tracked.

Even today, Starward Rogue receives frequent updates, and the developer has been great at solving issues and patching up things to remove bugs. There might be a rare crash every once in a while but, thankfully, progress is saved whenever a floor is completed, so crashes are unlikely to ruin a good run. There's support for mods, as well. Players are welcome to create their own mechs, enemies, rooms… the list goes on. Anyone seeking new toys to play around with might want to head over to Arcen Games' forum.

Screenshot for Starward Rogue on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Again, this critic is not a big fan of rogue-likes, but can still recognise quality when he plays it. Starward Rogue is an exceptionally-crafted shooter that is packed to bursting with hours upon hours of replay value. Each floor is inhabited by an array of nasty bots that are more than capable of filling the screen with tiny projectiles. However, thanks to the wide selection of playable mechs, as well as an assortment of awesome weapons and upgrades, gamers will always be suitably armed for the task.


Arcen Games


Arcen Games





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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