Star Renegades (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Chris Leebody 26.12.2020

Review for Star Renegades on Nintendo Switch

Take a pinch of Shadow of Mordor's 'nemesis' system, add in a dash of Octopath Traveller's unique visual style, then pour on top lavish levels of B-movie science fiction fun, and what comes baked out of the oven is Star Renegades - a turn-based rogue-lite from developers Massive Damage - the folks behind Halycon 6: Starbase Commander. The deadly Imperium have invaded the solar-system and are wreaking havoc across a variety of planets. It is up to a band of fierce resistance fighters to put their skills to the test and stop the menace. (Where have we heard that before?) With procedurally generated locations and battles in every playthrough and a turn-based battle system that harks back to traditional RPGs - there's a lot to dig into here. Star Renegades is currently out now for Nintendo Switch.

In many ways, it feels as if Star Renegades has, like many other indies on the Switch, fallen victim to overshadowing by this year's indie-behemoth Hades, and that is a real shame. This under-the-radar title by Massive Damage really hits at a particularly striking feeling, providing the most sumptuously enjoyable mix of fun, frustration and eventually satisfaction.

As laid out above, Star Renegades doesn't take itself too seriously or get bogged down in an over-the-top dramatic plot. The protagonist - a robot J5T-1N - has the ability to travel through dimensions and he is sent between them, alongside a group of various champions, to battle the Imperium. It's not really clear who or what the Imperium are, nor their motivations, beyond seemingly cybernetic villains intend on destruction. However, that's the fun; it doesn't really matter. They simply set the basis for an inter-dimensional battle across three randomly generated planets and then the enemies' main ship.

Of course, this is a rogue-lite and it is an absolute guarantee that death is part of the package. That said, with each new run providing more items, characters and abilities to unlock, death is only a temporary frustration.

Combining the above with said story comes the first intriguing piece of the Star Renegades puzzle - namely the fact that the various mini-bosses that make up a particular planet run can move up the Imperium ranks. These various generals are shown on a sort of top down board, with a run-down of their attributes. Granted, this is an indie so anyone expecting Shadow of Mordor style variation in personality and visuals will possibly be let down. However, die to one of these guys, and they can get promotions that make them even more fearsome and suddenly turn what was previously a hard battle into something terrifying.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on Nintendo Switch

Could this system have been fleshed out more? Of course. It would have been awesome to see them gain new powers and have some new dialogue and visuals. However, similar to Hades and why people praise that title so much, this system taps into the kind of reactive, emergent gameplay that gets the best out of the rogue-lite genre.

There are other really interesting blends of gameplay on top of that. The procedurally generated layouts of worlds are filled with various branching paths. J5T-1N only has limited amounts of charges he can use to break through those routes. It means the player always has to make a choice and weigh up one thing over another. For example, fighting that mini-boss can deliver more DNA, (which acts as a way to level up characters) but it can be a tough fight and also might block off a path that has a chest which potentially might have a rare item. These choices are familiar to anyone used to this genre, and for example, Slay the Spire.

That's not the only familiar theme between these two titles, with the use of power cards during nightly camps in order to buff characters with additional damage effects or providing additional shields. Characters also gain affection with each other, opening up more powerful abilities they can use in combination with each other. Make no mistake, even with these buffs and abilities, [I[Star Renegades[/i] is tough as nails and takes no prisoners. Dying is a regular and expected part of the experience. Keeping with the theme of picking up other touches of games, the battle system operates on an old school JRPG turn-based system, but along the lines of Final Fantasy X, with a time bar showing turn order and what attacks are being prepared by the enemies.

It's a great system and it really ensures the player has to spend a minute or two in considering their strategies to get the most effect. The benefit from evaluating enemies' attacks and planning the best team strategy is reminiscent of something like chess, in the sense of immense reward that comes from executing a perfect round of moves.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on Nintendo Switch

Enemies in Star Renegades have break metres and attacks can push back their turn order and thus in turn allowing the player characters to attack first. On top, characters who attack first get a critical strike bonus. The game does an excellent job in rewarding not just spamming attacks, but rather working strategies that maximise the system and team combination through buffs and other methods. For example, Aegis Maryadi Penrave focuses on shield based defensive attacks, while main story hero Wynn Syphex is an aggressive attack focused character suited to taking out the armour of the toughest foes.

Together, it is possible to experiment with their complementary playstyles to make a fantastic strategy. It's a similar story for the eleven heroes in total, including fast ranged attackers and ability rich spellcasters.

Back to the difficulty though and what may frustrate some, (but in a good way really) is that even the perfect teams have flaws. One team for example might dispatch normal enemies with relative ease. But then, the final planetary boss might have a combination of abilities that completely negate that team's strategy and indeed leave them unable to realistically win. Star Renegades promotes and rewards trial and error in every aspect of the combat and that is probably one of the aspects that leaves people wanting more and more and makes this gameplay loop so successful.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on Nintendo Switch

From a visual standpoint, the game is absolutely stunning. Vibrant, colourful and full to the brim with character. While the enemy design itself could maybe use a bit more variation, the procedural worlds are incredible to look at on the Nintendo Switch. The overworld is sort of a pixel-style in the vein of Octopath Traveller, while the battles themselves are more akin to something like Fire Emblem, with a 2D presentation. The UI on those battles could, in some cases, do with a bit of a cleanup.

There are a lot of things going on throughout the screen and more than once it was possible to completely mistake which enemy attack was hitting which character, which does have frustrating consequences. The controls of cycling through enemies by holding ZR and then hitting a direction is also not the smoothest application with it seemingly getting stuck between cycling allies and enemies.

Performance-wise on the Nintendo Switch, things are mostly positive and the ability to play a game like this on the move or in short bursts on a morning commute is a godsend. That said, there have been some hiccups. The overworld definitely feels a tad sluggish, just because of how much there is to load on the screen at once. Speaking of load times, there are a few and it is certainly noticeable, but nothing that will frustrate beyond reason. Additionally, there have been a few times the game hangs momentarily when there are a lot of actions going on. Noticeable, but not worth overemphasising.

So far crashes have been the main negative issue, with various random crashes while loading a game and also some reports of persistent crashing later in the run. A patch has seemed to alleviate most of these issues but it is something to keep an eye on and it is a slight shame.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Star Renegades is exceptionally fun to play and a great addition to any Switch library. With endless combinations of battles to fight and a ton of weapons and items to unlock, there is plenty of content here to deliver dozens of hours of fun. While the Switch version does suffer from some downgrades with load times and performance on occasion, the portability of this rogue-lite means it is ideal for playing on the move. Star Renegades has a lot of scope and ideas under the hood and the dynamic enemy promotions is just one that is incredibly impressive. Exceptionally tough, at times frustrating but always rewarding - this visual treat is definitely one to pick up - especially since the game is set to receive regular content updates over the months ahead.


Massive Damage


Raw Fury





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 25.02.2021   Australian release date Out now   


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