Star Renegades (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 15.01.2021 2

Review for Star Renegades on PC

Players of the strategy, or JRPG genres might remember a cult hit from the company Massive Damage Inc. from a few years ago called Halcyon 6, which was a type of Star-Trek-meets-X-COM galaxy simulation against an alien threat. Their newer offering takes a different direction, with players forced to fight against dimensional aliens that have wiped out every previous dimension. The roguelike-style gameplay comes in with the form of losing and starting back over in a new dimension to try again, almost like an Edge of Tomorrow-esque, time-reset experience.

Massive Damage Inc., the company behind Star Renegades, has a pretty unique style going for it for a small studio. Focusing on good-looking pixel style battles, while having its games play like various types of strategy games, they are likely to accrue a following over the years - previously the maker of Halcyon 6, another example of a unique strategy game, that coincidentally had some of the same problems. Though there are some things very well done in here, other aspects really stop it from being nearly as good as it could have been.

This begins with a cool anime opening about a girl losing her mom, as these aliens attack, and the following montage of her fighting and growing sets a stage for a type of plot against the invaders. While there is some plot early on, that of humanity nearly getting wiped out, and having to send in a small team of commandos to try a last ditch attack, it falls to the wayside. This is unfortunate, as it really had a lot of setup and potential for directions it could have gone. Compare two key elements of this story it could have utilized, its roguelike nature could have taken a clue from Hades in its story development, or conversely the Zero Escape series for plots regarding multiple dimension shows there were tons of material if it has so chose.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on PC

As a result, a key part of RPGs is missing. There is very, very little plot to be quite blunt. The characters acquired give a little dialogue now and then, but they are mostly quips. There is nothing wrong with character banter, and as a type of plot development tool this reviewer actually prefers it, but these go nowhere as funny as some of are. It is unfortunate, as some of the characters, the little we see, are pretty humorous. The best is the caricature of the fringe conspiracy theorist guy, as some of his lines were definitely laughable. The issue is that all of them just come out as random blurbs. It was funny having him say "this is what happens when you don't believe conspiracy theories!" to the final big bad boss, but when that is the only line of story it falls flat.

Gameplay sets players on a small randomized planet, where they navigate their squad through a few zones, picking up some gear, and getting into some fights along the way. The overworld map looks pretty good, but man is it dysfunctional! It's clear there were some programming difficulties with path-finding, as it borders on a nightmare trying to get the squad to get where they need to go. They constantly stall out, and get stuck on corners, ladders or bridges don't register as clickable, and so on. The idea this was going for was a type of pick-your-own-path through the level as doors close behind you, and it really should have just been static rooms instead of free-roaming, which only leads to problems. The idea is pretty fun but needs some overhauling.

Fights are where the vast majority of this takes place in, fighting against a slew of different enemies, from troopers, to mechs, to guys on hover bikes. The system is pretty unique in its turn-based nature. Each turn the enemies attacks are pre-planned, and one can see what is happening and when. Players then have to try to best navigate the attack by placing their own attacks into the timeline. This may or may not sound complex but it gets a whole lot more convoluted from here. Almost every attack has a variety of status effects, including time-knockback. An attack may do some amount of damage, while pushing the enemy's turn back a set amount of time. Do enough of these, and they lose their entire turn. The game is built very heavily around this aspect of best taking enemies out of their turn.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on PC

On the face of it, it sounds like an interesting little puzzle, and it partly works, but it would be remiss to not admit how absolutely of a slog even a single battle is. A single character typically has around six moves, all of which may do various effects such as more armour damage, but less knockback, medium knockback and damage, or heavy knockback with little damage. Battles can be incredibly "swingy." Take as a small example how a single enemy might do one attack to one person that does only a small fraction of damage, then next turn they have an attack that hits everyone, cannot be stopped, and does 50% damage. Now on top of this factor are tons of other things regarding who is getting delayed where, or who has what status effect, adding even more to track. Oh, then on top of this, the players own choices of trying to best stop this of factoring in a squad of five guys with six or more moves each that need to be carefully planned.

Late game a lot of these battles can take an hour or more trying to plan it just right. A turn could look like seeing the four or five enemies with their various attacks coming, so the players have to check each and every one. "Okay" they think, "I need to stop this one, and maybe this one. They go to queue up a good delay move, it knocks the enemy back some, now they need to find another character to finish the job. Uh oh! But then this other guy gets hit before he moves, maybe some other move must be tried, instead. So they try variation upon variation of attacks trying to get it right. It feels a little like trying to sort through Microsoft Excel columns.

The sad thing is, when it works there is an element of satisfaction in it. Late game, with good planning it is entirely possible to wipe out entire waves of enemies without taking damage. On some level it has to be played this way lest the player gets wiped out in a turn or two themselves. It lends itself to a problem somewhat implicit in roguelikes, and that it either the player stomps or gets rocked with little in between. As mentioned with good team combinations, maybe some lucky gear, the final planet can be beaten without even taking health damage. Of course it takes hours planning the right route.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on PC

Graphically the backgrounds are very good. From moving trains, and fortresses, to lakes and trees, it all looks very good. Some of the battles set a great stage for how cool the backgrounds were, and that helped the feeling of a planet-spanning adventure. The character portraits were also commendable, and had a lot of style and flair to them. The actual sprites need some additional work, as they were simplistic to the point of not being able to tell what was happening sometimes. It would have been awesome to have sprites of a higher calibre like say Blazblue-style, which really would bring this to the level it deserves.

The battle UI is a bit of a mess. The time bar works, but barely. The biggest issue is all the absolute multitude of status effects; it can fill up half the screen with what everything does. Notably it would be far better if this streamlined names. For example, moves might do 'Nitro IX' or say 'Concussion.' Ok, what does that even mean? Well Concussion applies the effect 'Rattled,' of course! Well, what does that mean? Well, it means the target gets delayed by 20% longer. It really would be just been far easier to say that from the beginning.

Playing through and beating the campaign on the second run took a long time, as it clocked in at around 15-20 hours, which sounds low but every hour was felt. What the game has here is the potential to have been a very cool, sci-fi strategy/RPG. The "deterministic" battle system in some regards was its death sentence for how good it could ultimately be. It simply takes far too long to get through a battle. It would have been more interesting if battles just played out like more normal RPGs, simply to avoid the pain of trying to calculate everything. The game is a unique experience and worth checking out if players enjoy sci-fi-styled roguelikes.

Screenshot for Star Renegades on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Much like Halcyon 6 before it, this has tremendous potential, but is simply lost in its own slog. As such, it remains tough to recommend on a higher level, as battles just take too long, with too much punishment for straying from an ideal strategy. If there was an expansion of story, streamlining of combat, upgrading character pixels, and overall improving some of the aspects touched on, would go a very long way. In a game that felt like it could have been a awesome Edge of Tomorrow kind of deal, it feels more like being an accountant with a glitchy spreadsheet piece of software.

Developer

Massive Damage

Publisher

Raw Fury Games

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date TBA   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

Comments

I enjoyed the review dude. Agreed in many ways with much of what you said especially the UI and stuff like that. I reviewed the Switch version and put it more faovurably because I think on your point about the planning element of every battle, I found that part really fun and satisfying. Although, I definately can see where you are coming from that one wrong move can ruin everything and it's a lot to keep on top of with analysing every potential consequence of every potential move.

Still - fun read!

Hey thanks for the comment.  The problem is I CANT NOT try to play perfect, and when the game demands it so completely it becomes a type of decision paralysis.  The game actually is really close to being a really good game - if they fixed the rogue/respawn issues but especially sped up battles and took away the deterministic aspect, but then itd be a different game perhaps.

I got beat down my first run, figured out what was happening,and beat it the 2nd time, like in the review, I dont even think I was taking damage in the final world.  While fun to say that, each battle would take ~1hr which wasnt fun at all.

It reminds me a lot of their other game Halcyon 6, soooo close to being really good, but a critical flaw here or there.

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