Pixel art games usually hit a soft spot with many gamers, thanks to the nostalgic memories they awaken in us. Star Renegades maxes out the nostalgia factor combining this visual style with turn-based gameplay and a roguelike approach, the final result being much more than the sum of its components. Read on to find out, why this game is so appealing to old riders and newcomers alike.
When it was launched some time ago for PC, Star Renegades proved to be a hidden indie gem among all the major AAA titles. Now, thanks to the console release, a larger number of gamers will have the chance to enjoy the second game developed by Massive Damage. It is arguably one of the best roguelike games of recent history, that celebrates failure as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and encourages you to rise up to the increasingly more difficult challenges.
It all starts with humanity as we know it almost completely destroyed by a mysterious alien race. Our last hope is a droid that manages to travel into parallel dimensions in hope of finding one in which we can avoid the catastrophe. Since our robot friend does not possess any combat abilities, the task of saving the universe falls into your lap. To be able to defeat the alien Mother, you will be able to create a strike team combining 9 different heroes, each with its own unique abilities and roles. At first, your team will be made up of only 3 heroes, but each planet you manage to save from the alien threat will allow you to expand your roster with an additional teammate.
Gameplay-wise, Star Renegades is reminiscent of the classic JRPGs: you will explore in real-time different planets, each with several different areas, hosting multiple enemies. When you encounter opposition, the screen trembles, the camera perspective changes and you will find yourself on a battlefield, controlling your heroes in a turn-based confrontation. The rhythm of the combat is very important since you have to take into account the time each action requires and plan your tactics accordingly. The twist of Star Renegades compared to games like Persona 5 is that you can see upfront the actions chosen by your opponents along with the time necessary to execute them, and you can plan accordingly.
Each combat encounter is a deadly tango where, if you are fast enough, you can inflict critical damage or even break your opponent, pushing their actions into the next round. Some abilities have lower damage but can delay more efficiently your opponents, while others are really slow but have the chance to lead to one-shot kills. To make things harder, your enemies become increasingly resilient to breaks, so you cannot postpone their attacks indefinitely.
Offense alone is not enough, you have to plan for the weaknesses of your party members and take care not to be wiped out by a bold, but foolish approach. Beyond the timing, the shields, the armor and the HP of your heroes has a crucial role. While the shields regenerate automatically after each encounter, the shields and HP can be recovered either at the campfire that marks the end of each day, either by visiting different facilities scattered around the map.
Time management is important in the exploration of the world as well, since you have a limited number of moves before you are forced into a showdown with a boss. You have to carefully plan your way choosing the opponents you want to encounter, the different facilities you want to explore or the loot chests you want to open. Each planet is represented by a map, that is randomly generated, and that offers different paths.
Once you have chosen a path, the other option becomes inaccessible, forcing you to move forward. The day/night cycle is governed by the limited number of attempts to access different areas. Once your attempts are used up, the time of the day will automatically change to night, allowing you to collect hidden resources left behind by your vanquished foes or to explore facilities available only after sunset. The last mandatory action is camping, a nice addition to the pace of the game. After all the excitement, our heroes can sit down over a campfire and exchange cards that grant permanent or limited-time bonuses. Through these cards you increase the bond between your heroes, you discover more about their background story, and can even unlock special team moves.
It may all sound a bit complicated, but the mechanics are interconnected in a way that not only makes sense but is easy to learn as well. Being an RPG, the new equipment pieces and the level-up process unlocking new and more powerful skills are mandatory elements as well.
Star Renegades does not disappoint, making the choices related to ability upgrades and equipment improvements, feel significant. But sometimes despite the best equipment and the skills honed to the max, you will fail due to a wrong move or an unforeseen boss behavior. In this case, you are wiped out, teleported back to base with only your droid remaining intact. But your efforts will not be completely in vain: you will be able to recruit more powerful heroes in your starting team, purchase better and better equipment for them, and access other surprises you will have to discover for yourself.
Another consequence of your actions is that some of the special units you failed to beat will be promoted in the ranks of the alien army, becoming more powerful. This mechanic resembles the Nemesis system introduced by Shadow of Mordor, and adds a nice twist to the gameplay, making things even more difficult. We have to admit, Star Renegades was not intended to be an easy game even on the lower difficulty levels.
The entire concept is based on the idea that at one point you will fail, you will have to dust yourself off and go at it again. How hard the game proves to be is based mainly on you and the path you chose, Star Renegades rewarding the player for tackling harder challenges, but also sending you back to square one if you fail.
The visuals of the game are gorgeous if you like the pixel art style. It reminds us of the corny action movies of the ‘80s, especially when it comes to the cutscenes and the character design. The visual and sound FX of the game reinforces this approach the result being corny, but nostalgic in the best way possible. The music is in perfect sync with the action from the screen and immerses you in the sci-fi theme of the entire game. That being said, it is a shame that there is no voice acting to further enhance the overall effect.
Star Renegades although borrows many elements from other games, manages to feel fresh and entertaining. It offers plenty of content, and though you will have to go through several attempts to crack it, the game manages to avoid feeling repetitive.
The deep combat system, the different heroes, the procedurally generated maps, the different difficulty levels all contribute to the high replay value of the game. Star Renegades builds on the nostalgic factor and is targeting mainly the fans of TBT, but it proves to be enjoyable by anyone who decides to try it.