The roguelite is one of those genres that puts players through the ringer, letting them experience extreme highs and lows. Typically coupled with harsh challenges and punishing consequences, roguelite are easy to learn, and beyond difficult to master. Massive Damage, the developer of the Halcyon 6 games has put its own spin on the genre with Star Renegades, a roguelite that takes place across dimensions.
Star Renegades follows a group of rebels, including protagonist Wynn Syphex, on a perilous journey to defeat an evil authoritarian empire. On their journey, players will encounter procedurally generated events, diverse locations, and evolving enemies.
The story in Star Renegades is fairly standard, not doing too much outside of the box. This wouldn’t be much of an offense if the story was held together by good characters. Unfortunately, the writing in Star Renegades leaves quite a bit to be desired. Dialogue is awkward, and I never found myself invested in the characters, their wellbeing, or their goal of overthrowing the empire. I can't say that I was ever roped in by the story.
A living universe
What immediately captured me when loading into Star Renegades was the game’s visual design. It’s pixelated art style and use of sprites was distinctly old school, but the vibrant colors and animations kept it fresh and modern. With the game taking place across vastly different planets, the devs use it as an opportunity to create some diverse and unique settings. In a game intended to have a high level of replayability, being able to properly execute this is a big win.
I also found myself really digging the music and audio in Star Renegades. It feels distinctly sci-fi, as if composed by an actual cyborg, fitting right in line with the game’s theme. But even looking past the music, the game is full of great sound designs. From the rumbling sounds of the ships, to the visceral enemies themselves, it all feels authentic to the experience.
A tactical puzzle
Where a roguelite either loses you, or ropes you in is with its combat. With a genre notorious for its difficulty and unforgiving nature, it’s important that combat still feels fair and determined by skill. The combat in Star Renegades follows a turn-based squad system, with a timeline bar that depicts a sequence of events for a given round. Players can see enemy actions before selecting their own, as well as where those actions sit in the attack order. Players must then wisely choose the best course of action for them and their squad.
The combat system in Star Renegades is simply excellent. At first, I thought letting me see enemy attacks before they happened would make it easier to retaliate, tipping the scales in my favor. However, it makes the battles feel like puzzles that need to be solved. Some moves are faster than others, meaning they’ll place earlier in a round’s sequence. Landing a hit before your opponent can strike will trigger critical damage.
However, attacking first isn’t the key to winning every battle in Star Renegades. There are also moves, like Hew, that can stagger opponents, pushing their attack back to the next round and allowing the player to make more hits. The developer stated that they wanted the game to have no RNG, and they executed that goal perfectly. The combat in Star Renegades forces players to strategize, as you simply won’t be successful by quickly clicking through the battle menus.
Adversaries to remember
What really compliments the combat in Star Renegades is the game’s Adversary System. Very similar to the Nemesis System in the Shadow of Mordor games, the Adversary System gives an extreme level of depth to the way players interact with enemies.
If an enemy escapes the player, or is resurrected off-screen, they will remember the player, as well as the specifics of their encounter. This information influences how the enemy behaves when they are next encountered. It’s a system that makes combat feel consequential, while also creating a sub-narrative for players to follow throughout their journey.
Massive Damage’s Star Renegades is a really solid roguelite, despite lackluster campaign elements. The combat system forces players to outsmart their opponents, rather than simply beat them to the punch and is also anchored by a robust adversary system. There’s plenty to see with the world itself, as the pixelated art style, vibrant colors, and various environments work together to make a vast series of game worlds. Star Renegades is a great offering from Massive Damage and Raw Fury.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Star Renegades is available now on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch for $24.99 USD.
- Beautiful art style
- Excellent combat system
- Adversary System
- Story and characters are bland