I don’t want to be the one to start it, but I have a feeling that Star Renegades is going to be drawing some comparisons to Subset Games’ Into the Breach. Developer Massive Damage is probably used to their game being compared to a Subset Games release, since their earlier Halcyon 6 was compared to FTL: Faster Than Light. And anyone who is familiar with those games knows, that for as many things they had thematically in common, mechanically Halcyon 6 was a more complicated game. I feel like the same comparisons can be drawn between Into the Breach and Star Renegades.
In Star Renegades you’re tasked with ending a trans-dimensional invasion force called the Imperium. To do so, you lead a squad of mechanically enhanced soldiers against the superior forces of the Imperium in turn-based combat, similar to what you would see in a turn-based JRPG. It takes place in a far, far future where ancient mechanical titan hands are slowly unearthed by erosion, and humanity wields advanced technologies. To stop the Imperium, you have to fight off their invasion across multiple planets, and eventually take the fight to their dimension-hopping craft.
The rogue-lite nature comes in when you are defeated. If your current group is unable to stop the Imperium, a drone is sent through a dimensional rift, with information that will help your next run against the Imperium. With most characters wearing mechanical exo-suits, and a kind of Groundhog Day type approach to the story, I couldn’t help but think about Into the Breach while playing. But as I mentioned before, as much as Star Renegades is thematically similar to Into the Breach, mechanically it is very different. Also, to think that every game you lose is the Imperium winning, probably killing billions is bleaker than resetting a timeline—this ups the stakes, even if the stakes are purely thematic.
Star Renegades allows you the freedom to explore each of the worlds, stopping the invasion in the order you decide while exploring an overworld map. You can find gear, weapons, health replenishment stations and more. Combat doesn’t pop up as a random event, rather, every time you breach a new section of the map, you must fight the forces in that section in turn-based combat.
The turn-based combat is the meat of Star Renegades, and luckily, it’s my favorite part. Not only are the battles visually appealing–with 3D light and shadows, particle effects, and more—but the turn-based combat is satisfying from a tactical standpoint. Using what the developers call the Reactive Time Battle System is great, and there are a lot of visual clues as to what impact your moves are going to have on the battle. If an attack will push an enemy back in the turn order, it plainly shows that. This gives you the most information possible to make the best moves.
Synergy is important on the battlefield. It’s possible to bring soldiers that deal massive damage, but eventually you’ll want someone to replenish shields, debuff, or even heal. When your soldiers have high enough companionship levels, it unlocks even more abilities, increasing the synergy further. At high enough companionship levels, characters can engage in synergistic attacks that are devastating to their foes.
The strategy in these battles is fun, and clean. Mechanics are clear, and if they’re not, you can casually inspect enemies to see what their weaknesesses are. Just like in Othercide, which I recently reviewed, each combatant has a spot on a timeline, with faster attacks happening first, and slower potentially after enemies already moved. Attacks can push enemies back on this timeline, or even push them out of it completely if they’re attacked enough. It’s a fun combat system that starts to fall apart when more and more units are added to the fray. With four or more soldiers positioning becomes a consideration, but battles also become more drawn-out. Battles in the beginning are the most fun, with later battles becoming a slog.
That’s too bad, too, because each run in Star Renegades is probably a little longer than most rogue-lites. Playing for a while, getting companions to like each other, and then losing to an enemy combination that you didn’t expect to lose against is a little disheartening.
While combat is important, Star Renegades allows you to approach conflicts when you want to. Each planet is represented by an overworld. You can make three “breaches” per day in the overworld—basically, you can enter into three novel areas—and after those breaches, you have the option to rest for the night, or explore the areas you unlocked for extra items and currencies. Resting allows for you to get health back, but it also allows for the important companionship levelling, which is done by exchanging cards that represent abilities or gear. Some of these buffs can be pretty powerful, and usually apply to the next couple of combats.
There are multiple currencies in Star Renegades. Collecting DNA is used to level up your soldiers, but most of the other currency is used after a run is over. You fight until you win, or until you’re all defeated. If you’re all defeated, you have a chance to purchase potential upgrades for your next run, as well as possibly unlocking new soldiers.
Each timeline you enter into might be ‘fresh’ for your characters, but the Imperium remembers. Much like Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system, if you’re defeated by an enemy—whether they’re low-level or not—they’ll be promoted in the ranks of the Imperium.
I’d be remiss not to mention Star Renegades’ incredible art style. From the moment the opening cinematic sets up the story, to combat encounters, Star Renegades is a visual treat. It uses a 2.5D pixel art style. Sprites are put on a 3D landscape, and there are even lighting effects, particles, and shadows that add a whole layer of graphical complexity. It’s just great to look at. I’ve been playing some damn stylish games lately, and Star Renegades is definitely one of them.
Star Renegades is an effective rogue-lite. I don’t expect it to be history making, but if you’re interested in it at all, it’s hard to think of a reason not to pick it up. The combat is fun, and the visuals are phenomenal.
Star Renegades is available tomorrow on Steam.
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