Star Renegades Preview - An Intricate and Tough Pixel-Art Roguelike
Star Renegades has been in the works for a few years now, and it's set to release on September 8 for PC with console versions coming later. If you watched some of the Guerrilla Collective streams in early June, you may have caught a glimpse of this pixel-art roguelike and an anime-inspired trailer.
I had a chance to play an early preview build of Star Renegades, to see a peek at what the game had in store.
To put Star Renegades under a singular genre label, it would be 'roguelike', where the game is formatted as a series of 'runs' through procedurally modified levels with procedurally generated equipment, among other things. If for one reason or another, you don't jive with roguelike games, my inclination is that this will probably not be up your alley. However, Star Renegades does have a wide array of mechanics under its hood, and it is not exactly your typical roguelike game. If anything, I worry Star Renegades is trying to do too much with all the gameplay systems it has.
The preview I played began with a cold open, where a city on the planet of Norosh (or a nearby planet, it's not clear) has been decimated by a fleet of intergalactic invaders. Left with no other recourse, a scientist named Dr. Zurek sends a messenger droid through an interdimensional portal to warn an alternate reality of the looming threat. See, this invasive force isn't just out to conquer the galaxy, they are gunning for all galaxies across all 'realities'. Zurek warns an alternate dimension version of herself about the threat, and a ragtag rebellion begins to form to fight against overwhelming odds.
After a quick tutorial, you are given a team of three units to intercept and take out one of the main weapons of this invasive force, known as a Behemoth.
The combat system has quite a lot going on, and the user interface tries its best to help you out. There are a lot of mechanics at play here, and for me to describe it all in detail would probably just make things more confusing. At its base, though, it relies on a timeline system, shown via a bar at the top of the screen. You effectively get to see each action that will be taken the round, and in what order.
If an action attacking an enemy happens before that enemy's turn, then the action will do a critical hit. However, the same is true against you. Each attack has its own timeline position and its own timeline delay, so knowing what attacks to use when is incredibly important. There are also other abilities that manipulate this timeline system in a larger variety of ways.
There are many other things you absolutely must pay attention to in combat, such as shields, armors, resistances, timeline delay, status effects, and more. Star Renegades is shaping up to be a mechanically dense RPG, and it does take some getting familiar with before you really understand what you are doing.
Also, Star Renegades is pretty tough. You can't just mindlessly attack your way through battle and expect to come out on top. For each battle you manage to clear, though, you earn EXP, money, and a currency known as Research.
Outside of the combat system, you take a team of 3 rebels into what I believe is a semi-randomized overworld map of sorts. Here, you have to make your way to the launch platform where the Behemoth is to be intercepted. On this map, you have a limited number of actions you can make before intercepting the Behemoth, so you have to think & decide carefully. You'll see icons on the map for things like equipment lockers, health regeneration stations, shield regeneration stations, and more. What icons appear where also seems to be randomly placed on the overworld, so each run will be different from the last. The equipment found in lockers is also procedurally generated, of course.
At the end of the round, I had to take on the Behemoth. This guy was tough. So tough, in fact, that I wasn't able to beat him, and I'm not sure I was really expected to on my first attempt. In true roguelike fashion, though, defeat didn't lead to a game over. I was sent back to the main base.
Here, depending on the amount of Research I accumulated, I unlocked some functions and bonuses for both my base and my units. This research accrual seems to be the persistent element for Star Renegades; even if you fall in battle, you'll keep your Research, which you can use to power up the capabilities of your renegade squad. You then basically start the next run in the next 'reality', hoping eventually to find success, as you would expect for a roguelike.
There are other systems in place that I haven't mentioned, such as a linked affection/card system where you can gain bonuses between certain units working together. There is also a sort of adversary system in place that seems to be inspired by the Nemesis system found in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Certain enemies are given names, and if they manage to defeat you, they can get promoted and learn new abilities for the next time you take them on.
Star Renegades also does not seem to be strongly story-focused. There is a base motivation placed behind your Valkyrie class character, Wynn Syphex, but it's not outwardly the driving force of the game, although it is hard to tell in a preview build. There is some dialogue between your recruited characters during missions, which I can best describe as kinda snarky - trying to either be amusing or pull zingers, although it doesn't quite land most of the time.
Unfortunately, thanks to the limitation of the preview build, I was not able to see how the gameplay systems transferred over to the next 'run' in the next reality. This was a little disappointing because the persistent element of roguelikes are key to almost everything about the genre. As a roguelike, I expect some components to reset each run, but I wasn't able to experience what exactly carries over and what doesn't. I'll be honest, after playing through what was available in the preview, I don't feel like I have a good grasp on all the system in play. In any case, Star Renegades will take some getting used to.
Star Renegades looks to offer a striking pixel-art style and intricate combat/roguelike mechanics. The multitude of mechanics at play might end up too convoluted for its own good, or it could end up as dense well-crafted harmonious blend of systems. We'll have to wait for the release to see for sure.