The first and most important thing to note about Star Renegades is that it’s gorgeous — the world is rendered in some of the most detailed and animated pixel art I’ve ever encountered. This isn’t a case of people using pixel art for budgetary reasons, these are artists embracing the chunky rawness of the pixel art aesthetic to build their world.
Sleek spacecraft, lumbering power armor and imposing mechs all have intricate-yet-crude detailing making each one look unique. Star Renegades oozes style from every pore, and it’s rare that I came across a moment that wouldn’t make a great screenshot.
Star Renegades‘ plot is equally captivating — it opens in a galaxy shattered by invasion from an impossibly powerful alien force. The player is then introduced to a mad scientist with a plan to gather everything she’s learned about the invaders and send it to the next dimension they plan to wipe out, so that another version of her might lead that galaxy to victory. In practical terms, this means that the player will have to put together a team of space mercenaries and cut down the invading forces wherever they crop up.
This will largely be accomplished with Star Renegades‘ turn-based combat system. Each ‘turn’ lasts one simulated minute during which attacks are planned and executed.
At the beginning of the player’s turn, they’re shown exactly when and how the enemies will strike, which gives them a chance to plan out the perfect response. The goal (generally) is to get attacks in before enemies can strike. This interruption not only gives special bonus effects, but pushes the enemies back on the timeline, sometimes even moving them into the next turn!
This is turn-based combat where planning is everything and the tutorial does such a great job of laying it out that after just a couple of fights, it had become second nature.
Also intriguing is a mechanic that seems to have been cribbed from the Shadow of Mordor franchise — the enemy army has an array of lieutenants, but they’re a prideful lot, each of whom are constantly jockeying for position within the hierarchy. Just as in Mordor, players can look at the enemy org chart and see the effect that executing specific henchmen has on the enemy’s overall power structure.
The preview code I was given for this piece obviously had some bugs to be ironed out as the pathfinding isn’t fantastic.
Characters are moved around a top-down map with mouse clicks, but they’ll always walk in a straight line towards whatever destination was selected, and this beelining frequently leads to getting hung up on geometry. I also had the game lock up after killing a boss, which was more than a little frustrating.
I’m sure these foibles will get ironed out before release — between the fascinating plot and great turn-based combat, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Star Renegades launches on PC September 8, 2020 with console ports to follow.