If At First You Don’t Succeed, Jump To A New Dimension

HIGH Finishing a boss by forcing him to miss two turns.

LOW Not being able to fast-forward through easy fights.

WTF Watching the drone roast virtual marshmallows.

Even if everything else about Star Renegades was awful, the combat system would still be worth celebrating. Putting the stunning art, clever writing and interesting plot aside, this system is worth examining carefully so future developers can steal what it gets right for their own projects. The fact that it nails all of those other aspects is just icing on the cake.

Set in the distant future where humanity has spread across the galaxy, Star Renegades tells the story of a group of plucky soldiers who are recruited to fight the agents of Mother, a terrifying force bent on crushing the entire multiverse into dust. While human armies struggle to build defenses in time, Mother’s gorgeously-designed cathedral ship moves from dimension to dimension, defeating any resistance it comes across.

Players are introduced to this threat when the main character – an exosuited swordfighter named Wynn – watches her brother get brutally murdered by a giant cyborg monstrosity sent by Mother. She then puts together a team and take the fight to Mother in a series of turn-based battles.

These are fights the player will lose over and over again, and while that may sound discouraging, it’s all according to plan. The central conceit in Star Renegades is that a drone travels with the players, recording everything they discover and bringing that information to the next dimension every time the player’s team gets wiped out. The story then picks up in this new dimension, but the ‘new’ team now has access to information about the enemies’ capabilities and new fighters to employ. It’s as clever an explanation for a roguelite structure as I’ve ever seen, and the fact that the story heavily leans into how strange it is only serves to make it that much more impressive.

Now, about the combat. It’s turn-based, but with a deterministic twist — the player is told exactly what enemies will do during the one minute that each turn takes. It’s then up to the player to strategically get their licks in before the enemies can execute their moves, and success is determined by how effectively players can ruin the enemy’s plans.

Not only is there a concrete reward for hitting first — interrupting enemy attacks results in a critical hit with special damaging effects — but doing so pushes enemy turns further back on the timeline. Push them far enough, and they’ll lose their turn completely and have their action shunted into the next round. This can’t be done endlessly, though — each enemy has a set number of times they can be interrupted based on their strength and how complex the move they’re planning is.

This system rewards strategic thinking and encourages players to try different combinations of party members. Like any good roguelike, there’s no severe punishment for losing, other than the bleak idea that each loss represents a galaxy subjugated by interdimensional supervillains. That aside, players are free to mix and match characters until they find a squad that works from them.

The world design is as functional as it is gorgeous. Players are dropped onto a map with a set number of turns before a boss arrives. In each turn the player’s drone can open locked-off doorways, giving the team a chance to explore the map and get into fights they’ll need to win in order to level up and be ready for the boss when it lands.

In an unusual turn for a roguelike, the entire map is visible at the start of each run. Players can see where treasure chests lie, which rooms have traps, and where to find the important minibosses. This choice towards transparency turns Star Renegades into a game of pure strategy, and eliminates randomness and luck. The only thing players aren’t told in advance is the exact makeup of each enemy squad, but they’ll be able to predict most encounters after a few runs.

Star Renegades even manages to get some solid character moments in between the tactical battling. After a few fights, the day ends and the characters camp out. In this phase, players can provide their squad with healing or temporary buffs, but the main purpose of these breaks is to increase the relationship level between the characters. Increasing this level not only leads to interesting conversations, but also upgrades their health, shields, and also unlocks devastating combo attacks when those characters are in combat together.

With a fantastic combat system and quality content in all other aspects, Star Renegades is stylish, accessible, and innovative, making it one of the best turn-based roguelikes around.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Massive Damage Inc. and published by Raw Fury. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game was rated E10+ by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood and Mild Language. This is pretty harmless as tactical combat games go. There are gorgeous animations for each enemy and character death, but they tend not to be excessively gruesome.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played most of the game with no audio and encountered zero difficulties. All information is provided via text, which cannot be resized. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. Everything is controlled by using a mouse to click on menu options or screen locations.

Daniel Weissenberger
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