Raw Fury’s Star Renegades, developed by Massive Damage, is out now on Steam. Time to take this sci-fi rogue-lite strategy RPG for an intergalactic spin.
When I first saw some footage and screenshots for Star Renegades, I was immediately drawn in – it looked like a pixel art take on something like Star Wars – sans Jedi, of course. Later art also revealed a more anime-geared style for the cutscenes that make that link far less obvious, but my interest in the project never waned.
In one way, Star Renegades certainly is a lot like an epic sci-fi franchise, and that’s because getting to know a diverse cast of characters and forging relationships between them is a big part of the experience. But as I was forging my own place within this universe and getting engaged with the narrative, the fact that the game is actually a roguelite also slapped me in the face.
Once you hit that all-too-familiar wall that every roguelite game has, you lose a fight and thus also hit reset on the bonds you’ve forged thus far. If the narrative comes first for you, that’s going to be a bit of a bummer – though I like the fact that this is a roguelite that’s also steeped in storytelling and lore, something that’s often overlooked in games within this particular genre.
The story itself is something that sci-fi fans will certainly take to, as it features an evil empire and you as a lone pilot looking for revenge after your brother is lost in battle. You quickly join the opposition, the Renegades, and thus your fight against the empire starts. Yes, it reminded us of Star Wars as well – not a bad thing though. You even have droids in the game, though here they have the ability to whisk you away to alternate dimensions and take on the battle there if you happen to fail the first time around.
The combat itself is excellent though, with a novel new take on the turn-based formula. Rather than having a set order to move/attack in, the choices you make affect the momentum of the battle. In other words, if you select a move that takes a while to execute for your character, the enemy might have already struck – causing your character to lose its turn. Block or distract the enemy, and your powerful attack might just land and cause a huge amount of damage. It’s intricate and there’s definitely a steep learning curve, but it feels very dynamic for a turn-based system.
Party management is also crucial, and not just in the sense that you need balance on the battlefield (between offensive and defensive/supporting/healing characters). Upgrades don’t just make your characters stronger, but also allow them to better support one another and form bonds, creating a sense of having a team out there – which of course makes it painful when you lose everyone due to the roguelite nature of the game.
That nature is something that’s hard to escape, primarily because the game is exceptionally difficult, almost to the point of frustration. This is especially true when you get to one of the game’s boss fights, as failing them means you get thrown back quite a bit with little confidence that you’ll make it next time. Because every restart takes away your characters as well as their skills and weapons, it takes a long time before you feel like you’re getting close to a win.
In the end, Star Renegades feels like it’s a game with visuals, characters, a world and a narrative that all show tremendous potential, but have a hard time shining through due to the overly challenging nature of the roguelite combat. The turn-based strategy model here is a well-developed and feels great, but the penalty for a loss is extremely severe and the chances of running into one are too great. With a few balance tweaks or an easier difficulty level, I’m sure I’ll adore Star Renegades.