STAR RENEGADES [Review]: Spritely Surprise.

Felipe “Deacon” Crespo

Not unlike this year, 2018 was stacked when it comes to the GOTY front: Forza Horizon 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, Spidey, Kratos n Son, etc. It was hard to find one list without these games being mentioned. Now, there was a game that went largely under-the-radar that deserved just as much praise. It didn’t have anywhere near the budget of these titans and sure as hell wasn’t even in the same league (hell, country) when it came to graphics. This little engine that could was Into The Breach

Why am I bringing it up? Because 2020 has found its own “Breach” late into this hell year: Rogue-lite RPG, Star Renegades. The story set-up is standard sci-fi fare: advanced aliens are running through the galaxy and taking over. Just as your reality is about to be wiped out, a super scientist sends a cute robot to deliver a message to deliver for an alternate reality hoping they can avoid the same fate. This introduces one of the game’s main “rogue lite” mechanics: get wrecked (it’ll happen a lot at first), cute robot ditches out into new reality in hopes of stopping the rampage, start again. Fans of Into the Breach and Dead Cells will feel right at home.. Or homes, for that matter.

As with most RPGs, fixing your crew to find that key mix is critical to success. To add to the variety are the facts that you don’t have to use the main character in every playthrough and you unlock more Renegades either by collecting Intel during missions (this’ll happen automatically), or — and more interestingly — by creating progeny. There are also two types of progeny characters to be unlocked: kids that are just recolors of their parents and have a few different moves, or entirely new characters like the Juggernaut (no, not that one.. Bitch), a tank that shreds armor.

While the game doesn’t go into too much detail about it, pay attention to the bonds you create/cards you share during the campfire nights. The cards not only grant bonuses (+10 shield damage for two battles, etc.), but they build up what is basically a relationship meter. These not only unlock bonuses between two characters, they also unlock tandem attacks and progeny at the final “soulmate” level.

The game is deceptively simple at first. You can only get your characters up to level 10, there’s “only” 3 worlds and 1 spaceship to take on, and until you get the hang of things, you’ll be dying to the second behemoth (end bosses) a few times… Then you’ll rise again, itching for another go with your new team, getting better each time, or failing until you get a feel for tram combinations… Then it’s 4am.

Graphically, I hope you like the vaporwave/cyberpunk purple-pink hues that have been everywhere for the last few years. The gorgeous sprites also pop thanks to both its art style (32 bit heaven) and an engine very reminiscent of Octopath Traveler. The synth heavy soundtrack is unreal and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s up on Spotify. If you dig 80’s movie soundtracks a’la Stranger Things (or, um, 80’s movies), you’ll fall in love.

I know wallets are straining with the hell year that’s finally ending, the new gem having landed, and the cavalcade of big games dropping during this season, but I can’t recommend this gem enough. On sale or not, it’s worth it. I’ve already sunk 45 hours into Star Renegades and it managed to take me away from Miles Morales, Yakuza, and Avengers. Sorry, WWE Battlegrounds; you’re no longer my GOTY. 5/5 Alternate Timelines.

-Felipe Crespo

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