Star Renegades PC Review

Star Renegades' gorgeous visuals, well-designed heroes and engaging combat system work together to offset the repetition that makes itself felt the longer you play.

By Woozie, Posted 08 Sep 2020

During your fight to save the universe from Star Renegades’ invading, tyrannical Imperium, you’ll die a lot. You’ll see your brave party of heroes wiped out repeatedly only to hop into another dimension – courtesy of your round, time-traveling robot friend – and start the fight anew with more knowledge about what your foes are capable of, a richer roster of heroes, and even some added power. It’s a mix of JRPG and rogue-lite that doesn’t take long to sink its teeth into you and make you lose hours with its complex combat system that pulls through even when repetition makes itself felt.

Saving each planet starts with you controlling your party of up to five characters from an isometric perspective, deciding which route you want to take through the patch of land in front of you. Levels are split into several sections that house different combinations of enemies, rewards, or both. Choosing a route usually locks off other options and you can only explore three segments per day, making up a total of nine before confronting the Behemoth that acts as each planet’s final boss. Planning out your path matters. It not only lets you grab cards that buff your party when camping, items that provide permanent enhancements or replenish shields and armor but you also get to decide which packs of enemies you face, to an extent.

Star Renegades PC Review, Screenshot

At the end of each day, your party sets up camp, which is when you can use cards to heal or buff members for upcoming fights while also increasing their relationship. The closer two characters get, the bigger the stat bonuses they receive while also unlocking powerful combo attacks that can turn the tide of battles. Get the right relationship to a high enough level and you’ll even spawn Progeny – new heroes to use on subsequent runs. Generally speaking, you’ll want to balance fighting foes with picking safer segments. While every victory yields experience used in leveling up heroes as well as resources useful in bolstering your long-term efforts, you can only repair armor and heal up while camping unless you’re lucky enough to bump into a health crate or armor station in the world. If you stretch things too far, you can end up fighting against Behemoths with a weakened party or even dying to the enemies that precede them.

At a glance, Star Renegades’ combat borrows plenty from JRPGs. Two squads of characters go against each other in flat but vibrant arenas. Each team queues up its actions before having its heroes execute them. For the most part, it’s one action per hero, although, as they level up, they do learn new abilities that can be used without ending their turn. To this traditional recipe, Star Renegades adds its own twist, putting these actions on a timeline. You’ll always see where your characters’ actions are set to happen as compared to the enemy’s, giving you enough information to manipulate the flow of the fight in your favor.

Star Renegades PC Review, Screenshot

Although your goal is to eliminate opponents or have them retreat, focusing exclusively on damage won’t work for too long. Instead, Star Renegades’ combat is a balancing act between defending your own characters, staggering and breaking your opponent – which throws them off the timeline, postponing their attacks until the next turn –, disabling them using stuns and, ultimately, killing them. Breaking opponents is important because it means that your team can go one more turn without taking damage or, at least, significantly reducing the number of hostile damage sources about to strike. Attacking before an opponent also guarantees a critical hit that deals increased damage and can have additional effects like stripping off a good chunk of armor. A party’s formation can also determine which enemies are susceptible to being attacked first. Only certain attacks can hit the back row, which means that fighting against an enemy with a front row capable of soaking damage is quite different from going against four more frail damage dealers that can be freely broken with the right combination of attacks.

Combatants need to first deplete the enemy’s shields, then strip them of their armor and HP. Thus, especially when two teams of four characters face against each other, you’ll always be on the lookout to minimize incoming damage while dealing as much as possible or preparing a future round with buffs and explosive traps in which to go ham. Success requires a mixture of planning and properly reacting to new enemies’ attacks. It’s an engaging affair, elevated by the game’s eye-catching colors, detailed character models alongside impactful animations and well-executed sound design that make you feel like your characters are using devastating force.

Star Renegades PC Review, Screenshot

When your party dies, you’re sent to a base where you can prepare for future runs. There, you can unlock a portion of Star Renegades’ heroes using Intel gathered from defeating enemies and perks that you can select for the initial party of three with which you begin each run. You can also unlock weapons and accessories that become available in crates or at merchants during runs, or even buffs for the drone that enables you to travel to different dimensions. Your party then grows with each planet you successfully liberate.

Star Renegades’ heroes are easy to distinguish between not just visually but also in terms of abilities and role they fulfill in battles. Where the Aegis excels at defending others, transferring and replenishing her own shields, the marksman trades the ability to reliably stagger and break opponents for devastating shots that occur at the end of the timeline. The Empath grants supportive auras and buffs but can only attack single targets, while the Archon’s attacks hit all opponents and his abilities allow him to replenish anyone’s shields out of thin air. This in conjunction with the Aegis’ Shield Transfer saved my party’s skin in multiple difficult fights.

Star Renegades PC Review, Screenshot

Star Renegades’ Adversaries system is inspired by Shadow of War’s evolving orc captains but doesn’t always land its execution. As you fight your way towards liberating a planet, you’ll deal with both regular opponents – which range from robotic infantry to support drones – or stronger Commanders and Adversaries. These are foe variants that have names and various buffs, strengths, and weaknesses. Although it does throw you a fair share of curveballs that keep you on your toes as strong enemies also gain resistances to your attacks, get enraged by them or attack with a type of power that the items you’ve collected don’t protect you against, few of these Adversaries end up being truly memorable while the much bigger Behemoths remain surprisingly static. During my time with the game, I only noticed a few standouts, particularly enemies that would enrage after a certain type of attack or staff wielders riding gravbikes that easily decimated my party on repeated occasions. But even so, facing largely the same enemy types and seeing the same Behemoths ended up becoming increasingly frustrating, especially in longer sessions. Couple this with the need to always start the fight from the beginning – even after the first planet becomes a relative walk in the park – and the deeper you go into the game, the more repetition you encounter.

While new enemy types are trickled in at a slow pace, managing to catch you off your guard with the potency of some of their attacks, I could overcome a good few fights on autopilot, especially in the first areas. The difficulty spike around the third planet also makes wading through it considerably harder than the previous two. Topping things off is the hit-or-miss worldbuilding that throws small, identical sets of terrain your way, thus failing to establish the fact that you’re actually saving entire planets. The banter between characters at camp, when they encounter a point of interest in the environment, and when increasing relationships turned out to also quite limited and tonally stiff.

Star Renegades PC Review, Screenshot

But while repetition does eventually make itself felt, Star Renegades does enough things well to offset it. When you’re going against new foes or adversaries with challenging modifiers, it does require you to pay constant attention to the fights’ timeline and plan your moves so as to incur as little damage as possible. Although items provide only passive bonuses, I often found myself considering whether risking taking additional damage and potentially reaching the boss fight weakened was worth taking on a stronger opponent that was guarding an equipment crate. The different hero types have their strengths and weaknesses which makes mixing and matching them quite satisfying, the tradeoff between starting with just two heroes who can delay opponents from attacking or going in without one who can replenish shields being felt quite strongly throughout fights.

Star Renegades is one of the most gorgeous pixel art games you can currently play and has a turn-based combat system whose twists do keep you engaged. Learning what heroes excel at and how to combine them to disable and destroy opponents feels great and its Adversaries and Behemoths have their moments. At the same time, this system doesn’t manage to spawn quite enough notable opponents and repetition becomes a little too prevalent, especially given how you have to start over from scratch and go through the same environments and much of the same enemy types with each restart. Its rogue-lite elements don’t always work in its favor but, provided you have a good chunk of time to set aside and some patience to spare, Star Renegades will draw you into its seemingly cyclical conflict.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Raw Fury
Developer(s): Massive Damage
Genres: Turn-based Strategy, RPG, Rogue-lite
Themes: Sci-fi
Release Date: 2020-09-08

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