Live, die, repeat, and so on and so forth. It’s the rogue mantra and it’s out in full force here in Star Renegades; this time around, the ever-restarting game world justified through some basic multiverse waffle. You’re trying to stop some bad people from destroying a universe, you fail, you transport to a new universe and try again. Live, die, repeat.
Along the way, you’ll pick up a crew of combatants to choose from, each with their own perks and battle suitability, and it’s up to you to take your team of three and tackle a bunch of timeline-based combat situations along with a sprinkling of (very) light exploration.
Basically, Star Renegades is a mix of FTL, Darkest Dungeon, Fire Emblem, and Shadow of Mordor, and for the most part, it’s a darn successful mix at that. Not only is it gorgeous and backed by a lovely soundtrack, but it also mashes together disparate elements from these other games and comes out with something actually worthwhile.
While the relationship-building aspect (Fire Emblem) does feel a bit loose and like it doesn’t add that much, the desperate mission to Save Everything (FTL) is suitable motivation, the exploration and a few other bits (Darkest Dungeon) add shallow-but-fun layers, and the nemesis system (Mordor) is well implemented and works perfectly in making you want to defeat enemy lieutenants who initially best you. Because, by crikey, will they best you.
The glue of binding in this particular title, though, is the combat system. It’s all based around a timeline, with different actions taking a different amount of time to occur. A light attack is quicker than a strong one, with a hell of a lot of variations on that basic line of logic.
What mixes it up is the ability – the need – to push your opponent back on the timeline with the ultimate aim of breaking their turn, disallowing them from making a move in that round. It’s a fantastic addition to combat and makes for some genuinely strategic planning in harder battles, requiring you crunch the numbers (or ‘look at the timeline’, more accurately) to figure out just who should do what to who, and when.
On top of that, there’s plenty of other effects, from healing through armour breaking, a bunch of buffs and debuffs, and everything else you’d hope for in an RPG-like combat system. Pulling off a perfect one-two to push a strong enemy off the timeline and allow your tank party member to inflict massive damage without your foe even getting a shot off? Yeah, that’s some satisfying stuff.
It’s not the chosen one, though. Poor pathfinding in levels makes it even harder to care about searching out the already-wafer-thin lore backing the game’s meh story. There’s the randomness that comes with roguelikes sometimes interfering with runs and making them genuinely unfair.
The pacing is way off for something made to be so stop-start, with full runs taking many hours, not an hour. It can be obtuse in what certain effects and impacts are in combat, thus making planning harder than it needs to be at times.
Star Renegades is good – sometimes great – but its flaws do drag it down and make it so that sometimes you just want to live, die, switch off.
Much as I want to say the dog in the cantina, Star Renegades’ real highlight is indeed its nemesis system, lifted wholesale from the Shadow of Mordor series. Honestly though, who cares when it’s done so well and is such a great system to begin with? Fights you lose become personal vendettas, with all the emotional investment that entails. Good stuff.
A gorgeous, fun rogue-lite with a few irritating drawbacks.
Genre: Rogue-lite strategy
Format: PC (tested) / PS4 / XBO / Switch
Developer: Massive Damage, Inc.
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release:__ Out now