Live, die, repeat in Star Renegades’ strategic sci-fi epic

Grandia Designs

If at first your insurrection doesn’t succeed, try and try again. Star Renegades pits your small rebellion against the odds, stacking your band of misfits against The Imperium, but whether it’s in victory or defeat, your job is never done as the Empire keeps coming back time and time again.

Star Renegades is yet another game that tries to blend an unholy mishmash of genres and buzzwords together. The sci-fi trappings and the looping narrative have me thinking a little of Live Die Repeat, especially with some of the characters sporting burly looking mech-suits. It neatly drops into the Roguelite genre that has been equal parts popular and maligned these last few years, but it means there’s also a bitesized feel to the game’s structure, with a tilt at the Overlord taking just a couple of hours and requiring you to complete just three or four missions.

This is all in service of an emergent narrative. Yes, it’s a straight up battle of good and evil on the surface, but between each run or attempt, the galaxy and the characters within can shift. It’s built around an Adversary system akin to the lauded Nemesis system Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor, so if you fail in your mission, the enemy that defeated you gains notoriety and rises through the ranks of a pantheon of villains. On the other hand, if you’re victorious, a power vacuum is created that needs to be filled and the remaining lieutenants squabble to decide who will lead the Empire’s return.

You have your own variation with a number of characters to unlock and bring into your parties, who can bond as they battle side by side, maybe even having kids if they get especially close. In a brilliant twist, characters can even be captured by the Imperium, brainwashed into fighting for them and fed into the Nemesis system until you can defeat them and turn them back. Imagine having to fight your own mother or son?

Another key touchstone comes with the obvious classic JRPG inspirations that permeate the world design, the combat and the visual style of the game. You explore the handcrafted worlds in a classic 2D RPG style, with tiny characters running around an expansive feeling environments. There’s over thirty maps in the game, themed around six planets, but only five or six of them might be seen in a run

If you’re a fan of Grandia, you’ll be well versed in the style of turn-based RPG combat that Star Renegades features, with a timeline showing who has initiative and what attacks are incoming, letting you plan exactly how you want to react. Interrupts will be key, and there’s energy systems for ammo, rage, heat and more adding further depth and decisions to agonise over. There’s depth here that was really difficult for me to grasp in the short amount of time I had with the game.

Since its first showing, the game has undergone a major visual overhaul with its pixel art being enhanced by what Massive Damage call 2DX. Fundamentally it’s still a 2D game, but it’s been slathered with some lovely effects and has a wonderful sense of depth from playing on a 3D plane and some dynamic camera movements so that it feels more modern.

With a relatively bitesized gaming loop, an intriguing use of an Adversary and an evolving story built around the personal relations and growth of your freedom fighters, not to mention deep and tactical RPG battles, Star Renegades is shaping up to be an indie highlight for next year.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

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