Star Renegades takes inspiration from some big names but ultimately stands stronger on its own thanks to its one-of-a-kind combat system.
Star Renegades is a rogue-lite RPG where you build a team of rebels to fight off the evil Imperium. It presents a nemesis system, similar to Shadow of Mordor, combines it with a friendship system that you’d expect from a Fire Emblem game, and takes you into challenging turn-based battles that are challenging, but not quite brutal as Darkest Dungeon.
It also presents a unique timeline-based combat system that makes it stand out from all the other rogue-lite RPGs out there.
In Star Renegades, we play a cute time-traveling robot called J5T-1N (Justin, or J5 for short). We help build and guide a team of rebels against the evil galaxy-conquering Imperium. If we fail, we jump to a new timeline and try again.
The game doesn’t shy away from over-describing its advanced quantum technology with plenty of pseudo-science terms from the very beginning. But as a fan of time-travel and multiple dimensions, I really enjoyed the general outlines of the story.
Jumping between timelines and dimensions is a perfect setup for a rogue-lite RPG. You can utilize the invaluable intel you collect from a failed run to unlock new characters, abilities, weapons, and other bonuses, to make the next one easier.
But ultimately, there aren’t many unlockables, and the game limits how you can use them. It all comes down to how well you prepare for each run and your choices along the way.
As a rogue-lite, Star Renegades has a very well-defined gameplay loop. We start with a team of three rebels, each with a unique set of skills. We then set out to liberate some planets.
These planets are targets for world-ending weapons known as Behemoths. Whenever our team lands on a planet, we get three days to prepare for the arrival of the Behemoth. Much like modern Persona games or Fire Emblem Three Houses, this part relies on efficient time management.
Planets are divided into regions, and we can assault three of them a day. To liberate these locations, we usually need to face the Imperium soldiers guarding them. Once freed, each region grants us a bonus, be it more weapons or an upgrade to our shields or armor. And you’re going to want to collect as many of these bonuses as you can.
Come the fourth day on a planet, the Behemoth arrives for a climactic boss battle. Star Renegades doesn’t let you bide your time while waiting for the Behemoth – you need all the time you have to prepare for the final battle, even if it means coming in with less than full health.
But preparation is only half the battle in Star Renegades. The rest is up to your combat skills.
The crown jewel of Star Renegades is its one-of-a-kind timeline-based combat system. It’s in battles that Star Renegades shines its brightest, both in terms of gameplay and visuals.
The turn-based combat in Star Renegades is divided into rounds that represent 60 seconds of battle. All attacks have a set activation time. Your goal is to activate your attacks before your opponents can initiate theirs.
Most attacks can also stagger your opponents, delaying their turn by several seconds. If you manage to stun enemies enough, their attack for the current round will be canceled. There are limits to how this can be used, so you can’t abuse the system, but the result is tactical battles that require a lot of thinking.
The different attacks and abilities add plenty of freedom and depth to the combat. As you can expect from an RPG, each class has its advantages: some cause more stagger but less damage, some can taunt your enemies, and some can heal. Each class packs infinite possibilities, which is all the more reason to keep trying out new characters in every attempt to take down the Imperium.
Each Timeline Matters
Don’t think Star Renegades treats your rebels as disposable just because you can jump to a new timeline. Our characters matter.
At night, in between battles, our rebels camp together and hang out. We can choose which tactics to deploy for the upcoming day using expandable cards, but what you’d most likely do is just talk. Spending time in camp is how our units raise their friendship and get stronger.
Inspired by Japanese role-playing games, with possibly Fire Emblem among them, Star Renegades features a companionship system that lets our characters build connections. As our team camps in between battles, they build up their friendship and unlock support conversations and bonuses. These conversations aren’t very long, but the game does feature an extensive roster of characters. Each couple gets their own short story arc – an impressive amount of content from an indie game. These features are my favorite in role-playing games, and I loved it in Star Renegades.
The game also gives the enemies a similar treatment, with a nemesis system of sorts. Some enemies you battle are unique and can run away or get promoted if they do well against you. But this system never made me change my strategy throughout my runs and felt almost unnecessary.
Simply put, Star Renegades is one of the most beautiful pixel-art games I have ever played. The game renders pixel art over 3D models and applies lighting to create its unique “2DX” style. Each attack and ability is carefully animated. The 3D camera moves and zooms to make every moment in battle cinematic and cool.
The sound effects stand out as well, with the right mix of blasts and dubstep WUB-WUBs that give every attack the oomph it needs.
Star Renegades is now one of my favorite rogue-lite games. It takes some of the best features from games I love, such as Fire Emblem and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, but ultimately, it stands on its own thanks to its unique combat system, visuals, and premise.
Choosing which areas to assault first had me thinking hard, and chatting up rebels at the camp was a fun and relaxing way to expand relationships between characters.
But ultimately, it’s the combat in Star Renegades that really stands out. It encourages exploration and creativity while being challenging, but not to the point where it feels brutal. Star Renegades is definitely one of my favorite Role-playing games of 2020.
Developer: Massive Damage
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release Date: Sep. 8, 2020
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Our Star Renegades review copy was provided by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.