It’s hard to really get a feel for what Star Renegades will be from just the few hours I spent with the demo. Barely lasting past an hour itself, even repeated playthroughs of the two levels shown can only scratch the surface of what promises to be a unique and emergent turn-based RPG. The few missions available are unable to showcase the 45+ playable characters, the extent of the relationship system, or the scope of the procedurally-generated campaign. But I’ll tell you one thing: it’s got my attention.
Set in a galaxy plunged into inter-dimensional war, Star Renegades follows warrior Wynn Syphex, who gets shot down in the opening battle and witnesses her brother killed by the invaders. Wynn is sought out by Professor Zurek, who’s counterpart in another dimension has already witnessed the destruction of her world and sent her robot J5-T1N across dimensions to warn other galaxies.
At present it’s hard to know exactly how divergent the campaign will be, but the missions are dynamic and procedural, and the huge host of characters and classes (there are 13 classes in total) gave me serious flashbacks to Suikoden, one of my favourite JRPG series of all time. What seems likely is the small details will change, but the overall story will flow in the same direction each playthrough; it’ll just break around different obstacles every time.
An enemy hierarchy system seems borrowed from grander titles like Shadow of Mordor, whereby your opponent’s force will shift and change dependant on your successes, failures, and choices. A throneroom view enables you to appraise the enemy, watch its generals get promoted or replaced, and select your primary target. It’s not altogether new, but its inclusion in a turn-based RPG like Star Renegades feels fresh.
Combat follows a Reactive Time Battle System, which is a fancy way of saying you have an initiative meter that your party and opponents are spaced along based on which attacks or abilities you’ve chosen. The cool element in Star Renegades is that you can interrupt your opponents or counter their attacks before they make them, allowing you to disrupt their plans and even move along the meter. For example, if you can get an attack in before an enemy has a chance to launch theirs you haver a high chance of scoring a critical hit and “breaking” them, reducing their armour and forcing them back along the meter.
It’s a system that makes every battle feel different, and makes the composition of your team hugely important. Fill your squad with slow, heavy-hitters and you may well deal damage, but you’ll rarely get the chance to land crits or interrupt the enemy. Likewise, only specific characters can restore health or shields, while some can damage multiple enemies at once or use buffs and debuffs to influence the battlefield.
Beyond the combat, exploration and enemy evolution, interpersonal relationships may also be different for each player. Characters who fight together and interact during downtime between missions will form bonds. These bonds not only unlock combo attacks that can be executed once per fight for devastating damage, but can also lead to deeper relationships and children who, when grown, will become playable characters too because Star Renegades’ story spans multiple generations.
So, sure, it’s hard to appreciate or predict the ultimate scope of Star Renegades based on such a short demo, but everything about it feels ambitious and interesting. The animation is gorgeous, the muted pallet and inventive characters creating an art style that feels oddly familiar but somehow unique at the same time. It’s battle system is not the easiest to get to grips with, but it won’t take long to understand its intricacies. And I should say right away that the dialogue at this point isn’t voiced, so that’s lots of reading if it stays this way. But while some of the writing is a little on the cheesy side, it has a sense of light-hearted camaraderie and space-age derring-do about that will endear a lot of people – particularly fans of anime sci-fi.
Although I played the demo on Steam, Star Renegades is coming to consoles too, including the Nintendo Switch. I’ve got to be honest: that’s where I’m most excited to play it. Regardless of platform, though, Star Renegades is guaranteed to turn heads when it’s released later this year.