I grew up on RPGs with turn-based battles, but I don’t play them much anymore. Too often, they’re designed for quantity over quality, leading to long strings of fights you can grind through on auto-pilot. It’s ironic, then, that Star Renegades, which applies the run-based roguelite structure of games like Into the Breach and Dead Cells to a gauntlet of turn-based RPG battles you repeat over and over again, would find a way to reinvigorate them. Tactically taxing and demanding in every moment, Star Renegades makes every turn feel like a new crossroads where the fate of the world (or at least your playthrough) hangs in the balance. Whether it elicits ecstasy or agony, it’s always exciting.
The “run” in Star Renegades is a truncated RPG quest. Your party, which begins as a trio and maxes out as a group of six, repels a multiverse-conquering invasion force. Taking a cue from Into The Breach, failing in Star Renegades prompts you to send a robot messenger to the next dimension so it can prepare to defend itself. On the journey, you move your party around world maps, level up, equip weapons and armor, learn bits and pieces about your heroes’ backstories, and, of course, fight.
Star Renegades’ RPG trappings allow its pixel art aesthetic to shine. In moving back and forth from world map to combat screen, you get to see the vibrant, colorful sci-fi world from both a bird’s-eye and ground-level view. With little room for actual narrative, so much of Star Renegades’ world and characters is conveyed through its look and feel.