by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
You know, sometimes I think I'd lose my head if it weren't attached so well to my shoulders. But should I ever find my noggin-a-rollin' then I'd like to make a note I'd like it to be placed in a mech so that I may wage combat on hordes of enemies. This is part of the very light premise that is Starward Rogue, a roguelike (or roguelite as the devs call it) where players find themselves as a disembodied head set atop one of several mechs. You know the drill with roguelikes; they're frantic, they're unforgiving, and you either love them or hate them. Very rarely is there a middle ground on the appeal. Starward Rogue is one of those rare instances.
Survival on the Megalith
The Megalith is a monstrous space-borne facility inhabited by homicidal robots and mecha-nations; you of course being one of them. When the game begins you are taken through a brief tutorial, laying out the controls of the game in a few short, sweet, mostly non-violent hallways. The controls are simplistic enough with the W,A,S,D keys used for movement, and the mouse and spacebar used for aiming and attacks of various degrees. It handles rather well, but it's also a rather standard outing for a roguelike which may not bring the wow factor one may be hoping for when looking for a new game.
What Starward Rogue lacks in uniqueness, it makes up for in variety, chaos, and vibrancy. The game brings both visual and audible excitement. Lasers and explosions shoot across the screen and chaos only escalates once it begins to provide a flurry of color that is far too often missing from modern day gaming. That being said, this is the sort of game those epilepsy warnings were made for. The animations themselves aren't too much to speak of, most enemies I've encountered of the 120 variants that are in-game are single structures with no moving parts. They each look unique in their own ways, but don't really have many animations other than when they fire. The animation improves somewhat with the player characters actually exhibiting signs of movement but it's still a bare minimum. Thankfully, with how much the action picks up so quickly and so often, it's rare you'll notice or care about the lack of fine details.
It's in the chaos that the game's difficulty often rears its head. This game is tough, and it has a lot to do with the mix of enemies and environments you find yourself enclosed in. Open areas and tight corridors are both equal death sentences depending entirely on the enemy makeup you run into. I died often, and there were a few times where it was beyond disheartening. One instance of this is was one of the first times I reached a boss battle, I'd gotten him down to only a few hits remaining only to die myself. Death sends you all the way back to the beginning of the level, it's no joke. If you're like me, there will be more than a few times where you just have to set the game down and come back to it later. This was all playing on Normal mind you, after the repeat slaughter I didn't dare try the higher difficulty levels.
Killing Bots To Beat Drops
So what made it easy for me to come back for more punishment time and time again? The soundtrack. I'm in love with it. Lying somewhere between the early days of synth club music and modern techno tracks, there's never a shortage of a tune to set the mood. While there are few tracks, each of them seems to fit the game perfectly starting off relatively calm and then escalating quickly. Perhaps there is more music if you can actually make it far into the game, but with the four or five different tracks I've heard I could listen to those on a loop themselves. If the developers ever release the soundtrack for purchase, I'll eagerly pick up a copy for myself and probably push a few onto friends as well. The soundtrack is my personal highpoint of the game, which doesn't belittle the entire package but rather enhances it. It makes Starward Rogue more memorable than it would be if it lacked the sounds at hand.
Not Quite Mech-nificent
When all is said and done, Starward Rogue is a solid title and may be worth roguelike fans’ attention if they stumble upon it. It may be par for the course in many aspects, but there is just enough that makes it find a comfortable spot among other titles in major thanks to the wide range of colors used for visual appeal, and the catchy tunes of the soundtrack. It may be infuriating at times, but it makes it easier to be a glutton for punishment with the right bells and whistles.
Frantic combat, great use of colors for visual aesthetics, catchy soundtrack
Perhaps too unforgiving for most players, lacking animations