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Game Info:

Starward Rogue
Developed By: Arcen Games LLC
Published By: Arcen Games LLC
Released: January 22, 2016
Available On: Windows, Mac, Linux
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number Of Players: SinglePlayer
Price: $11.99
(Humble Store Link)

Starward Rogue is a top down shooter roguelite, which means the classic randomly generated levels and permadeath. But, Starward Rogue adds some slight innovation to this oversaturated genre: it combines the top down elements with shoot 'em ups (shmups), meaning dodging lots of bullets. If you can handle some tough dodging, and love this niche genre, you’re in for a ride.

This game is in a bird's-eye view with twin stick shooter controls, meaning they are your basic WASD movement and mouse to aim and shoot. What Starward does with controls that’s a little different, and really useful, is add sprint (shift) and slow walk (control) buttons. This makes it so you are able to dodge significantly more precisely, which overall leads to more interesting patterns, more bullets, and less complaints about character speed. The minor issue with this is that you end up holding down control for a lot of the game, which can tire whatever finger you are using to hold it down. But aside from that, the developers adding these buttons as options is considerate and helps the game stay fair.

On gamepad the controls are significantly worse in a few ways. You do have the normal twin stick controls; left stick to move, and right stick to shoot. The issue here is the slow-walk button. You press left stick to walk slowly, which doesn't sound too bad until you realize you'll be holding this down while moving a lot. Fortunately, both keyboard and gamepad controls are able to be changed.

Starward Rogue
Highlights:

Strong Points: Replayable; innovative; controls well
Weak Points: Difficult; not for casual players; lack of story
Moral Warnings: Machine violence

Starward’s gameplay is pretty simple: move from room to room in handcrafted areas stacked together in randomly generated layouts, kill everything in it, and move on to the next. Along the way you will buy items from various shops. Then you fight the main boss of each floor, afterwards proceeding to the next. It’s a simple gameplay loop, but Starward does it well. It keeps it from being a grind by having shops near every dead end, and a decent sized variety of enemies to take down. To beat the game, you have to do this for 7 floors, eventually taking on the final boss. This loop never gets old because of the randomly generated floors, items, enemies, and bosses.

There are several types of items in Starward Rogue. Everything from stat upgrades to orbital robots to weapons, and there is a large variety of each of these. Every run you will have a different inventory of items. Somehow, even though there’s this many items, the game never feels luck-based. You never feel like you got dealt the wrong deck, even with such a variety of items to grab each time.

Along with there being over 30 enemy types, there are a lot of bosses to fight. You will be fighting unique bosses nearly every run, each one with different bullet patterns to dodge. These patterns usually consist of 20-30 small, slow bullets, covering most of the screen. All of the bosses have a reasonable amount of health, so the fight isn’t too long nor is it too short. I have not come across a boss fight that has been unfair.

To fight through this ship, you can choose from 7 different mechs, each with slightly different stats and mechanics. You have your basic "average stats with a bit more health", then you also have a mech that has very little defense, but time only moves when you move. Not every mech has something interesting like that, as most of them are just altered stats.

Starward Rogue
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 87%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

There are a few issues with this title. For starters, a full completed run through all 7 floors takes an average of 90 minutes to do, which makes these runs a little tiresome later on. Luckily, there is a save and quit option. Then there is the one major “issue” with Starward Rogue: the difficulty. This game is not meant for any sort of casual player. It takes some hefty dedication to beat, as well as skill with games of the same genre from the past. Don’t let that scare you too much though; there are 5 difficulty options to choose from, so if you need a little bit of an easier experience, you can simply choose an easier difficulty. Although, even at the lowest difficulty, the game doesn’t let you through easily.

As for story, there isn’t much of one. The game starts with a robot named “Rodney” asking you to break him out of a ship lodged into the sun, but the story doesn’t progress much further than that. If you are looking for something with a decent lore, you can’t expect much of anything from this game.

The visuals and art style aren't really anything special. It isn't super attractive to look at, but at the same time it does its job. The bullets on the screen are usually very small (less than 16X16 pixels), but it makes up for this by making them colorful and distinct from the environment.

Morally there aren’t any huge issues here. There’s some machines shooting machines with some explosions, but there are no human characters, and no blood or gore. The only thing other than that that may be an issue is that there are health sacrifice shops where you turn in maximum hit points for an item. But these deals are not made with any sort of evil figure, just a robot merchant. Starward Rogue does a lot of what some more controversial games do, so it’s a great alternative, and just a great game anyway.

This is one of my favorite titles. The difficulty and random generation has kept me coming back after hundreds of hours. Although if you cannot handle a tough beast of a game, you might want to stay away.

- Kinix

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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