Star Renegades and How to Better Highlight Fantastic Indie Titles
There needs to be more events inspired by Nintendo's Indie World to help get lesser-known games out to a bigger audience.
As early as 2015, I think it would be fair to say that there is always that one specific indie game that breaks through the AAA barrier both critically and commercially that reaches those who don’t follow every facet of news that comes out every month. For 2015 there was Undertale, in 2018 there was Celeste, and last year was Untitled Goose Game just to name a few.
This year’s indie darling to most —if you consider Fall Guys to be out of the indie space— has been Hades, the latest game by developer Supergiant and now considered one of the best roguelikes ever made. Personally, I was relatively frustrated with how Hades was praised when I found more personal love from Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer. But those come from two completely different genres. But what about indies of the same?
Recently, I finally took the time to play Star Renegades the other indie roguelike from this year, and one of which you maybe haven’t heard of until now. Developed by Massive Damage, Star Renegades is a retro-style, turn-based RPG where a motley crew of heroes tries to stop a robotic alien race from destroying their reality alongside a reality traveling robot known as J5T-1N. After each failed run, J5T-IN travels to the next alternate reality where the same heroes exist and where you try again despite constantly thinking that you failed an entirely different reality.
It has an incredibly deep diverse combat system that feels more like a side by side tactical RPG where one wrong decision could significantly affect your team and your run. Once you get a hang of its mechanics, Star Renegades becomes immediately addictive to the point where I’ve been thinking about it while playing other games.
After my first five hours with Star Renegades, I preferred it much more compared to Hades, and with even more hours under my belt my opinion still hasn’t changed. Hades I think is still great with its own appeal. And I think there are many reasons as to why Hades has received the level of recognition it has this year, and how it (unintentionally) loomed a massive shadow on other indie games, but more specifically, Star Renegades, a title of its own genre.
For those unaware, Hades was an early access game that was announced alongside the launch of the Epic Games Store in December of 2018. From my own personal social circles, there wasn’t anyone I knew who was following it during that time, but with what I’ve heard posthumously, the action roguelike naturally evolved over time by a significant margin. With Hades’s official release being announced at the beginning of Nintendo’s Indie World presentation in August, it immediately attracted eyes —including my own— leading it to become one of the biggest games of this year.
Star Renegades released a mere eleven days before Hades giving Massive Damage little time for their much lesser-known roguelike title to get gamers interested. Additionally, the developer has only made one game prior to Star Renegades while each game Supergiant has made is widely considered an indie gem.
I think the most major observation that I’ve recently realized with the success of Hades is how much of a commercial boost a game gets if it is showcased during a Nintendo Indie World presentation. Not only was it in the showcase, but it was the first game to be shown with a complete trailer to boot, making it hard to ignore. Each Nintendo presentation feels like an event, so those who watch tend to not forget the games that stick out to them, and Hades certainly left a stellar first impression. With that being said though, there is another key tool to get indies on consumers’ radars; Xbox Game Pass.
Multiple popular indie titles this year, including my two favorites Star Renegades and Spiritfarer, have launched on Xbox Game Pass for both console and PC. It has already been proven that these deals with Xbox’s subscription service have significantly helped with the number of players who try out games from different developers. As an example, CrossCode developer Radical Fish Games has previously explained how it saw a higher player count through Xbox Game Pass than other platforms combined. Fall Guys which feels more like a platform than an indie since launch, found massive success due to being a PlayStation Plus title during the first month of its release as well. Who knows how well it would have done on the platform if it wasn’t given away for free.
While great, it doesn’t get the promotional value from something like Indie World. It would be cool to see Xbox do something similar for all the games that are making their way to Game Pass every month. By following a model similar to Nintendo, it would be more exciting for subscribers and would be more effective than just putting out a tweet or sending a push notification to your phone through the mobile app.
Again, I think that Hades is a fantastic game that deserves most, if not all, of the praise it has been getting. It is the most accessible roguelike for those who are new to the genre which will casually bring in more players through that alone. Star Renegades is a more traditional roguelike in difficulty with being a consistently challenging experience that may turn off some. However, that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely brilliant, and in my opinion, a worthy contender for Game of the Year. It makes me wonder if it had released at a different time, would it have received the level of attention it deserves, or would it be lost to most just like it was this year?
This idea I’m presenting is hypothetical and could all be coincidental at the end of the day, but I do know that there are ways to better promote indie titles moving forward. Instead of putting the vast majority of attention on one indie, let us lift those of similar quality on that same pedestal. And I get it; there are countless indie titles that release every year, so for players who are really looking for something different they have to take their own time out to look for them. But there should be ways of promoting them clearly before getting to that point.
Word of mouth is a huge help for indie developers, and so I’m using my platforms to tell you that if you love roguelikes, then Star Renegades is a must-play. It is one of the best games of 2020, a Game of the Year contender, and it is truly a shame that it hasn’t had the recognition it deserved from most outlets throughout the year. Regardless of that, Star Renegades will still be available once 2020 ends, so I highly suggest you play it. I hope this article will help give it at least a portion of the visibility it deserves.