Starward Rogue’s Augmented expansion buffs up the shmuppy roguelike

Starward Rogue

Arcen Games have had a trying few years, but the plucky, quirky studio have always seemed to bounce back when you least expect it. They’ve seemingly found their footing again after their initial attempts to fund a sequel to AI War (arguably their best game) fell through, when we last heard about Starward Rogue the company was facing layoffs, after the game failed to sell nearly as well as hoped.

Two years later and Arcen believe that the time is right for a second debut. Accompanying a steep discount on the original Starward Rogue, they’ve rolled out a major expansion that aims to flesh out the twin-stick shooter/dungeon-crawler hybrid with all the content you’d expect from near-full-priced expansion.

Developed by a team of contractors and community modders that Arcen have named their ‘Extended’ team, the Augmented expansion is a massive slab of new content for the game, adding a bucketload of new items, enemies, room layouts, bosses, playable mechs and traps to the mix, as you can see in the trailer above.

After giving the expanded version of the game a quick spin, the cardinal sins of Starward Rogue seem largely untouched; the lack of feedback and effects on basic things like teleporters (you still just appear in another screen, instantly, without so much as a puff of smoke signalling your arrival) is a glaring omission, and projectiles that feel like they should be animated or even just rotating remain frustratingly static. That said, the game is still a mechanically interesting explore-o-shmup adventure. Moreso now, with the addition of new enemies and room types to mix things up a bit.

The five new mechs (two of which come free in a patch for the base game) in particular go some way to change up the flow of the game. They tend to lean towards heavy min-maxing, with the Warhog being a slow, armored, turret-deploying brute with a shotgun, while the Penumbra is a glass cannon, armed well, immune to environmental hazards and capable of phasing away from danger, but starts the game with only a single hit-point. The melee-heavy Paladin puts a fresh spin on the gameplay as well, with a directional shield that allows it to tank oncoming fire, but only from one side, creating some interesting new tactical situations.

If it was the programmer-art aesthetic and lack of visual spit-and-polish that put you off Starward Rogue, you’re probably not going to find what you wanted here, but for those who dug deep enough to get into the appreciably meaty (if oddly paced) game will find a lot to like in this expansion, especially with regards to the new mechs. Starward Rogue is 75% off on Steam, with the expansion weighing in at £4.67/$6.29, after the obligatory 10% launch discount.

As an interesting aside, the expansion’s press release taught me that ‘Arcen’ is pronounced ‘Ar-ken’. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.

13 Comments

  1. PHPH says:

    I love Arcen Games, but I think they would do much better if they worked on their visuals/graphics. Their games are packed with interesting and thoughtful design choices, but they all look like utter crap. I really think they’d find a much wider audience if they made their games prettier.

    • nimbulan says:

      I actually rather enjoy Arcen’s art style. I’ll admit A Valley Without Wind wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes (though I did really enjoy the game after I got into it,) but the rest of their games have been a nice break from the endless flood of voxels and each studio’s take on a cartoony art style that dominates the market.

    • LNO says:

      Their programmer art is indeed quite a thing. Fortunately for ai war 2 they have asked help from the community to improve this, and the rest of it is looking good so far.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Pretty is sadly expensive, I wouldn’t be surprised if that would increase the dev cost of their games by a large factor.

    • Arcanestomper says:

      I can deal with programmer art, but what’s always gotten me is their UI packed full of horrible multi colored fonts. I can appreciate that they want to convey a lot of information at once, but it’s a bit of an eyesore.

      Which isn’t to say I haven’t bought and at least tried all their games. I do like them, but I generally don’t tend to replay them.

    • epeternally says:

      Came here to say exactly this. We’ve reached a point where indie developers who get everything right – art, sound, gameplay – are still facing high odds of complete financial failure. Get one of those wrong and you’re screwed. And it’s not like we’re suffering from a shortage of twin-stick shooters, nothing about Starward Rogue is unique enough to cultivate a dedicated niche.

  2. Rwlyra says:

    It is not a roguelike, pretty far from it in fact, Bionic Dues was Arcen’s attempt at a roguelike formula, this one is a twinstick shooter.

    I got it on Steam, seemed the most buggy and broken of all of Arcen’s releases that I played, also crashed a lot. Not recommending this one :/
    AI War, Bionic Dues and Skyward Collapse were all better executed examples of their genres.

    • Darloth says:

      Hasn’t crashed for me for ages, though I didn’t play it that much and haven’t tried the expansion yet – that’s not hugely relevant to you of course, just wanted to mention it wasn’t the case for everyone, but what I -wanted- to say was…

      It feels fairly similar to Isaac, and most people believe that’s a roguelike. It has the concept of runs and upgrades and such, which reset after you die or win, and similar approaches to ramping difficulty and tool/weapon variety (though never as many as Isaac, maybe the expansion helps there).

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      “roguelike” and “twin stick shooter” are not mutually exclusive concepts. For a while now “roguelike” has been applied to pretty much anything with permadeath and procedural levels. So you get roguelike card games, roguelike space sime, roguelike strategy games, roguelike first person shooters etc.

      This game meets the basic criteria as it is applied in these here modern times.

      Personally to me if it’s not a game like Rogue it’s not a roguelike, but anyhoo, at least I am working with what I’m being given here.

    • nimbulan says:

      It’s not a roguelike, it’s a rogueLITE. This is the term that’s come to encompass the new generation of real-time rogue-inspired games with permadeath and permanent upgrade/unlock systems.

  3. Sin Vega says:

    This is the only Arcen game I haven’t yet played, due to boring circumstantial reasons. Time to change that, I reckon. Two years, good lord.

    They don’t have give them rubbish names. Best of luck to them though.

  4. nimbulan says:

    While I really enjoyed Starward Rogue when it was released, this expansion added a lot of much-needed variety and provided much more interesting items and enemies to spice up the game. It reminds me a lot of the Binding of Isaac expansions, which is a very good thing. I really hope the game sells better now, since it was this game’s poor sales that nearly sank the studio.

    I also REALLY hope they can get back to Stars Beyond Reach after AI War 2 is released. I was far more excited about that game than any other they’ve developed, especially after the complete and utter disaster that Civilization Beyond Earth was.

  5. Artyparis says:

    Arcen Games is a creative small team with “different” games.
    AI war : it’s not about crushing everything but chosing your targets. I like this gameplay where you tried to keep discret. AI (ruling galaxy) is busy “somewhere”. If you re a big threat, it will send tons of ships and crush you.
    Last Federation : You re the last of your kind and try to make others civilizations to be part of a peaceful federation.

    That’s unusual and interessant gampeplay! And their games are not pretty, but most them are cool.

    Being creative is not enough to sell games. For sure.
    But Arcen does its best with its small money and doesn’t run only for cash.
    Team is in touch with players community. They did say how difficult it is now to sell games. So many crappy stuff on sale every week. And Arcen can’t pay for a massive marketing campaign.

    So, yes, another small studio trying to survive.
    But if it sinks one day, such a loss imho. They don’t try to make another casual RPS/Roguelike/xxx but games they like. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they do great and few players notice.

    AI War 2 in on the way. Keep it on your radar !
    link to kickstarter.com
    Let’s hope for the best.

    Edit : sorry for my english. I’m a frog :)

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