Flying through space, somewhere between a bullet hail shoot’em up and a retro classic arcade is Steredenn a game which relies on rogue-like randomized waves of enemies and quirky weapons. Steredenn is a fun space shooter that lets you switch between two weapons once you’ve collected a second. The levels are quick, but get longer as you progress. The real meat of the game lies in the boss battles to cap off each level.
When the game starts, your mother ship is destroyed. As its breaking out you and a few others fly out. You only get one life, but you have plenty of health and making it to the next level restores your health. Having only one life keeps the immersion that you are fighting against the odds alone. When you die there’s a whole new game waiting for you. That’s the rogue-like element of it all. I assume the others that fly out have their own lone randomized mission they’re struggling with as well.
If you’re looking for walls or anything other than space rocks, look elsewhere. Steredenn gives you full control over the screen. The only objects are projectiles, enemies, and asteroids to run into. There are even explosive asteroids that detonate when you destroy them to take surrounding enemies with them. Some asteroids have turrets mounted on them. There are even red laser beams that reflect off of space mirrors. You need to destroy the emitter first, before you destroy the mirror otherwise you might inadvertently spray yourself with a red laser beam.
In one way there’s a lot of variety here with different enemies, gun cannons and red laser beams. The only problem is that within fifteen minutes of playing, I felt like I had seen everything the game has to offer. Sure there are two or so new enemies for each new level, but they all look the same. like flying dark gray walls with subtle variations. I can recognize the enemies more by their size than their appearance. Even the first few bosses look the same before they grow larger with each level further you go. With two hours into the game, I feel like at the third or forth level, the game runs out of boss diversity that the early levels have.
The boss fights are where the real bullet hail patterns come into play. The bosses may look similar, but they each have different patterns you’ll need to cope with. Its several changing patterns. Once a boss runs through all the patterns, it starts from the first pattern all over again. They’re diverse and rich bullet patterns that any game of the genre would be proud of. The game does a lot with fat bullets. Waves, spirals, blooms and other patterns are still here.
When you defeat a boss, it explodes in a blaze of glory, and out of its body fall a selection of five or so passive abilities to chose from. Things like +20% score, reflect damage taken by enemies, weapons break shields, +10% damage, bullets do +50% damage and get +15% drops and even one more try on a wave making it so you have two lives. A lot of these feel uninspiring. There are still interesting abilities though such as firing rockets in addition and grow a shield. I go for the ones that have more health, more damage and so on. I’m sure a lot of score attackers will go for the chains and the scores.
To keep with arcade roots, the game offers plenty of points, bonuses and chains for destroying waves of enemies rather than just enemies themselves. Its well worth your time to stop a ship from leaving the screen. Speaking of leaving the screen, if an object enters from behind, above or below your ship, it will give you a warning icon. Until one of the level starts throwing quick metiers from below you. Then your best option is to stay toward the top of the screen.
As a game, Steredenn plays well with a controller or keyboard. The movement is speedy to help you avoid those projectiles, but its still precise. Your ship’s cockpit seems to be the hit box to take damage from. Big enemies, big projectiles, tiny, two-pixel hit box and you’ll still get hit. The only issue that I have with the controls is hitting one button to change between weapons. You have two weapons, so it would be easier just use the second button as the second gun, but then there’s an issue of collecting a new weapon replaces your old weapon. Also when you switch weapons, you need to let up off the shooting in order to shoot with the new weapon; that is unless you’ve collected the ability to contradict that.
There are plenty of weapons in Steredenn and all random drops from larger carrier ships. You start with a typical beam weapon with a steady flow of bullets. Each of the other weapons has its own personality. A wide spread shot weapon with bigger bullets in the middle and smaller bullets at wider angles. There’s a weapon that shoots small bullets in eight directions, front, back,, up, down, and everywhere in between. It also has a focused beam that goes wherever you point it. You’ve got rockets that take a split second to release and homing missiles that shoot less frequently. Death lasers can be shot once, then need to recharge over time. Larger lasers have fat beams that deteriorate as you stay firing. Torpedoes have a long reload time. Flamethrowers are short range.
Then the game gets quirky with its giant saw blades and sword weapons. The shock wave makes you charge before you can release a short distance burst. The longer you hold, the greater the burst. This weapon turns boss battles into dull tedium as you can sit behind a boss while they fire forward. Some bosses still have patterns that fly directly at you rather than forward.
Next you have the bots. Gun bots and flame bots. Rather than you shooting, you launch up to three bots one at a time, then they do the shooting for you. Well then you switch to a different weapon and shoot. Its a good idea in theory, but the problem is that the bots die easy, they still need to rotate to target an enemy and when most of the enemies are flying horizontal, these bots are shooting where the enemies are rather than where they’ll be. So there’s a good chance the bots will miss and be ineffective overall.
While I can say its fun and interesting to find new weapons, they just feel ineffective compared to a lot of the normal tropes in shmups. That’s why I’ve described a lot of them to you. Its just far easier to stick with your default weapon, homing missiles or the spread beam than mess with anything else. Some of the weapons move your ship slow to compensate for their power, but that’s enough to justify never using them. The homing missile while under powered can still clean a screen and make boss battles easy albeit tedious and dull.
In a way Steredenn should rely on skill because of its random selection of wave patterns, but I feel like I recognize the patterns far too often. The game falls into a game of luck and chance rather than skill. Luck of what weapon drops. Luck of what passive abilities you have to chose from. Luck of which of the first bosses you fight. Some of them can feel unfair, but that’s why you play again and again to learn their patterns.
There’s a charm to Steredenn’s production and retro style. I’d rather play a game that looks like this than a lot of other games. The backgrounds look good, but the entire game is pixelated and low resolution on purpose. Its an easy game to pick up, play and have a different yet similar experience to your last time.
In terms of other frills, there is an arena mode where you can fight each of the game’s thirteen defeated boss. Steredenn makes use of online leader boards and daily challenges as well. Both good ways to keep people in the game.
For anyone looking for a quick fix of arcade action, Steredenn is a good use of your time. If anyone is looking for a polished refined experience that you can memorize everything, then look elsewhere. I’d also like to thank the Steredenn team for granting me a copy to review.