Posted on 24 Nov 2018 by Jay Shaw

Crying Suns

The Defence

Developer: Alt Shift
Publisher: Alt Shift
Genre: Indie, Roguelike
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: No data.

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Dual Core @ 2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia 1GB VRAM
AMD equivalent
RAM: 2 GB
HDD: 1 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: None
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: Unknown
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Quad Core @ 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia 1GB VRAM
AMD equivalent
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 1 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: None
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: Unknown

We’ve spent some time with the (at the time of writing) newer demo for Crying Suns. By the time you’re reading this it’ll likely be available to download on Steam. So, what is Crying Suns? It’s a rogue-lite mixed with real-time strategy game for its battles. The venerable FTL would be an apt comparison for the structure of the game though it draws influence from elsewhere like Long Journey Home and Out There too. Let’s dive in for a more detailed look.

At the start of a playthrough you’re dumped into the first system in a chain with multiple paths (just like FTL) and given a brief snippet of story. This changes with each run, maybe this time you’re an admiral in a fallen empire trying to regain lost glory, maybe you’re lost, or pursuing a local pirate lord who has been causing trouble for colonists. While the story doesn’t massively impact gameplay it does give you a feeling of purpose other than just surviving until the end. This light approach to storytelling also helps with repeat runs, not just keeping them fresh each time but also helping to fill in more of the universe’s lore and pretty neatly building up a picture of the setting.

Typically while exploring your main worry will be fuel. You’ll spend this resource as you move from planet to planet and system to system. Sometimes events will cause you to lose or gain fuel and sometimes the RNG will make refuelling harder or more reliant on traders, and sometimes the RNG gods will bless you with plentiful refuelling depots in each new system you jump to. It’s nice to play a rogue-lite with a fluctuating sense of urgency, there’s always a different worry each time, whether that’s money or fuel, or repairs.

Good luck with that Hawks.

In the demo there’s only one vessel available to choose from but you can see there are several that will be present in the final game. The one you’re provided with seems to be fairly average all-round, with a decent starting gun and a full compliment of fighters, drones, and cruisers. These four elements will be your main focus when encountering a hostile vessel. Upon such a meeting, the game will shift into a three-quarters view of a hex-grid battlefield with your ship on the bottom and an enemy ship on the top. Both ships can then power up weapons, support craft, and support crew and duel it out until one defeats the other.

This can be surprisingly difficult to achieve because the enemy may not have the same restrictions you have – they may have multiple squadrons of drones or fighters that can overpower yours with sheer volume, or they may have an area of effect main weapon that will decimate your slow moving cruisers. There can also be battlefield hazards like turrets, asteroid/debris fields, and limited lanes of attack. It may be advantageous in the moment to rush your drones through a dense debris field, taking damage to evade enemy ships and quickly damage their battleship, but that sustained damage may bite you in the arse later on when you’re fielding damaged squadrons for the next several solar systems.

Another interesting mechanic is the role your crew members play. Not only do they show up on the bridge of your ship as you travel around and converse with various entities but they also have nine skills across three categories; soldier, spy, and scientist. These skills are used on away missions along with a stock of commandos to scour the surface of a planet or installation for valuables. You pretty much just choose the best man for the job and leave them to it, but it’s still nail biting to watch your commandos heartbeat monitor style health gauges deplete as they move around.

The victory we deserved, but not the victory we needed.

Crew also play a role in combat, each crew member has an automatic skill that activates every few seconds while they’re equipped in a fight. These can be things like inflicting a critical status effect on the enemy ship every 18 seconds, or removing one from your ship, or even healing your squadrons and battleship. It’s hard to tell from the demo, but if there’s more variety in the effects these crew members can have then picking who to bring with you on a run will be just as enjoyable as crushing pirates.

While we obviously can’t speak empirically about the quality of the final game just yet, we can say that what we’ve played so far is fantastic. There’s a good blend of action and thoughtfulness required to do well and the variety of the game’s different runs will force you to change tactics regularly. One run you might be a charitable, affable captain willing to help everyone you run across and the next run you might be a fuel starved, almost crippled ship on the verge of defeat with every new encounter gambling on the outcome of each area. It’s rare to have a rogue-lite game that offers such a compelling setting to explore and even rarer for one to offer much variety other than how you’ll get shafted so Crying Suns gets our seal of approval at this stage. If you enjoyed FTL you owe it to yourself to play this game.

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