Posted on 19 Sep 2019 by Jay Shaw

Crying Suns

The Defence

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

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Dual Core @ 2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia 1GB VRAM
AMD equivalent
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
DirectX: 11
Controller: None
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: Unknown

The Case

Crying Suns, from developer Alt Shift, is a tactical real-time post-apocalyptic FTL-like that puts you in the boots of newly resurrected Admiral Idaho aboard his battleship with the only working OMNI in known existence. Immediately you’re tasked with solving three mysteries: Why did the OMNIs shut down? What’s the truth about the Empire? And what happened in Admiral Idaho’s past? The biggest mystery of all is whether the game’s any good, but you can keep reading to solve that one.

The Trial

Crying Suns is a rogue-lite on the surface. Broadly the structure is the same as the critically acclaimed FTL from several years ago. You’re a lone ship journeying across a dangerous galaxy using top-down maps with set travel paths while outrunning pursuers. Where Crying Suns diverges is where things get really interesting; the campaign is a five-chapter affair where you’ll work your way through multiple sectors, exploring multiple planets, anomalies, and shops in each system within each sector. Every sector is capped off with a powerful boss battle, some of which will spill the beans on the universe’s mysteries in post-battle conversations.

Much like other games of its ilk, you’ll rarely be exceptionally well equipped or supplied. You have to juggle a fuel resource called Neo-N, a currency called Scrap, and your garrison of Marines. Neo-N is used to make jumps to new stars on the sector map and jumps between planets at each star. You can refuel at each star but might get anywhere between 1 and 6 Neo-N, unlucky rolls can leave you jumping from star to star with no chance to explore and gather more supplies. Scrap can be quite common or scarce depending on the difficulty you play at but even with plenty of the stuff around you’ll be making tough decisions between a chunky upgrade tree, buying supplies/weapons/squadrons/crew, repairs, and random events. Marines are a far simpler resource and are expended on certain random events or ground scavenging missions, the latter of which are led by a senior crew member which affects the chances of success, injury, and losses. Losing Marines is by far the least harmful of your supply problems and the potential rewards from a ground expedition can far outweigh the losses if you have a competent commander to lead them.

Exploding space ships are always cool.

At the start of each chapter you can choose a ship from those you’ve unlocked and much like FTL each has its own specialisation. The first ship is well-rounded, while the second vessel deploys lots of squadrons but has no guns, etc. Upgrades can patch over a ship’s weaknesses such as adding weapon ports or expanding squadron capacity but it’s always important to play to your strengths and the current situation in Crying Suns or you’ll find yourself wasting valuable resources hunting for items or Scrap to change your tactics.

All these upgrades come together in the real-time tactical ship-to-ship battles. In these encounters you’ll deploy squadrons and weapons to both attack and defend. Weapons have great variety, from standard damage dealers to laying down electrical fields that deal damage over time or blocking an enemy from moving through certain tiles. Squadrons are more rock-paper-scissors: Fighters deal huge damage to drones. Frigates deal huge damage to fighters. Cruisers are powerful against everything but take massive damage if attacked point blank. Drones can shred everything but fighters but are fairly squishy. Special abilities for higher quality squadrons change things up, for example: some drones can teleport but can’t move, defending them while enemy squadrons move off from their capital ship and then teleporting in to decimate the enemy HP pool with little to no interference can be a powerful tactic while it lasts.

Your crew and their skills are important. Choose wisely.

You can also assign senior crew members, which you can choose two of at the start of a run, to three stations: hull, squadrons, and weapons. While assigned to these posts the crew will repair any critical damage taken and usually have some kind of special passive ability. For example, you might be able to deploy squadrons further from your ship or heal hull damage over time. Putting the right crew members in the right slots can seriously boost your chances of survival but thanks to their ability to repair critical damage, it’s best to not leave any crew member idle if there’s an open slot.

The AI is quite capable in a battle though suffers from getting overly aggressive with its squadrons, often rushing fighters and drones right into ambushes and not making good use of terrain features like asteroid fields that will act as temporary shields for squadrons inside them at the cost of movement speed. It’s far more competent with its weapon systems though, often deploying anti-squadron splash damage weapons to devastating effect or picking off a rushing squadron with a direct damage weapon. While enemy vessels are rarely armed with the exact same gear you are, there’s plenty to learn from watching the way they play and adapting their tactics to your own circumstances.

Combat is often a back and forth battle as units are lost.

The story is well enough crafted with obvious influences from Dune and Foundation (which are openly stated on the game’s store page) but with little nods to other series like a planetary system being called Tanagra referencing Star Trek. Sometimes the writing suffers with a clunky line of dialogue, “You’ll barely notice your battleship exploding.” that’s supposed to be an intimidating threat from a chapter boss but just makes him look like a laughable moron. The universe is built up slowly through dialogue and encounters and often it’s up to you how many questions you ask or whether you skip it all to keep moving. Some of the core questions, those mysteries I mentioned earlier, are quite compelling: OMNIs, machines worshipped as gods that govern all aspects of life from weather to food have shut down, basically collapsing a star-spanning Empire into impoverished systems slowly dying due to slow decline as resources grow scarcer and bandits, zealots, and other miscreants prey on the weak to prolong their apocalypse. Chasing what caused this is genuinely intriguing – did they shut themselves down or did someone do it to them and why? Idaho himself has plenty of skeletons in the closet too, though we won’t risk spoiling those.

Presentation wise, the graphics have a unique 3D sprite look (achieved by layering sprites, I believe) that adds to the grimy, slowly decaying atmosphere of the universe with ship designs that are mechanically gross and characters that are physically twisted by their beliefs or augmentations. Audio however is there but falls a bit flat in impact. The exploration music is suitably ambient and sits in the background setting the mood without drawing attention to itself but battle themes fail to elicit any kind of response, we were never pumped up for a fight or buoyed in our victory by a swell in the music. Though that too does help with the atmosphere of degeneration and regression you’re constantly wading through.

The Verdict

Short answer: If you liked FTL you’ll like Crying Suns. Long answer: Crying Suns inclusion of a well integrated story in a rogue-lite game marks it out as something of an oddity in the genre. Good design and battles that offer just enough tactical depth that even beginners can enjoy themselves. Alt Shift have obviously made this as a labour of love and the minor missteps of the UI and writing can easily be forgiven or overlooked entirely. We highly recommend taking the time to give Crying Suns a full play through.

Case Review

  • Enigma: The slow feed of information keeps the mystery going without making it boring.

  • Broadside: Battles are a mix of real-time strategy and ability management.

  • FTL-like: Could be the genesis of a new genre.

  • Music: It’s kinda not good, but musical tastes are so subjective we’re wary of marking it down.

  • UX: The UI sometimes requires 1 more click than is really necessary to accomplish something.

5 Score: 5/5
A must-play for fans of rogue-lites that don't take place in dungeons.


  • Text: Language selection, dialogue typewriter effect toggle.
  • Audio: Sound/music volume sliders and mute.
  • Graphics: Resolution selection, full screen toggle, rim effect toggle.
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