It should be noted that the following thoughts and opinion were based off a unfinished model of the game.
The genre of couch-based multiplayer has taken off this past year. Games like TowerFall: Ascension, Sportsfriends, and Samurai Gunn have gotten decent press time and good reviews. Their concepts are basic enough, get four of your friends and fight, compete, whatever to win. The idea is honestly pretty risky. We live in an age of online multiplayer. Games like this are almost expected to have online multiplayer and I can’t say that’s a bad thing, online multiplayer rules. But there are somethings you miss out on over the net: the playful (or maybe real) shoves and hits on a friend, yelling all night, ordering a pizza, going to Taco Bell…I’m getting off-track. The point is, local multiplayer is not dead, its very capable of being entertaining, and Stardust Vanguards fits in very well with the growing genre.
Stardust Vanguards is all about precision. Precision in attacking and precision in dodging is key. Tense sword fights can end badly if your opponents is above you and you swing to your left and he swings downward. At first, it may seem like winning the fights is done by mashing, but you quickly learn you can control your swing’s direction and suddenly mashing will get you nothing but deaths.
However, your sword is not your only weapon and this is where Stardust Vanguards becomes hectic and unique. While ammo is limited, you can shoot shmup-like bullets at your foes which can be dodged, deflected with their sword perfect timing, or blocked with a shield. The bullets makes for a nice way to get someone off your tail or to create space between you and your opponent(s). So, you’ve got a sword and limited ammo, but you’re not alone out there. During the fight, you generate a point of RP a second. RP is used to call in reinforcements in the form of ships that will hunt down the enemy with bullets. The more you RP you have when you call them in, the more reinforcements you get, but be careful as you lose all RP upon death and with one-hit kills, you’re gonna die.
So imagine if you will, 4 people playing this and they all have reinforcements going on plus whatever they’re doing with their swords and bullets. That’s a hectic scene, full of quick dodges, bullets, and swords. But it doesn’t end there! And random, unaligned purple pirate ships can show up that go after everyone! Do you quickly team up with your opponents to clear them out or go after them while they try dealing with the pirates? It should be noted the pirates can win the game if no one is able to defeat them all. I applaud Zanrai Interactive for including this feature as it really distinguishes Stardust Vanguards from the others. The game can already get hectic, but yet at any time, pirates can come in and ruin everything. It makes already tense games tenser and its great fun.
Let’s talk about art for a second.
The game is described as being influenced by 80s and 90s anime space operas and the influence certainly shows. The sprite work on the character screen is amazing. I really like how the characters here look and the influence I mentioned before really shows. Also worth noting is the character portraits you see in the corners during gameplay. They’re well designed and detailed and every character has a different one, which I know sounds silly to say, but its the little things that count. The portraits don’t stand still either, they blink, sometimes the light that is given off from explosions flicker, and when you die, your character gasps before becoming a skeleton. Like I said, its the little things. Worth noting is the game’s soundtrack, full very upbeat music that fits in very well with the chaos going on in-game.
The demo I received only allowed for 2-4 person deathmatches but I didn’t feel limited at all. The deathmatch game type came with 4 different variations, the default (10 lives, 1 RP/second, win twice), fast (2 lives, 5 RP/second, win twice), tactical (1 life, 100 RP start with no regen, win twice) and finally a custom mode where you can change the rules however you want. So if default getting stale, mix it up! The demo came with 8 different stages, all varied. Ones worth noting are “Outer Space”, an empty plot of space with no cover or obstacles, “Grid”, where the map starts with destructible boxes which you can use to create your own base, and “Frontier Colony”, which plants you in the middle of a space colony with buildings that are at the mercy of you and your opponents.
Other features that were not available in this demo were the gametypes Co-Op and “Challenge” and the modes “Defense”, “Conquest”, “Attrition”, “Spaceball”, and “Capture”. There’s so many modes to try out once the full game is released and I can’t be more excited. Deathmatch alone brought me hours of fun and and it’s great to find out this game still has much, much to offer.
Overall, Stardust Vanguards was a blast to play and this wasn’t even the full game. It’s tense, it’s fast, it’s just plain out fun. I only experienced a tiny bit of what this game has to offer and the locked gametypes and modes have me very excited for the full release.
For more info on Stardust Vanguards, head on over to their Steam Greenlight page. From there you can check out the team’s devblog and various social media pages and while you’re there, vote it to get green lit so we can see this a full release on Steam because it deserves it in every way.