Monday, January 2, 2017

Indie Impressions - Steredenn


Now Available on Steam

Developed by Pixelnest Studios


 It starts with a loud boom and a fire-y explosion, the steel body of your fleet's capital ship smoldering in the blackness of space as fighters scramble, taking off into the heat of the oncoming battle. Steredenn sets the stage quite abruptly and nicely with this scene of destruction, with an instantly eye-catching and nostalgic pixel art style that captures the intergalactic action in a gritty and old school Macross sort of way.

We see the distincly, deliciously crisp and crunch-y pixel art style used in a lot of different genres, notably from roguelikes like Crypt of the Necrodancer to run'n'gun shooters like Super Time Force Ultra, but how often do we see explosive and authentic balls-to-the-wall arcade shoot-'em-up action utilize these snappy and memorable retro flavored visuals? And more importantly; does it deliver?

Your journey through eight stages of increasingly chaotic randomized waves and eight well choreographed boss battles are a real test of endurance, and your goal will be to repeatedly push yourself through this series of intergalactic struggles to eventually perfect your run and maybe even make it to the end of your first loop. With some obvious love for the classics and a clear devotion to recreating a pure and classic shootemup romp on par with the likes of Gradius or R-type, but with more unpredictable action than muscle-memory, 

Steredenn is an absolutely worthy successor to the horizontal shmups it takes its cues from. Aside from living up to that classic formula of easy to jump into score-chasing action, it shakes things up with randomly generated stage progression and weapon drops to keep each playthrough fresh and interesting.
Players are able to hold up to two different weapons and must carefully decide which one to ditch when coming across new and more powerful equipment to utilize. From grenade launching drones to damage absorbing shields or passive auto-fire upgrades there's plenty of strategic combinations to play around with, but in the end nothing beats shredding apart a crowd of enemies with an enormous space-drill.

The music is serious headbanging material and exibits all of the signs of a classic STG soundtrack, from the ominous and slow building synth-heavy title screen to the energetic and adrenaline pumping guitar riffs during the heat of battle, I was instantly reminded of the iconic first stage BGM from the aforementioned R-type.
This rebellious and gritty space trash vibe combined with the tight controls and high impact action gives Steredenn a very nostalgic and similar atmosphere to the legendary Jets n' Guns, but the random generation of levels and weapons strewn about gives a much more hectic, arcade-y and action focused playstyle that stands out on its own. There isn't as much focus on progression, therefore putting an emphasis on unpredictable and quick experiences each time in an accessibly randomized rogue-lite fashion that make each playthrough unpredictable and at least partially driven by luck.

All of the action looks gorgeous and is just so damn fun to play, as any good shooter should be. With such a unique visual style and a pixel art style that is something especially rare for the genre, addictive highscore chasing, an appropriately heavy soundtrack and some seriously clever weapons that manage to also be really satisfying to use, Steredenn is the kind of innovation we need to keep the real spirit of shmups alive and new generations possible.

 Steredenn is a new kind of arcade shooter that focuses not on the standard formula of muscle memory or scoring mechanics but on the joy of experimentation and the excitement of discoveries that come with it each time. It incorporates core roguelite mechanics into the shmup formula extremely well, presenting the player with an array of randomized decisions in the form of upgrades leaving you wondering if you really made the best choices after each miserable and impending death. Leaderboards and daily challenge runs complete the package and keep you regularly coming back for more in order to test your mettle against your friends and the rest of the world.

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