Game Reviews

Rogue Star

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| Rogue Star
Rogue Star
| Rogue Star

For gamers of a certain age, space trading title Elite was the cornerstone of their gaming education. Many games have tried to recapture its magic.

Few have succeeded. For each that failed, fans wondered why developers just didn't make it more like Elite in the first place. Just with better graphics and AI, a bit more variety, and a docking computer right from the start.

Well wonder no longer, because that's pretty much what Rogue Star is.


Developer RedBreast makes no secret of the inspiration behind this title. It even celebrates it with a variety of in-jokes for fans to spot. The soundtrack is another classical piece, lending a delightfully distinguished air to proceedings.

The meat of the game is an in-cockpit view flying between stars and battling pirates. Or even being a pirate, if you fancy it.

Intergalactic convoys and lone rogues will hail you and offer the chance to join them for protection or piracy runs. You can also pick up missions from spaceports to earn a few extra credits.

To make big bucks, though, you'll need to trade. Instead of a simple system of buying and selling, Rogue Star has you purchase goods via auction against AI players.

There's little strategy to this, and the bots bidding against you seem to do so almost at random. Yet it's much more entertaining than the dry process of picking a commodity and filling your cargo hold.

What's especially fun is the sense of character exuded by the various aliens you'll encounter. Their animated portraits are full of life and detail. They have a vast stock of characterful phrases to draw on for use in ship to ship hails or when completing (or failing) missions.

Mostly Harmless

All the extraterrestrial species seem to have a hugely entertaining penchant for puerile swearing. I never got tired of watching other traders shouting "BUM!" or "WTF!" when I beat them in an auction.

To achieve any of this and swell your bank balance you'll need to ward off any pirates you meet during your travels. Dogfighting in the game is a satisfying affair with smooth controls and exciting twists and turns. Trying to lead your shots for accurate fire can be frustrating, however, and takes a lot of skill.

Of particular interest is the ability to re-route power between critical systems during encounters. So you can boost lasers at the expense of shields and engine when going in for the kill.

Or push everything into the throttle to try and run away from danger. Together with speed and roll controls it gives you a lot of think about while you're twitching over the fire button.

As you kill ships, you rank up, just like in Elite. And it's here that the game first starts to show some weaknesses. As soon as you rank up, the pirates start appearing in pairs, or in heavier ships. Stuck in your incredibly fragile starting craft, you'll face a sudden, massive difficulty spike.


One thing that Elite had which Rogue Star lacks are individual ship upgrades. If you want to improve on the paper-thin shields you begin with, the only way is to buy a better spaceship. The same is true of travel distance. So until you trade up, you're stuck shuttling between just three planets.

With ships being as expensive you might expect, you'll need a lot of credits to get your foot on the ladder.

So once you start losing cargo regularly to pirates, you'll fall back on getting credits from bounties or missions. This is far less lucrative, leaving players staring at a long, hard road to get anywhere new.

During this slog, the standard roster of encountering convoys, pirates, and delivery missions starts to wear into repetition.

For those that can break through the malaise, there's more variety and a more even difficulty curve on the other side. It's a shame that some may become jaded before they get that far.

Because with its infectious mixture of humour, homage, and hardness Rogue Star is a keeper.

Rogue Star

Brings a stone classic into the modern age with style, although it could use better balance and more variety