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Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Dreamloop Games
Developer: Dreamloop Games
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2015

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Stardust Galaxy Warriors'

by Brian Dumlao on April 15, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Stardust Galaxy Warriors is a co-op action shooter that combines shmup and brawler-like gameplay with light RPG elements.

With the resurgence the shmup genre seems to be having, a four-player shooter option isn't being explored as often as expected. Stardust Galaxy Warriors is one of the few recent shooters that aims for four-player co-op play, but it'll actually be remembered for its other major feature.

The plot is pretty much in line with what other space shooters have offered. You're a member of the newly formed Galaxy Warriors, a small group of pilots armed with state-of-the-art technology in the form of fighting mechs. After responding to a distress call in deep space, you find that a mysterious being is trying to contact you — and sending armies of ships and biomechanical beings after you. With no other recourse, you try to locate the villain and stop the menace from winning.

Interestingly, Stardust Galaxy Warriors seems to be aware that the story hardly matters in shooting games. As a result, you'll often see humorous moments for those who pay attention to the cut scene dialogue. The pilots exchange funny banter, and jokes and memes are thrown in at appropriate times. You aren't going to see them appear too often, so they won't be tiresome, and you won't see them be told for the sake of being told. Considering how many games recently seem to be going overboard with the humor to the point where it becomes irritating, this is fresh.

For a shooting game that straddles the line between traditional and bullet hell, the core mechanics are actually quite deep. You have two weapons that can be fired simultaneously, and there's quite a selection, from the standard laser rifle to a homing missile launcher. You also have a melee attack that delivers quite a bit of damage. There are four different mechs to choose from, each with a specialized attack and power. One mech can bring up a shield while another slows down time. Special moves are governed by an energy meter that fills up when you destroy enemies. You also have a second energy meter that acts as your health reserve and regenerates over time, negating the need for a life system. Between main stages, you can use points to buy upgrades like increased damage or a permanent spread shot, and you can change your configuration if you want to try something new in the next stage.

Based on those things alone, Stardust Galaxy Warriors is quite good. There's a solid weapon variety, and the enemies are fun to battle. There are plenty of bullets and foes on-screen, but it never feels overwhelming or impossible since it doesn't push the bullet hell scenario all the time. A good number of boss fights are enjoyable because of the tricks that are thrown into the fighting patterns. You'll periodically have to break down a large shield or destroy healing bots, and while it isn't groundbreaking, the fights still feel different since the tactics aren't used that often in other games.

This describes the solo game, but Stardust Galaxy Warriors becomes much better when you're playing cooperatively. Gameplay is local only, but having four players in the mix is enjoyable mostly because so few shooting games go beyond two players. The title takes advantage of this by forcing all of the players to choose different mechs, so a wider range of abilities are used. It also adds in the ability to revive players when they die, so no one is left out should they absorb too much enemy fire. The game lets you duplicate the weapons that each player uses, so while one player may be forced to use a specific type of mech, he or she isn't forced to use a weapon that no one else wants.

Normally, this would be enough of a hook for genre fans to consider adding the title to their libraries. What sets this apart from other games is the level of customization you can apply to the overall mechanics. There are many presets available to choose from, but there's also the option to change everything on a more granular level. Some are pretty basic, like toggles for the revive mechanic and friendly fire. Enemy shot speed and shield regeneration can be modified in percentages, and then there are things like hitbox sizes that the more casual fans might not be aware of. The number of rules that can be modified breathes life into each playthrough, since the game can feel different every time. You can save modification sets, which is handy if you find one that's perfect for you. Those hunting for Steam Achievements might not use these options since any modifications prevent a number of those achievements from being earned.

The game comes with three different modes. Campaign mode has you travelling through 10 different worlds, each split up into three different sections with mini-bosses and regular bosses. Challenge mode takes you on those same levels but with lots of conditions thrown in, such as having to defeat enemies to prevent your score from going down or everyone being forced to use only one kind of mech. Gauntlet mode is more like survival in that you face endless waves of enemies in one stage, with each wave getting progressively harder until you expire.

Aside from the lack of online play, players may miss other online features. None of the modes come with leaderboards, so competitive players may lack some incentive to play more than once. There's also no way to share the special configurations you've created, so the only way to showcase your crazy challenges would be to utilize forums, for example.

Graphically, Stardust Galaxy Warriors looks quite nice. In particular, the backgrounds look rich and deep. The worlds are wildly different from one another and very colorful, making for a good contrast to the foreground action. Enemies and allies are of a good size and decently detailed, and the particle effects are pretty easy to see, decreasing the chances of you getting surprised by a stray bullet. Thankfully, the amount of action on-screen doesn't translate to slowdown, so those who get into a nice shooting rhythm won't get thrown off if the screen gets crowded.

As for the sound, the effects are standard issue, and voices are completely absent, but the music is excellent. A mix of different electronic styles from chiptune to dubstep and more, the soundtrack bleeds excitement and fits well with every stage. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that fans of that musical genre would also enjoy listening to it outside of the game.

Initially, Stardust Galaxy Warriors provides lots of fun in one burst. The shooting feels great because of the many weapons and powers, and co-op makes it more enjoyable as well. The extra modes are nice, but the level of customization that's available in almost every component makes the game accessible to all types of shooting fans. Though there are a good number of shooters on the PC, you should definitely pick up Stardust Galaxy Warriors if you're a genre fan.

Score: 8.0/10

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