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Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

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Kasey Chang
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Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

Post by Kasey Chang »

Star Crawlers is a square-based scifi dungeon crawler where you moved in square grids and while you can mouse free-look (and even that is optional thing you can turn off) movement is turn-based. The maps are obviously procedurally generated, and pretty well done with some verticality to it so you don't completely feel 2D restricted, even though you are, as you can sort of "see" 3D stuff around you.

You are a "crawler", basically a ronin mercenary stuck out in the middle of nowhere, space terminal IX, aka "STIX". There's Doc's Bar, the clinic (heal and revive), the supply shop (accessories), the hack shop (for hacking decks), and the black market. If you are playing in holiday mode, you can find holiday specific tokens while on missions to trade for holiday-themed items via the "extra" merchant.

Doc's Bar is also where the plot advances as you do special dialogs, as well as jumping on the job board and find some OTHER missions to perform, for the usual loot. The trick here is most missions have a perp and a victim, usually both corporations, but sometimes, a corp may hire you to raid its own facilities in order to recover something left behind when they had to evacuate for a variety of reasons. Each job have a recommended character/party level, and if you are 2 levels above the recommended level the mission is considered cakewalk, while if you are 2 levels BELOW, the emission's considered dangerous. A bit like Borderlands, actually. As you play, your reputation with each party will change, and even as you play, you may "steal" info or item that would affect your standing with those two corps or orgs, beyond that the mission itself does, esp. if you then try to auction them off in the black market. And if you sell off too many items and/or anger too many people, you may encounter some of their forces trying to hunt you down...

You have eight classes to choose from for your characters. You can only create ONE, but you can hire up to 7 more. But you can only take 4 into battle at a time. The classes are: cyberninja, prototype (AI robot), engineer, force psyker, smuggler, void psyker, soldier, and hacker.

They don't have exact equivalents in regular RPG. They are quite different, and you should experiment with all classes. They all work pretty well together, with no class being non-essential, no class is overpowering. Game is well-balanced so far. I mostly just went with my initial party of cyberninja, prototype, engineer, and force psyker as that was the initial order I got them in, and they are the ones that levelled up. But I've tried other party compositions, such as swapping out engineer for soldier, or leave cyberninja and prototype home and let engineer and soldier take void psyker and smuggler out on a run. They had no problem on mission rated for L26, despite being 25, 27, 21, and 21 respectively.

Combat is turn-based with a command wheel: you can see the "queue" of actions that will be taken i.e. whose turn is it next. When it is your character's turn, you click on enemy to show the wheel menu. Those are the actions you can perform chosen from your abilities palette. If you have unlocked more powerful abilities, please adjust your abilities accordingly (unless they are passive). Each of your actions take specific amount of "time units", and some weapons/armor/actions can change the TU resulting in adjusting the order of play depending on your die roll.

You and enemies are equipped with armor and shield. Enemy fire must break through shield to damage you. And both sides can get buff and debuff to enhanced your damage to them while minimize their damage to you, and the other side is doing the same thing for their side. There are also many different types of elemental weapons doing different types of damage, fire, chemical, void, and so on. Again, very Borderlands type of vibe.

You may also come across certain horizontal terminals that you can jack in with your "cyberdeck" and do cybercombat, as you remove hostile software agents from node after node. You start with a physical jack-in point, but you can slowly proceed to take over the whole network. And you can raid network storage for both data you can sell for money, as well as programs for your cyberdeck.

Cyberdeck has 3 types of attack programs, and 4 types of defensive programs. 3 types of attack are security, corruption, and deception. Under each type there are multiple apps with names like "Jolt" or ", ranging from basic V1.0 to legendary V5.0. You can own dozens of these, but only five at a time are active on the command wheel. You also need defensive apps which, when some math is done, gives your deck hardening (HP), attack, defend, critical %, and so on.

And with these you can do some interesting combos. Like put up barrier to block enemy attack for 3 turns, then next turn use Dupe to make a clone of yourself (albeit with less HP) that can attack independent of you.

Enemies can be roughly grouped the same way: blue enemies do security damage, green enemies do deception damage, and red enemies corruption damage. Buffs and debuffs can make you more or less susceptible to certain damages, depending on enemy type and buffs applied.

Unfortunately, cybercombat does not earn XP or gain you additional apps automatically. You have to be sure to conquer storage nodes and then you need other attack apps to ensure you have a high chance of success when using them to hack terminals and security nodes to search for valuable data such as attack programs. So it's more of a side-game. And having a hacker on the team means she can usually hack locks and terminals successfully thus needing less cyberdeck action. On the other hand, it was nice for them to tie in certain cyber nodes to certain security setup in certain rooms, so if you defeat security in the cyberworld, the security sensors and bots in that room is stopped as well, and lock doors can be also opened this way instead of brute-forcing the door (with engineer) or hacking the door (hacker).

Hacking also gives intelligence on where the enemies may be and where your objective is. And that can be very helpful for you to either avoid enemies... or go for them for extra XP.
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Kasey Chang
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Re: Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

Post by Kasey Chang »

I just maxed the characters to level 30, and the end fight was a doozy. As expected, it's a multi-stage fight, where you need to beat up the boss a couple times.

Then the real end comes when you have to choose among 3 sides you could side with... UFP, Accord, or Ragnorak?

Let's just say, there is no "right" choice.

You can replay the final fight again... or play New Game Plus.

But I think I've had enough.

Character skill tree: each character has THREE skill trees.

Cyberninja -- not a tank, but utility player. left tree is about combo and turn precedence, right tree is about buff allies and debuff enemies, and all the cliche ninja expressions. Middle tree is all about doing more damage. So it depends on whether you are playing CN as a primary fighter or support.

Prototype -- definitely a tank, but "malfunction" definitely makes it a bit weird to play, as it's both a hindrance AND a feature to be exploited. Can go both melee and guns. Has a nice built-in weapon that fires every other turn, or can learn thunderclap mode and do a lot more damage. If you exploit malfunctions properly, and gets buff from allies, it can quickly take out one minion a turn. And thunderclap can take out a whole field at once except the minibosses and bosses.

Engineer -- definitely a support, relies on his various mechanical minions such as bolty, and other bots to do the damage, rather than himself, Thumper, when upgraded, rains fire bombs on the enemy. Bolty doesn't do damage much though. Junker's chemical attacks are weak. There are other bots, but they require a bit too much energy or time to build up. I do find the shield drainer to be very helpful when you do get him. After it drained all the shields off enemies, you can set the bot to explode and do even more damage. So figure fast-firing weapons, as you want those robots deployed ASAP.

Force Psyker -- an early heavy hitter with the force hammer, but with additional levels, can also deploy guardian spirit and force prism for additional distraction as they appear on the battlefield as entities for enemy to target. Aegis is a great shield stripper if you don't have engineer around. and Barriers are great supplement to ally shields to counter enemy bots using "shield buster".

Soldier -- definitely a tank, most skills deal with doing a lot of damage, either to single or to groups of targets. One of the earliest class to get taunts, which can save a hurting ally. And grenades early on quite satisfying.

Hacker -- support definitely, slap those viruses on and watch them burn, melt, or whatever from the inside. And it's VERY powerful, if used right and protected. Unfortunately, their shields are weak.

Smuggler -- gunslinger with traps and gambling. Traps can be quite useful, esp. flashbang, which stuns enemies and gives allies extra turns to cause damage. Gunslinger skills often require a pistol, which limits damage output.

Void Psyker -- this one is a bit weird to play. Basically, your attack gains you "void energy", but every point you have in void energy (up to 99) increases your chance of losing control which will go kabloom and hurts EVERYBODY (including allies AND enemies). So you have to get some way to SPEND that void energy so you don't blow up. But also has shield penetrator skills (do more damage the more shields enemy has) and well as a skill that does THOUSANDS of damage... provided the enemy is not shielded. AND has a life drain skill too, where it drains enemy life to you or allies. Not that much, but every bit helps, right?

Also keep in mind that weapons, shields, and armor comes in multiple weight classes. Weapons are heavy or normal. Armors are light, tactical, or heavy, and shields are again, light, tactical, or heavy. Some classes cannot wield heavy weapons, some classes cannot wield heavy armor (cyberninja and engineer, IIRC), while hacker and void psyker can only wear light armor. Shields are also limited.

As items have "levels", a uncommon L10 tactical shield can provide more protection than a L5 tactical shield that's rare, for example. So don't get "married" to your gear. You need to replace them a lot.

Which has additional problem as the items can be enhanced. Uncommon usually has two enhancements, rare three, and epic four (and legendary may have 5). Each enhancement adds something to the weapon, and cost credits, from less than 100 to over 4000. Do keep in mind that most loot you find are less than 10 credits and the weapons you carry back are worth maybe 20-30 credits. That is a LOT of missions and "farming for loot" required if you want to fully upgrade a party of 8. By the final few missions, you'd be dumping ANY uncommon (green) weapons, and keeping only epic (purple), legendary (orange), and the occasional rare (blue). The rarer weapons aren't really worth that much more, maybe only a few credits more each.

So the side missions often end up being a loot hunt and XP hunt as you sought to engage every enemy available for loot and XP.
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Paingod
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Re: Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

Post by Paingod »

I've had this title for some time and enjoyed it when I was in the mood for a dungeon crawler. I don't think I ever made it past the first couple of ships, though, but not because the game was lacking but more my interest just waned. If you're looking for a new game in this genre, it's worth a poke.
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Kasey Chang
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Re: Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

Post by Kasey Chang »

I think I barely scratched the surface with the classes, as there are guides that go into deep builds where cyberninja can deal like 20K of damage in a single turn with enough setup (!?) and some of the class synergy is amazing. Like if you manage to set ONE enemy on fire (soldier's grenades, engineer's thumper, etc.) cyberninja's cyclone kick will spread it to EVERY enemy highlighted. But there seem to be a few TOO MANY skills and according to some guide writers, there are four obvious choices and four lame choices. Fortunately respec is possible at the clinic.
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Kasey Chang
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Re: Star Crawlers -- square-based scifi dungeon crawler with a plot

Post by Kasey Chang »

It seems the characters may be a bit TOO powerful at level 30, with the respec. I've gone on missions that are supposed to be challenging (recommended level 32 or even 33) and I'm barely getting wounded, esp. when I don't take void psyker along. She's the most reason the party gets injured. If she loses void energy storage everybody takes like 15 % damage, and she gets knocked out for X turns. But when she's charged up correctly, she can easily do like 10000 pt void damage.

I don't really feel like playing New Game+ despite that "one more game" feel, so I think I'll call it quits here.
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