Capsule Review: Cosmic Star Heroine

An RPG with retro aesthetics and an intricately strategic turn-based combat system. Recruit a diverse cast of teammates, explore sci-fi environments, and battle your way through uncovering and thwarting a sinister plot. The Sega Saturn-like visuals and music by HyperDuck SoundWorks are both appealing and put to good use, and the UI is carefully crafted to give you all the information you need to navigate battle without being overwhelming.

The heart of the game is the combat system with several interacting mechanics that are individually easy to understand and come together in ways that encourage you to think several turns ahead. Rather than non-boss battles being dull experience grinds, every fight can be an intense resource-management puzzle and for me it wasn’t uncommon to just barely win. You can freely tune the combat difficulty at any time if you want to avoid this, but it’s also safe to experiment with higher difficulties since the game is very forgiving - you are fully healed between encounters and if you lose a fight you can immediately retry from the beginning.

Unfortunately, the world and story don’t have the same amount of depth. While party members do have fairly clear personalities, there isn’t always much of a person underneath and it can feel like the characters aren’t so much deciding to do things as being swept along by the rapid-fire plot. Without getting into specific spoilers, some momentous loyalty-changing decisions are made early on that should have been a much bigger deal and didn’t feel earned, which made it difficult for me to invest in the characters and their story. Nothing else I saw in my next hour or two of playtime changed that. I didn’t feel like I was exploring a world with a group of people; I felt like I was shuffling a battle party to the next arena.

If you aren’t too bothered by depth of character and story, and especially if you like getting strategic with turn-based combat, there is a lot to enjoy here. But if, like me, you find that most of the value of RPGs comes from caring about the people in them, this game may not be for you.

I Stopped Playing When: I really wanted to like this game, not least because I backed it on Kickstarter. So I stuck it out for a few hours despite not really feeling it, but eventually gave up. I felt like all I was doing was going from one series of battles to the next, but without the investment in characters or world that would give meaning to the struggle.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.