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Crying Suns Review

Edited by: Jade Swann

Kind of Sad

Crying Suns, developed by Alt Shift and published by Humble Bundle, is an FTL-inspired rogue-lite set in the far future. You play as Admiral Ellys Idaho of the Galactic Empire, awoken from cryogenic clone-sleep by Kaliban, the warden of the distant space station Ghenna. Kaliban informs you every AI outside the station has shut down. He tasks you and your newly-thawed crew with fighting your way across the stars to figure out what happened and hopefully restore the galaxy to working order.

A Long Road

It’s taken me a lot longer than I anticipated to really codify my feelings on Crying Suns beyond a simple, “I don’t like it.” Realistically, it should tick all the right boxes. I enjoyed FTL, I've read most of the books Alt Shift cites as their inspirations for the setting, and the overall genre is one I particularly like. So, then, why don't I like Crying Suns? The conclusion I eventually landed on was that it was repetitive. You see, Crying Suns places a greater emphasis on its story than most other rogue-lites. Feeling your way around the fallen Galactic Empire is interesting, admittedly, as you make your way from node to node, attempting to piece together the plot.

The real issue revolves around the genre. While the setting has a baked-in explanation as to why you keep coming back, it’s the returning that’s an issue. Let’s take a break and do a little math, shall we? Any given run of Crying Suns sees you traverse a handful of adjacent solar systems on your way to the end. These solar systems are grouped into sectors. Near the beginning of the game, you'll traverse through three sectors per run. In each sector, you'll go through maybe seven solar systems. These solar systems have anywhere from two to seven planets in them, each planet having an event tied to it. So far, so good, right? Well, Crying Sun's Steam page says it boasts over 300 possible story events. A quick run of the math shows that assuming an average of four planets per solar system, you'll see eighty-four of them per run. That is, of course, assuming they are all bespoke and fully half of them aren't just combat encounters.

Now Press Repeat

Combat in Crying Suns sees you fight on a hexagonal tactical grid with your ship and your opponent's ship caddy-corner to each other on the map. Your objective is simple, get their hull points down to zero. To do this, you have fleets of ships and a handful of shipboard weapons at your disposal. The primary focus is on your fleets, with three separate types that have a rock-paper-scissors relationship to each other. When one of your fleets goes down, it returns to the hangar automatically. It can be redeployed at half health after a cooldown. Your opponents lose their fleet for good. You're restricted via ship upgrades as to how many fleets you can field at once. Usually, you and your opponent will field two at a time unless the battle map allows your opponent to have reinforcements. Your ship weapons, on the other hand, deal damage in a variety of arcs to either fleets or your opponent's ship. Rarely, you'll have a weapon that can hit both.

So far, so good, right? Well, not quite. Usually, battles come down to attrition and not really any kind of strategy. Sure, a half health Fighter fleet can tear down a full health Drone fleet assuming they're of equal power, but that's the thing. You're at the whims of the game as to whether or not you'll have sufficient upgrades to stand against your opponent's fleets. You can attempt to retreat from engagement so your fleet can heal up to full and not get the health penalty. However, disengagement is slow, and likely your fleet will just wind up dying while trying to make it back to the hangar. As such, fights devolve into just hurling your fleets against each other with whoever has the most shipboard weapons winning in the end.

Half-Thawed

Even with all the purported variety Crying Suns boasts, it all feels repetitive. I ultimately put three runs into the game before calling it quits. Each run at least made it to the final boss of the chapter, with only one of those runs being successful. When you finish a run successfully, the story progresses, uncovering a small bit of the overall plot. Suffice to say, the end of chapter one’s reveal was not enough to keep me hooked past one death in chapter two. The writing, overall, is flat. The moment to moment writing for the solar system story events are dry and clinical, with your crew not really adding any flavor to the proceedings. Idaho himself is stale, an amnesiac admiral who died a long time ago with no one outside your ship believing that you've returned. Kaliban, the AI who wakes you at the start of the game and designated expositor, acts as a combination Bender and Dick Dastardly, sans mustache to twirl.

4

The Verdict: Flawed

Overall, Crying Suns just left me cold. The three hundred story events are obviously divided between the six chapters, resulting in a variety of repeated beats interspersed with copious amounts of bland, uninteresting combat. Alt Shift has gone on record saying they're looking to rectify some of these problems, but at current, there is little here to hold interest.

See About Us to learn how we score

John Gerritzen
Written by
Thursday, 21 November 2019 00:21
Published in Strategy

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John Gerritzen is a programmer by education, author by hobby, and game critic by occupation. While he usually favors RPGs, he will play anything that engages him narratively or mechanically. When he's not playing games for fun or profit, he's usually reading or watching anime.

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