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Steredenn Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While not especially original, Steredenn is an action-packed throwback shoot-em-up with roguelike elements. Finally available on the PlayStation 4, this shooter has a lot of cool weapons and stages, but the bosses are boring and the action is repetitive. Steredenn is fun in short bursts. Rating: 64%
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  • Review Score:

  • B-
I hate to get political here, but space aliens are the worst. They never come down to share technology and shepherd us into a new age of enlightenment, it's always straight to attack fleets and cities blowing up. If you didn't get enough of the earth vs. alien grudge match with Independence Day: Resurgence, then it's time to take on a whole army of UFOs in Steredenn, which is finally making its PlayStation 4 debut.

This is a retro-inspired 2D shoot-em-up in the spirit of Gradius and R-Type. Players fly through seven challenging stages in hopes of taking down the alien scum that is responsible for blowing up their space station. It's not an especially original setup, but it leads to a lot of fast-pack bullet hell action that is, for the most part, fun and challenging.

The gimmick here is that Steredenn mixes traditional 2D shooting with the unpredictability of a roguelike. Each stage is randomly chosen, complete with different backgrounds, items to pick up and enemy patterns. All this leads to a set of predictable boss fights, each getting larger and more aggressive as we make it beyond the frontlines. But look out, because when you die, you'll have to start over from the very beginning.

A lot of modern roguelikes tend to reward players with hooks to keep them coming back. Usually you're able to spend the money you've collected or level up the character, making each attempt a little more manageable. That is not the case in Steredenn. There's no money to collect or experience to gain, just you memorizing boss patterns and hoping you get good weapon pick-ups. At most, you'll be able to unlock an extra mode by beating the game.

Steredenn (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The developers hope the large variety of weapons will be enough to make you overlook some of the game's simplicity. There are 35 power-ups in all, ranging from the typical blaster to large chomping jaws of death. The game is lousy with lasers, shotguns, spread shots, shockwaves, rockets, homing missiles, swords and even a giant saw. I was constantly surprised by how many unique items would pop up, and found that there were new weapons to use even hours after I started playing the shoot-em-up.

The core gameplay is solid, but gets old quickly. Our little ship can only swap between two weapons, and it doesn't have any extra abilities (like clearing the screen with a bomb when things get hairy). You'll be able to add a perk to the ship between levels, such as making your shots more powerful or adding a gun turret. But as always, all this is lost the moment your ship explodes and is forced to start the fight over from the beginning.

Steredenn (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The bosses start small, but eventually grow into massive ships with a number of challenging patterns to memorize. These fights are hectic and full of bullets to dodge, but I'm not a big fan of the ship design. There's nothing memorable about these boss characters, they are largely generic and boxy. They are also a lot more punishing than the waves of usual bad guys. I found that nearly all of my deaths came from these challenging boss fights, which isn't always the case with 2D shoot-em-ups.

This is a challenging game, but never came across as being unfair. Even when I had small quibbles about weapons and the ship's impact zone, it never ruined the experience. I enjoyed what I played, but wish there was a little more to it. While there are some cool weapons, it never feels like the game takes them far enough. Even the between-stage perks aren't especially interesting. It only hints at what could be possible with a roguelike shoot-em-up.

To the game's credit, it does come with a number of extra modes -- including a daily run, arena and unlockable superplay mode. These add some value, but it's largely more of the same. Steredenn is an action-packed 2D shoot-em-up with cool throwback visuals and a lot of weapons to play around with, but the gameplay is a little basic and the roguelike elements don't feel random enough. It's fun in short bursts.
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