It’s tough to write a tangible review on any rogue-like games, especially the ones that claim to be directly inspired by something else. Crying Suns is claiming to be inspired by at least four different renowned games. An ultimate sci-fi fanfic-based retro game is what Crying Suns is supposed to be. And it did exactly that: a fanfic.
Let’s cover some grounds. The world of Crying Suns is a post-apocalyptic universe, where humanity is slowly coming to an extinction after a sudden shutdown of all robots called OMNIs. Your job, as an immortal clone, is to reactivate them.
I’ve already written on a similar trope for a manga and anime called: Jormungand, but I will reiterate. If you don’t follow through the moral choices made by any world-changing plans, the plan itself becomes weightless and flimsy. Thanos from Avengers is a great example. Thanos from Infinity War was a conflicted villain, who knew what it took to undergo his plans; whereas the Thanos from End Game did not, rendering his iconic character development moot. The said manga cleverly angled the paradox, whereas Crying Suns has decided to ignore them. None of the true villains had a grand plan, and the ones that did don’t understand what their plans have done. One may argue the villains are ‘chaotic evil’, but Joker didn’t play god in his villainous plans.
Having unfounded villains spreads its comatose effects throughout the universe as well. Humanity, now at the brink of extinction, is asked to survive in an AI-free world, but we are also told by the premise that everything in the world is a some form of AI-robot. Imagine I, Robot, the movie, but on post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting. That’s what we are told. But Asimov didn’t conveniently use made-up rules behind what gets to be a robot or not. Nor did the movie. I won’t risk spoiling the finale, but I can comfortably say this: a big evil’s grand plan to destroy the world should always include said evil and everyone else in it. You don’t get to play dumb in the face of apocalypse. Cherrypicking is not acceptable in any form of story telling.
I can already hear some people scrolling loudly to the section bigly titled: gameplay. It’s a rogue-like game, review it its true merits, the gameplay. The reason why I focus on the collapse of world-building exercise is because the narrative cave-in obviously doesn’t end with the ‘story for pornography’. The gameplay is primarily made up of tick-based —or time-based— fleet command. You and the opponent takes 3 hexagons representing the battleships, and rest of the fleets take up only 1 hexagon per unit, regardless of types and sizes that respawn endlessly. Your ship does have its few weapons of your choice in the arsenal, but it acts more like an aircraft carrier in fancy 3D-remake of the Battleship, the board game. Attacks and movements are solely DPS-based, so if you manage to squat long enough in front of the enemy battleship you have sunken the ship. There is no other routes, angles, or options to speak of.
AIs are also terrible in countering ships. Even when the enemy is expected to be preparing countermeasures against your specific ship, it’s more or less a bluffing. In fact, there is no sense of interactions in the game. Each faction has its merits, but not significant enough to sway a play style. A battleship weapon remains an AOE magic, and squadrons remain small figurines on the board, etc. You may favor certain faction ships for personal preferences, but there is no guarantee that you will be able to build a ship you desire in a short chapter playthrough. Any opportunity for customizations is lessened by RNG, and the fact that you won’t keep your ship in the next chapter. Even if you did, no opponent will recognize pros and cons of your design, contrary to what the in-game dialogue suggests.
Conclusions: Retro Guilty Pleasures
I commonly call some less than ideal movies “guilty pleasures” if it pertains interesting trope, concept, and/or universe. Will Smith’s I, Robot was a great example of this. I would add Crying Suns to the growing list of guilty pleasures, for its visual effects and designs. However, this game fundamentally lacks the excitement and the adventures, the one and only till you die, only seen in rogue-like games.