Stardust Vanguards | Review

We take a look at the local-coop space arcade Stardust Vanguards by Zanrai Interactive, available now for PC.
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Stardust Vanguards on PC

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I’m going to preface this one with a bit of a disclaimer, since I’m not sure I was able to give Stardust Vanguards the whole review package. Stardust Vanguards is a local-multiplayer title, and I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to rope anyone in to playing with me. Regardless, I put some extra time in to get as good a feel for the title as I could, and I’m pretty confident I gave the overall experience a fair shake. Without further ado, I’ll jump into my review of this curious, simple, and entertaining indie space-battle.

Stardust Vanguards is a pretty straightforward game, pitting the player characters as the eponymous “Vanguards” against sinister space pirates bent on bringing anarchy to the galaxy. Each of the four playable characters is roughly identical aside from aesthetic differences, and comes equipped with the same basic gear. Players are set with a beam sword to act as a primary weapon, a limited-ammo ranged attack, a shield, and the ability to call in reinforcements by spending points earned by defeating enemies. Play can be cooperative, with players working alongside the others to defeat the pirates, or versus games including Deathmatch, Team Battle, and king-of-the-hill style Conquest.

Stardust Vanguards Character Select
The versus game modes allow for custom rules as well as offering a variety of game styles to choose from.

While Stardust Vanguards is definitely focused on the multiplayer aspect, it’s entirely possible to play alone. The cooperative game mode allows for a difficult but doable single-player experience, and is a great place to hone your skills when you’ve got nobody handy to take up another controller. I’d really love to see some AI bots thrown in the mix to allow team-ups and versus battles when flying solo, or perhaps online support for those of us who’d rather connect with friends that aren’t in the same room, but developer Zanrai Interactive was very upfront about the local-only support, so it wasn’t something I expected — just something I think would really top this title off.

Stardust Vanguards Co-Op Pandemonium
When you do have folks around to jump in on the fun, the action gets hectic quickly. Throwing in waves of reinforcements keeps things moving fast.

Stardust Vanguards doesn’t offer a ton of variety to play, but it does a great job with what it has. Gameplay is frantic and requires lightning reflexes and precision to be successful. Since your ranged weapons are, by default, extremely limited in ammunition, you’re going to do most of your combat up close, meaning you’ll need to be razor sharp with your sword and shield usage to avoid the cold clutches of death. While enemies and projectiles don’t exactly fly at breakneck speeds, there’s more than enough quantity to make the going tough as you try to overcome common foes or fellow Vanguards.

Stardust Vanguards Artillery Assault
Random events, like fleet blitzkriegs and artillery assaults, spice up the action and add unique elements that mix up the flow of battle.

Stardust Vanguards is, at its core, a well-made game for players that have plenty of local players to jump in on the fun. With a $9.99 price tag on Steam, I’d hesitate to recommend it unless you’re really set with that, though. Since there’s no online play, and the single-player options are very limited, it’s tough to see most of today’s gamers getting their money’s worth out of this one. With plenty of game styles and custom rules to play around with, it’s certainly not without merit, but I think the reality is that the lack of online support is a serious shortfall. Perhaps if a future update adds this in, I’ll reconsider this, but as it stands today, I’m hard-pressed to feel like I can recommend this one to anyone but the dedicated “couch co-op” crowd.

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Chaz Miller
Chaz was Twinfinite's resident indie game reviewer from December 2013 through until May 2017. An indie reviewer extraordinaire, father-type human for two young gamers, and generally a very busy person.