Crying Suns is a tactical space rogue-lite inspired by games such as FTL. It was developed by Alt Shift. It is available on Humble Bundle and Steam. The Humble link is a referral, I get a small commission if you purchase the game through it. Joseph Pugh conducted this review.

Crying Suns Overview

Crying Suns is a tactical and tough game. It features difficulty settings, but its nature as a rogue-lite means you can expect to fail quite a bit. The game separate’s itself from those that inspire it by weaving a deep story-line and a ton of lore into its randomly generated chaos. Be warned that Crying Suns is a dark game. While none of it is shown in graphic detail, it explores themes such as sex slaves, breeder stations and child suicide bombers. It is a mature game in spite of its visual style.

You travel down branching paths of your choice as you attempt to reach the exit of each sector.

You play as Admiral Idaho, or more accurately, one of several clones. Considered one of the greatest Admiral’s to exist, it is up to you to explore a now ravaged empire. You have to figure out what happened and see if you can fix it. Pirates and scrappers stand in your way and the always present need for fuel.

You will jump from sector to sector, exploring anomalies, interacting with random events and battling enemies. All while gathering scrap, new weapons, and squadrons. You must press forward as the systems occupants become more aware of you the longer you dawdle. Stay in one place for too long and you will need to fight off a powerful attacker. Running out of fuel is an easy way to end your run.

Crying Suns Story

Crying Suns is a game that has an unexpected amount of dialogue and often allows you the chance to ask questions and learn more about the various aspects of its setting. Most of it isn’t required to actually play the game, but the lore is fascinating regardless.

The OMNIs, machines that were integral to humankind’s survival, shut down. Humankind’s reliance on OMNIs was so great, that events quickly spiraled out of control. Accompanied by one such OMNI named Kaliban, you must investigate what happened and see if you can reactivate the OMNIs once again.

Many events offer a choice to make, it is always risky however.

Many random events will allow you to dig deeper into the lore and story in addition to providing gameplay elements. Systems and the events contained within them are randomly generated, so you never know what you will encounter. Some story beats are set in stone, however, such as meeting the infamous Mother. A character very reminiscent of the Mad Max villain, Immortan Joe. In fact, the entire scrapper faction features several parallels to the War Boys, whether intentional or not.

Rogue-Lite

When you eat space dust, you start again. Admiral Idaho and his core crew are once again cloned. You choose a ship, your starting officers and you start again. The officers are randomly generated. However, through certain events, you can unlock special officers. From then on they can always be chosen.

The game is split into several chapters. Each chapter unlocks a new ship that you can choose to use in a later run. Every system is a set of branching paths, each containing a solar system. Solar systems contain several points of interest. These can range from battles, stations where you can repair your ship and squadrons, heal officers or purchase goods and personnel.

Crying suns officer
Your officers can be assigned to different systems on your ship to provide bonuses, they can also be sent on expeditions.

Random events are also present. Usually denoted as an anomaly, they can be positive or negative. You won’t know which until you explore it. Many events present you with a choice, and at times having an officer with certain skills on your ship can influence that choice.

Any of these encounters can reward you with new squadrons, weapons, crew or scrap. Scrap can be used to purchase goods, or it can be spent to upgrade aspects of your ship. Adding additional hanger bays or weapon slots can increase your offensive capability, but you may also add more hull or scanner upgrades. Fuel gathering is particularly important. The most common way to acquire fuel is by gathering it from a star in each system. The amount you get is usually low and upgrading your ability to obtain it is exceptionally important.

Crying Suns Gameplay

Crying Suns is very risk versus reward oriented. Do you risk your fuel exploring as much as possible? Or move forward before your pursuers can catch up. Hitting a big reward can help you with tougher fights that you will encounter later in the game. If you make a bad call, you may end up worse for wear instead.

One type of activity you can take part in are expeditions. If your scanner picks up something valuable on a planet, you can send an officer and platoon of commandos down to retrieve it. The success or failure is based on the skills of the officer and the number of commandos you send down. The degree of success and failure can vary. It is possible to obtain the loot, but lose several commandos for example.

Crying suns planetfall
Commandos can be sent to make planetfall and retrieve loot.

The expeditions are visually neat. You watch a scanner as your squad moves in and you get little pop-ups detailing what skills are being used. From a game-play perspective, expeditions are disappointing. They lack interactivity, you choose who to send then watch things happen. Success or failure is entirely based on who you chose and you simply witness the results rather than take part.

Ship battles are the meat of the tactical game. They are in real-time and are played on a hexagonal grid with each battleship facing each other on opposite ends. It is here that your weapons and squadrons come into play. The focus is on the latter, the battleship is important but plays a supporting role to your squadrons. You summon and control your squadrons on the field directly.

There is a very rock, paper, scissors method to this. Fighters deal extra damage against drones, frigates wreck fighters and drones eat up frigates. This might seem shallow, but it is offset by the additional subsets of each type that you can obtain. Such as a fighter that can cloak or drones that explode upon death. Other ship types exist as well, such as long-range cruisers that take more damage up close.

Crying suns battle
Battles take place on a grid, but are in real time. You can pause the action and still give orders , however.

When you combine this with the varied environmental hazards, battleship weapons, and officer abilities, it actually becomes quite intense. If a squadron is destroyed, they are slowly rebuilt but have less health until you can repair them at a station. You can attack the hull, squadron bays or weapons of a battleship. Each one does damage to the ship itself but they also generate heat on each portion. If a section gets too hot, its actions become delayed until it is fixed up.

The combat becomes a war of attrition, directing squads to engage one another, pinging the enemy battleship and retreating to defend your own. All while using weaponry on the ships themselves and navigating any hazards on the grid. If you get overwhelmed, you can activate a tactical pause at any time and still give orders. It’s thoughtful and a ton of fun to play.

Verdict

Crying Suns manages to combine interesting lore, a storyline, tactical combat and an FTL inspired branching path of random events in a pretty solid package. It has a few issues, the dark themes might turn off those who weren’t prepared for them. The planetary expeditions are disappointing and for a rogue-lite, there isn’t much variation in how you start a new run.

The world is interesting, the battle system is well done, tactical and fun. You have a lot of choices to make as you play, what to upgrade, how much to explore and how to handle events. Crying Suns takes a lot of inspiration from FTL, but twists the idea into its own unique set of game-play mechanics that set it apart.

If you like rogue-lites and strategy, Crying Suns is easy to recommend. It’s a solid strategy title and hits most of the notes it was trying to sing with success. What little problems I have with the game weren’t at all enough to take away from my overall enjoyment.

A review code for the game was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Humble Bundle.

Interested in other games inspired by FTL? Check out my review of Shortest Trip To Earth.

Pros

  • Great tactical combat.
  • Variety of unlockable ships and special officers.
  • Difficulty settings present.
  • Tons of random events and player choice.
  • Interesting storyline and lore, if dark at times.

Cons

  • The lack of interactivity in planet expeditions is disappointing.
  • Not to much choice at the start of each run despite its rogue-lite nature.

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