If you’ve ever spent your evening watching your Sims play rock star int heir front rooms or figured that a case of King complex wasn’t quite enough musical interaction for your top-down strategy, find out if Rising Star 2 is the musical interlude that you are looking for in our Review.
The sequel to indie musical management sim, Rising Star, this new show takes to the stage on PC today, via Steam, and challenges players to take on the role of an aspiring musician. Be it lead singer or back row guitarist, Rising Star 2 aims to give players an up close and personal experience that allows them to wind their way up the charts from the intimate settings of your own front room to stadium stardom, experiencing just how hard it is to make the whole thing work.
Rising Star 2 is every bit the grunge band it presents itself as. While Rising Star 2 skips on the chiptune influences of other indie titles, it definitely isn’t KPOP precision incarnate. Aesthetically, Rising Star 2 is a mixed bag. It isn’t the AAA exclusive that big brand publishers pump out onto PC after years of waiting, but even those sometimes have some serious issues, but it is far from an 8-bit retro throwback. Character models are wildly diverse, with tons of customization in the opening screens but lacking in some fidelity. There are plenty of colours, clothes, and hair types to chose from but it never quite matches the intricate minutia of something like Black Desert Online, and yet I still found my time on the road with this title somewhat charming. Rising Star 2 strives for realism and immersion that the visuals don’t quite manage but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth listening closely as we dig into the rest of the experience.
We learned during our StationFLOW review, that because a title doesn’t come out all crunching power chords and RTX blazing, doesn’t make for simple gameplay. This unassuming first impression is also true of Rising Star 2. What looks like it might initially be in the running as a mid-range Rock Band RPG is actually far more intricate and cerebral than a night with a Harmoix kickdrum. Taking place in one of the many small-town rock cities across America, Rising Star 2 allows players to build a band, manage their time, and delve into everything they might need to climb to the top of the charts. Starting out in a front room, quite literally, players can take their newly created avatar on a tour of the local town, and there is plenty to explore in these early stages.
Getting The band Together
Jumping out onto the street and into your van, Rising Star 2 has a whole host of options and activities available for aspiring musicians. However, getting a band together is probably the most important of these. Hidden out among the many establishments that litter the sidewalks of the local town, players will find several music shops and the first steps to building a better band, one that can make some sweet sweet music. This is also when the deep complexity of Rising Star 2 starts to become extremely apparent. While Rising Star 2 does a decent enough job of steering players through the initial hour of sparse tutorials, NPC stats, money systems, and all the other ideas that would sit fine in an RPG, the musical lore is actually pretty complex. Finding band members and exploring the notice boards at the local music store delves into a myriad of ideas from musical instruments, to band personalities and inner dynamics. If you’ve played any RPG, then it is likely you’re starting to understand that Rising Star 2 is an RPG. Yup, it’s a game of bards. And not all of them play support.
Interpersonal relationships are incredibly important in Rising Star 2. With a range of beginner to pro artists all looking for their next meal ticket, players won’t find any shortage of available band members, but that doesn’t mean they are all the right fit. Each of these individuals come with their own musical ability, instrument type, emotional range, and performance stats. Whether you pick a guitarist with a bunch of stage presence or a drummer with exceptional production skills, you’ll find this all has an influence on giving your band a leg up on different challenges. Of course, you’ll need to keep the band together before you even get near a recording studio, meaning careful management of everybody’s mood. Each member of this new band doesn’t just come with a temperament either. They have a visible set of stats, some who can take to the stage with ease and others that have better songwriting experience. balancing these abilities alongside the group temperament means that, just like any dungeon run, there are trade offs to be made and a huge range of avenues to stardom. Realistically, it’s unlikely you’ll find a bunch that all get on with each other, but that’s part of the fun of being in a band.
Getting To The Stage
The primary goal of Rising Star 2 is getting on stage and booking the best gigs. Here, things delve into a mix of social management sim and practice grind. Players looking to pull their band together will need to build their stats and practice a setlist, using a rather unique puzzle style songwriting system, and keep on practising until everything sounds pitch-perfect. Alongside their own personal stat systems, each member of your band carries their own weapon of choice. Whether it’s a keyboard and amp or a classic guitar, each can be repaired, upgraded, and exchanged just as you’d handle armour in a high fantasy setting. As the band tackle more songs and put in the time, you will increase each band member’s skill systems, improve the quality of performances, and generally make better noises. Unfortunately, this isn’t a part-time gig and the band will all make their own demands on your time.
The Side Quests
Beyond the obvious goal of getting on the stage and playing your heart out, Rising Star 2 requires a good deal of busy work to keep everything ticking over. The personality traits we spoke of earlier mean band members can become dissatisfied and quit. You’ll have to visit clothes stores, attend bars, and generally bend to the whims of fickle musicians to keep everyone happy. Beyond the personality-driven side quests, players will need to earn money, maintain equipment, and upgrade their own recording facilities to help their band propel forward. Almost every system or side quest involved in Rising Star 2 involves jumping into your trusty band van and heading out to engage in an activity that has a purpose. From earning cash by doing odd jobs to servicing the band tour van, everything has its place and after a few days in your small town stage, things do start to make sense.
Play for your life
Despite the ridiculous amount of detail and forethought that has gone into rising Star 2, some things do seem amiss. Robust party dynamics, a merchant and instrument system that provides a huge array of available upgrades, and a ton of free form options in getting to the big time feels a little off when you actually make it to the stage. Bars and nightclubs can very copy-paste when you enter them, with gigs lacking any interactive component. It’s like entering a dungeon and then pressing roll for loot. With a ton of potential preparation, stats stacked, weapons at the ready, and enough busy work to keep you entertained for hours, the final ascent to the stage is a largely hands-off appearance. Where you might expect a Rock Band style interactive component, even just for the fun of it, you’ll never really get to hear your band play. Granted this is a whole level of complexity that Rising Star 2 has decided to sidestep, but it just doesn’t feel like it is becoming of a rock star.
The Long Gameplay
As you get better, sell more CD’s, record an album and grow in popularity, the core gameplay loop in rising Star 2 doesn’t vary a whole lot. The game continues to quest, grind, and roll for success on bigger and better stages. The band will take on bigger gigs and these even throw in some new concepts, such as album charts, but it largely just expands your horizons outside of you local town and reframes the same core gameplay loop.
Rising Star 2 is definitely that difficult second album. This title aims for greatness but manages to feel rough around the edges. It’s essentially an RPG with musical trappings and that’s no bad thing. Don’t think the Metrononicon or Wandersong however. This wears its musical creds in plain sight while weaving in enough complexity keep from getting too complacent, but this does come at a cost. Rising Star 2 is a great idea that still feels raw. If you love getting down in the grimy underbelly of the local music scene or have ever been in a band then there are genuinely fantastic moments or recognition, when that irritating drummer finally storms off in a furious rage because of “creative differences”.
Rising Star 2 is an interesting and lovingly crafted title that takes the traditional party-based RPG and drags it on stage with a modern twist. These bards are worth a look if you want something different, but don’t expect it to be rocketing up the charts next week either. Check out Rising Star 2 and pick it up now over at the official Rising Star 2 Steam page now.
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes