Rebel Galaxy Review (PC)
I’d like to introduce you to Rebel Galaxy the same way I was… Knowing nothing about the game, I sat down one evening to watch a streamer called DistractedElf. She came online and said hi to everyone in her chat, cause she’s a polite sort, before uttering these fateful words…
“I want you to sit back, relax, and go to that special place in your soul that’s reserved for spaceships and twangy guitars.”
Suffice to say that I sat up and started to really pay attention at this point. Yes I am a Firefly fan. Therefore when the first slide guitar starts in the menu screen, I get all gushy. This game has my favourite soundtrack of all time. No exceptions.
Soundtrack out of the way, what the hell actually is this game? I suppose I should tell you right?
Rebel galaxy is almost a space based adventure game with naval style combat and a rich story. What do I mean by that. It’s one of the few space games I have ever played that doesn’t bother with up and down. All combat and movement in Rebel galaxy takes place on a single plane, making it more like a naval combat game than a space one. Personally I like this as it gives it a more arcade-like feel. The combat system really reminds me of the naval battles in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and you’d be hard pressed to find a gamer that didn’t love that. So if you never played AC4 then what do I mean by that?
Your first ship comes fitted with two types of weapon. Broadside cannons and turrets. Your turrets are perfectly capable of using the on board AI to target and attack ships on their own, but your broadsides are where you need to focus your time. By holding down Left Trigger on an Xbox360 controller you will begin to charge and lock all your broadside cannons towards your desired target. Then, once the indicator turns yellow (as in the first screenshot) you hit Right Trigger to fire them. There are a myriad of different turrets and broadside cannons that you can outfit your ship with later in the game from short range ‘shotgun’ style ones to the long range pinpoint beam cannons shown above allowing you to adapt your ship to your preferred combat style. And of course each different type has its own upgraded versions that become available later down the line until you end up piloting a ship that you feel can pretty much nail anything the galaxy decides to throw at it. Be warned, there’s always a bigger fish out there just waiting to prove to you how wrong you really are.
Having said that you don’t even have to stick with your original ship either, and to be honest you’re going to have problems if you do. There are also bigger, better armoured ships available to buy at each of the stations for money which will have more turret positions, more broadside cannons and be generally better, faster and stronger than the one you’re currently piloting about.
Ok, that’s enough about the shiny weapons and ships. Though I am disappointed that the Firefly class hasn’t made an appearance so far in the game, I’d love to be flying the Serenity ’round the ‘verse but given the amount of stuff trying to blow me to pieces and the relative squishiness of that ship I suppose everything is still shiny cap’n. Still though, it’d be awesome wouldn’t it?
On to what you’ll be doing with your ship I suppose then.
There are the missions that advance the story, which so far has been well written and varied enough that I haven’t been avoiding them in any way. Or there are missions available from each of the stations you’ll visit as you fly around. Most of the side missions will be one of the usual types you expect. Go and kill these guys, go and protect them or cargo type pick up/drop off missions each of which will gain you credits which you can then spend upgrading your ship. There are also bounties you can go and collect or asteroids you can mine to sell so there’s always something to do or a way to get enough money to upgrade your ship. You’ll also find random events around the place as you fly within range of them, be it a transponder to hack to get information on local bounties or a distress signal from a beleaguered force under attack close by. Beware though as the distress signals are just as likely to be traps laid on by pirates to lure you in for the kill.
The missions themselves will be marked according to how risky the game thinks it is for you to tackle them based on your current ship and its load out. Be warned though, just because you have a massive ship and all the best guns and armour available, doesn’t mean you’re actually equipped to take on what awaits. I have been stung many times because I was decked out and ready for battle with an armada of frigate sized ships only to find myself pitted against a swarm of 12 or so tiny little fighters which ate through my shields and armour before blowing me into a cloud of smoking debris because my kit wasn’t designed to fight them. Moral of the story? Read the mission text and equip your ship according to what you’ll be coming up against.
Rebel Galaxy saves every time you enter a station so missions and upgrades aren’t the only reason to stop by. You can also hire a mercenary pilot who will fly a fighter along side you, acting as a fire support craft. The bar is also where you will find details on local bounties and their locations in the system, for a price of course. The characters behind the bar in these places tend to be varied and interesting enough that I like heading in sometimes just to see who’s waiting for me..
The last thing you can find at these stations are guilds. The two I have come across so far are the Merchants and the Mercenaries. Guess which one I chose. These guilds will allow you entry for a price and once you’re in, you get special missions to perform for them and have access to their own brand of ships and equipment to deck them out with.
All in all the galaxy is full of life. While most of it is trying to explode you in a myriad of interesting ways, the variation I found in just the first two systems was enough to keep me surprised and amused by what I was seeing, and there’s probably a whole host of things I haven’t come across yet.
The last thing I feel I should mention about Rebel Galaxy is the graphics. In case you hadn’t noticed the beauty of space vistas you fly through is spectacular. The visual effects of your ship as you fly and the explosions you see as your weapons fire and hit are breathtaking. Even hitting the boost button causes beautiful red phasing effects in your engine’s thrusters that just adds that little nuance of special to every time you fire them up.
There’s always something pretty around the corner and probably something hiding inside for you to investigate.
The only gripe I have with Rebel Galaxy, and it’s consistent with all ‘open world’ style games, is that you can find yourself having to stay in one area, constantly trying to gain enough credits for a new ship or gun. The various ways in which you can do this makes it less grindy than you might expect but it still has the potential to wear away at your enjoyment levels. However, once you manage to upgrade whatever you need to, that high risk mission will suddenly become average and you can move on to the next bit. A minor problem to be sure, and one that certainly doesn’t stop me playing the game but it’s something that I know a lot of people highlight as a sticking point with other free-roam style games so I thought I should mention that, while reduced, there is still that possibility, rearing its ugly head.
Overall though I can say that Rebel Galaxy is definitely one of my contenders for game of the year. Even just it’s soundtrack should be enough to merit several awards in my book. As a side note, Double Damage haven’t released a soundtrack at the time of writing due to the logistical nightmare this would bring down upon them with most of the music being licensed. However, they have written up a full track listing on their website and some of the more enterprising fans have created public playlists on Spotify and probably other music sources so you can continue to enjoy those twangy guitars even as you put down your controller and move back into the world of the real.
In closing I’d like to mention who Double Damage games are. In case you’ve not been looking already, Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, previously of Runic games, founded Double Damage in 2014. And then proceeded to make Rebel Galaxy entirely themselves… Think about that. This whole game was made by two guys. In about a year. And I feel like I’ve got at least another hundred hours of gameplay left to experience for half the price of your usual triple-A title. I’d say that’s a win
10 really pretty explosions out of 10