By Chris Melchin / December 23rd, 2016
|Developer||Double Damage Games|
|Publisher||Double Damage Games|
|Release Date||Oct. 20, 2015|
|Platform||Steam, GOG, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||T for Teen (ESRB)|
I love science fiction. A game that truly allows you to do whatever you want in a large, fully open space-faring universe is something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. However, the genre has become somewhat flooded lately, leaving people like me to pick through and find the ones that are really what they claim to be from those that fall short of their promises. Rebel Galaxy is a game that is really trying to be something that I want, and even succeeds to a certain degree.
Rebel Galaxy comes from developer Double Damage Games, a small studio comprised of ex-Torchlight developers. It’s an open-world space action-RPG, although somewhat simplified to make it accessible. Movement is restricted to a 2D plane – although smaller ships like fighters and gunships have full 360° movement – and combat is generally naval-style where your most powerful weapons are the broadsides along each side of your ship. You also have two or more turrets placed around your ship, which can be fitted with a variety of different types of weapons, including mining lasers, scatter guns, flak cannons, swarm missiles and others. The ship also has secondary ports which can be fitted with missiles or mines. The turrets can be either controlled manually or allowed to automatically track and fire at targets, and you can change settings to make them only fire at capital ships, turrets, fighters, or any available targets.
Every ship has three levels of health: shields, which regenerate over time; hull, which does not and when damaged can disable or weaken weapons or thrusters, and core systems, which is how a ship gets destroyed, and systems damage can weaken important functions of the ship. On capital ships and larger fighters, shields and hull are divided into quadrants for each side of the ship, meaning you can spread out damage taken and preserve your shields or hull by turning around and protecting damaged sides. You also have a deflector, which can absorb up to a certain amount of damage when manually activated and protect your ship. When considered along how much damage some enemy ships can deal to yours, weaving through combat lets you fight intelligently to get a serious advantage over the opponent. I think it can add a nice level of strategy to the otherwise simplistic combat, although I wish it was required in more fights when most of them are much simpler.
Rebel Galaxy is easily at its most enjoyable in the huge fights, the ones pitting you by yourself or with allies against a whole enemy fleet. They are the fights that force the player to think and fight strategically, prioritizing weaker enemies before isolating and taking out larger targets. Unfortunately, most of the game is flying from point A to point B, occasionally getting interrupted by fights that are either smaller skirmishes with a couple enemy capital ships and some fighters, or huge groups of really powerful ships that leave you little choice but to bravely run away. Exciting fights only really happen during missions, be they side missions or the main campaign.
Missions fall into three general categories: go to a place and kill the enemies there, haul a thing from one place to another, or go to a place and protect the allies you find there. Sometimes these categories are mixed – needing to kill enemies to get the thing to haul, for example – but the fact remains that you’re pretty much doing the same thing over and over for missions to get money. Missions are the easiest and quickest way to get money, but there are others, such as responding to distress signals, trading goods, hunting down random bounties, and mining ores to sell. No matter which way you opt for, it doesn’t take long to get tedious due to either the lack of depth to most fights or the pitiful amount of money you tend to get from selling things. Getting boring and repetitive quickly is Rebel Galaxy’s biggest fault, even if it is somewhat difficult to avoid in a game of its nature. Also, escort and protection missions are the worst, since there’s no way to prevent enemies from attacking the ship you’re protecting and your deadweight doesn’t have the same self-preservation tactics that you have at your disposal.
The game’s world is a standard space western, most reminiscent of the design of the Terran technology from the StarCraft series. It portrays space as a futuristic wild west, fraught with criminal syndicates where everyone is free to make their own life for themselves as long as you don’t cross the militia. The designs for the ships and stations are very industrialist and emphasizing function over form, with some exceptions. It means that there is very little flavor to most of the ship designs and the world in general, with most of them being generic and uninteresting. The default music also fits the space western style, consisting of blues and country rock. However, at least on the PC versions, it is possible to change the music paths to lead to your own music, so I spent most of my time with the game listening to my personal soundtrack. It worked well; the vocal tracks from Guilty Gear Xrd work great as combat themes, while certain music from Persona 4 and Crush 40 make excellent background music for shipping from place to place. One particularly enjoyable example of random music coming up was “2’s my Favorite 1” by Coheed and Cambria coming on right after finishing the huge multi-fleet final battle, making a great ending theme of sorts for the game.
The core campaign of Rebel Galaxy took me around 20 hours to complete, with side missions taken to get the money I needed to upgrade my ship enough to tackle the main story missions. One could easily take longer trying to do everything; the game keeps going after finishing the campaign, and it would take much longer to max out all your ship’s components and buy the most expensive ship available, a massive dreadnought. However, with the way that missions quickly get repetitive and tedious, doing that in any reasonable time frame takes an amount of resistance to boredom that I couldn’t muster while playing Rebel Galaxy. It’s enjoyable enough for shorter sessions, but between the tedium and the lack of flavor in the world it’s not a game I ever found myself getting lost in. I can’t recommend it at its regular price of $20 USD, but if you can nab it during a Steam or PSN sale and want a fun, simplified space sim, Rebel Galaxy isn’t a bad choice.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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