Rebel Galaxy is the debut game from Double Damage Games, a studio founded by a couple of industry veterans who previously founded Runic Games, the makers of Fate and Torchlight. This time around, Travis and Erich have set their sights on making a space combat/exploration/trading game. After we went hands-on at PAX South, we stayed in touch with Double Damage, and they were kind enough to give us early press access to review it. The last couple of times we talked Rebel Galaxy, we were frothing at the mouth about this game – does it live up to our expectations? Let’s find out in my Rebel Galaxy review!
Related Video Over on YouTube, we streamed the game a couple of days before release! Go check it out:
The premise of Rebel Galaxy will be familiar to anyone who has played similar games like Freelancer, Escape Velocity, Elite, and many others. This genre died out for a couple of decades for whatever reason, but has had a resurgence of late with titles like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous.
Basically, you are captain of a spacefaring vessel in a dangerous part of the galaxy. You can make your fortune by mining resources from asteroids, taking on various missions, trading goods at stations, or by hunting other ships – legally, as a bounty hunter, or illegally, as a pirate. The more credits you amass, the better the ship and equipment you can afford. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you’re the baddest mofo this side of Orion’s belt.
Combat in Rebel Galaxy is a dance both tactical and complex, while still being simplified enough to not become overwhelming. Your ship’s primary weapons are its broadsides, which are fired by aiming off the side of the ship, charging a shot, and then firing. If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed 4 (or any other naval combat game), you’ll feel right at home.
Broadsides are really good against capital ships, but smaller fighters dance and flit about, making them hard to hit with slow-moving projectile weapons. Enter your turrets, which can be picked from a mix of various types – some are better against shields, some have longer range, others are missile launchers that have extended damage potential but require periodic ammo refills.
A fully-equipped battleship might have a dozen turret mounts, plus broadsides and a secondary weapon like a torpedo launcher or a flak cannon. Then there’s also the deflectors and the sublight boosters to manage. This could get overwhelming, if not for the smart combat design.
All capital ship movement and broadside firing is locked to a 2-D plane. Meanwhile, fighters dart around above and below and turrets can be free-aimed to combat them. If you’re not in manual control of a turret, it can be set to pick targets automatically, keeping smaller craft at bay while you deal with the larger threats.
There’s also a fair amount of aim assist and some smart button binding, which makes Rebel Galaxy a dream to play with a controller. By reducing the focus on twitchy shooting and micromanagement of systems, Rebel Galaxy shifts your attention towards more tactical concerns. When things get nuts and you’ve got a dozen fighters and 5 capital ships bearing down on you, you need to be thinking about targets, how your turrets should be tasked, and how to manage damage across the quadrants of your shields.
Outside of combat, there’s loot to be had and interstellar bling to buy. Stations stock goods that can be picked up below market value in one location and sold at a profit elsewhere. While zipping around a system, you might bump into traders that
There are also a variety of missions in Rebel Galaxy. Stations have randomly generated side jobs you can pick up for a quick infusion of credits, assuming you survive. There’s also a main quest line to follow, as well as a short set of side quests for one of the guilds.
Rebel Galaxy is a beautiful game, with a wide array of very detailed ships, as well as various nebulas, stars, planets, and other background elements to gape at. The music (literally) rocks, and is full of blues tunes and rock riffs. If that’s not your cup of tea, custom soundtracks are supported as well.
The main quest and the guild quest line aren’t particularly long, but the difficulty of the main quest ramps up pretty quick, so you can’t just blow through it without spending some time on upgrades. I probably spent 80% of my time playing side quests and doing trading to make enough credits to afford the really high-end gear.
Despite the fact that I was technically grinding, I never really felt like I was. The variety of activities and the fun of the combat kept the time melting away. Even when warping from place to place, random events keep the pace of the game moving. It also helps that each individual upgrade to your ship feels like a significant step up, so you’re always just a few missions or one really good trade run away from a big bump in power.
It also helps that the game is just so much fun and really polished. Everything is entertaining – even just the trading interface is really well designed and gives you way more information than many games that are solely dedicated to this type of transaction. Combat is just a joy, from taking down swarms of fighters, doing tight combat turns, or going toe-to-toe with major battleships.
I could level a few minor complaints at Rebel Galaxy, but mostly I just want more of everything. I spent a good 60 hours on my playthrough, and I really want a reason to spend 60 more. Mod support would go a long way towards making Rebel Galaxy a game I could come back to again and again.
Rebel Galaxy is an excellent game, and it is well worth your time and money. If you have fond memories of space trading sims from days of yore, or you’re just tired of overblown, overly complex interpretations of the genre, check Rebel Galaxy out. It’s easily the most fun space sim I’ve played in a long time.