I aim to misbehave – Rebel Galaxy Review

It's Privateer style wrapped in a Firefly coating, and oh so pretty looking
It’s Privateer wrapped in a Firefly coating, intense combat featuring and oh so pretty looking explosions

After installing and running Rebel Galaxy, I reached the main menu when the sudden urge to get something came over me. I went straight to my storage closet to a box labeled “early 90s,” grabbed a dusty chocolate colored leather jacket and put it on. The jacket was where I had left it years ago, next to my PC copies of Privateer and Wing Commander. Look at that! It still fits! Striding back across the living room I paused to pat my Firefly Blu-ray set and set it aside; I sensed I wouldn’t be watching those discs for a long time. Easing into my chair and tugging on my flight jacket I began pre-flight warmup sequences. Reachin forward wrapping my hands around my controller, firmly gripping it. I turned slightly to say goodbye to everyone I know, and started playing. My wife protested from the kitchen, and one of the kids I believe might have asked for help with his homework, it was going to have to wait. I just muttered in low voice “Never tell me the odds” and jumped to warp, and I was in more ways than one… I was just gone.

You knows what’s been missing from my hard drive for nearly 20 years? What developer Double Damage has delivered onto with Rebel Galaxy. It’s a space adventure I have yearned for for over a decade. Rebel Galaxy is a sensational privateering adventure with a penchant for spaceship exploding goodness. This is not a highly technical space simulation, where everything is scientifically measured down to the millimeter. Rebel Galaxy takes some of the better ideas from several known sci-fi pieces, and binds them together into a new enjoyable game. It also didn’t take 90-something million dollars in crowdfunding to deliver (shameless of me, I know). What this game brings may not be genre busting, or PC game defining, nor the next leap in how we perceive the universe, but it is damn fun and very hard to put down.

Gameplay and Walkthrough – Well Wishes for Total Biscuit Edition

 

The story begins with you, the captain and owner of a light freighter vessel. the ship is an old bucket with a few working guns. I shamelessly renamed my ship to “Serenity” as soon as I had the option. The adventure begins on a space station known as Rust City. The local system bartender knows of your aunt Juno; he last saw her a few weeks ago. He hands you her last possession, an AI module called “Spectre.” He offers to give you more information regarding your aunt, and he accepts payments for information in special favors. Favors or credits makes the galaxy spin on its axis. Favors typically entail  blowing something up. I usually object to being anyone’s galactic errand boy, but I’ll gladly acquiesce if it involves making things go kerplow. You soon learn that “Spectre” is an advanced alien artificial intelligence named Trell, who has “forgotten” its purpose, capabilities, and other vital data. By finding its memory fragments throughout the galaxy, it can piece together it’s true potential. Unfortunately for us auntie-saving privateers, many factions also want its secrets and will wish you a fond farewell with the business end of a space missile.

Where you go after receiving the Spectre is up to you. Rebel Galaxy provides an open-ended galaxy for you to explore. You do not have to necessarily track down the mysteries of the device right away. Want to mine for minerals, trade commodities between space stations, or fight pirates for valuable bounties and rewards? Go right ahead. Most of your actions will have positive effect on one faction, and a detrimental one on another. It’s a little difficult to avoid conflicts in this crowded (but incredibly spacious) galaxy. Be warned, if you want to make some real dough, something’s going to have to go kaboom. Making things go caboosh is such a pretty and enjoyable affair, you won’t really mind it at all.

This solar system is just the beginning of what you can explore... and blow up.
This solar system is just the beginning of what you can explore… and blow up.

Combat is where Rebel Galaxy shines. While the game is rendered in full 3d, you are locked into a two dimensional plane for movement, reminiscent of the old Starfleet Command games. Fighters, small asteroids, and debris will zoom over and under your ship, but your movement is restricted to a flat plane. Highly technical pilot simulation is eschewed in favor of a focus on positioning and antique broadside naval warfare. Like the idea of popping out of a nebula screaming “Kahn!” while carving a blackened streak into the enemy’s dreadnaught? Now’s your chance.

The starting ship comes with one turret and three broadside cannons at its disposal. For the most part the turrets are controlled by the AI. Whichever weaponry you decide to take control of manually, the AI will follow tactical options that you setup prior to engagements. These options are important, and as you upgrade your ship with varying weapon types you’ll understand why. The AI is more than adequate at following your orders, and I found that focusing on maneuvering your ship and landing well placed broadside blasts to be the better use of my abilities than monitoring each turret.

Conversation with seedy characters do have a few options but usually leads to blowing something up.
Conversation with seedy characters do have a few options but usually leads to blowing something up.
Broadside weaponry come in a few different flavors, you have tachyon cannons that are excellent for close quarters barrages and require little to no lock on timing. Longer range slower proton cannons devastate shields but affect hulls inversely, neutron beams that carve figure 8’s into hulls, and a few other cannon types that offer different explosion potentials. There’s a nice smorgasboard of upgrading to be had in this galactic shindig. 

 

Balanced weaponry can become surgical tools for annihilating enemy vessels. Blast enemy shields down from afar with your MK1 Proton broadsides while your flak cannons keep enemy fighters at bay. Then burn a heart shaped “Mom” tattoo into the enemy captains rear end with your particle laser. AI controlled leecher turrets pummel them so they can’t run. It’s a symphony of boom, and you are the composer.
Solar systems feel enormous, you could spend 10-12 hours running all the missions in just one solar system.
You could spend 10-12 hours blowing things up in one solar system alone.

 

Still for every moment I have felt invincible because I upgraded to MK3 shields or increased my boom sticks, I soon ended up experiencing noob feelings of dread as I was outgunned and outclassed by the next group of enemies. When you start feeling like the big fish in a little pond, well, you are reminded the galaxy is a big place after another space shark has you for dinner. That really powerful pirate scow you now tear apart in seconds becomes the long and nearly solar eclipsing dreadnaught slicing you up in seconds in the next sector. Not only are other capital ships a problem, speedy smaller fighter craft are pelting your ship into pieces. While insignificant on their own, when deployed in unison with enemy frigates and cruisers, they become a formidable force to be reckoned with, especially when they are outfitted with advanced shield-busting technologies mid to late game.

While upgrading weaponry is important, equipping your ship with crucial defensive systems is the only way to survive these sprawling battles where you will always be outgunned 10 to 1. Shields are your first line of defense. Once they fall hull strength protects your vital systems. A third shielding system is manually activated, the deflector shield. This shield absorbs a great deal of damage but only in short bursts; good timing is key to mitigate the worst barrages. There are other options you can buy and add to your ship: flak cannons, repair systems, and other modules will sustain your ship against overwhelming adversity.

Second star to the right, and straight on until something explodes...
Second star to the right, and straight on until something explodes…

Battles are not the only thing that are lengthy and full of things that go shhhhhhhkerpawshhhhooommm. Rebe; Galaxy’s universe is vast. I spent roughly 10 hours just exploring the starting system.  Time management includes saving up money and building up my ship, doing side missions, and answering frequent distress calls. There’s always something stirring up in an asteroid field or icy nebula. Once, I warped towards a space station to trade some items only to find under it under a full scale siege from a pirate faction. One lone military class destroyer was attempting to tackle about 25 pirates. I decided to jump into the mix. I could have also hightailed it for the space port and then run off. I could have simply turned around and headed elsewhere. The freedom is there to do what you wish. The sparkling explosions of twisted frigates beckoned.  It’s was too tempting, I had to jump in and blow something up.

Combat itself is dressed up in delicious southern and country rock, or the hillbilly twanging so akin to Firefly I half expected Captain Reynolds to start voicing the game. Honestly, I am unabashedly biased for this game’s soundtrack. Firefly was the true “wagon train to the stars,” and its influence resonates in Rebel Galaxy’s soundtrack. It inspires a feeling of “you versus everyone,” a dusty cowboy in a space ship bristling with weaponry, perfect for inciting rebellious inclinations. You can incorporate your own music into this game; it’s one of the pre-launch settings. Why would you even want to? I like my space buccaneering with a touch of southern sass and a whole lot of space fire.

The entire presentation of the game is just clean and simple to pick up and play, especially with a controller. Commands are easily displayed on the screen, hold (A) for Warp, (Back) for scan, and so on. Are you using a PlayStation controller on your PC? No problem, it’s a quick option to switch over and just as easy to learn all the functions. There are a couple of nice touches that I enjoyed seeing, while not a crucial part of combat. As your ship takes critical damage, there is a report in the pause menu that details your ship’s affected areas. Star maps lay out space stations and other areas, if you follow the main story you’ll miss a few of them. Including those that are willing to buy contraband from you. Your affiliation will affect your ability to dock at space stations. Help traders and pirate factions will start hunting you down. Raid traders and other government areas, or deal in contraband, and the military will go hunting for you. Take your pick, or have them all hate you, the choice is yours.

This my corvette class ship, four broadside cannons, more turrets, and she's a fast one. I also named her "Serenity"... sigh.
This my corvette class ship, four broadside cannons, more turrets, and she’s a fast one. I also named her “Serenity”… sigh.

For all the extensive areas to visit and exploration to be had, it’s a shame some of the gameplay options are not fleshed out a little more. As an example, you can outfit your ship with a mining laser and head out towards mineral rich asteroid fields. TradeWars 2002 was one of the best space trading games I have ever played, and it was simple text based game. Unlike TW2002, the commerce and economy system needs some work. Rebel Galaxy includes charts that signal the rise and fall of prices at different stations, but it’s a difficult read, and highly inefficient in its execution. You may find out that the station on the other side of the system needs “nuts and bolts” but when you arrive the price has changed. At best I have found my hauls to bring in 1-10k profit at maximum. To put it in perspective, saving traders from pirates yields 5-10k credits, combat missions 9-80k credits, and some dead drops 100-300k credits. So why trade? Why bother mining? Blowing up ships is way more profitable.

A balanced and easier to understand trading system would have broken up the otherwise combat heavy game. Planning combat missions in between freighter runs would have been nice, and added an extra layer of planning every time you leave a station. Missions do not change much from “go here blow this up, go here get ambushed blow them all up, or drop this off at a station while the entire Murath pirate fleet engages you and tries to blow you up”. Getting in good with guilds and factions can pay off dividends. Better missions, better equipment, and even better ship hulls. Access to these things does not change gameplay at all, you just feel like a bigger badass, and much of the later missions require extensive credentials in Badassery.

Meet Auntie Juno. Don't cross her she'll blow you up. As her nephew, you'll blow up anyone who messes with you too.
Meet Auntie Juno. Don’t cross her she’ll blow you up. As her nephew, you’ll blow up anyone who messes with you too.

So what if I’m on my 79th mission to blow up the Red Devil fleet? So what if I haven’t taken off my stupid brown jacket in 7 days? So what if I refuse to answer anyone without sounding like Captain Mal Reynolds? This game is fun, and I’m pretty much loving every second of it. There’s so much going on, from getting that next upgrade, from blowing up that next frigate, whizzing into pure chaos just to nab a dead drop item in between thousands of crisscrossing missiles and energy beams burning a hole in my hairy aft. Rebel Galaxy has left me thoroughly impressed and completely addicted. This game is huge. This game is long. This game is everything you ever wanted out of a modern Privateer sequel, or a spiritual homage to Firefly. Thanks to Rebel Galaxy, it will be a long time before I pry myself out of this captain’s chair.

STEAM

 

Rebel Galaxy

Score - 9

9

Blown UP

It's the spiritual successor to Privateer and Firefly. Nuff said.