Rebel Galaxy (Xbox One Review)
Space is, and always will be, a vast and endless void that has many secrets to uncover and explore laden with endless possibilities. Space is a place many of us would love to visit, to experience, but will never get the chance to. Even if we did get that chance, how exciting would it actually be? The black mass that surrounds us may not be as exhilarating as some of the vistas we currently have on our own planet. This is where video games come into the mix. They let you partake in things you’d never get to experience in real life like driving a Formula 1 car, slay an evil goblin king and be a hero or even visit a galaxy far far away. Double Damage Games have brought us Rebel Galaxy to our doorstep, a game in which lets us venture into the depths of space putting you in command of your own ship, fending off space pirates all whilst the acoustics of the games southern rock soundtrack blasts in the background, making you feel like a complete badass in the process of it all.
Rebel Galaxy’s story begins as you receive an obscure message from your long lost aunt requesting that you meet her at somewhat disreputable space station on the outskirts of the galaxy’s sector. Since you haven’t seen your aunt in an age your curiosity gets the better of you and you head on out in your trusty bucket of bolts you call a ship. On arrival you find all is not well, your aunt missing and a stranger – a trusted family friend of sorts – in her place. From here it’s a quest to find your lost aunt and uncover the secrets of a mysterious relic that she has discovered. The narrative isn’t particularly strong as searching for your aunt lacks the urgency you’d expect from a worried family member. Since you’re thrust into the unknown, focusing more on the events taking place in front of us. Militia V.S. pirates, slave traders, and generally trying to make your own living in this distraught sector of the galaxy. There are plenty of extra side missions in the form of “bounties” to keep you busy and bring in the much needed credits required to upgrade your ship’s spec to ensure your survival on the long road to find your aunt. With the vast quantity of these bounties being periodically generated, it can be hard to keep yourself on track. Once you’ve completed one mission and have basked in the vast sums of money you’ve no doubt accumulated for your hard work you’ll immediately want to set out on another venture, leaving your aunts fate to the will of the universe.
If you’re going to try your hand at any of the riskier bounties it will involve you getting yourself into a bit of a tussle then you’re gonna have to get to grips with the basics of combat. Rebel Galaxy doesn’t boast your traditional high-velocity starfighter dogfights but instead opts for a more non-traditional “naval warfare in space” approach. Your ship “Rasputin” has built in broadside cannons which will be your primary means of offense and at times defense. If you are approaching an enemy head on then you’ll need to maneuver your ship into position so that it is parallel to the enemies gunship/cruiser, charge up your cannon, and fire. It’s a strange and obtuse combat mechanic especially since your own ship is locked on a 2-Dimensional plane and you cannot raise/lower your ship to align yourself properly with the enemies craft and you’re forced to cross your fingers in hopes that the tracking on the broadside cannons are on point. Luckily you aren’t solely dependant on your broadside cannons for dealing damage as your ship comes equipped with various ports in which you can install turrets, mines, lasers, and all manner of weapons. These act independently from your cannons and will automatically shoot at gunships that are within range or your can customise your on board systems to instruct turrets to have specific behaviour. For example you can set Turret A to attack any small craft whilst Turret B will only focus on much larger capital vessels.
Having the right parts for the right job is paramount in Rebel Galaxy. Suiting your ship up with various gadgets and the correct weaponry will get you far the more dangerous sectors of the galaxies various sub-systems. Depending on how you plan on making your living be it a pirate who trades narcotics/slaves or if you’re more of an upstanding citizen and decide to hunt these pirates down, you’ll need to save for the right equipment. Automatic flak turrets are good fast-firing machine guns that can easily take out small gunships, but are useless against larger capital vessels. You could install a laser turret which is good for penetrating hulls of any size of ship but has poor damage against enemies shields. Figuring out the right combination of parts will take some time but if you can also choose to be a pacifistic if you wish. Buying and selling commodities between space stations to make ends meet or go asteroid mining for valuable ore to sell to manufacturing stations for a quick buck. Regardless of which path you take there is only so much that your initial starting ship can muster until you’re faced with the option of trading it up for a slightly more advanced one with more ports for turrets and broadside cannons, larger cargo holds to transport more commodities, and more system slots for auxiliary systems such as damage absorbers and deflectors.
The extent of Rebel Galaxy’s game world is quite expansive to say the least. Going from one point to another can be quite quick if you use your warp drive to travel at light speed but if you’re a person who likes a nice relaxing stroll through the reaches of deep space then you can deactivate your warp drive and go from point A to point B manually, turning a three minute journey into a a twenty five minute one. Your initial starting point can leave you feeling underwhelmed as there aren’t a whole lot of space stations to visit but once you invest in better engines and a warp drive that can take you through the slip gates to other sectors of the galaxy the world map really opens up. Each sector is also randomly generated everytime you start a new game, giving way for replayability. The only ill effect of this expansive map has is that once you’ve spent most of your time in one cluster, maxing out your ship with all sorts of cool tech, you’re then forced to grind out a whole new set of weaponry and shields for the new sector you are in as the game’s difficulty ramps up a notch. And with roughly 10 sectors to explore its no doubt this form of grinding is going to get old quick.
In the end, Rebel Galaxy definitely surprised me. I’m not one for space sims (if you can call Rebel Galaxy a space sim) as they often require the player to perform repetitive and dull tasks at a really slow pace to help with immersion that simulators tend to have, so I usually stay well clear of these types of games. However, I can’t seem to put my controller down when playing Rebel Galaxy and to be honest, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s the fluent yet obtuse combat mechanics that make it different and interesting or maybe it’s the sheer customisation options at your disposal and the never ending grind to get the penultimate ship in the galaxy or maybe it’s the kickass southern rock music that amps you up as you immerse yourself in dogfights or simply fly from space station to space station. Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say Rebel Galaxy has converted me to the way of the space simulator and I’ll not be passing up the opportunity to try out similar games in the future.