Rebel Galaxy is the result of two veteran action-RPG developers growing weary of typecasting themselves and deciding to make their own space sim with only themselves and outsourced assets. Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, who have between them worked on such games as Fate, Torchlight, Diablo, and Diablo II, make up Double Damage Games, and based on a preview build of their upcoming space exploration game, I can say that their risky decision to abandon the genre they’ve worked on for years is likely to pay off.
p dir=”ltr”>Rebel Galaxy drops the conventions of most combat space sims where you take control of an agile fighter with limited firepower. Instead, you control your own capital ship armed with broadside cannons and a generous helping of turrets. Ship combat is more comparable to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag than the dogfighting of Star Fox, Rogue Galaxy, or the upcoming Star Citizen, in that you line up the enemy capital’s ships against your broadsides and unleash hell. If pesky fighters or incoming missile barrages are too threatening, you can take control of your turrets and turn them into space debris.
Ships have shields and separate hull plating for your ship’s front, sides, and rear, so combat sometimes involves literally turning the other cheek to mitigate incoming damage or to let your shields recover on one side as you continue to pepper your foes with plasma. The directional damage makes your position in battle paramount, and much of the combat requires maneuvering to reacquire an angle on a softened side of enemy frigates. If you ever fear that your ship isn’t quite ready to take on your foes, you can simply activate your warp drive to boost to safety by fleeing and docking for upgrades, repairs, or more supplies.
Much of Rebel Galaxy involves getting money to upgrade your ship, and the game offers a fair selection of routes you can take to do so. If constant combat is your sort of thing, you can hunt down bounties or complete combat-oriented missions. If you prefer the more peaceful route, you can equip a mining laser on your ship and play a much more beautiful version of the arcade classic Asteroids, destroying space rocks or ice to obtain the ore and water hidden within. You can even sign up for the galaxy’s Merchant’s Guild and make an honest living as a trader, playing the markets from each station to buy low and sell high to turn a profit. If honesty isn’t your sort of thing, you can become a smuggler, purchasing contraband goods and carrying them to stations where they are not completely outlawed. Careful, though: if the Militia catches you running drugs, you’ll quickly make a powerful enemy.
In addition to the Militia and Merchant’s Guild, a few other factions are around, and you must decide whether or not to maintain alliances with them as you captain your ship. If you want to be an upstanding citizen, you should probably avoid intermingling with the three separate pirate factions. If it’s always been your dream to don an eyepatch and attempt to navigate the seas of the sun without depth perception, aligning yourself with the Red Devil Cartel, DoubleJack Thugs, or Korian Outsiders may be the right life path for you. Each faction has unique ships you can obtain as you advance in the game, but they’re only available if you remain on good terms with those who produce them.
Although the game features an open world, it also offers a primary storyline with a set of missions to complete revolving around your missing aunt and some ancient AI with amnesia. The missions available in the preview build take you all over the first star system, where you meet a plethora of interesting characters, from the suspicious alien smuggler and a robot scientist to a militia leader who knows your aunt (from some run-ins that took place when your aunt had her own smuggling operation). The preview build stopped at the end of the first of 14 star systems, and it managed to yield around 12 hours of gameplay for me, so it looks as though the game will allow players to spend a generous amount of time investing in this world.
As if the game’s open nature didn’t offer enough of a frontiersman feel for you, the soundtrack is laden with slide guitars and tavern-esque tracks that evoke the space-western aura of Firefly. Given that your goal as captain in this game is to find a job and keep flying, it’s most definitely not an unwelcome nod.
Although there is no solid release date, Rebel Galaxy should be available later this year. If the preview build is a good indication, the game will deliver a refined space experience too individual to step on the toes of other space games soon to come, offering multiple avenues of gameplay that should sate a variety of gaming tastebuds.