I did not come across Rebel Galaxy until the second half of 2015, but I am so very glad I did. The discovery was unexpected for a couple of reasons; chief among them was that Rebel Galaxy is a space game and, with my love of all things extraterrestrial, I should have noticed it earlier. The other surprising tidbit is the title’s development studio Double Damage Games, consisting only of Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, seemed like an unlikely pair to make a game of this vision.
The development duo of Travis and Erich, who co-founded Runic Games, are more recently known for the absolute dynamite Torchlight games, with Baldree having previously worked on Fate and Schaefer on Diablos I and II. For those unfamiliar, the above titles are action-RPGs in which the player controls a single land-based character, and have nothing to do with space. Rebel Galaxy defies this assumption and is one of the greatest games I have played in years.
Rebel Galaxy exists primarily to give the player control of “an enormous destroyer, bristling with weaponry, firing massive broadside volleys, burning holes in cruisers, and bringing down fighters by the score.” Each of the nearly two dozen ships handles uniquely, offer different loadout possibilities, and are fun as hell to fly. However for anyone coming from a space simulator such as Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen, things may be a little different.
Ship-to-ship combat in Rebel Galaxy is unlike the aforementioned sims that consist of first-person flight and navigation within a Newtonian environment. Instead Rebel Galaxy offers, and perfects, flight and combat that closely mirrors flight in Star Trek or navigational movement found in 18th-century naval warfare. As evident in this parallel, piloting is locked to a two-dimensional plane where ships are incapable of pitching up or down, but you’ll be glad it is.
The sensation of flying alongside enemy ships and blasting them with your multitude of heavy lasers and photon cannons is brilliantly satisfying and never gets old. Ships can even be fitted to utilize ramming as an effective offensive technique when you want to make things more personal. Whether your ship is sending out waves of projectiles or trying to punch a hole through them, the damage models of all ships changes based on weapon impacts, so as you take damage your ship will start to show it. It is intensely terrifying and exhilarating to have gaping holes in the side of your cruiser spewing fire while trying to land the final killshot on a ruthless pirate.
Things don’t stop there however, as pilots who would rather play the Han Solo role and try to talk their way out of situations will also find something to cheer about. The conversational dialog that is presented in the game for its characters extends beyond the narrative focused interactions and gives the ability to hail other ships. While it isn’t as robust as Mass Effect or Fallout 4, I have been able to avoid battle on numerous occasions that may otherwise have proven to be quite difficult encounters.
For those who may not want to charge into every fight head on with guns blazing, there are many other gameplay facets implemented by Double Damage Games’ past expertise that give Rebel Galaxy some variety. For example, the star systems of the game are full of space stations buying and selling goods based on their individual economic status and chosen industry. This means that it is entirely possible to trade and smuggle goods around the game world to make your money; just be careful you do not crash the market in the process.
All of this exists independent and alongside the compelling narrative story mode that pushes you deeper and deeper into the stars. However, the game does not pin you to the story but instead allows you to venture out on your own to explore as you see fit. It is at this point where I realized Rebel Galaxy is not as far off from the developers’ past works as I had originally thought. The similarities in a compelling story leading the player through an established world full of rich characters are obvious. The differences here are the RPG elements involve customizing a starship’s weapons and systems loadout instead of gear and spells for a mage.
Rebel Galaxy is available on PC from various retailers such as GOG or Steam, and it has also recently released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One . If any of the above sounds interesting then definitely check the game out on your preferred platform.