Are you a fan of the cult classic TV show Firefly? Have you ever wanted to feel a little like Han Solo? Well, have I got the space truckin’ cargo haulin’ morally grey swindlin’ game for you.
Released in October of last year by the two man studio Double Damage Games, Rebel Galaxy is an arcade space game that you can just jump right in and start enjoying without spending hours upon hours learning it’s various systems. Getting technical with sunlight boosters, various fuel cells and ship layouts this game is not - instead, you simply get a ship, take a job and make your way.
Straight up you can tell that what this game lacks in complex mission structures and heavy cutscenes it more than makes up with space charm and style. Rebel Galaxy may not give you thorough and memorable characters, realistically correct galaxy structure or scientific explanations, but thankfully the 2 man + handful of contractor dev team put their time into what makes this game so wonderful - the graphics and gameplay.
One look at a single screenshot of the game was enough to pique my interest. From the purple and red hues of the galaxies to the colourful streaks of light created by weapons fire, Rebel Galaxy was a joy to look at the entire time I spent with it. The construction of the many ships are also very much worth paying attention to - from the smallest bomber to the largest frigate, the attention to detail is quite impressive.
If anything is going to get you in the mood to do some space truckin’, this game’s soundtrack is just the thing. Here in particular is where I see the most ties to the Firefly universe - that western rock theme is perfect for nodding your head to as you blast off into the unknown. It is unfortunate that there really are very few songs playing throughout your time with the game - given the likely cost of licensing, it isn’t all that surprising. The devs do get around this with one particularly clever feature on the PC version - the ability to load up your own custom soundtrack. The game goes so far as allowing you to customise your sound design to the finest detail, allowing you to choose individual tracks for entering and exiting battle, docking, menu music and much more.
You begin with a simple ship, housing your main weapon, a secondary missile cannon and two turrets, of which you can purchase an array of cannon, laser or missile weapons to slot in to. As you work your way through the universe, making money in any way you see fit, you will get access to bigger and better ships with more customising options. Various shields, hulls, engines and the like can also be bought and upgraded, allowing you to create the cargo-hauler of your dreams.
The core gameplay revolves around ship combat - of which you will be doing a lot of. Every combat situation you manage to get yourself into - whether it’s an ambush, a run in with local pirates, squabbles over mining resources or any number of varying scenarios - is a joy to participate in. Even though real space is very much 3D, Rebel Galaxy only works on a 2D plane - something I thought would hinder the game at first, but in practice makes so much sense. Battles are similar to naval fights, reminiscent of Assassins Creed: Black Flag's battle system, making it easier to focus on your targets. During fights you control one weapon on your ship at any given time while the others will be controlled by AI. Though I didn’t find it strictly necessary, you can micro manage your different AI turrets to target specific objects in a fight, such as setting a laser turret to focus on small fighters while setting your shield buster missiles to target the larger battleships.
Though there is a main storyline to guide you through the game, it's not exactly original - that being said, I found it quite compelling. Your aunt Juno has dragged you into an unfamiliar world, which will have you dealing with various alien races, shady characters and strange devices with complicated sounding names. None of the characters you meet are overly memorable, but they serve their purpose well - plus, the voice acting is top notch. Apart from the randomly generated missions you can take, there was only one other side quest chain involving the Mercenaries guild - it would have been nice to see more of that.
Speaking of random generation, the entire game world actually falls into that category. Any alternate playthroughs you do will be set up completely different, with different systems being laid out in different ways, altering how the world economy functions. There are of course a few things that stay the same - there will always be a system that is inaccessible by a jump gate, for example.
Rebel Galaxy is a game that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. You can sometimes see the underlying systems shine through the cracks, but that doesn't take away from the earnest joy that it offers. This game doesn’t pretend to to be something that’s it’s not - it’s a simple, fun arcade space game. At the low price point this game is set at, I can confidently say it’s worth picking up. While writing this story up, I put my macbook down, picked up my controller and played for another hour - even after finishing the campaign and completely upgrading my ship. Already, that tells you all you need to know.
I never knew I wanted to be a space trucker, but the not-so-lonely space road sure is an enjoyable one in this Rebel Galaxy.