It’s been a long time since I’ve spent any longer than an hour with a space sim. For that matter, I’m really just referring to a game where you primarily control a ship and do all sorts of spaceship things: Destroy this, plunder that, upgrade this, escort that. Many might think of the X3 games as the most recent and popular examples of the space sim genre. There are many similar games, but all of them tend to do the same thing that a lot of players find repetitive or boring in the genre. Rebel Galaxy is a ambitious new space sim from Double Damage that aims to shake things up in the genre, and has set a new bar for my enjoyment of space sims.
Let me start by saying Rebel Galaxy does a lot of things right. First, I want to touch on the fact that the game is played very similar to most naval combat type games. You can’t move up and down, and your ship’s heaviest weapons are the broadside’s. That being said, you can still aim these within a good range. The combat system alone separates the game from all the “Space-Fighter-Sims” where you’re constantly dogfighting every little thing in an often overthought out flight system. While there certainly is a niche for such a system,I’ve found in most cases you typically end up shooting something lower-strength than you with a missile or engaging in several minutes of low-power shots over and over. In Rebel Galaxy, you have broadside weapons to take care of the “Capital ships” which are equivalent to your ship, as well as fighter-class ships that will also attack you. Thankfully, your ship will be equipped with turrets that are really good at eating those fighters right up. If you choose, you can control any of the weapons manually. Broadsides aren’t that great at destroying fighters, but your turrets can be manually controlled to improve their performance on taking them out.
With the lack of a Z axis, the game does feel a bit more casual than some other space sims, but that certainly isn’t a bad thing. Think of one of those arcade shooters where it’s top-down but you have completely free movement around the map and turning. I feel that by taking out the Z axis the game has simplified combat in a very fun and engaging way that still allows for tactical combat and also allows emphasis on other features of the game as well. Rebel Galaxy features a fully functional upgrade system for your ship. Your potential purchases consists of new types of weapons for your broadsides, various turret ports, shields, engines, armor, components, etc. There’s all sorts of things to spend your money on, and many of the choices has pros and cons that must be weighed when deciding to potentially upgrade or replace current equipment. For example, you might sacrifice shield strength for a faster shield recharge or total damage output of your broadsides for increased range. There’s plenty of options when it comes to equipment, and a decent number of various ships you can save your money towards.
Something that often seems to be lacking or even non existent in the genre is story. A lot of space sims tend to start out with a rather simple and bland story which can make them rather boring. In Rebel Galaxy, you quickly find out that something has happened to your Aunt. You set out to investigate and search for her, while also taking care of a very special item that she’s left in your possession. It takes a little while to get into the real meat of the story with Rebel Galaxy, but the build-up and gameplay make it worthwhile towards getting there. The story does feed you breadcrumbs as you make your way through it, so there is rather consistently new story. I don’t want to divulge anything in-depth or spoilery about the story, but know that there definitely is one and I felt it was worthwhile to enjoy.
Now for those of you who don’t care much about story and just want to build up their ship and frag everything that moves, then keep reading. This is certainly one of the strongest points of the game. The game is massive just like an open world space game should be. There are–I believe–14 sectors. Each of these sectors is quite vast, and you will have to use your warp drive to navigate around each sector. Within each sector resides plenty of asteroid pockets, space stations, and plenty of special events. Each space station has a variety of available missions so that you can go out and do the whole escort or bounty thing as much as you want. There really is no lack of content for those die-hard fans of “just wanting something to do.” I spent hours and hours simply doing missions and building up my funds, and never once was I bored or not enjoy the game.
One of the interesting aspects to the game is that you can be the villain, primarily by helping out the pirate factions instead of the innocent civilians. There are various factions in play, and it’s your choice whether you want to be a good guy or a bad guy. Of course, given your decision, you have to accept any repercussions that may come along, including the factions–and their ships–that will aim to kill you on sight.
Double Damage did an excellent job with the visuals in the game, including the ships, space itself, and even the nicely rendered NPC’s you come across. The entire galaxy is beautiful and has its own unique and immersive feel. Double Damage certainly had a tremendous amount of quality control throughout every aspect of the game, and the visuals spared no expense.
Rebel Galaxy has various NPC’s that you can talk to, and most of them have voice-over work. The voice overs are smooth and pleasant. Some games will do voiceovers and you’ll get that sense of it not really fitting into place, and you’d just wish they didn’t do voice overs at all, but I can happily say that’s not the case with Rebel Galaxy. I feel the voice overs were done appropriately and they definitely add to the sense of atmosphere and immersion in the game world. Speaking of audio, the sounds all mesh well; nothing feels out of place. The background music is that sort of cowboy-frontier-esque music that you’d find in Serenity or other “Space Frontier” type shows and games. It suits the game extremely well. The only thing I’d ask for is perhaps even more music! This doesn’t mean there is a lack of music in the game, simply that I enjoyed it so much I wanted more!
All in all, this is a fantastically developed game. I literally can’t find anything lacking. Some might feel that the game is made for a more casual space sim crowd, but I don’t feel it has lessened the game in any way. There is perfect blend of simplicity, features, and gameplay, and Rebel Galaxy pulls this off better than any I’ve seen. It’s full of content, looks great, and plays even better. The controls are very smooth, though I certainly felt it was best enjoyed with a controller (though this is not necessary). So if you’re a fan of space sims or space arcade games, this is certainly worth a purchase as well. Speaking of which, the game will release on Steam October 20th at the the extremely more than reasonable $20. In fact, the game is a steal at this price and I was honestly quite shocked to find out it would be launching at such a low cost. It has higher quality and more content than most games price $50-$60, but Double Damage has decided to make an amazing game and put it at an amazing price. What more could you ask for?
P.S. The below scores are not a typo.