I would be willing to bet that most of you reading this, those who have delved into video games as a medium, have enjoyed a sci-fi story or two in your lifetime, even if it isn’t your favorite genre of fiction. It might be Firefly, Star Trek, or even Star Wars, but chances are, at least some story set to the theme of space travel has spoken to you at some point. If any aspect of travelling the stars has ever thrilled you, there’s a good chance that there’s something in Rebel Galaxy that will give you that same thrill.
As a fan of each of the franchises I listed above, I found various aspects of each of them represented in Rebel Galaxy, all combined into a love letter to sailing through an ocean of stars. Whether it was ship designs reminiscent of Star Wars, the trading and smuggling that reminded me of Firefly, or the ship-to-ship battles that took me back to some of my favorite action-packed Star Trek episodes, Rebel Galaxy offered me a new take on a beloved genre, and one in which I was able to enjoy being a participant.
Rebel Galaxy begins with a brief introduction explaining your place in the game’s universe: you’re a simple trader looking for your missing aunt. Your first order of business is to bring your battered clunker of a freighter in to dock at a space station and talk to a contact who knows her. From there…welcome to the freedom of space. You can certainly proceed with the story missions given, but you can also explore, take up bounties to hunt amongst the stars, take jobs from a mission board, mine for materials, buy goods from stations selling low and sell them to other stations buying high… The central theme of Rebel Galaxy, story aside, is to become a successful space farer. You might measure that success in your prowess in combat (which you will have to engage in no matter what from time to time) or your ability to make a deal. Maybe you want to become a legendary pirate, or a do-gooder upholding galactic justice. Maybe you want to be a little good sometimes and a little bad other times.
At the end of the day, what matters most is making enough money to afford that nice shiny new ship you saw in the shipyard, and being able to buy the weaponry, armor plating and shielding to keep it shiny after you get into a scrap with raiders (or the militia, if you’ve been naughty). However you find success is up to you, because the game does a masterful job of giving you the freedom to choose whichever path you’d like, with no arbitrary morality system to worry about and only faction favor to consider. If you’re on bad terms with the militia, for example, it’d be a bad idea to try docking at a militia-friendly space station.
Gameplay itself plays out much in the way that a traditional seafaring game might. Battles take place in a naval style, with your guns pointing outward from the starboard and port sides of your ship. Smaller gun emplacements are arranged alongside the ship according to whichever model you’re using (with more or less depending on said model as well) and ward of smaller fighters and bombers while your big guns focus on the bigger enemies. While the smaller ships attacking you move in true 360 degree movement, your ship and the larger cruisers only move along a flat, invisible surface, making the combat and movement, again, feel very naval. This is mostly likely to prevent the game from being needlessly complicated with its navigation, as the important parts of the game are travelling and reaching destinations and lining up your broadside weaponry against other heavy-hitters.
You’re afforded a fairly broad range of combat options once you inevitably come to blows with other galactic denizens, with many different weapons available for your broadsides, your turrets, and even your secondary weapons. My favorite secondary weapon early on, for example, was an EMP burst that disabled incoming enemy fighters and damaged the shields of bigger enemies. I had a huge problem with swarming fighters picking me apart like a school of piranhas, but a few well-placed EMP bursts and my automated turrets took care of that problem quickly, and let me focus my attentions on the big cruisers that were picking me off from farther away. The diversity in how you approach combat is actually really refreshing, although I’d like a more effective way of testing weaponry. I made many of my purchases on blind faith; I’d like a firing range to be available in future games or updates that would enable me to test weaponry before I invest the rather substantial credits required to install it on my ship.
Such a firing range, and indeed a more thorough defensive and offensive breakdown of your ship in general, would definitely be helpful when the game throws some more sneakily difficult missions your way. While missions are rated in difficulty from Very Easy to Very Hard, there were many times I had no difficulty with a hard mission, but struggled on an average one, just because of the enemy make-up. I would like a more robust scanning and preparation system in place, as well as a way to install different ship components while out in the field instead of having to make a trip to a station to change. While I certainly understand the design choice they went with when creating the game, I felt it’s a personal preference worth mentioning.
The sound effects in the game are good, but typical. There are very few cannon, laser, beam, or missile sound effects I haven’t heard at this point in my life of gaming, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sound good here – they do. Battles are loud, intense, and sound spectacular, although I would like a more dramatic shift in the music for harder battles. As it is, the music is often relaxing, but in combat I’d like something a bit more dangerous-sounding to get my adrenaline pumping. I kept hearing the battle theme of Metal Gear Solid 1 in my head as an example of what I’d like to hear when up to my neck in enemy fighters and missile corvettes. Something that projects a real sense of tension would be perfect.
This would admittedly be a stark contrast to the rest of the game’s soundtrack, however, which is worth mentioning is absolutely phenomenal, by the way. The lyrical pieces in particular are absolutely some of the best, most appropriate music I’ve ever heard in a video game, and whenever they left for the otherwise great pieces that didn’t have lyrics, I was a little saddened by their departure. There aren’t very many of these pieces in the game, which I would love to see change. I would enthusiastically welcome more songs like that, along with possibly a radio station feature of some sort woven into the universe and its lore. I’d love the developer to consider adding a radio space station that broadcasts to the galaxy, used for not only wonderful music but also to flesh out the game world as well, complete with comical ads. Just food for thought.
In the interest of full disclosure, while I dumped dozens of hours into Rebel Galaxy, I didn’t complete the game, which I actually consider a positive. There is a ton of content to be found in here, and while the story is connected to progression from galaxy to galaxy within the solar system, each galaxy has so much to do, so much to explore, that it’s almost overwhelming in a good way, and it’s all waiting for you to enjoy. Regardless of who your hero is, be it a rebellious Malcolm Reynolds or a distinguished Jean Luc Picard, if you’ve ever wanted to captain your own ship, Rebel Galaxy is here to give you the opportunity. Don’t just aim to misbehave; make it so.
Review code supplied by Microsoft Xbox.