Double Damage Games, effectively two people, brings the public Rebel Galaxy with their resume containing randomized dungeons that allowed for wine and plunder for all. This is the first game from the newly-solo team of Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, but you can feel a lot of their lessons learned in Torchlight and Torchlight 2 at play in this galactic adventure.
Rebel Galaxy does have the size, engine, and gameplay to back up the galactic title too. The spaces you’ll be travelling through are randomized snippets of celestial beauty that load as you warp by. This doesn’t create the most seamless of experiences and can lead to a little paint-trading, but the overall aesthetic feels as grand and open as a space game should be. That being said, the country-rock soundtrack seems like a genuine attempt for the developers to give players something different to listen to while roaming the vacuum. Too bad the lyrics are talking about bar fights, various alcoholic drinks, and other earthly items that don’t lend themselves well to space travel. The life inside the universe comes from warring factions – Militia, Pirates etc. – that won’t take kindly to a blast from your ship, but can also be bartered with through your actions and even a dialogue tree.
This is what gives Rebel Galaxy its personality, not those songs that attempt to push a cowboy feel down your throat. You can choose different, rudimentary courses of action that level out to attack, run, or barter but are still appreciated in their inclusion. That’s because there are five full-time factions in the game (some come and go for story bits) that otherwise wouldn’t care much that you existed in this universe. Picking up illegal contraband after slaying a pirate ship may net you some trouble with the Militia unless you can afford to pay them off. Or challenge them to a space fight that brings down the entire area’s defense. These events aren’t exactly organic as you can feel the systems start to weigh you down a bit in progression and mission structure, but the ability to garner all this attention from just your little ol’ ship still feels satisfying.
Space battles are approached with more of a two-dimensional approach in mind in Rebel Galaxy. Which is fine; it could be a text-based combat system as long as both sides had the same limiting rules. Unfortunately, it feels like your enemies can begin to cut through your shield way, way easier as the game goes on despite costly upgrades. Smaller cruisers will suddenly have torn down to hull on your highest-available shield and you’ll quickly have to switch broadsides. And that serves as your main offensive ability, switching from one broadside to another to protect your creamy nougat center while firing as a seaworthy vessel would with charged-up cannons. Enemies directly above or below can rain their payloads without fear of retaliation, which doesn’t really effect you until the more maneuverable vessels are sided with massive carriers and a dozen other friends.
Then again, you don’t want to be in those situations to begin with. When the going seems way too tough, you’re encouraged subtly to find a way around the wall. Your ship is almost always a little bit faster than the competition with your boost capability, making a thinner heard possible for you to contend with. The game also has hirable mercenaries, the faction system to allow for impromptu allies, and the ever-available grind for cash and higher damage weapons and ships. The ships will seem ridiculously out of reach early on, but the cash starts flowing a bit more freely soon enough. There’s also a really discouraging feeling when you upgrade to the next death machine and have to leave all of your plating and shields behind. Your weapons do carry over, making this seem like a pretense of logic and extended gameplay over just letting players enjoy their spoils.
The universe is full of side and main missions to contract said spoils with the main ones following a fairly straight-forward story that involves you finding your aunt Juno and working with her from then on. It’s fully voice acted with alien languages and dialogue options, but the content just doesn’t feel that engaging. Not for an emotional reaction at least; you’re often given a mission and something resembling a reason to go about your mission before being shooed along to another astral shooting fest. There isn’t all that much variety in either set of missions, but the gameplay seems engaging enough to keep the grind from grating too deeply.
Rebel Galaxy does have one massive black hole of fun and meaningful engagement in its travel system. Spanning multiple solar systems as it does, pretty much everything is a long way away. The warp drive is Double Damage’s answer to this, but even then you can expect to be waiting, watching stars go by, for time enough to check emails and texts. That’s only if the random universe generation doesn’t put up enemies or asteroids anywhere near your path. You’ll almost never have a clear path with no way to really dodge or plan ahead, leading to many an added minute to travel time that’s already longer than most loading screens.
Even with intergalactic, hyper speed travel feeling like rush hour on the highway at times, Rebel Galaxy has plenty to celebrate. Combat isn’t fool proof but the light tactical elements keep it feeling tense as you go into a swarm of deadly Korians or Red Devils. There are a lot of pieces, such as the in-game trading market that gives you the equivalent of a handful of pennies for taken goods, that don’t feel fully baked or drawn out and the game does suffer into banality for it on occasion. But when you finally arrive at your destination with your ordinance fully stocked and dozens of enemies don’t realize they’re already dead, you do feel like the rebellious force that can take on a galaxy.
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