This wasn’t even that high on my anticipation list. However, the moment I fired up Double Damage’s Rebel Galaxy, the mood becomes overwhelming. In my mind, I’m a young Han Solo going out on my first adventure. Junk ship, junk parts, shady contacts, hard nosed mercenaries, and barely enough credits from legit work means I’m constantly tempted to smuggle a few less-than-legal items on board my ship. Oh, and I’ve got some weird mystery to solve but, really, I don’t have the fire power or shields to get that all done without taking some side work. This, in its essence, is what Rebel Galaxy seems to be about.
The game launches into it’s narrative pretty quickly, no character customization or anything, and that’s not bad. The narration uses a lot of “you,” and honestly, because of the mood, I’m buying into it. You’re told you’re looking for your aunt, the black sheep of the family, and given her old ship to come visit her in the middle of no where. Enter the space cowboy feel.
The soundtrack may not be traditional sci-fi, but the lyrics set the tone for the game’s gray area dealings, and the voice acting, though sometimes delivered too quickly, is far above average. Most humans seem to be either British, Australian, or Russian, but the alien languages are interesting enough. As someone with a linguistics degree, the peppering of English loan words in mostly alien dialogue scenes is so natural that I half wonder if I could actually learn the alien languages (if I could just control my tongue better!).
Once dropped into the first space port, the world suddenly feels mechanically complex. There’s so many ways to outfit my ship and to even upgrade it that my head’s swimming a bit. Maybe it’s because the last few games I played didn’t require me to track many stats or hit more than a couple of buttons, but suddenly outfitting a whole ship sounds like a lot of work I probably would have enjoyed years ago, but at the moment, just don’t want to bother with.
In fact, I almost wished the tutorial gave me more details at first, since there’s so much going on I didn’t understand, but I’m thinking I’m slowly growing into the game. It’s been a long work week and I’ve been kind of tired, but I’ve been sticking with the game, not because of the review, but because I’m feeling invested in the game world. There’s a story, but I keep taking other quests or doing random events that pop up, like hacking coded messages or saving (or potentially robbing) traders in need. In fact, I was starting to neglect my notes and this preview, but luckily a game crash has helped tear me away from the game.
Prior to that, I’d had some interesting adventures. I got caught with some contraband, and decided I’d outrun the local authorities and sell it, rather than give it up, kicking myself the whole time for not buying a cargo hold that can’t be scanned. I wanted to sneak out of the part and go buy the upgrade for my ship, so I sold it for less than the market price. Yes, the game has an economy even though it’s a single player game. If there’s a famine, somewhere, the local space port will buy food for more. Abundance of munitions? They’ll give you pennies. It feels organic from a market perspective, but the smuggling aspect is a bit disappointing.
I’ve gotten items from toxic waste and intellectual property to slaves and organs. The only way you know these items are illegal is because, when given the option to loot or buy them, they have red text instead of green. There’s no discussion of what the item is, and no reflection on what it says about your character or their morals. You can choose to rob your fellow traders, but handling slaves the same way you handle a illegal substances feels like shallow gameplay, especially for a title focused on the gray areas. Mind you, I’ve been obsessed with Undertale and how it relates to a book on video game debate that really highlights both the limitation and potential for games. We have so much violence, but moral choices make things far more interesting, and I had hoped to see more of that in this game.
This ties in with factions. I have no idea what the factions mean so far, so I’m not totally sure how bad my loss of reputation is with the local authorities, or why I should stop shooting any of the space pirates that keep trying to blast my ship apart.
The ships themselves feel less like the ships in a flight or space simulator and more like “flying” a space boat. There’s no Z-access for steering, and most of your fire power is on the sides of your ship, so it’s more like a space naval fight. It’s a little weird, but also keeps things simple, though frustrating at times. At the very least, it adds something I don’t often experience in games, and certainly not in this genre. Still, I wish I could land on some of the planets I keep seeing, instead of steering clear of them as if they were just big asteroids.
The biggest “problem” for with the game, though, is that it’s easy to get side-tracked. I almost feel like I’m on the open sea in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker again, in terms of exploring a large open space and finding activities. That’s great because it feels like there’s a lot going on in the game, but also, well, my time’s really limited these days. There’s a reason I haven’t reviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3, or Metal Gear V; as much as I have love open worlds, I just don’t have that kind of time any more. DA:I is still sitting unfinished, as is Wind Waker. I’m over six hours into the game and still at the beginning, so this is certainly a game you can invest in. I don’t have the price yet, but already I’m feeling like I can recommend this to anyone with $20 and plenty of free time around the release date, October 20.