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Rebel Galaxy

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Double Damage Games
Developer: Double Damage Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Flight/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Space simulators are more often than not some of the most intimidating experiences in all of gaming. Most modern examples are rife with intricate systems layered on top of each other, so much to the point where they nearly render the game impenetrable. Combine that with the general lack of guidelines or overarching objectives, and itís easy to become overwhelmed. Rebel Galaxy seems to be not only aware of this, but actively trying to provide an alternative. Itís a far more simplistic space sim than Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen, but what it lacks in depth is made up for by its abundance of charm and pick-up-and-play nature.

Rebel Galaxy doesnít seem to be terribly interested in the utter emptiness of deep space. Instead, it wishes to represent the final frontier as a place to thrive. Artistic design reflects this conceit; Iím not sure Iíve seen space as imagined and illustrated by these developers; thereís color practically everywhere. The deep blacks of other, more serious space sims are almost nowhere to be found here. Nebulas fluoresce with complex combinations of primary colors, and the proliferation of other bright celestial bodies ensure that this is one of the brightest representations of space youíll see in a game. Everything else looks solid; the user interface takes a cue from its contemporaries in being a hair away from suffocating -- yet thematically consistent enough to the point where it likely wonít bother you. Additionally, the character models used in conversation sequences look like something out of a Star Wars movie. To top it all off, the action is flashy, fiery, and fun to watch.

I canít deny the appeal of Rebel Galaxyís sound design. It seems to take its inspiration from the Terrans from StarCraft; a heaping helping of cowboy rock tracks hammer home that well-tread motif: deep space is essentially the wild west. Regardless of whether youíre blasting pirates into clouds of debris, engaging in said piracy, or visiting bounty boards and dive bars, it never sounds out of place and only serves to strengthen the gameís sense of identity. Voice acting is a bit sparse but welcome all the same. Aliens speak their own language in casual conversation, with or without crazy accents and inflections -- but it surprisingly sounds like more than simple gibberish. Sound effects are also on the money. This vacuum is one that poses no threat to sound, so if youíre expecting any kind of silence (muffled or complete) in the void, you wonít find it here. Of course, realism isnít really Rebel Galaxyís thing, so donít hold that against it.


Gameplay:

Most space sims begin without fanfare, narrative hook, and any indication of what you should be doing. Of course, thereís a good reason behind this: itís your story, and itís up to you to write it. Thatís not quite the case with Rebel Galaxy. There actually is a story, but itís presented in a fashion similar to the main quests in Elder Scrolls games. Youíve got the general idea of the world you inhabit and there are objectives to complete, but you are under absolutely no obligation to complete them. The galaxy is your oyster, and you can pursue your destiny as you see fit.

As far as paths to success go, they generally fall along the same go-to gameplay pillars that weíre used to seeing in other space sims. You can strike out in search of minerals, pausing here and there to pulverize the asteroids that contain them. You can check bounty boards for honest paying work, whether itís making deliveries, blasting evildoers, escorting vulnerable craft from place to place, and more. Or you can break bad and work on the wrong side of the law in a multitude of ways. And as always, you can choose to be an interstellar trader, traveling where you can buy low and then jaunting off to places where you can sell high.

One key difference separates Rebel Galaxy quite definitively from other games of its like, and itís a rather fundamental, game-changing difference. You cannot fly along the Z-axis. Thatís right. Itís a 3D space sim with only two dimensions of flight. This may perplex and perhaps discourage some, but this ostensibly bizarre design decision is in service to something more important. More on that later.


Difficulty:

Rebel Galaxy is infinitely more accessible than most of its contemporaries. In fact, itís so easy to get into that it bears more comparison to earlier examples of the genre. It is streamlined, and indeed at the cost of the striking depth that most other space simulations are famous (or perhaps infamous) for. As a result, however, the game is not as addictive as many of those other games. Itís best played in quick bursts rather than lengthy, sleep-depriving marathons.

Simplicity also translates to a faster rate of growth. Youíll make money and upgrade your ship far more quickly than you would elsewhere. Again, this is a double-edged sword. Though this galaxy is procedurally generated, the brevity of content ensures that this is a one-and-done experience. Once youíve reached a certain threshold of power and influence, youíve seen all there is to see.


Game Mechanics:

I know, youíre still wondering how in the hell a space simulator could possibly work with the removal of an entire dimension. The answer lies primarily in Rebel Galaxyís combat system, which could not work in three dimensions.

If youíre familiar with how naval engagements work (or have played Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag), you have a good idea of what to expect from Rebel Galaxyís combat system. Space is an ocean of sorts, and there certainly are pirates infesting it. So why not simply take classic ship-based combat and take it to outer space? Itís a bit of a stretch, and you will probably find yourself wishing you could pitch up and down at times, but youíll eventually appreciate this limitation, which is ultimately imposed in service to innovation.

Hostile forces generally behave in one of two ways. Smaller ships have access to all dimensions, and act as any other space fighter craft would in a realistic scenario. These ships can be taken down with your precision guns, which are capable of tracking and leading. However, larger enemies are fixed to your plane of movement, which opens the door for broadside combat. Maneuvering to line up that perfect volley is deeply satisfying, and each encounter ends with a massive inferno. Is it unbelievable? A bit, but thereís no denying that itís a lot of fun.

In terms of effectiveness, not all the pillars of gameplay stack up. For example, going after bounties and combat-related objectives invariably yield far more money than trade, and activities like mining and delivery feel a bit too much like chores, but ultimately, all of it combines to create a believable world, rather than a mindless diversion.

Rebel Galaxy is essentially a space simulation on training wheels, but its fun combat and flexibility make it a fine entry point to the genre.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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