Rebel Galaxy by Double Damage is a western. In space! Space is a perfect environment for a western: a sparsely populated, lawless expanse where you live by your own rules. Terrifying in reality, but it makes a perfect game.
You start out in a tiny ship with pop-guns for weapons and paper-thin shields. You get a call from your Aunt Juno to meet her at a nearby station, which kickstarts the story. She leads you towards an Trell, an ancient sentient entity that embeds herself in your ship. The game focuses on helping her restore her memories and keeping her safe from various factions that want to abuse her power.
Throughout the game you upgrade your ship, sacrificing speed of for a stronger hull, more weapon ports, and a bigger hold. The system you start with has very few options, but after you unlock the jump drive you can shop around the sector for stronger guns. After getting pulverized within seconds, it’s awesome coming back feeling almost invincible with your brand new deflectors.
When you open the command menu, you’ll see five or six relationship meters. Every system will have the same three: Citizenry, Militia, and Red Devil. The others will be related to the various gangs that populate the sector. You can only decrease your relation with the gangs, but you can work to change your relation with the former. You start off negative with the Red Devils, but by doing missions for them you can increase your rating to neutral. This lets you enter their space stations, unlocking a whole bunch of new ships. It’s recommended to stay at least neutral with the Militia and Red Devils, so neither of them will attack you as you fly through space. For the full roleplay experience, though I prefer aligning with one and declaring war on the other.
Because there are only two planes of motion, Rebel Galaxy doesn’t suffer from the impossible No Man’s Sky controls. You fly around as if walking on level ground, which nullifies the expanses of emptiness that accompany 3D space. It’s not too different than trotting across Hyrule Field.
You attack other ships with naval broadsides mounted on the sides of your craft. This means your primary method of attack involves angling the side of your ship to open fire on your enemies from a few miles away. You can also slide up right next to them and blast them point-blank. Your secondary weapon is a missile launcher, useful for firing off in the middle of swarms of enemies. Because larger ships have more turret ports than there are buttons on a controller, the rest of weapons are controlled by customizable AI.
You can control the speed of your ship to stay side by side with your target, or boost away if you’re overwhelmed. Larger ships are less maneuverable than the smaller crafts, which makes it a trade-off. You can play through the entire game with a fast ship that’s a small target, or upgrade to a massive tank with a dozen turrets.
If you want to upgrade anything, you’re going to need money. This brings me to possibly the most enjoyable grinding in any game I’ve played. Your best source of income is the side missions, which can involve assassinating a target, delivering cargo from one station to another, destroying a structure, fighting off a swarm of ships, providing a safe passage, and many other things. I spent dozens of hours grinding even longer than I needed to because the side quests are so fun.
Each space station has a commodities market, and goods will sell for different prices at each. These prices are also determined by random events, such as war, famine, siege, or technological booms. This means you can stock up on food from one station where there’s a surplus and sell it to a starving station at exorbitant prices. Or you can destroy the relief vessel, steal the munitions it was bringing, and sell those to the station.
As you can see from the screenshots, the backgrounds are beautiful. The ships look great, and the main menu showcases randomly generated battles to give you a preview of how awesome they look. The cutscenes are voice-acted and lip synced very well, humans and aliens alike.
Like Life is Strange, Rebel Galaxy’s soundtrack consists of licensed tracks. The track list consists of rock or metal tracks with a western feel, which gels well with the gameplay. And if the included tracks aren’t your jam, you can take out the songs you don’t like and add in some others. Adding in the FTL and No Man’s Sky soundtracks stirs up the atmosphere a bit, and playing your personal favorite tunes will give you a feel of cruising through a space highway, solar winds tousling your hair, and your music blaring loud enough to annoy adjacent ships.
If you’re looking for a space flight simulator, Rebel Galaxy is an excellent choice. Even when blasting through the emptiness of space, the enemy factions will make sure there’s never a dull moment (unlike a certain other space flight game). If you get stuck or bored with the story, you’ll always find something else to do until you’re stronger. The alliance meters add replayability, allowing you to roleplay as a good samaritan or a pirate. And, of course, it’s always fun to be downright evil.
Final Score: 9/10