Hands up who doesn’t like the idea of flying through space, blowing up bad guys, completing missions and exploring various solar systems all to the accompaniment of an awesome soundtrack which would be every bit as much at home in a Borderlands game than any kind of space exploration experience?
None of you? Good, because that pretty much sums up Rebel Galaxy.
As I’m sure is the case with many other people, I love the idea of games like Elite Dangerous but just don’t have the time, energy or inclination to figure it out and get my head round the enormous, fully 3 dimensional galaxies on offer and all of the various trade missions, bounties and whatever else you can find to do. What I could really do with is a slightly more friendly version, and that’s just what Rebel Galaxy offers. It very quickly becomes apparent that movement is far more restricted; you can turn left, you can turn right, and… well… that’s about it. There’s no up or down (as much as there ever is “up” and “down” in the middle of space) and no funky barrel rolls to be had, in fact the only way your craft will be pitching at various angles is when you’ve been blown to smithereens and various parts of your once-beautiful spaceship are spinning off into the distance.
While this sounds restrictive, it actually works very well. Helpfully almost every enemy, planet and space station you’ll find will be on the exact same plane as your own ship, and apart from a few nippy and awkward enemy fighters who seem to enjoy far more freedom you’ll be able to focus on a single 360 degree axis. Considering almost all of the combat features broadside naval-style weaponry you’ll soon come to appreciate the fact that you’ve only got the four main sides of your craft to worry about.
But even that can be a daunting prospect, get caught up in the wrong group of bad guys and you’ve got yourself a serious problem. Enemies will surround you, draining your shields from all sides. While each of the four main sides of your ship has its own shield capabilities (giving you the chance of a more tactical battle as you try to manoeuvre enemies to you more protected flanks) you only need to pick the wrong fight once and you’ll be back at your last visited space station with all of your progress and recently acquired loot floating off, never to be found again. Arse.
And that’s just while flying around aimlessly. Alongside the main story missions each space station has its own bounties and missions to sign up for, and chatting to the bartender at each location can also flag up some interesting opportunities too. For the main part you’ll be completing side missions with the sole intention of beefing up your craft or buying a new one in order to keep up with the story quests as they get progressively more difficult. They’re mostly fetch quests or “go there and kick some ass” missions, but for some reason doing it all in space is several times more awesome than on land, so that usual RPG-style mechanic manages to stay pretty fresh somehow.
There’s a lot of game time in Rebel Galaxy though, and you’ll happily put the hours in, knowing that there’s an epic new spaceship round the corner, or a jump to a whole new area of the great unknown. You can spend hours trading, bounty hunting, upgrade-chasing or whatever else, and not once touch the story. I spent hours upon hours just flying round doing whatever needed doing, totally forgetting for a while that there were even story missions that needed completing. That’s probably just as well considering that the game forces a bit of grinding in terms of money earnings and getting the kit you need for later on, but you shouldn’t let that put you off, nor should you worry too much about the difficulty of the combat at times. What you really should be doing is seeing a great simplified space exploration game which will fill many long evenings over the next few weeks.
Reviewed on PS4