LNL-Tactical (Modern)

GrogHeads (p)Reviews Rebel Galaxy

Rebel Galaxy is about to come in for landing, but until it does, we’re here to tide you over with a look-see from Cap’n and Mrs Darwin ~

Jim & Beck Snyder, 15 October 2015

Who are the Darwins?
Before we dive in and tell you about this game of interest, we should be kind enough to let you know who we are, what we do, how we game, and what gives us enough GrogCred™ to post a review on the Mythical Front Page™[1].  We’ll wait.

Back?  OK, good.  Technically, this is a preview of the near final code. Double Damage has been making updates and little tweaks as we have written this so some things may be different at release.

RebGax-Start Screen - More Demo Battles

Start Screen – More Demo Battles

What are We Reviewing?
Rebel Galaxy is a single player sci-fi spacefaring epic from Double Damage Games (a new development team from the cofounders of Torchlight’s Runic Games). From the Steam page, Rebel Galaxy is billed as

a swashbuckling space adventure, with action-packed combat, exploration, discovery, trade, and “negotiation” with the outlandish denizens at the edge of the known universe.

As the commander of an immensely powerful star destroyer, you’ll battle pirates, explore anomalies, befriend aliens, scavenge battle wreckage, mine asteroids, and discover artifacts. Choose your path as a roguish do-gooder, crafty space-trader or power-hungry privateer – or maybe a little of each! Buy larger and more powerful craft with your hard-earned credits, and outfit them with a variety of wicked weapons and defenses. Set in a galaxy of fantastic sights, and secrets to be found, Rebel Galaxy is above all a space epic of adventure, exploration, and combat.

The edge of the universe is a pretty dangerous place, so watch your back.

RebGax-At a station - even in the backwaters you need good whiskey

At a station – even in the backwaters you need good whiskey

Under the Scopes
This is where we look over all the various bits and pieces of the game and its play to tell you what we think is both good and bad about it.

How it plays (Diving in!)
From the Cap’n:
Rebel Galaxy reminds me of seeing the first Indiana Jones movie. You sit down, the screen comes to life and you are thrust out the gate into a wild adventure full of sights, sounds and action totally losing track of time in the process, but happy you did it. There is something to be said for the way Rebel Galaxy hooks you into its universe. You are the captain of a spaceship. That’s cool. You pick your missions and choose your fights. You get attached to that home in the stars rust bucket of yours and work hard to keep it one piece with fancy flying and dead-eye shooting. You feel a sense of loss when you get enough credits to buy that bigger ship with more gun ports and turrets, but you know you need to get stronger to face down larger threats from pirate gangs and mercenaries. You pulse your scanners as you approach mission targets to see who is hiding in the debris field waiting to jump you. Your fingers fly on the controls to lock targets and fire barrages of homing missiles to thin out the enemy and even the odds. When the battle is concluded, you sweep the area looking for dropped cargo that can pay for repairs at the next station. Warping to the next station you sell your good to hopefully make a profit. Stock up on cheap good that will sell better elsewhere. Chat with the bartender to find out what’s new in the area or drop some coin for some bounty tips. You make a quick check of the system news and see what events are happening in the sector and then the mission board to take on a few odd jobs to help pay the bills. Then it’s back out into space and heading off to the next adventure to start things all over again…
… or exit Rebel Galaxy because hours have past and you need to be at work soon. Enjoy the ride!

From the Mrs:
When I asked my beloved husband why he chose a particular course of action in Rebel Galaxy , he answered “because I’m not a piece of (insert expletive here) space pirate.”  The nerve!  Accusing me – sweet gentle me – of a life of piracy in the new game by Double Damage.  Sure, I may have shot up a ship or two….hundred.  But only in defense of my friends (in other words, members of a faction with whom I’m on good terms at that particular moment).  Or to protect my goods (although “my” might be a somewhat subjective Putin-esque term).  Or my way of life (swimming in Greel Whiskey is a way of life).  Yes, I have spent more hours than I’d care to count sailing cinematic galaxies (galax-seas), in search of treasure and adventure, painting the skies with the blood of those who dare to stand in my way (or at least little bits of their obliterated vessels).  I’ve traded goods and made arrangements with folks of varying moral standards, and kept my ships shiny, increasing their speed and power of weaponry at every port.  And sure, I’ve made an enemy or two, shockingly enough.  But pirate?  I’ll show him pirate!  Yarrrrrrr!

RebGax-At a Station - Ready to dock

At a Station – Ready to dock

How it looks (Graphics)
From the Mrs:
With detailed spaceships worthy of a high-budget sci-fi feature set against deep glowing skies, Double Damage’s preview video set my Browncoat heart aflutter. When I sat down behind the controls of my very own ship and sailed through the dark opalescent spacescape, my enthusiasm didn’t wane. Rebel Galaxy’s universe looks like the Hubble telescope’s still images come to life. The ships themselves are detailed enough to feel right at home in the setting. After many hours of play the immersive feel continued. The overall look of the on-screen controls and displays lent to a consistent feel for the armchair captain. I’m a stickler for explosion graphics in games, and Rebel Galaxy’s would make JJ Abrams proud.

From the Cap’n:
Graphics in a game tell the story and in many cases can make or break a game or take a good game and make it great. Rebel Galaxy does a frakin’ good job of making a very visually stunning and immersive ‘verse for you to fight and wheel and deal in. There is attention to detail in every element of the game. From the variety of spacecraft for each size class and faction, to the weapon effects and explosions, to the craters and metallic reflections on asteroids, to the flowing colors of the nebulas, to all the shadows, lens flares, and blooms, Double Damage has invested time and talent to make you see the action. For a small team, the level of motion capture used on the NPCs is impressive as is the variety of them you encounter. Details abound in ship damage too. As your craft or the enemies take a beating, the exterior shows the scars of the battle with streaks and chunks of glowing damaged hull. Rebel Galaxy is so cinematically alluring that you will find yourself watching the startup action on the main menu screen for 10 or more minutes. It’s that cool. Many screen shots to follow.

RebGax-At a Station - Good Hot Tips from the Bartender

At a Station – Good Hot Tips from the Bartender

How it sounds (Music and SFXs)
From the Mrs:
The instrumental bits from Rebel Galaxy’s soundtrack will definitely grip the hearts of fellow fans of Greg Edmonson’s rolling steel guitar and fiddle laden music for Firefly. I was surprised at the length of the list of artists contributing to the game’s music, because each song blends so beautifully into the next. A few of the sung tracks are Whedon-esque, but most were harder and edgier southern rock anthems which felt like just the right punctuation to tense battles, leaving me feeling rugged and triumphant. Sound effects were likewise fitting to the game’s action, from the satisfying whoosh as I pushed into warp to the crunching explosive noises as I grazed asteroids (Don’t judge. I’m an excellent driver). The voice acting was impressive, full of grit and emotion. The dialects and affects of characters from different regions were noticeable, but not cartoonish. Even the subtitled alien languages were convincing, and I found the voice of the ethereal entity Trell both soothing and chilling.

From the Cap’n:
The first thing you notice about Rebel Galaxy is the soundtrack. If you’re familiar with Firefly, the music has a very similar sound that carries the tone for the game itself. You get a mix of both vocal and instrumental tracks with kind of a crossover western and rock theme running through them. The game also has very well crafted sound effects for the weapons, engines, explosions, and other game elements. You are also treated to immersive voice acting for all of the NPCs including a number of created alien languages, an impressive feat for such a small development team. Like the graphics, you can see that the team has paid a lot of attention to creating a detailed gaming experience. If that wasn’t enough for your ear holes, there are options for setting folders for your own music and also an option to shuffle your music selection in among the games. I have some fine tracks from the Heavy Metal soundtrack mixed in currently. It’s a nice touch.

RebGax-My First Ship - She ain't much but

My First Ship – She ain’t much but

How it moves (Gameplay)
From the Mrs:
When I first started sailing through the ‘verse in my first ship, the fast but delicate Scabby Siren, the gameplay reminded me very much of Sid Meier’s Pirates (yarrrrrrrrr). But in space. And with less dancing. Rebel Galaxy is ultimately a big space piratey sandbox, if that’s the game you want. There is a storyline, and moving from primary mission to primary mission allows you to play a structured strategic adventure if that’s the game you want. Most will enjoy a combination of both styles. As my game developed, I began to realize that there is more depth to Rebel Galaxy than it first seemed. Buying (or otherwise acquiring) and selling goods makes upgrading and/or trading up your ships a quicker process. However, you quickly learn that the sociopolitical environment of a particular station carries a heavy influence on pricing.   Your decisions and actions can influence this environment. Some goods are illegal in certain areas, and some seem universally immoral. You may try to be a good and law-abiding citizen or an unapologetic bloodthirsty rogue. Or you can be squeaky clean on the surface, and keep your more unsavory endeavors obscured in the shielded secret compartment of your ship (one of my personal favorite upgrades).
No matter who or how you choose to play, you get plenty of opportunities to blow stuff up. Battles become more complex and exciting as the game progresses, giving you a chance to acclimate to tactics for attacking different factions and ship types. Weapons that work well on one class of ship do not necessarily work well on others, and I found myself constantly weighing power, range, and armor penetration capabilities of my options before major battles. Balance these attributes against cost and the question of whether to stockpile a number of weapons systems to switch out for different scenarios or trade them in for credits and rebuy make for a delightfully complex decision matrix. Likewise, ships vary drastically in terms of strength, maneuverability, and room for active weaponry. My second bird, Tugger, took me fightin’ ‘round the world in style (I’m all about pretty ships), granted me double the weapons and triple the cargo space along with impressive durability, but she steered like a brick. A fearsome, fire-breathing brick, but a brick nonetheless.

From the Cap’n:
Not to give away the plot, but the hook to get you out into the backwater of the systems is to find your Aunt Juno. This is the launching point for doing various missions, such as recovering goods, making payments, fighting small battles against unsavory pirate-types, and mining occasional resources. The early missions also serve as a tutorial to get the player familiar with the various control aspects of the game. Double Damage has adopted a learn-as-you-go approach to understanding the mechanics of the game by having screens pop up at the right time to explain the controls you need to do things. Once you warp past this initial phase, you can choose how to proceed forward. You can dive headlong into the story doing primary story missions back-to-back or deviate from the path, taking on side missions that you pick up at local stations, trading goods between stations, hunting bounties based on the stations’ bartenders’ good hot tips or going to the dark side and raiding traders as a pirate.
All of the various missions and trading are paramount to gaining the always-in-short-supply credits that repair your ship, buy ordnance, weapons, and equipment. Once you amass enough shiny coins, it’s time to invest in a new ship with more gun ports, turrets, speed, maneuverability, and cargo space. With the bad guys getting bigger and badder as you go along, you need to be in a constant mode of upgrading both your ship and your ship’s equipment to improve your chances of survival and to increase your flow of income. The game provides you with 21 flyable ships and a laundry list of weapons, defenses, and components to outfit them with. Part of the fun of the game is trying the various weapons, defenses, and systems, and finding which combination best fits your style of play.
You start the game in the outer reaches of the system (the backwaters that is) and once you get enough credits to purchase a jump drive, you can use the jump gates to access other systems, complete with their own stations, factions, planets, and new missions to challenge you as a captain. There are over a dozen systems in the game and those systems are each randomly created for each game that you play, so that you’re guaranteed a new experience with each play-through. I’d like to tell you more about how it plays, but I’m only about 25 hours in, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the second system.

RebGax-Start Screen Demo - A warp gate and a proto planet

Start Screen Demo – A warp gate and a proto planet

How it communicates (Interface-UI/UX)
From the Mrs:
I prefer to use keyboard and mouse controls for most PC games, but I played Rebel Galaxy using an X-Box controller and found the controls generally intuitive and comfortable. Although the space environment feels three-dimensional, your ship controls are strictly lateral. In my first few battles, the lack of vertical maneuverability was intensely frustrating (as the Cap’n can attest, from trying to work despite my colorful outbursts), especially as enemy fighters danced in three dimensions around my seemingly hobbled ship. However, after weathering more interstellar travel and obliterating more of my enemies, I began to appreciate the extensive two-dimensional map and the way that the corresponding 2D controls make maneuvering through the Rebel Galaxy world feel natural. Understanding the automatic turret firing setting with certain weapon systems also helped ease my frustrations, since my turrets followed the vertical fighter movements while I captained my ship smoothly around obstacles (as my excellent driving skills allow), chasing down cowardly opponents and manually firing my broadside cannons.

From the Cap’n:
Rebel Galaxy offers two control styles: either a traditional keyboard and mouse layout, or use of a console game controller (Xbox 360/PS4). Double Damage has done a very good job of making the layout of buttons natural and easy to use. There are no complex key codes or button mashing. The menus are straightforward and my only quip would be that it would have been nice to see a tutorial button on the main menu. It is available on a system menu, deeper in the game. Information on various screens such as cargo hold, commodities markets, mission boards, and other non-combat/flight is easy to access and read and provides you with what you need to know. It’s not underdone or overdone. It’s just right. Combat is the name of the game. You can get by with some trading, some cargo runs, and some other non-violent activities, but there are times when you have to let the gun ports do the talking. Rebel Galaxy takes on a 2D approach, which at the outset seems a little odd for a space game, but once you spent time in the game and with the combat, it was the right choice for the developers to make for this type of game. You get the feeling of being a frigate on the high seas, tacking around to bring your cannons to bear on your enemy. You have the ability to aim your broadside ports through the use of button and stick/button and mouse to target with and your turrets can be set with several AI settings to engage automatically. If equipped, you also have a secondary weapon that can be fired with the press of a button. These are usually missiles of some variety of a close-in weapon system. You can, if you wish, take over control of your turret systems and aim and fire these with your controls. This comes in handy when dealing with mine fields and when mining for resources. Controlling the movement of your ship is a simple matter of tapping buttons to accelerate or decelerate for low speed (sublight) movement, and once clear of gravitational objects, you can press and hold a button to go to warp, which is how you generally hop quickly between stations. Turning is done with a joystick. For those times when you need a little extra boost of speed in combat, your ship is equipped with a booster system, good for escaping those fights when you’ve gotten yourself in too deep, or when outrunning the occasional pack of angry missiles.

RebGax-Main Quest - Getting part of the main story arc

Main Quest – Getting part of the main story arc

Our Research Instruments (CPU Specs)
Here is the primary specification of the rigs we played Rebel galaxy on. …And yes, the Cap’n is playing on the older machine.

From the Mrs:

  • SYSTEM: Alienware
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1
  • CPU: Intel i7-930 @ 2.80Ghz
  • RAM: 9GB
  • VIDEO: AMD Radeon HD 5800 Series
  • MONITOR: Dell SX2210T Digital Touchscreen @ 1920 x 1080
  • TOYS: Logitech G510 Keyboard, Logitech MX518, Afterglow X-Box 360 Controller

From the Cap’n:

  • SYSTEM: Dell XPS 8300
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1
  • CPU: Intel i7-2600 @ 3.40Ghz
  • RAM: 12GB
  • VIDEO: NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
  • MONITOR: NEC LCD1970GX @ 1280 x 1024
  • TOYS: Logitech G15 Keyboard, Steel Series Sensei Mouse, Afterglow X-Box 360 Controller
RebGax-In Space- Warping to the Objective

In Space- Warping to the Objective

Official System Requirements:

MINIMUM:

  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, AMD Athlon™ X2 2.8 GHz, or higher
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0, 512MB VRam
  • DirectX: Version 9.0b
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c-compatible, 16-bit

RECOMMENDED:

  • OS: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0, 2GB VRam
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c-compatible, 16-bit
RebGax-At a station - Commodities Market

At a station – Commodities Market

Survival Capability
The Darwin’s rate the strengths, weaknesses, replay value and overall impressions of this specimen.

Strengths

  • Wicked awesome soundtrack and options to play your own MP3s as well
  • Gorgeous graphics with high frame rates even on older hardware
  • Lots of flyable ships and even more NPC ships with great detail and variety
  • Detailed goods trading with complex price interactions without being burdensome
  • Action-packed space battles
  • Impressive support from development team
  • Only $20. Seriously! This game would still be a bargain at twice the price.

Weaknesses

  • No tutorial button/tab in the main menu makes first steps awkward
  • In-game tutorial could use some additional content and details
  • Large fights with many enemies in the zoomed-in broadside target view creates a loss of situational awareness of those enemies not in the viewable broadside cone

Replay Value

Good replayability with the dynamic generation of the systems and the different possible play styles

RebGax-At a station - Chatting with a NPC

At a station – Chatting with a NPC

The Last Word
Rebel Galaxy is sure to survive on our systems for a long, long time. The fast-paced action and interaction (with NPCs and Stations) coupled with an immersive look and gritty sound makes buying Rebel Galaxy a great deal for the space privateer.


Chat about it below, or in our forums, or hit our FaceBook page >>

 

[1] Cap’n Darwin: For any of you new to Grogheads or who missed last week’s GrogCast or who wasn’t at Grog Command Central at Origins the past few years, I am one of the developers for On Target Simulations (OTS), maker of the award winning Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm from Matrix Games. I was also part of the Flashpoint Germany team, coming on board just after its release and working with Rob Crandall (also of OTS fame) on the follow-on updates. A little further back and I was part of a little indie project for Red Baron 3D from Dynamix called Full Canvas Jacket. That one managed to get enough recognition to be named PC Gamer’s Runner-Up Flight Sim of the Year. We lost out to Microsoft Flight Simulator that year. Not too shabby IMHO. I can trace my gaming and coding and modding efforts all the way back to the days of the TI-99-4A in the late 70s. I have been involved in board game design as well. When I find some free-free time I do board games with the rest of the Darwin crew.

Mrs. Darwin: Like the Cap’n, my coding background predates the PC. Unlike the Cap’n, I don’t generally admit to having been around that long. In the midst of trying to debug line after line of COBOL (for my third class in the wordy language) in a chilly college VAX lab, I awoke to the reality that programming was not my life. I have enjoyed computer gaming since those lovely text adventure days when folks held proper respect for correct grammar. I was addicted to Warcraft before it had its own World. These days, in addition to providing support to the OTS branch in my home (mostly in the form of dinner, drinks, and occasional gentle reminders of “You need to be up for work in three hours. Bed.”) including data work and editing, I enjoy both computer and tabletop gaming in my free time. My perennial favorites include classic series like Sid Meier’s Civilization and Fallout. I especially love turn-based strategy games, but also play my share of “casual games” on my Android phone. I’ve played Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (a tap-tap mobile game -Cap’n) and have lived to tell about it. For the review of this particular game, it might be helpful to know that I am a die-hard fan of the masterfully crafted yet tragically short-lived sci-fi television series Firefly.

RebGax-On my ships a strange guest

On my ships a strange guest

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