Rebel Galaxy Review (XONE)

Rebel Galaxy screen
Double Damage Games. Double Damage Games

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Rebel Galaxy does a few things differently right away that set it apart from other space sims.  First, you control big capital ships here right from the start, rather than starting with dinky little fighters like most games.  Second, rather than soothing, atmospheric, ethereal "space" music, Rebel Galaxy punches you in the gut right away with good ol' Southern Rock.

  This is sci-fi mixed with the Old West, and that's awesome.  With satisfying strategic combat and a massive chunk of space to explore, Rebel Galaxy has the gameplay goods to back up its ballsy presentation choices.  Of the (arcade style ... Elite Dangerous is in a class of its own) space sims released so far on Xbox One, Rebel Galaxy is the best yet.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Double Damage Games
  • Developer: Double Damage Games
  • ESRB Rating: “T" For Teen
  • Genre: Space Sim
  • Pros:  Awesome soundtrack; cool ship designs; satisfying strategic combat
  • Cons:  Clichéd story; repetitive missions; difficulty spikes

Rebel Galaxy doesn't have any sort of free play or multiplayer and instead drops you into a procedurally generated universe with the objective of finding your Aunt Juno.  The story is fairly predictable and the various factions and alien races you encounter (with actual insanely well done "alien" dialogue that's different for every species!) are kinda cliche, but it does a good job of herding you along a line of steady upgrades and missions, so it is worth doing.

  The game is presented as sort of the Wild West in Space (like "Cowboy Bebop" or "Trigun") and it is definitely appealing. 

Once the game starts, you can choose to follow the story or set out on your own to do whatever you want, of course.  Like most space sims, Rebel Galaxy lets you become a legit trader between systems, a smuggler of contraband, a bounty hunter, a miner, and more along with the expected bouts of combat as you fight off enemy factions.

  Unlike most space sims, however, Rebel Galaxy starts you out in a big beefy capital ship, and the ships only get bigger and more powerful and more awesome the more you play.  You start out in one solar system, but as you make progress you can travel to other systems.  Each new system will have a new selection of ships and upgrades, so you have a constant supply of new toys to play with.  Depending on how distracted you get, the story can last anywhere from 20-hours on into the hundreds of hours spent just goofing around.  For just $20, you really can't go wrong.

Check out our reviews of Destiny and Lifeless Planet for more sci-fi on XONE.

Gameplay

Because you're controlling capital ships instead of smaller fighters or freighters, Rebel Galaxy plays quite a bit differently from other recent XONE space sims.  The ships are bigger and slower and not as quick to maneuver, and combat consists of oldschool pirate ship-style cannon broadsides as your main power weapons.  In the bottom left corner of the screen you have a little display that shows your shield strength as well as hull strength on each quadrant of your ship, so the idea is that you have to move your ship around so that you have strong shields and hull between you and the enemy while also positioning yourself to fire your own broadsides.

  You do also have other weapons like missiles and turrets and mines - all of which you can manually control if you want - but you can also let the A.I. manage all of those while you just focus on firing your main cannons.  It gives battles a really unique feel compared to other games, and the strategic element of positioning and taking the right shots at the right time is quite satisfying.  There are also lots of different weapon types, so customizing your ship with the right selection of turrets and missiles and everything else to suit your play style is enjoyable.

The controls are easy to learn and are fairly intuitive, but they are also a fair bit simpler than other recent space sims.

  You don't have multiple radial menus to cycle through to do anything, at least.  Just simple commands.  Easy menus.  And point and shoot combat.  It is easily the most accessible and immediately fun space sim available on Xbox One so far.

The rhythm of gameplay usually goes something like this.  You start out at a space station and take on missions.  You go do those missions, earn credits, and then return to a space station to repair / rearm, buy new weapons and upgrades, or even a new ship.  Then you do it all over again.  The missions can get a little repetitive, however, as they're pretty much all "Go to X, blow up Y".  And the game does have some nasty difficulty spikes that require you to grind a bit to earn enough credits to either upgrade your current ship or buy a new ship.  Having to use a new ship or playing with a different set of weapons, however, is pretty fun and does make the grind feel a little less, well, grind-y, because the reward at the end is usually worth it.

Graphics & Sound

Compared to Starpoint Gemini 2, Rebel Galaxy isn't quite as pretty looking, but it does look nice.  Exploration isn't nearly as satisfying as in other games, simply because just flying to see what cool new pretty thing you find isn't really the focus here, but the game does look good.  The systems you play in are generally bright and colorful, and the sense of speed when warping is pretty awesome.  The ship designs are also very cool as there are lots of different manufacturers whose designs are all distinct and neat looking.  Perhaps most importantly, the game doesn't suffer from any performance issues.  No stuttering during combat.  No several-second pauses when you enter a new chunk of the map.  It is just smooth.

The sound is well done for the most part as well.  I love the southern rock-style soundtrack as it really does set Rebel Galaxy apart from most other games in this genre.  The sound effects are also very well done and actually fairly distinct and unique.  Voice work is impressive, and the amount of work put in to give the various alien races their own unique languages is pretty stunning.  My only problem with the sound is that the "radio static" sound effect when people contact you is way too loud and doesn't quite sound right.

Bottom Line

All in all, Rebel Galaxy is probably the best arcade-style space sim released on Xbox One yet.  It is accessible and surprisingly intuitive and is just plain fun to play.  It isn't as pretty as other games, but makes up for it with the gameplay.  It also is priced just right at $20, which make it pretty hard to pass up even if you only have a passing interest in the genre.  The southern rock soundtrack might be off-putting to some folks because its use is pretty in-your-face, but I loved it.  I really have had a great time with Rebel Galaxy overall and recommend any space fans give it a try.

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