When I played the first Rebel Galaxy I really enjoyed it. The big capital ships and the cool naval style combat, even the lack of a "Z" axis was cool because of how the game played. Even though it was a 2D plane it still felt big and open and limitless. In fact I always meant to write about it here. I even started at one point but I never finished and since then, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw has been released and... wow what a great space combat game. Double Damage is a team of something like five people and what they've managed to accomplish is one of the best full 3D space games I've played in a long time. Stick with me and I'll tell you about my experience.
The player is set in the role of Juno Markev, an ex pirate for the Double Jacks gang. She is out to find the guy that murdered her husband. Players may also recognize Juno from the previous Rebel Galaxy as, Aunt Juno, the cool lady with a seedy past. Outlaw is a prequel and we get to see why her past is in fact so seedy and it's a fun time getting there. This title is a big evolution from the original in lots of ways and it plays most similarly (I feel) to the now classic, Descent Freespace. Or the broken but good till that point, Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos. There won't be any planet hopping and on foot exploration for you here, just good old fashioned space ships going fast and shooting space weapons in space.
As a side note: My screenshots were mostly taken with the in game photo mode and they kind of seem grainy, but they should get the point across.
Jumping into Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is both fairly simple and kind of difficult. Create a new game and you'll see a couple of very basic tutorials and then you're free to go about your business. Getting started with that business can be a little confounding though since the game doesn't make things very clear right away. You can auto-pilot to your chosen way point, you can look at your mission parameters in the mission log, but sometimes when you get where you're going nothing happens. It may take a little trial and error but it's pretty easy to work out what you need to do. For me it was to scan the area and look for a black box left over from a previous battle and subsequently scan that black box by flying close to it and holding position. The problem is that the mission stated that I should just go check out this set of coordinates and that was all the detail I got. I spent about twenty minutes flying around in an asteroid field wondering if I had already found a game bug when I finally noticed that the radial wheel selection tool contained the command to scan an area. Once I had that figured out though it was smooth sailing.
The story itself doesn't suck but it's not incredibly deep or well fleshed out. You'll bounce around dozens of star systems helping equally seedy characters along the way while making friends that will help you in tough spots when you need them, for a limited time. As the story unfolds you'll be able to complete missions from the "Texcom" mission terminals to help you save up credits and purchase new ships and in turn new upgrades for those ships to help keep Juno from becoming space dust in a big battle with some pirates - or the police if you choose to swing away from being lawful. Things take place pretty linearly in the main story with only a couple chances to make decisions toward the end. And those decisions don't really seem to matter much at all. In point of fact I can only think of one place where it could change the outcome of a situation. So don't expect a hugely narrative driven bit of game play. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not good but it's not the strong point of Outlaw. It's more about how you choose to get there. You can keep Juno on the edge of piracy and make her walk a thin line, be lawful and help the police and protect freighters or miners when they come under attack, or straight up become an unscrupulous pirate who shoots down convoys for loot and so on. Being a pirate and performing "evil deeds" allows Juno to dock at pirate stations. I'm not sure if there's a real benefit to that, I.E. different ships and upgrades, but the game makes mention of it as you go along.
You'll start with the option to choose a difficulty and that choice will determine your starting gear. I chose normal and that sent me on my way with radar, level one shields, a basic combat laser and a simple heat seeking missile launcher. Higher difficulties will start you with less. Regardless though, your first ship is free, thanks to an old friend. It's an old trash hauler scow called a Pathfinder that carries the moniker, Platypus. I guess because it's so ugly it's cute? Anyway, you jump in and off you go to meet your first mission giver, Richter. He's got some tasks that get you into trouble and from here you learn how to dogfight in space.
It's fun as hell. I played with my Xbone controller and it felt great after I got used to it. At first it's a little weird but I'm not really sure why I felt that way. You just use both sticks control pitch and yaw, tap A to increase throttle and B to decrease, both in 25% increments and your right trigger fires weapons while your left locks on to targets. The lock on actually begins an auto pursuit mode where your ship will try and follow the target for you while you deal with countermeasures to avoid incoming missiles, weapon grouping and power delivery. Managing power is done with the D pad. Hit Y to bring up the menu and then tapping left, up or right will divert power to shields, engines or weapons respectively. Tapping down sets things to an equal balance. In a tough fight, for instance, sending more power to shields will help them recharge faster and make you more survivable. But your overall speed will slow down considerably and you won't be able to sustain fire as long since there is now less power going to engines and weapons. In a pinch you can also divert all your power to your shields to force as much charge as possible to them instantly. It'll drain the power core completely, but it may save your ass from being strewn across the nearest meteor. Or in an opposite moment you can drain your shields and place that directly in your power core if you need to pin the afterburner to run away.
It's pretty important to keep an eye on those power levels as running out means your guns won't fire until there's charge again and there won't be any afterburner to dash away from a bad situation. Your power levels will recharge pretty quickly, especially once you have higher level power plants, but it's easy to run out and get caught. Which is why it's also important to make sure you've got a balance of weaponry. Some weapons are better at taking down enemy shields and some are better at hull damage. Most weapons take power to use and the longer you hold the trigger, the more drain you put on your power core. These include the Gauss Cannon and the Trion Launcher to name two. If that power core is damaged recharge may slow to a crawl until you're able to make repairs, so make sure you use weapons that don't use power as well. None of the missile launchers use power and neither do the Tracer or Autocannon, but the projectile speeds are slower than most of the energy weapons. Some ships also have turret mounts which use their own power source and fire automatically when in range. Or you can choose to enter a turret and control it manually. Balance is key.
Missiles come in a few flavors. Heat seekers require you to lock on from the rear of a target so they can follow the engine wash. They're simple and fairly powerful but easy avoided with counter measures. There are also "dumb fire" missiles that don't lock on at all, using your own skill and lead ability to predict where a target will be to fire an intercepting shot. Then there are image recognition types like the Swarm Launcher that take a little longer to lock on but are difficult to avoid since they essentially look at the target they chase. Not to mention they fire six missiles at once. As you upgrade your radar you'll be given greater support for missile types and more accurate leads for your projectile weapons. Over all combat can be really complex and since Outlaw is mostly about dogfights in space, it really shines here.
As you complete missions and save those precious credits you'll be able to buy new ships and components for said ships. Luckily weapons and shields and cargo extenders etc. will transfer across to your new ride, providing they can support that level of component that is. There are sadly, only five ships available - three fighters and two freighters. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses and eventually you can unlock another variant for four of the ships making for a technical count of nine in total but the differences are minor. Obviously the fighters are more weapons based while the freighters are more about cargo space and armor but it really doesn't seem to matter which you choose as the maneuverability is only drastically different between a couple of them and they can pretty much all hold their own in a fight.
Whether it's completing combat or guard missions you'll eventually need to head back to a local station to make repairs to damaged systems and rearm your missiles. This is also where your game will save and you can choose more missions along with playing the mini games. You can play Billiards, pull the handle on a slot machine for credits, play dice poker and drop credits in the Star Venger cabinet, the in-game version of the classic, Asteroids. I haven't actually tried the Billiards table but I've heard it's a pretty excellent pool simulator.
As far as exploration goes there's plenty of that to do as well but like the original Rebel Galaxy, it's not deeply varied. You'll run across asteroid and ice fields as well as junk fields littered with the broken, derelict hulls of old space craft either blasted to bits in battles or by the magnetic mines that float silently near by. Scanning may find you cargo stashes or black boxes that instigate treasure hunts but almost always lead to pirate ambushes so you'll basically always want to be prepared for a fight. You can also choose to mine asteroids and become a space trucker to play the market from system to system.
The problem I have with exploration is that it's not possible to just drop into sub light and go anywhere you want. Sub light speed only works as a type of autopilot and will point your ship toward a goal rather than move you in a straight line if you'd rather. The way to work around that is to make a way point and turn your ship toward that, but the system map details are limited and there's no directional indicator so trying to mark a way point based on something you see ahead versus the system map can be difficult. Inter-system travel requires a jump drive and you'll be doing a lot of system jumping. The jumps themselves require fuel which is refilled each time you dock at any station but can also be purchased at the Caballeros stations throughout the systems if you find yourself not wanting to go out of your way to dock a few thousand kilometers from your next jump gate.
The other potential issue is one that exists as a hand me down from the first game - the interruptions to auto pilot. The use of a fast travel system to get you across the vastness of space is a great idea for those who don't want the downtime of flying from jump gate to space station to jump gate but I'll be damned if that fast travel isn't interrupted several times, virtually every time you use it. Whether it's a distress signal, some friendlies that are too close by for comfort, some pirates that have jumped in your way looking for a fight, maybe the police have just forced you out of sub light to perform a contraband scan, you will be stopped over and over and over on the way to destination. Always. Now at first this is pretty cool because it helps the game feel alive and populated. Some folks may even love it all the way through the game. You can even use the ship to ship radio to sort of communicate with the NPC ships in some quick canned dialogue moments. But as the hours go on it gets pretty annoying to be stopped four or five times for whatever damn reason it is now. Even Juno seems upset by it most of the time exclaiming that she just doesn't have time for this shit. Thankfully you can choose to at least ignore distress signals on long trips temporarily, but that won't help with the rest.
Over all the game play loop is pretty fulfilling but it doesn't really change over time as the game moves forward. This can be to the detriment of the game play because the progression curve itself is really sharp and then planes out early so you may find yourself feeling like there's not a lot to work toward. As said above, your first ship is free, but it's possible to have the best ship and the best upgrades before you leave the second star system... of something like forty systems. It's worth reiterating that this game is a dog fighter in space and that's pretty much what you're going to get. And although I've found that it's really fun in every situation I've been in, I can certainly see the repetition of that driving folks away from playing long term. Especially with the maximum upgrades being available so early on. On the other hand we've all played games where we work and work and finally get the best stuff only to be able to use it in the very last fight and then - game over. So really I guess I just feel that there either could have been more to work toward beyond the initial ships, weapons and components as I went on or that the upgrades could have been spread out a bit further. Rebel Galaxy the first actually did a better job at that I think.
Graphics and Music
Outlaw looks quite good I think. The polygon counts are fairly low, especially for the capital ships but I don't feel like the lack of greater structural detail detracts from the game at all. All the ships are in fact still quite detailed to look at and that becomes evident as you fly closer to them. For the most part the fine details aren't seen a lot as things happen fairly quickly during dog fights. The player ships are pretty complex actually with the struts and hoses and ducts and little mechanical bits around the engines. The UI does take up a lot of room in first person view, but it's also different for each ship so it's a pretty cool extra level of immersion. However there's no way to free look without turning your ship that I've found so you will always be looking straight ahead. Textures are all pretty good and we'll get to more on that in minute. There's enough simple detail to tell you what you're seeing and enough texture detail to flesh it out and allow the game to run smoothly even with all the details turned up and densely populated areas in constant motion.
You'll definitely want those details turned up too as the effects are pretty outrageous. Explosions are super exaggerated and it's a riot the first few times you blow up a capital ship. Watch out for debris when this happens by the way. Taking down a fighter and seeing it spin out of control to disintegrate with pieces of the ship continuing their momentum in fire balls and acrid looking black smoke is just the bees knees. Pilots will often eject and you can choose to rescue them, gaining rewards for friendlies and bounties for criminals next time you dock at a station. Or you can blast them out of space if you so choose. The sounds for all these detonations are quite good as well. In fact the sounds in general are all pretty good. There's no droning on of obnoxious noises making you want to tear your headset off, the explosions are everything from sharp to deep and the pew-pew of energy weapons is fun. The complaint I would have with sound is that it's always loud. I have my in game sound set to 15% and I still have to turn down my headset so it's not painful to play this game. And that's not just a problem for hearing, it's also a potential problem in the case of blown speakers. And maybe this isn't a wide spread thing, but be careful. At least dialogue, sounds and music all have separate volume sliders.
Back to textures now. The ships all have detailed skins and so do the asteroids of varying types but the greatest thing about textures are that Rebel Galaxy Outlaw comes with a paint shop tool built in. It's essentially a light version of Photoshop that allows you to drop in layers and make brushes to create your own skins with. You can paint ships in 3D mode and draw directly on the model itself with the brush following the contours or you can drop into a texture view mode where you'll be able to see every surface on a 2D plane. You can choose the paint modes to target specific areas and colors and it's all quite powerful. If you'd rather not use the built in program it's possible to export a ship's texture and edit it in Photoshop to use when you play again by applying it in the paint shop in game. Multiples can be made and renamed etc. You can even save layers separately to edit in different forms if you'd like to. There's also an option to print a physical model of your ship with your custom paint on it! Check out the details for that here on the official site. What other $30 game can you do that with, I ask you? Now I get that it's pretty much impossible to do that with lots of games now because they want to be multi player and if they allowed for texture editing (even if they wanted to), we'd have to constantly be downloading other people's texture files every time we loaded a game. But it works really well being single player and you can still share files with friends. I'd be willing to bet that you could even upload them to sites that share in a larger numbers. Seriously guys this is an excellent feature and it deserves praise. I put a video up on the LP channel if you'd like to see me fumble my way through a paint job. Go go smudge tool.
Music is pretty important in space games because you need something to fill the emptiness. And Outlaw can feel pretty empty. As it should. Space isn't all colorful nebulae, planets and asteroid fields. Most of space is just empty blackness and that's present here too. Lucky for us we have the sub space radio stations to listen to. Seven in game stations varying from Blues and Hard Rock, Country, Latin, Classical, Jazz, Metal and (ew), Dubstep, give us plenty of tracks to fly by. If you decide you don't want to listen to those stations you can drop your own tracks into a custom music folder and listen to them as you would any of the radio stations. Or turn it all off and listen to the standard ambient in game music, which is also quite good. There's a streaming mode for people to avoid copyright claims while they record. Or if you prefer silence, mute it all and enjoy the sounds of your engines. The radio stations do come with some silly fake space ads that are good for a laugh though.
So ultimately Outlaw doesn't over promise an endless universe of infinitely explorable, randomly generated star systems and that's good because what it does do is focus on being an action game in space. It's a dog fighter at it's core with some decent story elements while still providing some forty star systems to experience and a level of customization that is more or less unheard of now. It's not perfect of course just like anything else out there but if you're not really into the crafting aspects of something like No Man's Sky and frankly I can't blame you, Outlaw may be for you. If you want some level of simulation but not deep levels of that sim like Elite Dangerous, Outlaw may be for you. If you want a game that plays tons like Descent Freespace or Wing Commander from the past, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is definitely for you. I've finished the story and I'm still playing happily. I do hope that Double Damage may eventually add a few more ships and upgrades in and expansion...? Wishful thinking perhaps.
So the typical question - Would I recommend it? If the answer isn't obvious by now, yes I do recommend it. The price is a steal at $30.00 and even if you don't like the exclusivity of it being on Epic Game Store, it's worth it. If you just can't stand that though it'll be a year before you get to see it on Steam. I feel like if you dig a good space title you'll be into this one. I say pick it up.
System Requirements For Rebel Galaxy Outlaw Are As follows
|OSWindows 7, Windows Vista, Windows 8, Windows 10||OSWindows 7, Windows Vista, Windows 8, Windows 10|
|ProcessorIntel® Core™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, AMD Athlon™ X2 2.8 GHz, or higher||ProcessorIntel® Core™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, AMD Athlon™ X2 2.8 GHz, or higher|
|Memory2GB Ram or higher||Memory2GB Ram or higher|
|GraphicsShader Model 4.0, 1GB VRam||GraphicsShader Model 4.0, 1GB VRam|
|DirectX11 or higher||DirectX11 or higher|
|SoundDirectX 9.0c-compatible, 16-bit||SoundDirectX 9.0c-compatible, 16-bit|