Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rebel Galaxy: It's Been So Long ... Long Hard Days


I got a shipment of tachyon salt that I'm aimin' to unload and some Korian hardasses that's been tryin' my patience.  A hold full of goods and bad attitudes.  Life in the 'Verse just ain't as easy as it used to be ...

I downloaded Rebel Galaxy a couple of weeks back on my ol' Xbone and boy howdy ... lemme tell ya'll somethin' real quick-like: this game's funner than shootin' a barrel full of Red Devils.

Rebel Galaxy is a space shooter/trade simulation/RPG-lite ship upgrade game.  It currently costs around $20 on the various platforms (Xbox One, PS4, Steam, GOG) and I have to just get this out of the way ... this game is worth every damn red cent of that $20.  Every penny.

Made by the mad geniuses that gave us Torchlight and Torchlight II (Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer), Rebel Galaxy captures that infectious playability of their previous games.  Except this time, instead of brightly colored-riffs on the very grimdark world of Diablo characters, you're a hard-boiled spaceship captain with a grimy, well-worn man'o'war.  Well, we may be stretching the 'captain' part.  Realistically, you play *as* the ship.  As far as I can tell, you never see your captain's face nor hear his/her voice.  Strangely enough, that doesn't bother me too much considering this is a budget title.

The game is held together by its extremely simple yet surprisingly engaging combat on a modified 2.5D plane.  Your ship basically stays on the same horizontal line (you do weave up and down a tiny bit); enemy fighters buzz around you in all directions, though.  Thankfully, enemy ships also travel on the same plane, so fights are very rarely unfair.  Well, unfair in the sense that you're at least on the same plane.

Ship combat can get extremely hairy though for the unprepared.  Mission difficulty ratings range from Very Low all the way to Very High with varying degrees in the middle.  Most missions will be Average or High difficulty, but these ratings can sometimes be misleading.  If your mission is a dead drop, you can either count on a fairly simple pickup or a firefight so intense that your ass will leave a pool of sweat on the couch (or piss).  Some missions will have you surrounded by a swarm of gunships, torpedo boats, and fighters (the nightmare scenario) or will have you ambushed by corvettes and frigates that are relatively easier to take down.  It all depends on the types of missions you accept; I usually shy away from dead drops now and only concentrate on straight deliveries or hunting missions.

The amount of ships in the game is impressive; each ship has a manufacturer, and each manufacturer has a set style they design by.  Consequently, upgrading from ship to ship in a single manufacturer's line means you'll have a similar, and progressively beefier, ship to fly with.  The visual reward of upgrading from one ship to another is fun; switching manufacturers means not only dumping your aesthetic but also maybe changing philosophies.  Some ships are turret heavy (AI controlled turrets that auto-fire on enemies in range, though you can manually control them), while others have withering broadsides.  And oh, the broadsides.  The simple appeal of this game can honestly be whittled down to the innate, animal joy it brings players to line up cannons on one side of a ship and absolutely devastate another ship through concentrated carnage.  It's like Sid Meier's Pirates in space, with cursing.  And aliens.

And speaking of upgrading ships, let's comment on one of the finest portions of Rebel Galaxy: upgrading your ship.  The game doesn't penalize you for moving from ship to ship.  All upgrades and weapons carry forward to your new ship, the old ship's price is deducted from the new ship's price, and all upgrades can be traded in for full cost.  This allows you to experiment with new ship combos and layouts; it encourages you to be inventive but doesn't penalize you for taking risks.  It's wonderful!

Trading can be a lucrative career in Rebel Galaxy.  Keep an eye on the map for events happening in local space stations like Tech Boom, Mining Rush, War, Famine, or Korian Invasion.  These events modify the prices of goods and can lead to immense profits.  Keeping track of the buy/sell prices is important to maximizing profits.  So is upgrading your hold space.

Combat feels good and simple, much like Sid Meier's Pirates did back in the 90s.  There are secondary weapons systems, triggered shields that you can actually ram other ships with, missiles, torpedoes, mercenary gunships you can hire to protect yourself ... there's plenty of variation.

Where this variation falls short is in mission selection.  There are really only a few types of missions available: hunt down pirates, pick stuff up, deliver stuff, go help a border war, take out a specific pirate.  That's about it.  There's a main campaign mission, but it's mainly just a vehicle to get you from system to system via jump gates.

Rebel Galaxy really shines with the breadth of content it gives for $20.  Will this game keep you as invested as Skyrim did?  Nah, probably not.  But I'm 25 hours in and have only left the first system once.  I'm currently rocking the HammerJammer, a Tennhausen frigate with a hold full of badassery and no patience for scum.  I can imagine that this game will occupy my hard drive for many, many moons to come ...


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