The space-sim genre has been around since the early days of PC gaming. In recent years, it has resurfaced with games like Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky. The original Rebel Galaxy was released in 2015 and attempted to find its place among the greats. Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw takes the criticisms that the developers received the first time around and creates an improved experience.
In Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, there is a story to follow, but you can choose how to live and thrive in its world. Whether you want to be the most respected space pirate or the most feared bounty hunter, the choice is yours. If you desire to be a mercenary or a merchant, you can do that too. With a second shot at planting their feet in the space-sim genre, Double Damage Games is at full power and far from a crash landing.
Spiritual Themes: In Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, there is a radical religious group that targets the wealthy of the galaxy as if they are commanded by God and scripture to do so. They have radio commercials to convince people to join them. One of the commodities that exist for players to trade include religious tracts.
Violence: Players will spend time in their ships battling enemies with lasers and missiles. When attacked, ships will catch fire and explode upon death. NPCs will cry or swear as their ships are about to explode. Enemies are primarily space pirates, but law enforcement can also be attacked if a player chooses to do so.
Language/Crude Humor: Characters will frequently use words like “d*mn”, “a**”, or “s**t”. When using radio to speak negatively towards other characters, the main character will sometimes throw up her middle finger while talking trash to an enemy when in cockpit view.
Drugs/Alcohol: The main character is seen sitting at the booth of a bar during the starting menu and occasionally takes a drink of the beer in front of her. While playing dice, there is a lit cigarette that sits on an ash tray. It is an option to carry and sell illegal contraband in the game. Players can acquire, buy, and sell various kinds of drugs to sell on the black market. Alcohol can also be bought, sold and traded.
Gambling: Players have the option of gambling in the bars across the galaxy. There are a vareity of games to play such as slot machines, Dice and Pool against an opponent in which money can be wagered.
Real money cannot be used, but this content is worth mentioning since the gaming industry is in an interesting place with the existence of microtransactions and lootboxes with real currency. Many people out there are also struggle with a gambling addiction, and engaging in these activities could potentially have a negative impact on that habit.
Positive Content: Law Enforcement exists throughout the galaxy and will sometimes ask the player to maintain their flight path for a random contraband scan. The scan keeps players from transporting illegal goods unless they choose to jettison the cargo or fight off law enforcement and escape.
Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw takes place before the events of the first Rebel Galaxy. In Outlaw, we step into the shoes of Juno Markev, who is the aunt of the main character in the first game. This is a prequel, telling the story of Juno and how she makes a name for herself in the galaxy. It is up to the players to not only advance the plot, but live a life among the stars.
The game starts with an intro that feels right out of an 80’s animated movie. Juno comes out on the wrong end of a fight with a criminal she is chasing down. With her ship destroyed and very little cash, it is up to the player to rise back up in wealth for a strong enough ship to finish the job. Along the way, you’ll do jobs for NPCs and eventually befriend them so they can assist you in battle. As a sidenote, an animated film based on this game would be great.
Current space-sim games in the genre have mostly appealed to a hardcore audience—some go so far to purchase flight sticks. Most games put the “sim” in “space-sim” because of their realistic controls, real-time travel, and in-game economies. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw has all of that, but makes it possible for casual fans like myself to jump in. There are various difficulty levels, and the developers even recommend playing with a controller. You can still use a keyboard or flightstick, but the button layout on a standard controller was masterfully crafted; I don’t want to use anything else.
When starting the game on the standard difficulty, you begin with a junker of a ship along with decent blasters and missiles. When engaging a target, there is a lock-on button available, which helped me much in combat. The targeting systems on your ship will highlight allies in blue and enemies in red so that you know who to shoot. With a push of a button, there are also plenty of ways to fast travel to your objective or jump into hyperspeed to travel much faster. These available options are not mandatory to use, but give players an enjoyable experience.
One of the most significant complaints about the first Rebel Galaxy was addressed this time around. In the first game, you could only fly from left to right and not up or down. Players were forced to navigate the world on a flat plane, due to the focus on controlling freighter/capital style ships. Outlaw is much more cockpit-based, so expect some epic dogfights. Many props to the developers for humorously addressing all of these complaints in the FAQ section of their website.
What I am particularly fond of in Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw is its world. You spend most of your time in space traveling between planets and stations, but there is still so many other things to do. You can talk to a bartender for information, play some pool or casino games, trade commodities, or check the various mission boards. While out in space, you can engage NPCs over radio, talking to them as you’re passing through. The law enforcement will scan you for contraband as they are passing by.
The presentation leans heavily into a “space trucker” theme with many characters having midwestern or southern accents. There are various radio stations you can listen to that include a bunch of country/blues-rock music and silly commercials that are comparable to the ones found in the Grand Theft Auto. The developers have carried this theme so far that even the star systems are named after various states and cities. Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw has a unique charm that many games in this genre don’t.
While the story is decent, the developers encourage you to spend time outside of it and be active in the game’s economy to earn money and upgrade your ship or buy a new one. How you choose to live life in space and make money is solely up to you. There are Merchant and Mercenary Guilds to join, bounties to hunt, and other odd jobs you can take. Trading commodities is also an essential part of the economy, though its something I didn’t engage in unless I had some materials to sell. With so many options, I experienced a rare kind of freedom that is hard to find in most video games.
A very impressive feature is the option to paint your ship. Most video games stick to letting you choose primary and secondary colors and some stock logos, but Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw goes further with a full suite of tools comparable to photoshop. I have not yet looked around the internet to see if the community has made full use of this feature. You can purchase a real 3D-printed model of your ship as well, but I haven’t done so for myself to see how the process works.
I spent most of my time taking bounties and mercenary jobs, so I got very familiar with the combat. The accessible controls make me feel like a well-trained pilot, and each battle felt rewarding when I came up victorious. It was also easy to refill my ordinances and repair my ship at the nearest station and move on to the next mission. Though I discovered that some areas of the map just weren’t cut out for a rookie like me, and needed to upgrade before I could even think of coming back. Those challenging areas sometimes took away that freedom I felt, but the territories of varying difficulty have become a common trope these days.
One of my favorite features in combat is the ability to speak with enemies and allies through the communicator. When fighting an enemy, you can choose the blue option to give up your cargo or to ask for peace. The red variant is for talking trash and to get them to flee. More often than not, I was able to discourage an enemy from fighting me, but the one time I had an enemy flee in fear was satisfying. Using your comms becomes much more useful depending on where you stand with the two factions, and adds to the traits that already make this galaxy feel so lively.
As my time spent with Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw grew well into the double digits, I discovered that it can suffer from a repetitive nature. When taking missions in the various start systems, I found that most of them boil down to similar objectives. They range from: Go help these guys out, protect them, deliver this commodity, and so on. What usually changes is the risk level, the number of credits earned, and your alignment with the space pirates or the commonwealth. I didn’t find a right balance of making money and upgrading my ship along with doing story missions; this was mostly due to trying to make the big bucks in dangerous areas and dying a lot. If I spent time in lower to medium risk areas, then some of my sessions would have been more fruitful.
The discussion around the experience of video games is of course relative, but the weak spot in all that Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw has to offer began to show itself as I spent more time with it. The game is not to blame for the times when my experience was less than stellar. I got greedy and spent too much time trying to make big money in some of the more challenging areas I wasn’t yet ready for—I should’ve stayed in my lane.
Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw is easily one of the best games I have played in the space-sim genre, even after those moments when I was reminded that this is still a video game. It has a unique charm that existed in the first game, but the developers have double-downed on that and the world that feels much more alive because of it. If you’re like me and have had a lousy experience trying to dive into this genre (looking at you Elite Dangerous), then this is the best place to start.
Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw is currently available via the Epic Games Store for $29.99 with timed exclusivity, making its way to Steam next year. A console release is also planned, but there is not an official release date at this time.
Review Copy kindly provided by Plan of Attack and Double Damage Games.
The Bottom Line
Rebel Galaxy stands out in the space sim genre as a game that can be as easy or tough as you choose to make, and has a well thought-out world that is worth exploring.