Rebel Galaxy Outlaw Review
No sequels here! This game’s the prequel to Rebel Galaxy, with many similar features included. What’s mostly different this time around is the cockpit-focused flight and combat. I’m a sucker for these kind of simulation games; I spent way too many hours per session playing Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. And while I did have fun, there was also a whole lotta fustration mixed in with the fun, stemming from the glaring flaws in the game that you really can’t ignore, resulting in an experience that I felt would’ve been better if the issues were mitigated.
After a pursuit for the man who killed your husband goes wrong, you find yourself with no ship and no credits. Left with only one option, Juno Markev calls her old associate Orzu to hook her up with a ship in exchange for a favor. If you’ve played the original game, you’ll recognize these characters. As Juno, you’ll be given a junk ship with a Nerf Blaster as a weapon (if you’re playing on veteran). Once you’ve been given your first mission, you’re free to explore the starting space station and venture out into the wilderness of space when you are ready.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw’s essentially a hybrid of a sandbox game and a story-based game. There’s a lot of story missions, but there’s no sense of urgency in doing them. You can spend all the time in the world doing everything else the game has to offer: optional missions (from mission boards), trading, combat, music-listening, and bar games. To do the actual story missions, you often need to visit the bar the mission-giver is in and fly to a defined location in a system, so don’t worry about being forced to trigger them if you just want to stay in sandbox mode for a while.
The story itself is rather perplexing, especially if you have no prior knowledge of Juno’s character. It starts off rather straightforward as a revenge quest, but … I wouldn’t say it’s a nonsensical plot; it just takes such a weird direction with its twists with an awkward sense of closure. In any case, I actually cared more about the side characters you’re introduced to while playing, like Satchel the bounty hunter and Marla, an old friend of Juno. They have missions tied in with the main questline, but I found that their optional missions were more engrossing on account of the fact that they are not obligatory.
To the victor, goes the cargo
Almost every mission, be it a story mission or a side mission, will involve combat one way or another. With the original Rebel Galaxy, you only had a two-dimensional plane to work with, but with Outlaw, you have the entire airspace (or maybe just space) to fly around. Go up or down, do rolls, switch on the afterburners, and whatever other movements you need to do to outmaneuver the enemy craft. The enemy will try to get behind your ship to avoid your fire, but you’ll do the same, with the assist of the autopursuit feature, if you have it on. When you hold down the autopursuit key, your ship will follow your assailant with your crosshairs attempting to stay locked on target. Sounds rather powerful, right? It’s one of the most useful—even vital—tools you got on hand, alongside the tactical map that shows you all the friendly and enemy ships around you and lets you manually select a hostile to lock on to.
When you shoot at a ship, you don’t immediately do damage to their hull; you gotta take down their shields first. Shields take energy to maintain, and energy is also something you’ll need to fire most weapons. See an issue? If you want to shoot at someone, you’ll need to use your energy, and if you use up too much, you’ll be left vulnerable if you can’t regenerate your shields. Thankfully, shields are omnidirectional, and if you lose your aft shields, your frontal and side shields will be fine. Still, if either you or your enemy’s hull becomes exposed, damage to it not only affects the hull’s hitpoints, but also your other systems like your radar or even weapon systems, reducing their functionality and, quite frankly, potentially leading to a situation where you’re screwed even if you’re still floating.
Hopefully your ship has a tractor beam, because a destroyed ship has the potential to drop some sweet resources for you. The commodities dropped can range from a bundle of low-grade steel to ancient alien artifacts that sells for a ton of credits. I don’t even know what’s considered alien in galactic space, but if it rakes in the dough, it’s Greek to me. Commodities have no use for you personally aside from some missions that may require them, so you’re always safe to just sell them off at your local market. Contraband resources like drugs, however, require the usage of a black market to sell them, and you best hope the Dodge police don’t catch you smuggling anything illegal.
Remember when I said that you start off with a junk ship? The beginning is definitely the roughest part of the game. You don’t go fast, you have little damage potential, and a baseball is all it would take to make a dent in your armor. Combat with this ship would basically mean suicide in most situations, and I’m sure there has been many players who quit because of how terrible it feels using it. But Outlaw values patience in order to progress, and progression takes the form of spending credits. Most stations have a ship dealer to upgrade your hunk of junk to literally anything else as well as an equipment bay to buy new lasers, missile launchers, and cannons in addition to hardware upgrades like an improved hull and afterburners. An upgraded ship goes a long way in making combat feel better and even enjoyable. But in order to spend credits, you first gotta make ’em, and you’re not going to get rich off of being a pool shark at your local backwater bar.
There’s a decent economy system that exists where most space stations let you buy and sell goods at their markets. Stations are often specialized in a specific good like ceramics or steel and sell them in surplus. Buy out their surplus, and travel to another system where a station buys them at a higher mark-up. If you care to, you can play as a trader instead of a dedicated fighter, going system to system to find the best deals. But, if you come across contraband, you can only sell them at markets that holds a black market, usually at a pirate settlement. If you’re in good with the law, the pirates aren’t exactly going to be happy with you docking at their stations, so you’ll have to look harder for a station that doesn’t care about your alignment.
Want a quicker way to make a buck? Go to the mission board at your nearest space station. You’ll be getting missions of varying scenarios such siege defense, supply transportation, or bounty hunting. Some will be easy, and some will be tough, but the tougher ones net the most credits. Want even more money per mission? Go to the Merchants’ guild or Mercenaries’ guild. They got specialized tasks that gives you a whole lot more credits than the mission board will give you, but they also tend to be a lot harder than the regular missions.
It will take a long while to upgrade to one of the highest quality ships, not to mention the weapons and upgrades you’ll be purchasing along the way. But there’s no leveling system that exists; the damage value of a weapon you own never changes, and the health and damage of a specific enemy spacecraft will always remain the same. To be able to survive longer and become stronger, you’ll need to be purchasing those upgrades, and when you do, you’ll be able to tackle harder and harder fights, to the point where you can become a one woman army against scores of combatants. It’s a long road, but one with a satisfactory payoff.
A tedious experience
I did mention that there were glaring flaws to be had in this game, ones I will address in this section. Here’s the first: travel. The way you travel to other systems are through Jump Gates, which are fine and all, except when you realize just how long it can take to get from point A to point B using them. See, the sector map in the Dodge Sector is like a web of dots. You can only jump to another system if it is directly connected to yours. If you wanted to travel to a system on the other side of the map, you can’t just set a course and be there in a matter of minutes; you have to travel go through Gate after Gate, with some routes requiring over 10 jumps which gets really ridiculous when you consider that these routes are not without interruption.
Cutscenes. There’s a lot of them. There’s one for docking at a station, leaving the station, autopiloting, going through a Jump Gate, and for landing on a planet. Now, there is a skip button you can hold to fast forward on the cutscenes, but you can’t be completely rid of them. There’s an option to remove the docking cutscenes, but you’ll be left with having to deal with the rest of them, which is such a major annoyance when you’ll be constantly using Jump Gates and autopilot. So imagine with a ten jump flight path, you have to go through a cutscene for every jump to a Gate.
To compound with the issue of travel, you have the fact that you will constantly be hit with interruptions in your autopilot travel to a station or planet. Distress beacon? You’ll be stopped mid-flight. Friendly ship that happens to be near but not directly in the way of your path? Interruption. Enemies on route to the Gate? You’ll be stopping for that too. And man, the enemies being in your way are the absolute worst as they can be right outside a Gate too. There’s an option to try and verbally make a truce with hostiles, but it’s not always reliable and you may be forced to fight anyway, even if you’re using a fully upgraded ship and you’re only facing two grunts with peashooters for weapons. So imagine this: start from one Gate, get interrupted by a distress beacon, get interrupted by a nearby ship, get interrupted by hostile ships, get to the Gate and fight more ships, and finally jump through the Gate … only to be met by another set of enemies outside it. Do that for a flight route of ten jumps and you’ll want to bang your head against the wall.
Outside of travel, cutscenes, and pirates everywhere you go? There’s also a problem with balance. This is most noticeable with the junker ship you start with; some missions just seems way more difficult than they should be. For example, a mission with a stated difficulty of low can take you to a fight that you’re woefully unmatched for. Utilizing autopursuit and the tactical map are an absolute must, and there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to handle the missile spam that will follow suit. And if your mission is to protect some cargo ships from being destroyed by pirates? It’s not uncommon for the pirates to inevitable destroy one or two of your objectives, forcing you to lose out on some credits despite doing your absolute best at taking on the pirates. And when you’ve finally finished the mission with the nearest space station a stone’s throw away, having your autopilot interrupted by an enemy capital ship you’ve no way to escape from … it’s just so frustrating, man.
So you’ve managed to upgrade every part of your ship, complete the story, and have gotten plenty of credits. What now? Unfortunately, there’s nothing else left for you in this game. As of right now, Outlaw doesn’t have any end game content. There’s an outpost you can help build, but the missions for it are rather annoying, especially when you have to keep traveling to the same system that’s normally out of your way to get to. Once you’ve gotten your dream ship, there’s really nothing else to progress for, nor do you have any use for your credits outside of repairing your ship for combat and having the funds to play dice poker for days. It’s said that the developers are considering adding more content down the line, but as of right now, there’s really no point in continuing after the story is over unless you really enjoy the combat.
I had fun, I really did. There’s a feeling you can only get from sim games when you’re able to bulldoze anyone in the spacefield and sell their scraps for a huge profit margin. But the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of issues that leave you with a bad taste in your mouth despite any positives you may have felt from the gameplay itself. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a decent space sim, but is unfortunately bogged down by the glaring flaws and annoyances it throws at you. The developers seem very passionate about their game, so I’m willing to believe they will alleviate a good chunk of the qualms I had, but for now, I will say that I wouldn’t exactly not recommend this game, but I wouldn’t recommend it either in its current state. On the bright side, the music they have for the radio stations are absolute bangers. Nothing but love for Blues Saraceno.