Did you enjoy the naval bits of Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag but didn't care for the on-foot game-play? Do you enjoy science fiction with a dash of western spice? Well, then you're in luck, because the fellas at Double Damage Games has just hooked you up.
Rebel Galaxy is an interesting take on the space sim genre. The simplest way to explain it is that they take a lot of the "simulation" out and replace it with an "arcade" feel. And before you write this game off as a joke, let me qualify my statement.
Most things that make a space sim is in this game. You battle, trade, explore and adventure around several solar-systems. The thing that is different in this game is that your ship, and every ship in the "capital"-ship class, only travel in two dimensions. The game takes the idea that "large ship space combat is like naval combat" and runs with it. You travel along a flat plane, and your main weapons are your broadsides. Every ship in the "capital"-class functions like this, so when you're up against other large ships, they won't travel above or below you. For the record, in this game, every ship in the frigate or larger class are considered "capital"-ships. So, the only ships that traverse in 3D are fighters and gunships. You, as the player, cannot however pilot one of these smaller vessels.
This way of piloting a ship felt very strange in the beginning, and it did lead into some serious trouble while facing off against large amounts of fighters (which is something you do in the early game). But, after some time with the game, it started to feel natural. The developers have taken eager notes from AC: Black flags ships. Since your ship controls almost identically like theirs. The game has a simple control-scheme that supports game-pads. In essence, the control of the game feels very similar to AC: Black flag. And I do not consider that a bad thing.
While I think the controls work fine in general, there is however one moderate big flaw. And that flaw is the dreaded USE BUTTON! See, since the game has adapted the controls to work on a game-pad, that means that some buttons get to do double duty. The "use button", that reacts to context also is your warp drive button. So, you might go shooting out of a sector when the only thing you wanted to do was pick up some cargo. This has happened to me on several occasions. To mitigate this, warp drive only functions in "open space". So when you're close to a planet, stations, asteroid etc the warp drive won't function. But you might be unlucky enough to have a battle on the edge of one of these stellar bodies, or in the dead of space. After the battle, the enemies drop some of their loot and you go to pick it up, but instead of picking it up you go shooting away.
Enough about the controls and such. What is the world and story like? Well, space western describes the game pretty well. The story is that one of your relatives gifted you an old ship and asked you to come to a frontier sections of space and find them. There you meet all kinds of rascals, scumbags and pirate filth. The game really hammers this feeling home with the used and rusty aesthetic of ships and stations. The soundtrack, which is a slide-guitar rock affair (think of the band Clutch), really ties the knot around the general feeling of the game.
There is adventure to be hand in the frontier of space, and the open ended nature of the game really makes that shine. You can fight, mine, hold up merchant or maybe even help the local militia fight off pirates. The game does not really rail-road you into one direction or the other. The game is however focused on combat, so mining and trading are pretty simple affairs. The prices for goods are however fluid and change with the times. So savvy trades can make a tidy profit from filling their holds with bio-waste, soy paste, drugs or why not intellectual property.
The game has a dry sense of humor about it. You'll trade in narcotic soda, guns and alien artifacts. You'll meet some colorful characters, each with their own character model, voice and language. While you can never really get out of your ship, these screens help to bring the world alive. It is quite the testament to the developers with their attention to detail and willingness to put in the extra mile to make their game special. I for one appreciate that and I'm enjoying my time in Rebel galaxy immensely. So, if you'll excuse me, there's a trader that needs to be encouraged to give me his wares waiting.