Rebel Galaxy is a game built on the question of “fight or flight?”. At all times while playing there is the constant threat of combat wrecking the ship you’ve expended tons of effort to procure. This is the first point where Rebel Galaxy shines. The combat model breaks away from the 3D maneuvering of other similar titles and opts for a style of one-dimensional combat that mimics pirate-era ship-to-ship combat. The crux of ship combat in Rebel Galaxy lies in the weapon and module layout of your ships. Each ship has a set of primary weapon mounts that are purely offensive, yet limited to broadside mounts. The secondary module systems on your ship can improve various aspects of combat; but the focus on broadside damage application turns combat into a tense affair of trying to out pace your opponents movements in order to gain the optimum angle of attack.
While the combat is a primary focal point, the interactions with the games various factions through it’s reputation system makes any moment in space a combat rich environment. Any ship passing through a system can be scanned for illegal cargo, including your own. At any point the player may encounter AI controlled invasion fleets, trade convoys, or a firefight between factions that creates opportunities for the player to get rich and make new friends or enemies. The reputation system also hinges on side jobs and bounty payouts that can be performed for that faction that allow the player to farm standings. This system may be a bit broken as it’s possible at high levels to retain Neutral status with a faction while simultaneously destroying everything they own.
The overall mechanics of the game want the player to feel like space is a living and rich environment in Rebel Galaxy, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. The variety of systems and races within Rebel Galaxy does an OK job of selling the player on the game’s strengths. And despite some issues with mechanics being too easy to exploit, the experience comes away as pleasing. A player can spend their time trading commodities, mining, or just blowing up everything in sight, and it’s all done well.
The visuals and soundtrack for Rebel Galaxy do a decent job of immersing the player. Creating and dissolving tension during combat situations with ease. The one major flaw is the vast emptiness of space. Various UI elements and their function aren’t very well explained, luckily their function becomes obvious after the first few combat engagements. There is a distinct lack of variety in some of the visual effects and individual environments. It’s still an impressive and varied universe, but eventually the player will see everything there is to see. Vast tracts of space start to run together after a time.
The monotony isn’t helped by the easily exploited AI. It’s sometimes just too easy to gain a positioning advantage over some slower moving ships and blast them into oblivion. The game is still challenging, but it does start to become too easy after enough time building up your ship. The mission variety also suffers from this flaw. After hours grinding out missions for ship upgrades, you tend to forget most of what you did in those missions.
Despite it’s flaws, which mostly apply to the late-game aspects of Rebel Galaxy, the overall experience is on that fans of the genre should enjoy. It’s easy to compare Rebel Galaxy to the likes of Freelancer, and I think it’s an apt comparison. The time spent mining, hunting bounties, and trading is enjoyable whether your aim is to be a space pirate or a trade magnate.