You Can’t Take The Sky From Me: Rebel Galaxy Released

Blammo!

Speaking of Back to the Future, how about that future where we’re all living in shades of grey as space captains on the outskirts of space society? Sorry, today I’m in the unofficial competition with every other wordperson to link a story to BTTF Day in the most tenuous way we can.

That idea is real, though: it’s Rebel Galaxy [official site]. The space scoundrel ’em up launched last night, offering procedurally-generated cosmos to explore, trade in, and maybe – just maybe – double-cross, cheat, and destroy folks with broadside combat. I haven’t had a play yet myself but it looks a bit Freelancer-ish and Firefly-y, yeah?

Right! So there you are, in space, with a ship of your very own. What next? Heck, that’s up to you, friend. You can try to make a peaceful living simply trading or mining – though do watch for pirates. Perhaps you might prefer to go a bit shady and run missions for unsavoury folks. You might like to upgrade your ship or buy a bigger, fancier one. You could just declare war on everyone.

Though its graphics are in pretty 3D (I’m mostly swayed by that garish colour palette – give me unrealistic supercolour space, please!), it plays on a 2D plane like seaships. In combat, you’ll broadside folks and control gun turrets yourself and all that, which looks pretty fun. I know some demand their space be full 3D, but 2D looks a good fit for this sort of light-hearted scampery.

The game’s made by Double Damage Games, a studio founded by Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer. If their names are familiar, that’s probably because between them they’ve designed games including Diablo, Fate, and Torchlight.

Rebel Galaxy is out for about £13.50 for Windows and Mac from Steam and GOG. Steam player reviews are looking pretty good.

57 Comments

  1. Da5e says:

    I’m a wordperson and I hate Back T’ Future. I like space, though. Space is dead good.

    • Jay Load says:

      Yeah, I’m having a real backlash against BttF today as well. Does every person in the world have to tell me this is the day Marty and Doc arrive in the future?

      #grumpyhipster

  2. Dusty Bits says:

    I bought it yesterday, as I’ve been waiting for its release for a few months. My first impression is very positive, the combat is satisfying and the game includes all the usual gameplay elements you can find in other space games, trading, mining, generic missions, the space station’s bar, evil pirates and fake distress calls. The 2-dimensional movement seemed weird in videos, but very natural while playing.

    If you like Firefly-type sci-fi and Assassin’s Creed IV naval combat, you should enjoy Rebel Galaxy.

    • dontnormally says:

      > If you like Firefly-type sci-fi and Assassin’s Creed IV naval combat, you should enjoy Rebel Galaxy.

      That may be the highest praise I could think of.

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      sasayan says:

      That description might just be enough to push me off the fence and into a purchase.

      • Danarchist says:

        It really is worth the money. You know the good assassins creed, the one with the boats? It’s like the boat part of that without the sneaking around rubbish.

        It is a ton of fun at the moment, I imagine the fun well will dry up eventually, but for now im sitting at work tapping a foot waiting to go finish my campaign of space-terror

        • demicanadian says:

          You mean that terrible AC, that instead of real world took part in pirate theme park?

          “You need to travel to Tortuga, it’s 800 meters from here.”

          :)

    • silentdan says:

      I also picked it up yesterday, and while I only had a couple of hours last night to try it out, I’m pretty enamored so far. I don’t usually notice soundtracks much, but this one has the best music I’ve heard from a game since Cargo Commander. The sound of the warp engines spooling up merges with melodic power chords as you rocket off towards a space station of ill-repute beyond a tract of candy-colored nebulae … I mean, goddamn! More of that, please!

      The storyline missions quickly outpace this newb’s ability to upgrade the ship, so I’ve detoured through sidequestland, by way of the Merchant’s Guild. They’ll offer you some unique spacecraft and ship upgrades suitable for hauling goods, and I figure that’ll be handy whether I eventually turn pirate or not. It costs $10,000 just to join, so don’t make the trek until you’ve got enough cash to buy in. The Merchant Guild station is on the rim of the first sector, and there’s precious little to do there if you’re not a member. Once I earn some (relatively) easy coin from their missions, I’ll kit up and get back to the story.

      Early on, you’ll be offered a choice between a free deflector shield, and a free tractor beam. Take the shield. The TB is pretty cheap, and you’ll be able to afford one off the spoils of just one easy mission. The deflector (eats lots of damage, but disables your weapons while active) is arguably essential in all but the most trivial fights. No TB, and you might miss out on some free cargo. No DS, and you may die.

      Speaking of dying, it’s only happened to me twice, and both times, it’s just reloaded my last save. No cargo lost, no ship lost, no punishment, just a do-over. Pretty forgiving, but not overly so, in my opinion.

      Lastly, I recommend the medium range broadside cannons. At least in my current starter ship, I’m having a hard time leveraging any range advantage, due to the speedy enemy ships closing to midrange before I can even launch a third volley.

      • vecordae says:

        A good alternate load-out for your starter ship is to get a decent booster and equip both of your turrets with mining lasers. They chew up fighters and bombers one or two at a time and can take down pirate corvettes in just a few seconds. One can even take on the larger pirate command ships by keeping in their rear arc and letting your turrets beat down their shields. It’s pretty effective, though it requires aggressive use of your thrusters to keep within the laser’s relatively short range.

        Swarm missile turrets also offer a really good bang for your buck, but require constant ordnance upkeep costs and can run out of ammo in a protracted fight.

    • Scelous says:

      Why is everyone comparing Rebel Galaxy to Firefly? Does it have a Wild West theme? Is the game specifically focused on playing as outlaws?

      I am very confused as to why Rebel Galaxy is getting this comparison over other sci-fi games.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I haven’t played the game, but it might just be the use of twangy slide guitar music in the first part of the trailer, which seems like it’s intentionally leveraging Firefly nostalgia.

        Worked for me, anyway. I don’t know if the actual game follows that outlaw/trader theme, but it looks like it might.

      • silentdan says:

        I think the music is a huge part of that. It’s as though the devs put “evocative of the Firefly soundtrack” in the contract with the musical team. If you put some country-rock-type music on a space sim, Firefly will spring to mind, and at that point, you start looking for a reason *not* to compare it to Firefly. Finding few such reasons, the comparison seems apt.

      • Gaminggumper says:

        The music is part of the picture, but the general tone of the writing, and also the main point of the game follows Firefly as well. The dialog is generally witty, and folks are trying to cheat you most of the way. The crux of the game is basically about making your way through space (presumably to find your aunt) by any means you choose.

      • Foosnark says:

        A country-and-western theme in music and human NPC accents (one of the common freighter pilot types you’ll see even looks like a trucker) and a setting that evokes the edge of civilization with a “Militia” set against criminal/rebellious elements, and smuggling, and so forth.

        To me it feels like Star Wars scum and villainy, Firefly, and Sid Meier’s Pirates got mashed together in a space trading game.

  3. Barberetti says:

    Great Scott!

  4. Maxheadroom says:

    Can we have a Wot I think on this soon please? It looks nice enough but its been a long week and im feeling too lazy to form my own options right now

  5. Skeletor68 says:

    A WiT would be great. Anything with the name ‘Freelancer’ associated is good for me.

  6. EhexT says:

    It’s a really good game, with an amazing soundtrack and some extremely clever UI work. They actually thought things through when making the UI which means there’s tons of neat control touches (like being able to control the menus entirely with WASD and your speed up and speed down buttons so you don’t even have to switch hand positions).

  7. hollowroom says:

    I nearly bought this last night as it ticks almost all my boxes.

    Probably will now, I’m SO impressionable.

  8. KreissV says:

    Is no one bothered that this ‘space’ game lacks 3D movement? That is defeats the point of being in space? At least Gothic Armada allows the control of fleets and even that feels like a lousy Homeworld. Maybe I’m a purist but this looks like the ship battles of assassins creed.

    • geisler says:

      Yep i am, it’s the single reason i’m put off buying the game. Maybe in a few years when it’s on sale, i’m a sucker for anything space combat / RTS.

      • KreissV says:

        I absolutely loved that you could alter heights in Homeworld and it made your battlefield look fantastic. Space games have the advantage of the lack of gravity and free movement. I can’t imagine that 3D broadside cannons wouldn’t be a sight to see.

        This game feels…well call me an arse but a reskin of a game I could buy off an app store.

    • Jay Load says:

      Good god. If we were going to worry about that kind of thing then half the space games ever released just wouldn’t have been. 6 degrees of freedom is nice but it can be a bit overwhelming.

      My personal bugbear in space games is finding those that actually look like the stuff we see in NASA photos and not the clown-explosion-backdrops we normally get, but you choose your battles, eh?

      TL:DR – Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Could be awesome?

      • MrPete says:

        I admit I was put off by the no-3D-movement at the start. But the graphics looked SOO nice and it has broadsides and spaceships.
        …and man, do I love broadside-firing spaceships!
        OK, the 30min I was able to play yesterday already had me thinking “would be nice if I could at least roll my ship to keep those fighters in my sights” but hey: it’s ok for me when the little buggers are the only craft able to use the mysterious third dimension. They’re fragile enough to be disassembled by standard turrets and broadsides? Well, cannons half the size of fighters do tremendous damage to those small targets…
        Alas, the combat is visceral enough that you can’t just blunder in and dispense some swift frontier justice left and right. I tried that, blew me right apart. Maybe with better shields and cannons but not in the first 30min of the game.

        It seems to have a lot of potential and does readily tick the feel of Freelancer. Without a third dimension ;)

    • Zorn says:

      I’m even quiet happy about it. Living in 3 dimensions often already overstrains me. All those directions! ^_^

    • Zenicetus says:

      It bothers me a bit, but probably not enough to avoid trying the game soon. The price seems right for some lighthearted fun. The combat in some of the classic cockpit-level space games ended up being mostly fought in a 2D plane anyway, because the AI wasn’t very good, and mostly did horizontal turn-‘n-burn tail chases.

      The square-rigged sailing ship combat in Black Flag bothered me a LOT more. I’ve done enough real-life sailing to know how that works. I eventually got over it enough to enjoy the rest of the game, but it always made me giggle to see big square-riggers motoring around like that.

      I’d rather not see clown barf nebulas in space games too, but it seems necessary these days for selling space games to people who aren’t astronomy nerds like me. At least Elite:D got it mostly right, so not everyone does that.

      • KreissV says:

        When I was watching videos I was cringing at every effect. Cheesy looking red explosions and over saturation. Clown barf is a fitting term.

        Off topic a bit, but how’s Elite:D? Was planning to pick it up as my next game but I’ve heard it’s empty and bores quick. Also from all the videos I’ve seen of it, there seems to be an insane lack of anything in space e.g space traffic, capital ships,busy space stations. The universe looked quite lifeless.

    • silentdan says:

      This game doesn’t take itself too seriously. Combat-wise, the game is set up to mimic surface naval action, not simulate space travel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Newtonian fidelity in a space sim (Independence War 2, Elite: Dangerous, Kerbal Space Program) but this game is not that. It’s AC:Black Flag without the parts that happen on land, and also, it’s in “space.”

      • KreissV says:

        Aside from the lack of 3D movement it also looks incredibly shallow. I loved playing simulator games like mech warrior or any of the X games by egosoft.

        I don’t mean to hate the game itself but it looks like I should be inserting a few dollars into it everytime I die. From gameplay I’ve watched I can’t imagine spending over 5 hours of game time tops. Though I seem alone in this opinion.

        • silentdan says:

          Hey, if it’s not for you, that’s cool. I’m really into sims. Space, nautical, flight, infantry, you name it, I get the appeal of piloting/commanding a fragile, fallible, physically constrained craft/person through dangerous environments, I really do. I also like being Batman. This game is about the latter, not the former, and if it’s not your scene, just take a pass on this one.

    • spleendamage says:

      Two dimensions was good enough for Khan… until it wasn’t

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      Phasma Felis says:

      Any space game where combat happens within visual range and fighters maneuver like something from WWII is already about as realistic as, say, World of Warcraft is an accurate representation of medieval combat. Making it 2D doesn’t really make it noticeably worse.

      What’s interesting to me is that, if this game had 2D graphics and a fixed overhead camera, I doubt anyone would have mentioned the lack of 3D maneuvering. People don’t care about games being 3D, they only care if it looks 3D but isn’t.

      • Foosnark says:

        It’s not realistic, but nor is anything in the combat, the flight physics, the trade system, etc. It’s a game about cool, not realism.

        Fighters moving outside your plane isn’t really a big deal; that’s what turrets are for. And you’re almost always better off worrying more about broadsides and maneuvering than taking manual control of turrets, unless you’re mining.

        I was frustrated a bit more when I got my first mining laser and mounted it on a dorsal turret, only to find I couldn’t crack asteroids that were beneath my ship because of course I couldn’t roll. The solution was to mount a second mining laser and mount it ventrally; they are some of the better turret weapons anyway and will readily burn down anything I can survive getting close to.

  9. Zorn says:

    As the Firefly Online game sadly seems to be entering the realms of vaporware, I’m even more cheerful for space-y urges being cared for. Especially from a(part of)team I enjoyed previous games of different genres. :D

  10. mukuste says:

    I’m a bit sad that these spacey free-form games invariably go for the holy trinity of trading/mining/piracy. Isn’t it getting a bit old?

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Are you looking for other avenues in exploration, diplomacy or peace-keeping? Could be some other cool stuff do. It was always awesome finding those wormhole shortcuts in Freelancer.

      • Gaminggumper says:

        Actually, there is a little of both in this game. Nothing prevents you from wandering in given direction to find a station. Since its procedurally generated everyone’s version of “space” is different, including most of the missions.
        For the diplomat there are “factions” including the Militia, and various races, pirate organizations and merchant guilds that you can earn rep with. So little of everything.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Drox Operative and Last Federation both put a decent emphasis on diplomacy and scheming and have mechanics and AI that let you do a great deal of both. They’re also both a great deal of fun.

  11. Shadow says:

    This came completely out of the blue for me. I love Freelancer-type games. Might seriously check it out.

  12. YohnTheViking says:

    Saw a quick-look on this and it looked like Starpoint Gemini 2 with a higher arcade based combat focus and movement on a 2D-plane. Also slightly higher production values. If it’s also less grindy than SG2 was this could be rather good.

  13. geldonyetich says:

    I snapped this up last night. Rebel Galaxy is quite a good play, although I have to say that it’s a bit simpler than I expected. Not a complicated starship simulator, more arcady in practice, no wonder the developers recommend playing it on a gamepad (although I did mouse and keyboard just fine). Given that there’s quite a bit of ship hulls one can earn over time, it looks like it will last for quite some time.

  14. Distortion says:

    I’m happier with Rebel Galaxy than I was with Starpoint Gemini 2, as much as I loved that game. It so far seems less grindy, but that could change as I go further if the missions don’t stay fresh and challenging. I’m also enjoying the movement in this game more.

    I don’t find the 2d issue to be a detriment. I think the idea of broadsides really help, as usually in a space game it’s a matter of circling constantly around your targets to get a bead on them before they do on you. It makes me dizzy. With this, I find myself strafing the other capital ships in long sweeping movements. Maybe I am just a sucker for the naval combat feel. It seems more visually impressive.

    As far as the fighters and gunships getting to move up and down…well that’s why all the ships have turrets. They chew through those guys, especially if you have a particle beam or a mining laser. The lower range on the beams is less important since those guys get in close. I have noticed though that your broadsides will track up and down while you’re using precision aiming. So there’s no real reason for me to roll.

  15. Chaoslord AJ says:

    #1 top seller now? Maybe I missed something…

  16. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    I’ve played a few hours now, loving every second of it. This came out of nowhere for me too and blasted me with a broadside of fun! Wheeee!

    I can also confirm it works great with the Steam controller, no niggles or time consuming configuration needed.

  17. andyhavens says:

    After about an hour, I’m quite pleased. I’m playing with an Xbox controller (which I didn’t think I’d ever do for something this complex), and they do a VERY good job with the UI/UX in terms of presenting the appropriate choices based on the situation. Fly in one direction at top speed for a bit? We think maybe you’d like to go FTL, so just press “A” if that’s the case. Get near the thing you’re aiming at? We’ll drop you out of lightspeed automatically. Fly near the base? Press “A” to dock. Thank you, in a future with light-speed travel and energy shields, for not making me spend minutes fiddling with a manual landing. It’s also got a neat mechanic whereby you switch from broadside combat (which you want to line up as much as possible, as it does so much more damage) to turret-based when trying to finish off pesky smaller craft. It does take some doing… I’m having to restart almost every battle at least once. You have to do some maneuvering, plan your defense timing, etc. Feels very tactical/tactile which is fun. And the ships you drive feel BIG compared to fighters, which is a great change. In some of these, a capital ship is basically a fighter with a glandular disorder. These do feel like naval ships… but they blow stuff up in space with lasers, so… Yay! Haven’t done any mining/trading yet. We’ll see how that goes. Art style, music, dialogue all solid.

  18. vecordae says:

    Bought it. It’s a grand old time.

    Your ship has a variety of weapon slots, which means you can try out different approaches to combat to see what works best for you. Turrets auto-fire (or you can manually take them over) according to the targeting priority you set up for them. Broadside weapons are generally powerful, but scatter wildly unless you take the time to aim them. Missiles are powerful, but limited in supply and can’t be aimed. There are optional secondary broadside weapons you can snag. You even have an “Oh crap” shield you can bring up to absorb a nasty round of incoming fire.

    It’s faster-paced than the phrase “capital ship combat” might imply, but there’s room for tactics to make a big impact on how it plays out. Your starting ship, with the right set up, can take down much more powerful ships by keeping out of the firing arcs of their broadsides. Careful use of your boosters can push you clear of a nasty fight or help you catch up to an enemy with longer-range weapons.

    Also, mining lasers? Absolutely brutal.

  19. Zenicetus says:

    How well does it work if you use keyboard & mouse, with no gamepad available? Does the combat still work well enough?

    • silentdan says:

      My gamepad’s busted, and I’m holding out for a Steam controller, so I’ve got a few more controller-less weeks ahead of me. While it works just great with M/K, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’d be 5-10% more effective with a gamepad. I get a similar impression from the Arkham games, but I still Bat-whoop a squad of goons with grace and style, so I’m not sweating it.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Thanks! My finger is edging closer to the buy button.

        And yeah, I’m the same with the Arkham games. I can manage all that Bat-biffing and dodging just fine with m&k, but I know I’m probably not playing with perfect efficiency. I just have too much other controller stuff (flight sim gear) crammed into my USB slots to mess with adding a gamepad too.

        • silentdan says:

          I know how you feel. I have TrackIR, an X52, and some rudder pedals plugged into a USB hub which has a plastic “disconnect” toggle on the side. I flip that toggle, and all the FS hardware goes dark. If you spot a cheap USB hub with an off switch, I recommend picking it up.

    • Foosnark says:

      I’ve tried it with keyboard/mouse and with Steam Controller; I decided I prefer keyboard/mouse for the most part. I aim better with a mouse, and if you fix some of the more awkward controller bindings you tend to wind up breaking things like the map.

      The default key bindings as well as the menu system are a bit unconventional, but not horrible.

  20. Erithtotl says:

    Do the ships have different components that can be damaged and destroyed? Do you have to deal with damage control? Are their any maneuvers that you can do to give yourself a tactical advantage (like crossing the T in naval combat)? Or it just lobbing broadside volleys into a blob of hit points?

    • silentdan says:

      Yes, different ship components can receive different amounts of damage. I’m not sure how much location factors in, but I’ve shown up at a starbase with 23% damage to engines, and 7% damage to upper turret control. I’ve also seen a dozen different components damaged at the 1-3% level. You can buy a repair bot (super-expensive when just starting out) but there’s no FTL-style “put out the fire in the transporter room and then repair the engines.”

      Crossing the T works, but is not as effective as in real-life naval engagements, du to turreted point defenses and shields, which complicate the equation. You’re probably better off maneuvering to drop the shields on one side, so you can punch through the hull, but keeping yourself out of the enemy’s broadside arc will still help you a lot.

  21. bee says:

    This is the space fighter game I’ve been waiting for. It’s the one that most reminds me of Freelancer. I’m loving it. I didn’t realize this was the game that Baldree & Schaefer were making. They make me happy.

  22. DinoSteak says:

    I’m having a blast with it as well. Very well done game, I’m about 5 hours in and I am starting to scratch out some lack of depth at this point, but the randomized encounters and the fantastic soundtrack keep me coming back.

    I haven’t really touched the story much, only a few missions in, so we’ll see what else it has to offer besides mining asteroids and the encounters.

  23. racccoon says:

    Its looks good with some of the animations, but it also doesn’t seem to have much in there.
    Honestly, my next space game is No Mans Sky, so I am happy with Empyrion at the moment.