Rebel Galaxy Hands-on Preview: A Pax South Gem
PAX South was relatively devoid of AAA developers and publishers, but one Indie studio in particular could’ve tricked you into thinking its game was being developed by hundreds of individuals, when in fact its the brainchild of just two very talented men. Yes, two, as in the number that comes after one.
Meet Rebel Galaxy, an open-world spaceship adventure that has hints of Firefly, Han Solo’s roguish behavior, and even a little Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag courtesy of its ship to ship battles that play out in the deep reaches of a vibrantly colored galaxy.
At its core Rebel Galaxy is an open-world exploration title where the main character is essentially your spaceship. You do play as a spacefaring individual, but all combat, upgrades, and missions are relegated to your chosen ship. The only gameplay aspects that don’t directly involve your ship take place on the various space stations that litter each star system you can visit. While on a space station you can hit up the bar to talk to interesting characters that may have missions for you, lock in new side missions, or outfit your ship with upgrades, but you never physically control a humanoid character like you would in a game such as Mass Effect. Again, you ARE the spaceship, your character is more or less a series of menus that allow you to advanced the plot and pimp out your ride.
That’s not to say that the off-ship events are useless and devoid of any character, it’s the opposite really. Encounters with NPCs are colorful in both the dialogue and designs of the characters. Each conversation you have presents a series of dialogue options with the choices following some form of karma system, so you can choose to be a dick, or you can choose to be a hero, or you could just be somewhere in the middle. Depending on these choices you can directly affect how you are viewed, as well as how missions play out. If you go swashbuckling rogue style you may opt to steal someone’s money they gave you to do a mission, or you could be a babyface and tell them to keep the cash because you’re just an overall swell spaceship pilot. The choices are up to you, so these off-ship gameplay moments are also very key to Rebel Galaxy’s structure, and also play into the game’s three factions (Pirates, Locals, Aliens), which you can buddy up with, or become the bane of their existence.
Chilling on a space station while grabbing new missions and outfitting your ship is fun, but the true highlight of Rebel Galaxy’s gameplay is cruising around in your ship while you explore star systems and carry out missions. Unlike other flight-based games Rebel Galaxy maintains a 2D plane in a 3D game world, which removes the sometimes cumbersome flight controls that accompany these types of titles. Basically, you don’t have to worry about pitch, so there’s no need to dive and climb during space battles, which for someone like me is a blessing. Far too often in flight-based games dogfights turn into a never ending spin cycle as you try to chase enemy fighters in all directions, but in Rebel Galaxy you only have to worry about your yaw, or right and left turning maneuvers.
This allows you to completely focus on the objectives and not have to worry about which way is up, and which way is down. As a result combat feels very similar to the ship-to-ship battles featured in AC 4: Black Flag. You can methodically maneuver around your target to lay waste to it with your ship’s broadside cannons, which control very similarly too a FPS game. In addition to your big guns each ship also has a turret, which will fire automatically unless you want to take it over, and if you do, the shooting mechanic feels even closer to a FPS than the broadside cannon gameplay.
Each star system you can visit is massive, and what you see on the screen can be travelled to, just like what The Witcher 3 and the New Zelda for Wii U have been teasing. To get around there’s a handy warp system that will kick in automatically after you’ve been traveling in a certain direction for a period of time after holding the A button. The warp will disengage before you reach your destination, so you don’t have to worry about zipping past mission locations, or crashing into a space station’s docking bay, so you Lando types will never lose your communications dish.
Visually, Rebel Galaxy is stunning running in the custom Ogre 3D engine that the team built, and when you see the level of quality you’ll question how two people were able to create such a refined looking title. This isn’t your typical Indie game, so don’t expect to find charming looking pixel art. The environments and characters are fully 3D, and look very similar to today’s AAA titles. The alien characters have unique designs and dialects, both colorful if you catch my drift. The most impressive environment is space itself with planets and vibrantly hued nebulas fleshing out the star speckled ether, turning it into a painting of sorts.
Rebel Galaxy is a testament to the Indie movement, not only because it’s the byproduct of just two individuals, but because it’s a passion project that shines thanks to the team behind it finally making a game they want to make, and not a mega-franchise that the corporate suits want to shove down their throats. Visually it’s stunning, both in its environments and its NPCs. The gameplay is simple to master and encourages exploration and mission finding, and with the factions and dialogue choices each player can craft a tale specific to their play style and attitude. The game is set to release sometime in 2015 for PC, Mac, Xbox One, and the PS4, so keep your finger on the pulse of Rebel Galaxy because it’s an Indie title you don’t want to miss.
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