Score: 9.5/10 | SPACE FLIGHT SIM | DIVERSE MISSIONS | GREAT CUSTOMISATION
“Rebel Galaxy Outlaw hits all the nostalgic feels of Wing Commander Privateer whilst creating it’s own wild ride in a wonderful universe to freely explore.”
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a space flight simulator developed and published by Double Damage Games and released on the Epic Games Store on August 13, 2019. It’s set to release on Steam in 12 months time and there will be future releases on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a prequel to 2015’s original Rebel Galaxy. When I played the original game, I loved the space cowboy feel with stunning space scenes, a great soundtrack, travelling between planets completing quests and trading goods. I was very excited to get stuck into Rebel Galaxy Outlaw.
The ship combat of the original was limited to capital ships only and you couldn’t fly up or down, just controlling weapons and turrets. To move around felt really slow and clunky, and I sometimes got overwhelmed if there were lots of small fighters around me. I wished I could play as one of those small fighters as opposed to these big hulking freighters. It had been over a decade since a decent space flight sim had been released. My favourites in the genre are Wing Commander Privateer and the Star Wars sims of X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing versus Tie Fighter and X-Wing Alliance and I loved using my Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro 2 joystick.
2000’s Freelancer was a fantastic game but I couldn’t use my trusty joystick, only mouse and keyboard. 2006 saw Dark Star One that had a similar plot to Privateer but it didn’t hold my attention too long. There was an ambitious game called Jumpgate Evolution that was hyped to be a massively multiplayer space flight sim to release in 2009. It looked amazing, however development was ultimately cancelled. We had a long drought for years until 2014’s Elite Dangerous but this was almost too real a simulator to enjoy (I crashed way too many times trying to land in the hangars). Rebel Galaxy left me longing for that old school style of space flight sim gameplay. Having now played Rebel Galaxy Outlaw the past week thanks to the legends at Double Damage, it ticks all those 90’s and early 00’s space flight sim nostalgia boxes for me, plus has some extra outstanding features that have me hooked on this game! It’s fast becoming my game of the year to date.
Your first decision in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is to choose your playstyle. There is Normal, Veteran, Sim and Old School settings. Normal difficulty gives you a decent radar, afterburners and heat seeking missiles. Veteran, which I chose, doesn’t give you any of that. You will need to earn money to get the tractor beam, afterburners and missiles. Both these options give you third person view or cockpit view. Being a veteran of space flight sims, inside the cockpit is my preferred view. At first it feels restrictive but there are many instrument panels that give you essential information such as power ratios, weapon and shield indicators. You get used to the field of view quickly and you can also buy postcards and figurines for your cockpit dashboard which is a cool touch. Sim and old school settings keep you locked into the cockpit with sim having aim assist turned off, and old school is for the complete twitch-flying experience with both aim assist and auto pursuit turned off. I’ll be choosing one of those on my next playthrough.
The cartoon-based introduction sequence gives us background into the main protagonist, Juno Markev. An outlaw and a smuggler in her previous life until her husband was murdered on a simple shipping run. She’s hot on the trail of the murderer however things turn south and she crashes her ship on Lubbock. Juno then finds herself in debt to an old friend Orzo who owns a casino in Nevada and gives her a ship called the Platypus. As soon as I saw the profile shot of the ship, I thought back to the first time we saw the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars – the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. For those paying attention, this is Aunty Juno from the original Rebel Galaxy.
From here you are introduced to the first of many colourful characters, Richter who gives you your first story mission from an outpost called Nacogdoches. It’s a milk run so easy to do, and before you launch it is worth looking in the mission terminal for other low risk missions such as in-system cargo runs. This will give you a steady stream of low risk credits to get you up and running. I recommend not progressing the main story too early so you can build up your credits to get some decent upgrades to power, weapons, shields, jump drive, radar and more. There is a good feel of progression in all the various components and you are starting to map out your next moves as you build up credits for your next ship.
At each station/outpost/planet you land on, there will be a bar. Talking to the bartender can give you some notes in your datapad of locations to scan as well as notes on current rumours, in-system bounties and any commodities that might be selling cheaply. In the bars you will find story characters and you can also play a number of games to make some extra credits on the side. These games vary from Dice Poker (reminds me of the dice game in the Witcher), 8-Ball pool, Slots and a cool arcade game called Starvenger. These are great to break up the combat game but also can sometimes net you a handy reward. Here’s a hot tip – before you buy your first weapon, play 8-Ball on Nacogdoches and you can score yourself a Tracer.
Once you’re in your cockpit free flying around space, this is where I feel most at home. I love the lens flares from the sun, scanning the system for friends and allies, how your cockpit windscreen cracks under damage, to Juno shaking her fist and hurling verbal blows at the enemy when they land a heavy hit. Flying feels amazing, even with keyboard and mouse. I did have to drop the sensitivity of the mouse controls and invert the y-axis (I’m old school ok!) and the sounds were very loud, even after adjusting the volume down to lower levels. When travelling through space, you have two options to traverse between distant waypoints – autopilot or subspace. Autopilot shows a quick cutscene as your ship flies past, and subspace shows a pseudo hyperspace visual that allows you to cross the vast distance quickly but in more real time. Your travel can be interrupted either by a distress beacon (be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing!) or if a ship or large asteroid gets in your way during subspace.
Auto pursuit allows you to lock on an enemy and then holding the right mouse button allows you to keep your target on screen and in your sights (it’s definitely not ez-mode though!). As written on the Rebel Galaxy Outlaw website, “Spend your time fine tuning your weapons lead and dodging wreckage, not spinning in circles like an idiot.” Upgrading your radar also helps you to discern friend from foe by colouring targets (red for enemy, blue for friendlies). Seeing the first enemy ship explode is cool, but being amongst the thick and gritty combat with huge frigates was amazingly cool. I had the biggest grin on my face as laser beams shot past me, explosions rocked the ship (and my ears) and seeing the big frigates explode in my face was just incredible. This is the game I have been longing for!
Eventually I purchased my first new ship, the Sandora and worked towards even bigger upgrades. After 20 hours of gameplay so far, I reckon I’ve barely explored a third of the galaxy. This game is huge and can be played as fast or slow paced as you like, and that’s one of the big draw cards for me. It’s never on rails and you can do what you want, how you want and when you want. To add more options to your log, you can join the Mercenaries or Merchants guilds and do missions for them which will provide ore lucrative rewards. Later on you can own your own station which opens up more ship options to purchase. Once I finish my squeaky clean playthrough I’ll definitely be going back and playing the way of the smuggler!
What adds the cherry on the top is the 7 different radio stations with over 21 hours of various genres of music, and the ship painting tool. Oh man, you can spend hours just toying with the look of your ship, and even better is you can import images to paste onto your ship. Being a fan of the 2006 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, I’m going to import some textures so I can add my pilot name beneath the cockpit window, with the Commander rank of course, and some ship kill icons to show how much of an ace fighter I am. You can really let your creative juices flow here with each ship you purchase and if you’re handy with Photoshop then these tools will be a breeze, though not too difficult to learn if you’re new to design.
Outside of all the above, you can side with the Commonwealth or do missions for the Pirate Faction, mine asteroids for resources, invest in a secret stash and do smuggling runs, call in the help of buddies to fight alongside you for a short time, right down to trading commodities for profit between stations/systems. This is the true space cowboy flight sim experience I’ve been longing for. My only gripes in these early days is the sound/music is loud, even when turning it down. The inside cockpit views can feel restrictive early on but they do give you a lot of essential information. Later ships have better cockpit designs so hang in there. Here’s an awesome hints/tip video from the developers to start you epic journey.
Overall I gave the game a 9.5/10. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a fantastic space flight sim that hits all the nostalgic feels of Wing Commander Privateer whilst creating it’s own wild ride in a wonderful universe to freely explore. This game has got it all from smuggling runs, epic space battles with frigates and plenty of ships and upgrades to save for, to an outstanding ship painting system that allows players to use their full imagination to live out their space sheriff/outlaw fantasies.
This review utilised a game code provided by the publisher. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is available now on the Epic Games Store for US$29.99.