Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is the second release from studio Double Damage Games. Following 2015’s Rebel Galaxy, this latest entry continues with the spirit of the Wild West, where bounty hunters compete in a solar system filled with corrupt cops, space pirates, and evangelical fanatics. This dangerous space is occupied by an ever-flowing economy and a seedy underbelly. Everyone from merchants to loosely organized outlaws attempt to keep alive and stay sane. All in all, there’s no better place to thrive for a space pilot with slick skills.
The combat in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is noticeably different than the previous entry. With its complex control scheme and grindy nature, this title will appeal to gamers who enjoy a good challenge and who consider themselves to be patient behind a space-flight control panel.
Note: Have a look at our technical review, where we cover recommended PC specs, controls, graphical comparisons, and graphics settings.
A tale of loss, a tale of vengeance
The player takes on the role of Juno, a chick who’s tough as nails and takes no bullshit. Since she’s recently lost someone very dear to her, her only option is to exact revenge. To add insult to injury, she loses her spacecraft and she’s massively pissed about it.
So Juno turns to Orzu, a mild-tempered alien and one of the few people in the galaxy she can trust. He tells Juno that he has a ship in storage somewhere and it’s hers if she wants it. Of course, the ship is a slow-moving pile of space trash. It has neither weapons nor defense. (Although, depending on the difficulty the player chooses, the ship may have weapons and defense at the start.)
This is how the player begins the game, from the ground up with nothing but a clunker of a spaceship. That’s when you meet Richter, a sly weapons dealer who’s got some beef with his brother. He wants to rip off his own business, and he employs Juno to help him.
The jump to 3D combat
Players who are familiar with the first game will immediately notice the change in combat. The first game featured space flight that occurred only on a single plane. That is, you could only steer your craft left and right. The ships were large in size, and the weapons were fitted around the ship accordingly. This meant that all of the combat took place broadside. So in order to take out an enemy, you would employ a finely balanced mixture of moving forward, braking, and firing from the side of your ship. It was not unlike firing cannons from the side of a naval vessel.
With Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, Double Damage ditched the broadside combat and opted for an entirely 3D flight mashup. Similar to the style of classic PC games like Tie Fighter and Wing Commander, or even more recent games such as Elite Dangerous and Everspace, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw puts the player in the cockpit of their spacecraft, offering a truly immersive 3D flight game.
Players will have the option of first- or third-person, but only on “normal” and “veteran” difficulties. For the “old school” and “simulation” difficulties, there is no third-person option. Players who wish to take advantage of the “auto-pursuit” feature, which automatically chases the enemy for you, will have to choose either “normal” or “veteran.” For more information about this, the developer released a video for beginner players.
Upgrades and the galactic grind
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a true role-playing experience. This shows most prominently in the variety of upgrades available for your ship. You have a bunch of weapons and launchers, different radar types, shields, armor, turrets, ECM countermeasures to ward off enemy missiles, and more. There’s even a helpful repair robot for you to buy.
After upgrading my ship with some sparkly new guns, I made it a personal challenge to get to the end of the game without buying a new ship. Quickly, I learned that that wasn’t possible. Even when I thought I purchased enough upgrades, I soon found myself outclassed by other enemies. The nice thing is that, while the enemies become more difficult, the missions also offer more cash along the way. Also, when you buy a new ship, all of your gear carries over to the next ship.
Even upon purchasing a new spacecraft, my time feeling overpowered didn’t last long. Quickly I realized that my hardpoints weren’t strong enough, and it was time to look into buying a new ECM package to better evade enemy missiles. I also found that about midway through the game I needed a new shield, even though I had already upgraded it once before.
For those of you who enjoy pain, you’re in luck. At one point when I loaded up my save file, I found that two of the weapons I had last purchased were completely missing. At first I though this was a bug. As it turns out, the game features a perma-destruction mechanic. If you take on too much damage while engaged in combat, then some of your ship’s parts will be permanently destroyed. Flying through “risky” jump gates will also result in damage to your ship’s parts. So don’t get too comfortable with your ship setup. After fighting enough battles, eventually you’ll need to purchase new parts.
Welcome the friendly AI
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw contains two gameplay elements that I’m always fond of. The first is friendly AI. There’s something so satisfying about having an in-game companion controlled by the computer. And I’ll happily admit that I find it heartwarming to have a computer-controlled character assisting me in combat, especially when said combat involves being blasted by evangelists who believe that God hath bestowed upon them the holy right to cleanse the galaxy of all sinners.
The second, although subtle, is the mixture of pausing with real-time combat. Take Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as an example. There is something similar going on in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw with the command menu, although admittedly it is far simpler that the aforementioned Star Wars game. In Outlaw, the command menu is your best friend. Combat requires a finely balanced mixture of scanning, pausing, locking onto the enemy, and re-entering the real-time combat in order to destroy them. I’m a big fan of this system. The fact that the game forces you to pause in order to lock onto the next enemy is, in my opinion, good. It forces you to step outside of the chaos of battle, if only for a brief moment, and reevaluate your strategy.
Once I got faster at locking on, I would launch a swarm of missiles at smaller ships such as the “Jackrabbit” and pause to lock on to the next enemy before my first missiles even hit. It became a fast and woefully addicting way to wipe pirates off the map.
With that said, I hope the developer takes the command menu and expands upon it in the future. Imagine, then, if the next installment in this series allowed both the 3D flight combat of Outlaw mixed with the broadside combat of the first game, all the while having the player employ the command menu to choose targets with which to fire at.
The flying in Outlaw is smooth, the command menu is a unique way to integrate locking onto enemies, and the game is brimming with style from every edge. Pirates, after all, love to engage in a little bit of shit-talking. It’s immensely satisfying to lay waste to some of outer space’s roughnecks, especially when they throw a bit of verbal vitriol in your direction. The best part of all? The game gives you the option to talk your way out of a fight. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Pity the fool pirate who then refuses to accept your offer for peace and finds himself floating into the void of space debris.
Just one more bounty
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw also shows its role-playing elements in how you can take on jobs. Much like in the first game, you can pick up missions that range from anything between assisting pirates in delivering illegal cargo to assisting merchants who might be getting attacked by radicals. As you progress, your alignment will change depending on whom you enter into missions with. So if you piss off the pirates enough, they’ll always attack you when they see you. The flip side is also true. If you go against the police forces enough, they’ll always come after you.
Newcomers to the series should note that there is no exiting your ship and walking around the different space stations. After landing your ship, all of the communication you have with NPCs takes place via the menu screen.
Aside from taking on jobs to make cash, the game has a variety of side-games. There are billiards and gambling games where you can bet your money. The various space stations also allow you to pick up tips from bartenders. Furthermore, there is an in-game economy that is ever changing. When you visit different space stations, the menu offers a “commodities” tab. Here, you can sell off goods that you might have found from destroyed enemy ships. You can also buy goods and re-sell them as the market changes.
Soy paste or steel, for example, might be dropping in value in one end of the galaxy. If you hear a tip from the local bartender that the value of diamonds is skyrocketing, then you’ll need to buy some and sell them quickly. The catch is that you must remember what space colonies specialize in certain goods, so you can return to that area and buy those goods when the market is hot in another area.
Finally, there is a highly detailed paint editor that allows a lot of customization for your ship. Along with this comes a photo mode and a video capture mode. The inside of your cockpit features a variety of different radio stations, which blare a collection of fully licensed songs to fit the Americana style that the game offers, boasting upwards of nearly 24 hours of licensed music. You can even add your own custom soundtrack via MP3 files from your PC.
Fans of this series might throw some hate my way, but I played almost the entire game with the music off. Yes, I realize that the studio put forth money to license actual songs, but for whatever reason, I was unable to get fully immersed into the game with the music playing. Something about the hum and thrum of the engines helped transport me to that outer space world.
Minor snags in space
The map and waypoint system was confusing at first, but eventually I grew accustomed to it. At times, I found myself in the middle of a sidequest, scanning around for nearby enemies. Often, I would think I found them, only to discover I was looking at a waypoint for another sidequest that was clear across the star system. This made for some frustrating moments early on in my playthrough.
It would have been convenient if waypoints only dealt with the immediate combat area. Upon finishing a sidequest would be the ideal time for waypoints across the galaxy to be visible again. Since all of the traveling takes place via hyperdrive, this makes it even more senseless to have waypoints visible that aren’t even in the direct flight range of the spacecraft. With that said, the command menu is the player’s best friend. Locking onto enemies from there and focusing on one at a time is key to success.
I think the most unusual hurdle I encountered was the key-mapping. For some reason, the game comes with key controls that are automatically unmapped by default. I’m not entirely sure why that is. My best guess is that they’re there only for additional extra control options. Despite the fact that the developer recommends using a gamepad, I spent my entire playthrough using the keyboard and mouse.
Hindsight in space flight
I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I spent in my spacecraft, but one particular moment stands out to me. I had just completed a side job where I was tasked with scanning some pirate satellites. While scanning the last of three satellites, I had to take out a few pesky baddies. At the end of this, I cut my engines off and floated in space for a moment. In my view was the pirates’ satellite, and floating all around was just a bunch of space debris.
I sat for a second and listened to the sound of my idle engines. In doing so, I felt a sense of calm for a moment. Such a thing can only come from playing a game that puts you into the deep reaches of space. The game is full of little opportunities like this to become truly lost in that deep-space world. Overall, this is one of the things that made the grind worth it.