Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rebel Galaxy (Xbox One) Review

Rebel Galaxy has headed to home consoles after its recent PC release.  The game gives you a bit of story, then quickly drops you into the action.  There is a little explanation of what to do, but not much.  The game mostly leaves you to your own devices.

I'm ok with a game not holding your hand, but I'd like some information available in the game.  Over and under tutorializing are a frequent problem in games, and Rebel Galaxy is the latter.  The basic buttons are displayed fine on the screen, but figuring out navigation, mining and other things is trial and error.  It has a very old school mentality in that regard.

The best part of the game is just how much freedom they give you.  There is a story, but you don't really have to follow it.  You can run around and fight pirates, get bounty money and do side missions.  If you are more peaceful-minded (or greedy), go mining or become a trader, buying low and selling high.  Want to run afoul of the law?  Then do missions for the pirates and attack traders.  The game does a great job of letting you earn money for upgrades in as many or few ways as you want.

At first, I didn't realize that was the point of the game.  I was trying to do the story missions, and they quickly shot up in difficulty.  I was supposed to do extra stuff to make money, and slowly upgrade my ship and weapons and tackle the story missions as I did so.  It's fine for the game to do that, I just wish I had known earlier.  While you can do many things to earn money, you will likely be doing several of them to get ahead faster.  The side missions are randomized and repeatable, so there is no way to run out.  Plus each station has several each time you visit.  In fact, each new game randomizes the galaxy names and layouts.  It's nice that each player will have a lot of unique experiences while playing, or replaying, the game.

While traveling from station to station and job to job, you will be watching your ship fly.  A lot.  It's not the most interesting thing, but you do have to pay attention.  Fights can come at almost any point, so you should be ready for combat.  The bigger threat of not paying attention is flying too close to a planet or moon, and dying.  There are things to discover floating around, so there is stuff out there.  The game almost feels too realistic, since most times you are driving/flying somewhere, there isn't too much interesting going on, and the kind of interesting you would encounter is not the kind you want to encounter.

Combat is an important part of the game, since no matter what you will be involved in some fisticuffs.  Even if you are an item runner, you will need to know some fighting to know how to get the heck out of there when trouble comes knocking.  Though it is a vital part of the game, there is little instruction on it, as mentioned in part earlier.  Each ship is outfitted with a broadside weapon.  The number of shots of each (and hence its damage) is determined by the number of ports the ship has.  The same applies to the secondary weapons, although these are sometimes less direct weapons.  You can aim turrets manually, but I only really needed that for mining.  Otherwise, they shoot fine on their own.

There is a flak cannon you can equip to deal with enemy missiles, and deal with them you will.  I didn't realize that you have to fire them yourself, so I thought they were useless.  Turns out I didn't see that there is a button for them, so they are not actually useless.  Unfortunately, they are only useful if you aren't going too fast and try to vaguely aim them at the missiles, but they do work.  You do need some way to deal with enemy artillery, since as the game progresses, large enemy ship have a ton of missiles and torpedoes that they will not hesitate to shoot at you.  A lot.

Fights can vary in difficulty pretty wildly.  Since there are no levels of enemies, it can be hard to tell if you are capable of taking out some foes until midway through the fight.  Even if a job is labelled as easier doesn't necessarily mean it is.  Once you go through a few systems, the fights become much harder.  Enemies are numerous and outfitted with arms that eat through your shields and hull.  While you can hire a mercenary, two ships versus ten requires more power or good tactics.  Unless you are really good at destroying enemies, you will likely have to run a lot of jobs to build up money to go and buy better weapons and armor to withstand each new area.

As our moon has its dark side, and there are things I don't like in Rebel Galaxy.  More than there should be.  First off, you can't resize the screen, so the edges are cut off on my TV.  Second, the game starts off pretty loud, and I'm really not a fan of the music choices.  It isn't terrible, but it's some space western-y tunes that remind me of Firefly.  I can and do turn down the music and turn off the vibration, but it has to wait until I actually load up my game to do so.  Plus, with the vibration set to 0%, I have to go in again and change it up then back to get it to recognize that it is supposed to be off any time I boot up the game.  They might be minor, but they do get annoying.

There are still a few other problems I have with the game.  The game saves whenever you leave a station.  It only tells you this if you haven't saved in a while.  There is no on-screen indicator to know that you are saving or have saved.  While you can have multiple games, each has its own solitary save file.  That I can deal with, even if I don't like it.  The freedom the game gives has its downside too.  If you aren't committed to choosing a path or pushing yourself to do things, the game can be very aimless, like all open world/sandbox games.  While the problems aren't a huge deal, they are mostly ones that could easily be fixed.  Again, these problems may be bigger or smaller to you based off your own gaming preferences.

Rebel Galaxy can be very fun.  It might look and sound boring, since between fights there is a lot of flying through space and just staring at the screen.  When you actually play it, it is oddly engaging and easy to get caught up in.  It's one of those games you can sit down and start playing, then look up at the clock and realize you've been playing it for hours.  There are a fair amount of small issues that add up to make Rebel Galaxy good instead of great.  If the game sounds or looks at all interesting to you, definitely try it out for a few hours.

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