Not every post I make is going to take a hard stance on something. Sometimes it’s nice just to talk about the games I’ve been playing. I have the Press A to Listen podcast to do that, sure, but we don’t rehearse that (clearly) and sometimes I simply forget to talk about certain aspects a game. It’s not like a review where I can go back and edit, making sure I hit on all the important points, so I’ll post some things here on occasion to bring attention to particular games.
Today’s topic is Rebel Galaxy, a game set in space, and while it dabbles in a few different genres, it’s formally a “space flight sim”. It was first put on my radar during the podcast, when my cohosts talked about how much they enjoyed it at PAX South 2015. One described it as “space trucking,” which sounds … not fun. Thankfully I’ve had my hands on the Xbox One version of the game, releasing for $19.99
on January 13th TODAY in North America, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
It’s developed by Double Damage Games, a fitting name for a company consisting of only two people. Travis Baldree & Erich Schaefer have games like Diablo, Hellgate London, and Torchlight to their credit. Erich’s brother, Max, was on the podcast a few years back, so it seems game development is bred into them, and it shows. It’s easy to say that because I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve played every game I listed for hundreds of hours, so I obviously loved them, but I also understand that there’s a limit to what a two-man team can accomplish.
Coming from other space sims, most recently Starpoint Gemini 2, I was surprised that the game takes place on one axis, not the three that usually accompany these games. You’re only responsibility is to make your ship go forward, stop, or turn left and right. During combat, enemies will fly above or below you, but your weapons automatically compensate for that. It’s like when a 2D game, Shadow Complex for instance, goes “2.5D” and compensates on its own. There’s artificial depth added when you witness other ships operating in places you can’t, but it doesn’t interrupt your experience at all.
Now, I’m no developer, so I can’t say for certain that this next part is absolutely true, but I assume that removing the Y & Z axis from the game makes development easier. And when that part of the game is easier, it would logically allow other parts of the game to get more attention than they normally would. I say that because other parts of the game are so incredibly well done.
First, the audio. I’m not one to pine over video game soundtracks, despite a love for certain tracks from a small sampling of titles. I’m also a fan of what Tommy Tallarico does, but I wouldn’t put myself in the group of people who enjoy video game music. Often I turn it off completely. With Rebel Galaxy, I can’t help but fall in with the music from top to bottom. It adds to the ambiance of the wild west, something the game clearly wants to convey, but doesn’t lean on heavily or use as a crutch. It also simply rocks (Spotify playlist). It’s surprising how well the music works to create an atmosphere that you enjoy and that reflects the underlying tone of the game. It’s subtle and blatant at the same time.
I’m gushing, sorry, but the music is great.
The other surprising part is the voice acting. It’s important that you know the difference between “surprising” and “the best”. The voice acting is very well done, but won’t be winning many awards. What surprised me initially is that the character models are well detailed and have enough variety to make the galaxies feel inhabited by a multitude of beings, both human and alien. As you speak to the different characters, general tone and accents are noticeable — including some with a slight southern drawl to continue the wild west metaphor.
I always have realistic expectations for indie games put out by developers that have such a small team which is why I wanted to put my thoughts out regarding Rebel Galaxy. With games they’ve developed in the past, the guys of Double Damage could certainly expand the sequel to add some RPG elements and a random loot table in, but I’m not sure that’s the direction they want to go. I hope it is, because I’m a sucker for loot and ability trees, but then you’re looking at far more work and, most likely, a bigger team. Which means a price hike.
Rebel Galaxy has some elements that are simplified, but it doesn’t detract from the experience you’ll have. It’s priced perfectly at $19.99, but if it ever comes available as part of Games with Gold, I think it would get far more attention that it has. The game deserves some notoriety because if this is what we can expect from just two dudes, imagine what could be done with a full team and some mid-level funding.