The idea of commonplace work culture in space in the far flung future has always appealed to me more than the more fantasy-oriented tales that the likes of Star Wars are used to telling. The original Alien film in particular captured my imagination when I was little, as I drew to its fiction an idea of how trading or transportation of goods would work when the rest of civilization might be busy waging intergalactic wars or something.
In games, you could say that some of Chris Roberts’ creations have caught my eye over the years, but you’d be surprised to know that I’m not talking about Wing Commander, the multi game pet project. No, the one that really stuck with me was 2003’s Freelancer, published by Microsoft. In it, I could be just a normal cargo hauler, or go out of my way to hunt some bounties if I was ever strapped for cash. It was one heck of a game and to this day I’ve yearned to find another like it, and Double Damage Games’ Rebel Galaxy Outlaw certainly comes close.
As down on her luck merc pilot Juno Markev, you’re left stranded on an asteroid station after your ship is shot down by the very man who killed your husband, a tough-as-nails outlaw only known as Ruth. You know, short for Ruthless, and not the lady behind Barbie. Good for you that you’re able to call in some favors and score a dinky ship of your own because there’s revenge to be enacted, but not before you have some firepower behind you — can’t imagine a space vessel nicknamed Platypus striking fear in the hearts of any space badass if you ask me.
If you’re familiar with older space sims like Freelancer or even Darkstar One, you’ll know the gist of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw basic gameplay loop. There’s a big ol’ map you can explore, but not before you’re equipped with the necessary ship upgrades, and in order to get to do that, you need credits. You come by those by doing all manner of odd jobs around, whether they’re posted up on message boards around space stations you drop by, or by the mere chance you can drop some bills on some bartender for a bit of info.
There’re also a few activities you can do in order to garner favor with the guilds, like the merchants and even mercenary groups. This is the part where Rebel Galaxy Outlaw really shines because it gives you lots of options to choose from as to how you can procure cash. Say you prefer to haul cargo about instead of painting the opposition with your laser turrets; you could do that just fine and get about meeting your story scenario objectives. Swing by the other way and hell, you could make a name for yourself as a diehard bounty hunter and be hated and feared by bandits all around. It’s up to you.
Whatever your choice may be, tipping one side or the other or simply swerving around the middle, there’ll be plenty of flying in space ahead of you. The further you upgrade your ship with jump drives and such, the more jobs you can pick up that take you to all corners of space, requiring you to make gate jumps to get there. Forget about hitting hyperspace and sitting back all Han Solo like.
The farther you need to get around, the more skips you have to take, and along the way you are often interrupted by random distress calls that you could just as well look into, or keep going about your way. Then again, these might score you some good cargo which can come in handy when trying to meet some of the delivery quotas or simply selling it to the highest commodities market. Yeah, there’s a bit of trading to be had in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw that can help put a pep into your net worth if you’re inclined to raise it. Any materials and containers you pick up while in space or by buying can have the potential to turn a real profit if you’re patient enough to find the right buyer.
Then again, you’ll often be scraping for cash throughout Rogue Galaxy Outlaw, or at least up to a point. It took me a few hours to finally be able to kick that bad habit they call a ship from the beginning of the game and acquire a decent ride, but even then, it took me nearly half of its value on top of it to get it to a good enough state in order to keep going with the story missions. On one hand, I like having ever swifting goals to aim for when I’m playing a game, which is probably why I played so many MMOs over the years, but there’s only so much of it I can stomach, and Rogue Galaxy Outlaw thankfully doesn’t push that too far, but close enough.
In terms of ambiance, this game has a lot going for it. While the interface is nothing to holo back home about, the graphical presentation while out in space is colorful and detailed, with a lot of particle effects and inside-of-ship reactions from Juno and other folks that radio in during your runs. And for as ordinary as some of the humans in the game might look, our heroine included, the aliens you come across more than make up for it not just visually but also in terms of personality. Space might be a void most of the time as you hurry about from jump to jump, but that doesn’t mean Rebel Galaxy Outlaw has to be a drag presentation-wise.
But it’s perhaps its attention to music that really sells the whole vibe of the game. You can tune in to a host of different radio stations that offer an impressive range of songs to listen to. Although I rarely veered off the classic rock that the game starts out at since it’s pretty damn good, you’d be missing out if you didn’t turn the knob every now and then — especially for some of the more amusing talk stations that ring some humor that comes close to Grand Theft Auto’s stations if you’d believe me.
The best parts of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw to me are when I can get by the skin of my teeth and barely get to a delivery in one piece, even having to negotiate with folks along the way who might just have enough firepower to blow me away but decide instead to let me slip by, or as I love to do, just outflying and keeping them busy with another hapless hauler on the way. The game gives enough room to wiggle alternative paths within its boundaries not to make it feel like you’re doing the same things every run, but at the same time feeling like you’re having to put in work for the credits that you make.
Describing activities in a game like work might come off as a con, but in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw’s favor, it’s exactly what it’s going for. It’s just the right measure of keeping you busy while delivering a satisfying experience that much like the more grounded SnowRunner from earlier this year. Both games manage to shine on their own without relying on a ridiculously bombastic story or out of left field gameplay, but with fun minute-to-minute activities that are both enjoyable and positively rewarding to complete.