The following is a review for Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, a new game from Double Damage Games. Skip if you wish.
I rarely buy games the day they come out. I've been around long enough to know if there's one solid rule about software (or hardware, for that matter) it's to give it time. Let them find the bugs & work them out. Give some time so the reviewers can tell us whether or not it's worth playing. Half the time the game's not even finished, especially in these days of Steam Early Access. Wouldn't have gotten away with that in the SNES era, let me tell you.
Well, I broke my own rule & bought Rebel Galaxy Outlaw as soon as it was available & it was 30 bucks well spent. An Epic Store exclusive made by Double Damage Games, RBO is a prequel to 2015's space sim Rebel Galaxy. Unlike that game's emphasis on freighter-type ships & almost ocean-like 2D space, RBO is a full-on 3D cockpit-dogfight shoot 'em up in the stars along the lines of Wing Commander or the Freespace series.
In a nutshell, you play Juno Markev, the aunt of the nameless protagonist of RB & probably the best space jockey character since Christopher Blair. In the opening cinematic, Juno's tracking down the outlaw that killed her husband when the unknown antagonist turns the tables on her & leaves her stranded & shipless way out in the space boonies. Calling in a few favors, Juno gets herself a new ship & sets out to avenge her husband, reclaim her place among the Dodge Sector's most dangerous pilots, & maybe make a buck or two.
If we compare it to the ne plus ultra of space fighters, Elite: Dangerous, RBO is undoubtedly the best in years. The graphics take a cue from its predecessor & have sort of a cartoony, almost anime-style to them, not unlike Cowboy Bebop. Space is, of course, abbreviated somewhat to prevent those long slogs in Elite, going more for atmosphere than realism.
Speaking of atmosphere, one of the things that made Rebel Galaxy so much fun was the kicking, bloozy country rock soundtrack. RBO meets that & doubles it, with over 21 hours of music presented as space radio stations a la Grand Theft Auto. There's Latin grooves, metal sludge, classical gas, & space cowboy bangers, all with DJ's & commercials. You can program your own music or just ride with the game's spaghetti Western-inspired soundtrack.
Story-wise, the plot unfolds more or less organically, as you slowly build your way back & piece together the whereabouts of your quarry. Along the way you can pick up all sorts of side mission akin to the ones in Rebel Galaxy, from hauling freight to hunting down pirates, as well as wingmen you can call in on tough missions. You can also make your living trading cargo or mining for rare elements, though it is a bit slower that way.
The game plays incredibly smoothly, with all the classic space fighter tropes. Twisting & turning to get a missile lock on one enemy while trying to dodge fire from another just like in Wing Commander. In fact, the game has a special feature that locks you onto a target, matching speed & direction. Admittedly, it almost makes the game too easy, but it can be turned off in the options or ignored all together.
Furthermore, the game looks to be set up for today's gaming culture, with an option to play only licensed music for extra streamer friendliness to tools & opportunities for easy modding. Rebel Galaxy was a sleeper hit on the indie circuit & RBO's developers seem to understand what their audience want.
However, like almost all trade-&-story space fighter games, like say Freelancer, there is a bit of grind necessary. This is broken up by mini-games open to players in space ports, like pool or dice poker, but the grind is there nonetheless. However, that's a minor niggle as most of your hardcore space fighter fans are used to a little grind. I don't know if it's something they can't avoid or what, but there it is.
Is it worth buying? If your a fan of Rebel Galaxy, sure although the play style & set up is different. If you've been jonesing for a good space Western full of betrayal, tight escapes & seat-of-your-pants dogfights that we haven't seen since Tachyon: The Fringe, that's a big 10-4. Juno's hard-bitten sass is a charmer & the games bright colors & intense battles will keep you coming back for more.
On a personal note, the sectors are all named after states or famous cowboy towns, with stations named after cities. There's a Mississippi Sector with a Mantachie base, & since I'm about 20 miles from Mantachie, I just thought that was neat.