Spaceships? Weird characters? Endless amounts of cheesy cowboy music? Alright, Rebel Galaxy, let’s do this.
Rebel Galaxy is Steam’s latest surprise top seller, and its start screen might be the most bluntly apt summation of a game I’ve encountered all year:
“COWBOY MUSIC. SPACESHIPS. LASERS. FUCK YOU, YOU’RE GOING TO PLAY NOW BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE IN THIS UNIVERSE YOU, A HUMAN MALE DORK, COULD CONCEIVABLY WANT.”
The game did not say that, but it communicated it with body language. And I’ll be damned, it was right.
Rebel Galaxy is—in some ways—more Firefly than Firefly. Cowboy buttrock blares 24/7, and you take all manner of odd-jobs while joyfully hopscotching between being a goody two-shoes and a no-good outlaw. You’ve got a big procedurally generated universe to explore, and Adventure—an impatient yet oddly consistent creature, always there for those who seek it—Awaits. Rebel Galaxy hearkens back to spacefaring classics like Freelancer, but it’s a bit more action-y.
Rebel Galaxy is more pick-up-and-play single-player space romp than it is hyper complex space sim, which will come as a relief to some of you (and a disappointment to others). Still, there’s a faction system, and you get to make choices in story and side missions. You can be a nice guy who goes around interception distress beacons, or a miner, or a wealthy trader, or a privateer douchebag. Or you can stick to the main story (it’s about finding your aunt, who left you a spaceship and then disappeared to go on Cool Adventures) if you find yourself paralyzed by choice. Ultimately you’ll still be exploring and fighting and upgrading your ship, but you’ve got Options.
I’ve spent a couple hours with the game, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Here are some things that have happened:
- I rescued a trader ship from pirates.
- I picked up some illegal contraband from the wreckage of said pirates ships.
- Some militia scanned me and asked me what I was doing with that contraband.
- I got attacked by militia.
- And I ran, I ran so far away.
- I delivered some space whiskey (a vital resource in cowboy space, presumably).
- I made bank selling more space whiskey on the marketplace.
- I turned my ship from a rusted bucket of bolts named “The Rasputin” to a capable (if weathered) machine named “Marty McSpaceFly.”
And my favorite moment: I nearly ran headlong into a big bandit capital cruiser and two mid-sized cronies. My onboard robot lady voice told me that I didn’t stand a chance in this fight, that I should flee and live to buy a shitton of big lasers and shoot these assholes some other day. I nodded agreeably—who am I to question authoritative computer voices?—and prepared to enter warp space. But then, some of that amazing cheesy-ass cowboy rock started playing. Possessed by the space ghost of asinine bravado, I slowed my ship, about-faced so that I was no longer retreating, and grinned maniacally. That’s when I noticed that one of the mid-sized enemy ships was drifting awfully far from the other two. “Let’s dance,” I said, imagining a hulking cruiser ship in a tasteful evening gown. Then I blasted straight for it. Here’s what happened:
Skip to the middle of the video for the good stuff.
I ended up fleeing after all, but it felt so fucking cool. There’s just something about spaceships and awful blues rock, I’m telling you. They click, like two puzzle pieces sliding together so perfectly that it causes you to spontaneously orgasm. Or charge into certain suicide against spaceships that are way bigger and cooler than yours. Whichever!
You’ll notice, too, that Rebel Galaxy sets itself apart from other space games in two key ways: 1) you only move on a horizontal plane, and 2) you pilot a capital ship and—as a result—do a lot of your firing from a broadside view. The first takes some getting used to, but it definitely simplifies navigation, and the second makes for some occasionally clunky combat where you’ve got to switch between guns while dealing with enemies who can move horizontally and vertically (those assholes). That’s kind of annoying, and it’s led to moments where I’ve gotten overwhelmed in battles I felt were perfectly winnable.
Still, Rebel Galaxy has really taken me by surprise, flying under the radar while frigate-class space games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen duke it out in the public eye. Obviously Rebel Galaxy’s scope is drastically smaller, but it’s got a fun vibe, a glorious confidence in its brand of space cowboy camp. I’m just beginning to find my way around Rebel Galaxy’s universe, and I’m excited to see what else it holds.
You’re reading Steamed, Kotaku’s page dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s stupidly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos—everything. If you’ve found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us an email to let us know.