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7.5 out of 10

Firefly Meets Freelancer: Rebel Galaxy is a Space Western

My love for space games goes a long way back

I got my start with the very first Wing Commander game and played each release of that series with religious fervor right up to Wing Commander IV. (There were two more games in the series, but neither one to the scale of the first four, so I passed on them.)

The man behind Wing Commander, Chris Roberts (yes, the same Chris Roberts who is now heading up Cloud Imperium Games and endlessly developing the king of all crowdfunded projects, Star Citizen) planned a new game called Freelancer. Microsoft bought the developer Digital Anvil, a company where Chris Roberts was one of the founders, and they eventually finished Freelancer even though Chris had left the company.

Freelancer was disappointing when compared with the features they’d said would be included in it, but it was still an interesting game. The premise was an open ended one. You could be a trader, a pirate, a mercenary, or some combination of the above. The graphics were gorgeous, for the time, but the game felt static and a little boring because it lacked all the dynamic world features originally promised. Still, for those of us who loved space games, Freelancer was great.

And then you have Firefly

Not a video game, no, but rather a beloved Sci-Fi series cut down in the prime of its life by a network who didn’t know how much its viewers loved it. Firefly was sort of a space Western, with some Star Wars mixed in for good measure. There isn’t a single one of us space game fans who doesn’t wish we could log in to a Firefly video game. (A Firefly Online video game has been in development for years but still hasn’t been released as of this writing, and the information available on it makes it sound more like a casual social media game than a truly immersive world.)

There is hope that Star Citizen might eventually be the online game world that Firefly fans could inhabit.

There is hope that Star Citizen might eventually be the online game world that Firefly fans could inhabit.

But until we have that, we have this. Double Damage Games, a company created by Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer. Their previous company, Runic Games, produced the excellent Torchlight and Torchlight 2 action RPGs, games very much in the Diablo mold. Which is understandable, since Erich Schaefer was the lead designer on Diablo and Diablo II. Travis Baldree created Fate, another well-loved game, and worked on Mythos before it was sucked down the drain with the implosion of Flagship Studios. (Ah, Hellgate: London, we hardly knew ye!)

Double Damage has created Rebel Galaxy, a game that you CAN buy right now today for just $20 of your hard earned dollars on Steam ($18, in fact, on sale at the moment) and play on your PC (Xbox and PlayStation versions are coming). And right from the moment you hear the country-rock soundtrack, you’re thinking Firefly. When you see your first ship and begin gameplay, you’re thinking Freelancer. Yep, Freelancer meets Firefly, that’s what we have here with Rebel Galaxy. And that is a good thing–a very good thing.

Rebel Galaxy bartender
Rebel Galaxy Bartender

The game is simple enough to play. Space flight takes place in 2D, no messy inertia to deal with, simple to maneuver and simple to shoot things. The randomly generated galaxy is big, very big actually, and you have lots of things to explore. You can discover and mine resources, you can buy and sell cargo, you can shoot people and take their cargo, you can rent yourself out as a hired gun, er…ship. However you’d like to play, you can. And unlike Freelancer, where every NPC looked and sounded like an American, the people you encounter in Rebel Galaxy all feel quite different from the folks at your local Walmart.

The goal is simple, make a better ship

You can buy bigger ships or upgrade the one you have. But you’re always working towards the same result, becoming the most dangerous thing in space. There is a series of story missions that should take you around twenty hours of gameplay to complete, but the game is open ended beyond that. You can continue to visit new stations and blast people into space dust for as long as you’d like.

Rebel Galaxy screenshot-station-shipyard
You can buy bigger ships or upgrade the one you have

Graphically it’s extremely pretty to look at, the space battles in particular look amazing, and the soundtrack is pure gold to Firefly fans. The controls are simple even for the novice, and it won’t frustrate you like some hardcore space simulations might.

I’ll be honest and say that if the game was priced at $60, I’d have a harsher review for it, but at $20 I think it’s excellent value for dollar. You’ll have fun and then you can restart the game and fly as an entirely different kind of captain, experiencing an almost entirely different game. As a Firefly and Freelancer fan, I’d love to give this game a 10 on my 1-to-10 scale, but I have to be fair and say that it’s really a 7.5, maybe an 8. But it is still worth your money and the time to play it. It’s available right now on Steam. For more, visit rebel-galaxy.com. That’s Into Gaming, I’m Mark Lautenschlager.

Written by Mark Lautenschlager

Mark Lautenschlager

Mark hosts the weekly “Into Gaming” Feature on the “Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline” broadcasts and is an avid PC gamer, IT Director, and webmaster. He is married for three decades to the most patient woman on Earth, while paying for the college educations of his children. His hobbies include MMORPGs and eating sushi.

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