If you're anything like me, decent writing about the right game can be a recipe for a budgetary disaster; the only two ingredients needed to ensure another trek to whatever brick-and-mortar retailer is selling the board/card/video game in question. Bills groceries and similar "adult" responsibilities be damned.
I don't want to dive into some long-winded, self-serving discussion about the power of words. If we're being honest, it wouldn't exactly be original, and I'm pretty sure I don't have anything profound to say on the subject. But I think we can all agree that humans' linguistic abilities have provided our species with incredibly diverse ways to display our passion.
And It's hard to ignore, when someone with real passion is putting that love out on display. Doubly so, if/when the subject of that fervor overlaps with your own interests. With that in mind, hopefully you'll understand why I haven't been able to stop thinking about the amazing potential of Rebel Galaxy since the moment Double Damage CEO Travis Baldree used three words to describe the team's vision.
"Han Solo simulator"
In Rebel Galaxy, players are dropped into the shoes of a newly-minted ship's captain; an otherwise faceless member of the galaxy who just found out that he/she has inherited a run-down starship from a non-immediate family member. From there, what happens next is almost entirely up to the player.
The game is being developed by just two people, Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer, both of whom are well known among fans of isometric action-RPG genre. The former originally shot to prominence thanks to his work on Fate, a dungeon crawler that first implemented many of the systems (like pets) that would later appear in Torchlight, while the latter is best known for his work on Diablo and Diablo 2. Both were also founding members of Runic Games before moving on to form Double Damage last year.
What surprised me most, though, was how little this fact seemed to weigh on either of them. In fact, other than a quick acknowledgement that Rebel Galaxy will differ a great deal from their previous work, neither Baldree nor Schaefer spent much time discussing the challenges of changing genres.
Instead, they gushed about all the different scenarios one could find themselves trying to live through in Rebel Galaxy. Many were situations that players could theoretically encounter in the pre-alpha build of Rebel Galaxy being shown to PAX South attendees but it was also clear that the two plan to create more than enough content to justify the (not-yet-confirmed) $20 price tag that Double Damage expects Rebel Galaxy to carry at launch.
In the build shown at PAX South, each person who started the Rebel Galaxy demo from scratch was dropped into a procedurally-generated galaxy; one that already contains a variety of planets, asteroid belts/clouds, mine fields and other such celestial objects. A handful of quests were also available, including the first few steps on Rebel Galaxy's primary quest path, and particularly skilled players could even earn enough money to buy an extra gun or two for their ship.
For about half an hour, I flew from one planet to the next, delivering cargo, chasing down pirates and completing whatever tasks the local populace expected from a novice starship captain. Thanks to my love for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag -- which inspired the naval combat present in Rebel Galaxy -- it wasn't long before I was charging into battle quite confidently.
On one occasion, I even managed to hold out against a better-equipped adversary, who'd managed to yank my ship out of warp speed, long enough for the local military to take notice and scramble a few support ships. Together, my new allies and I vanquished my ambushers and I even received a quick "Safe flying!" transmission from the intervening squadron leader at the battle's conclusion.
At a glance, there are certain similarities between Rebel Galaxy and a number of other games currently (or soon to be) available for purchase. Those who've grown fond of their job as a space trucker in Elite: Dangerous will be thrilled to know that Rebel Galaxy also has a commodity market, complete with prices that fluctuate based on players' actions, faction wars and other events.
Amusingly, a randomly-generated bit of cargo that I found floating through the wreckage of battle led Baldree also to point out that Double Damage haven't entirely abandoned their roots, either. After all, there will be loot in Rebel Galaxy, and the dev team is already considering the idea of including ultra-rare weaponry and/or other tech that could be recovered by dedicated (or just plain lucky) members of the Rebel Galaxy community.
"You can find stuff in the wreckage," Baldree said, during my PAX South demo, adding, "Mostly it's going to be [sellable] cargo...but every once in a while you might find something else."
Rebel Galaxy isn't just Euro Truck Simulator 2 with some space skins, though.
As you may have guessed, Rebel Galaxy isn't set in some far-flung future where war and aggression how miraculously been removed from daily life. Several different factions will fight for control of whatever region(s) of space they and their allies currently call home, and there will be plenty of times when Rebel Galaxy players are forced to fight their way in/out of a given area.
Thankfully, while Rebel Galaxy may not offer players any icebergs or tiny islands to absorb the cannon fire of your enemies, the game's space-adapted naval combat provides plenty of opportunities to use your current surroundings against your enemies.
Asteroids provide excellent cover for your capital ship, should you happen to find yourself under fire near any interstellar debris, and that's just one way in which you can make use of the environment. You can even trick your aggressors into firing on space station; instantly alerting the military and all but guaranteeing you some heavy-hitting reinforcements. Of course, if they discover any illicit cargo on-board your vessel, it's going to take a hefty bribe (or quick engines) to avoid your detainment.
To be abundantly clear, Double Damage isn't dropping you into the body of an obvious Harrison Ford lookalike, nor will you be piloting anything as tiny as the Millennium Falcon during your time with Rebel Galaxy. In reality, it's the ideas driving the project -- along with a helping hand from Rebel Galaxy's procedural galaxy creation systems -- that will leave players feeling like they should be experiencing the game alongside an incredibly hairy bodyguard with a sworn life debt.
Best of all, these experiences are being crafted by a pair of developers who've already provided the gaming community with hundreds of hours of entertainment. The various Diablo and Torchlight releases are some of the greatest dungeon-crawlers in existence, each showing an attention to detail that many projects could only dream of mimicking, and two-man team responsible for creating Rebel Galaxy is well aware that their game can't be everything to everyone.
Some might scoff at the fact that your ship can't go up or down -- despite the fact that smaller fighter ships can make full use of the space surrounding your craft -- but those looking for a streamlined take on more-hardcore space simulations (like EVE or Elite) should see the appeal of Rebel Galaxy.
It's a game designed specifically to allow a wide variety of play styles, and to let its players feel like any time spent with the game is enough to make a little progress. Sure, you can play for 6 hours on Saturday night, but Double Damage says players will also be able to make progress with significantly shorter play sessions, too.
So, yes, you could use your ship(s) to become the galaxy's greatest smuggler. But that's just one possible path to victory, and probably not even the first I'll be exploring when Rebel Galaxy makes its debut later this year.
Rebel Galaxy is currently being developed for PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One, and the project is currently expected to debut before the end of 2015. There's no word on a final price, either; though Double Damage says they expect Rebel Galaxy to cost about $20 when it debuts on each platform.
Be sure to check back with iDigitalTimes.com and follow Scott on Twitter for additional Rebel Galaxy coverage throughout the game's remaining time in development and for however long Double Damage continues to support Rebel Galaxy after its debut.
Did you get a chance to play Rebel Galaxy during PAX South? Would you rather play a hardcore space-sim like Elite: Dangerous than faster-paced projects like Rebel Galaxy? Are you willing to play just about anything from some of the minds behind Diablo 2 and Torchlight?
Let us know in the comments section!