I talked on the Diecast about how I was having fun playing Rebel GalaxyHeads up! Check the byline. This post isn’t by Shamus.. After the show, I played a few more hours and discovered that I was wrong about a few things.
First, most obvious, and as pointed out by multiple people in the comments, I was confusing Rebel Galaxy with Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. Seems impossible! I know! Two such distinct titles conflated like that. But I simply didn’t realize that the capital ship trading game and the fighter ship dogfighting game were entirely different. Or, will be different? And perhaps not entirely? Anyhow, my bad.
Of course, I probably would have been more aware of the differences between these games if I had been forced to pay for it instead of being gifted it by the Epic Games Store. The sense of false injury I was laboring under was my fault, yes, but it is also in part a result of the delivery method. If I’m going to spend money on a game, I’m going to figure out what it is I’m purchasing. But when I get it on the dole, there’s no incentive to clarify the scope. “Oh, this game! I know what it is, and it’s free! Great!” I think this is an unintended drawback of deeply discounted pricing. People might very well enjoy things less when they have unrealistic expectations unmitigated by the disenchanting process of research. They might even like them more when they pay for them. There’s probably a whole series of articles in that, so I should probably get back to talking about things I was wrong about.
Second, I didn’t realize that, while you can buy some fairly expensive ships in the starting system, they by no means represented the full range of ships available. This mistake I feel a bit better about though, because out of the nine common ships available, besides the special mercenary ships, and the ones you can only get through the merchants guild, and the ones unique to the Krell, and the… okay, there are a lot of ships! But of the nine main ones, six are available right at the start. That’s a lot!
I say “available” as if you could purchase any of them, but really they are simultaneously so hilariously out of reach and so disappointing that I feel like there has been some kind of design error. At the start of the game, you have 1000 credits and the rock bottom low-tier ship. If you strip all the equipment off, engines, shields, guns, everything, you can get that up to 3,045 credits. The first upgraded ship costs 43 credits. Oh, no, I just made another mistake. 43 thousand credits. And the ship after that is 129kc beyond the first upgrade. Each tier of vessel costs two to five times the previous tier. That’s a lot! The trade-in value of your existing vessel is essentially negligible! This punishing cost curve means that, while you’ll probably have graduated to the next system before reaching the tier-3 ship, there are three more tiers sitting there, taunting you. I’ve reached the mid-game, and only just now purchased the tier-5 ship, for 1.3 million credits!
You could be forgiven for imagining that these epic huge price tags would herald in commesurately epic stats, which brings me to the disappointing part. Your starting ship, the tier-1 vessel, can carry 10 cargo. Not too bad, especially since… okay.
This is one of my big gripes with this game. I started looking at all these commodities and thinking “Wow! All this stuff in the starting system! I wonder what new and exotic commodities I’ll find once I can finally afford a jump drive!” Jump drives, by the way, cost 75kc, more than double the price of an entire tier-2 ship. The equipment for the ships follows the same matterhorn-like costing curve but I’m already one digression deep. Because by the time you can afford a jump drive, or a single “Antimatter Speck”, which is a commodity for which you can see pricing at the beginning of the game, you will be very ready to travel out of the starting system and discover that these are all of the commodities in the game. Yep! No wonder of discovery! No impressive markets of exotics! Just station after station that are all sold out of Progenitor Shards, but are willing to quote you an exact price that they would be willing to sell one to you for if they ever got their hands on one.
So that’s disappointing. But on the up-side, you can carry 10 Tachyon Salt in your starting ship, each of which costs ten times your starting cash-on-hand. You’re not going to run out of cargo space any time soon, is what I’m saying. But once you DO get some of that sweet cash, instead of spending it on goods to trade, or ludicrously expensive guns, you could buy a whole new ship! And how much cargo space does this ship have? 30 cargo? Perhaps 45? No no, think lower.
That’s right, you can haul a whole extra 5 cargo for 43 thousand credits. Or, you know, just buy the “medium cargo extender” which adds a flat +8 cargo space to any ship. Know how much that costs? 30kc would be a bargain, but you can actually get them for 28kc, just over half the price of a ship that gives you just over half the upgrades. The tier-7 ship has the largest cargo hold of the main line vessels at 42, but you’ll have to pay 7 million credits to get there, and the 1.3 million option in tier-5 gets pretty close with 30 cargo slots.
Let’s put this in real-world terms. I can go out and buy a 36’ skiff for $48k with a 10 ton net cargo capacity or $4.8k/t. In the middle range, are 100’ vessels with around 60 tons net (for $150k or $2.5k/t). And near the upper end are 300’ cargo ships with 1200 tons net, and those only cost about $1.2 million or $1k/t. As you get bigger vessels, the cost per capacity goes down, because of the surface-volume law, and economies of scale! This is exactly the opposite in Rebel Galaxy, where you’re paying 3kc/c at tier-2, 43kc/c at tier-5, and 167kc/c tier-7. Perhaps the whole galaxy is rebelling against the fundamental principle of economic incentive.
So, that’s disappointing too. And all of the ship upgrades are like this. Just to give you an idea of the range, the tier-2 “Light Frigate” costs 43kc and has combat stats of 4 broadside, 3 turrets and the tier-9 “Dreadnaught” with a 18 million credit price-tag has stats of 20 broadside, 16 turrets. It’s about five times as good, and about five hundred times as expensive.
Though, that’s not entirely fair. When you buy a ship with more broadside ports you get that firepower for free, so you don’t have to buy another four broadside banks. Which is good because each tier of equipment is exactly three times as expensive as the previous tier, and usually only exhibits about a 10% performance increase.
But what about the difficult-to-quantify upgrades? The ones that let you see cargo from a ping instead of a direct scan? Or make mining more efficient? Well, they are all basically worthless for the huge price tag. I’m not going to go into it except to bring up the Turret Optimizer, which is available for purchase right at the start of the game, makes all of your “projectile” turrets shoot 25% more rapidly, and costs 7.9 million credits. More than the entire tier-7 ship. For an upgrade that makes your guns, while definitely better, I wouldn’t say “significantly”, especially since it’s going to be chewing up a whole “component bank” of which even the most capacious vessels only have six, and the tier-9 (which is where you want it, because that has the most turrets) only has four component slots.
Just, I don’t even; Why? What were the designers thinking?
Which brings me to the third thing that I was wrong about, which is that all of the systems in the game are well considered and polished. They aren’t. So put on some yackety sax and read through this list with all the spaces edited out though I’m not going to actually type it that way because it would be really hard to read.
Warp pairing is weird, continuing the age-old tradition of escort missions being a pain. Your ship dances around trying to get in the right position to “jump to hyperspace” so awkwardly that it reminds me of my first time. Also it takes forever. Moving on.
I said the automatic difficulty evaluation works well, but apparently none of the NPCs have access to that information, seeing how none of the pirates would run away from me when I re-visited the starting system in my tier-4.5 doom wagon that can vaporize their entire cruiser in a single volley. Not even a single volley, like, half a volley. I’m moments away from hulling right through their ship because my turrets have shucked all their shields and armor off by the time I’m in position for a broadside, and I call them up and be all “maybe you picked the wrong fight” and they come back with whatever canned sass the game designer gave them for such an occasion where they are feeling cocky, and between pressing the “okay I guess” button to end the really quite gracious on my part parlay, and giving the command to “fire” my battery of six MK4 Neutron Beams right into the side of their already-riddled-with-gouts-of-flame warship, my mining laser lights them up and it’s all over.
There’s no way to save the game manually. It just autosaves whenever you exit a station, kind of like NMS. Enough said.
Grinding Rep is a real pain. There are three zones, with Friendly and Hostile on the ends, and Neutral in the middle. That’s not the painful part. The pain comes with how difficult it is to move those faction feelings. From what I can tell, each zone is about 400 points wide, and you get about 10 points per mission. One mission I decided to side with the pirates and betray the militia captain with whom I had been working for three missions in a row and I got a -20 with the militia. Apparently they hardly even noticed. Of course you get -1 here and there for blowing up a faction’s vessels, and -10 for insulting them on the radio. But it’s devilishly difficult to increase your standing. All of this works out to mean that you can’t make significant choices of any magnitude with regard to your faction standing. It’s just the slow accumulation of little deposits and even littler withdrawals. The faction alignment bonuses don’t scale with relative difficulty either, so you can go back to the starting zone and get +15 and +20 missions all day long. And even so, I spent an hour trying to get into the Red Devil cartel, and all I really managed was to torpedo my militia standing.
You can’t purchase high-tier missile launchers at low-tier stations, but you can still resupply your high-tier launchers there. Kinda bugs me.
I want to be able to look at the system map while I’m in hyperspace, but the game pauses when you go to the map, so you can’t fly around in top-down mode. And speaking of what you’re allowed to see, the camera feels really uncomfortably close to your ship all the time. You can’t zoom out far enough in the system map either, and the only way to pan the map is by holding down the directional arrows, which goes too slow.
When you join the mercenary guild, you gain access to the “antimatter drone” turret, which out-ranges all other weapons by an order of magnitude, and has “huge” area effect and damage. Basically a super-missle. But it’s really only good for destroying groups of fighters, and the reload time makes it useless in a protracted fight, so that’s kind of a drag too.
The play-tips don’t respect your demonstrated skills. I know lots of games do this, but that doesn’t make it okay.
You’re ostensibly an a-moral empty shell for the player to fill with their starship captain fantasies, and you start off the game doing some pretty shady things, but the writer seems to make a point of not letting you take advantage of the AI macguffin hound in any way. Multiple characters ask you to sell it to them, and there’s never an option to even ask for a price, let alone follow through. At one point the religious fanatics show up and inform you that if you hand it over it will usher in a period of joy and happiness, and I was thinking “ooh, let’s try it and find out what happens! It’s only giving me a 10% boost to my engines right now, so what harm could it to do give it up?” But no, it wasn’t a real offer. My character later explains to the AI that it respects it too much as a person to give it away. Or some such nonsense. Missed opportunity.
I broke a blockade, and the bartender still made me pay for my drinks. Didn’t even get a fun song and bimbos. This game sucks.
On the bright side, while the ships and equipment are a static set, all the systems and the sector map are procedurally generated, new with every new game you play! Not sure how much that matters, but there you have it! On the whole, I’m still enjoying Outlaw Galaxy, but it could be a whole lot better. Maybe they will fix all of that stuff when Outlaw Galaxy Rebel Starfighter comes out in 20X6.
 Heads up! Check the byline. This post isn’t by Shamus.
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