Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Rebellious

Surprise! I finished another game. I forgot to mention last time that I'd been playing Rebel Galaxy on and off for a while, and I put it to bed last night. It's a funny old game; apparently it was made by just two people, which is super impressive for what it is, but does also explain some of its failings. First up, what is it. It's a flying, shooting, trading, exploring space opera. Think along the Elite/Privateer lines and you're pretty much there. Uniquely, though, this isn't fully three-dimensional - you only travel along a single plane. It's a bit more like a driving sim that they swapped the road backdrop out and replaced it with a star field. (I have a theory that it may have been based on a driving game engine, but I could be wrong.) So, you can only turn left and right, not up and down. That sounds insane in a space game, but actually I got used to it pretty quickly. Other objects - enemies, meteors, etc. - can move above and below you, giving the feeling of three-dimensionality, but you're still glued to your single plane.

How do you fight when enemies can swoop and dive around you and you can only turn in a lumbering circle to try and track them? Luckily, you have two (well, three including missiles) ways of attacking, broadside cannons and turrets. Broadside cannons are powerful but can only be fired sideways so you have to turn side-on to your quarry, while turrets can track and fire at targets all around you. You can choose which of these you want to be in charge of, letting the other cannons auto-fire. While it's kind of fun to act out your star wars fantasies of being Luke in the Millenium Falcon turret, I found it much easier to let the computer handle the turrets, while I concentrated on flying and firing off a broadside every now and then when I got the chance. Combat is mostly fun and visceral, but it's rapidly apparent that kiting is the best strategy. The ships that you buy are mostly big and slow, and as you upgrade them they get bigger and slower, so you never really want to just fly into the thick of things bobbing and weaving because a) you can't bob and weave, and b) you can't dodge a laser. Flying directly into a firefight against a well-armed foe will mostly just get you killed, so you're better off trying to lead a couple of ships away from the main party at a time and slowing whittling them down. It's a bit of a missed opportunity because playing something nimble would have been fun, but it makes sense in-universe. If you want better shields you need a bigger ship, and bigger ships don't behave in the same way as smaller ones. You'll end up flying the equivalent of a well-armed oil tanker, which is fun in its own way, but doesn't scratch that specific space opera itch.

In terms of setting, they've gone for a kind of wild-west feel with twanging cowboy guitars with a battered, crumpled look to the universe and the people in it. It's a good fit and adds to the ambience of the world they're building, but I have to admit I turned the music off after a while because it got a bit samey and was a bit of a distraction. I prefer space to be a quiet place.

So, for the most part you're flying between systems doing delivery quests and earning enough money to upgrade the various parts of your ship. Stuff is expensive and doesn't make any really noticeable difference (other than upgrading the ship itself), so it gets grindy really quickly. Also, the quests themselves don't really change (that's where I think the depth of the game suffered from only having two developers) so no matter where in the galaxy you go you're mostly doing the same thing over and over. There is a main quest that pulls you along for a while, but actually you don't need to grind that much to finish it, and once you're finished...what else are you going to do? The ending itself was also really meh, you finish the quest, you have a chat, and you're left to carry on flying around. So, yeah, good while it lasted, but I think I'm done.

Next up on the randometer is...WaxWorks! Interesting. I remember this well from when it was released - a kind of adventure horror thing, similar to the Elvira games. I had one of the Elvira games, but I don't think I ever played WaxWorks. I'm also going to make a start on the King Arthur game series and see if I can make some headway there.

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