Rebel Galaxy was one of my favorite games that I reviewed during my first year at TechRaptor. This inaugural title by Double Damage Games challenged me in a way that I deeply appreciated in the age of games holding your hand at every opportunity. The developers are set to return to this franchise (albeit in a slightly different genre) with Rebel Galaxy Outlaw and I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Double Damage Games President Erich Schaefer about it.
If you haven't been keeping up with things, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is aiming to be an action-packed space combat game with kickin' tunes and challenging fights. Put together by Erich Schaefer, Travis Baldtree, and the fine folks at Double Damage Games, it's seeking to enter the same kind of space as hallowed luminaries of the genre like Freespace and Wing Commander. Have a gander at its gameplay trailer to see just a hint of what's to come:
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw may very well be the game that fills the gap left in my heart by Eternal Silence.
One of the first questions that came to mind was what exactly caused Mr. Schaefer to delve into a wildly different genre than he had worked with before. With titles like Diablo, Hellgate: London, and Torchlight to his name, it's safe to say that Rebel Galaxy and Rebel Galaxy Outlaw are certainly a departure from form.
"In a sense, I thought going into Rebel Galaxy we were kind of just making Space Diablo," he said. "I think of all of my games as just [laughs] a version of Diablo." Erich proceeded to tell me about Starblo, a sci-fi Diablo-style game that some people at Blizzard had been working on prior to the departure of Erich Schafer and others.
While Travis Baldtree's vision for Rebel Galaxy had differed from his, much of the same design philosophy used by Erich Schaefer in his previous works was applicable nonetheless. There was still to be plenty of random loot and random encounters. Players would smash fighters and frigates instead of zombies and lesser evils. "I think it was a really easy transition for me."
Several years later, Rebel Galaxy is set to make a return with Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. Once again, Double Damage is mixing things up a bit. What was once a naval-style game is now transitioning to a flight combat experience. Gone are the massive ships with broadsiding lasers - instead, players will fly nimble (though not necessarily small) craft in heated combat. Why the change?
"We sort of started to do that naval-style broadside combat in reaction to a lot of other space games that were coming out," he said. Star Citizen, EVE Online: Valkyrie, and who knows how many indie games were all about space fighters - Rebel Galaxy needed to be different. Years later, many of these games have still not fully released - I'm looking at you, Star Citizen - and quite a few others barely have what can be called a playerbase. There was no way of knowing that at the time of its inception.
The landscape has since changed. In 2018, Elite Dangerous and what little we have of Star Citizen are perhaps the only games that firmly sits within the genre and could compete today. Double Damage Games has proven their mettle with a successful first title. In fact, the first game in the franchise did much better than they had anticipated. "Now we're trying to claim a bigger chunk of the space combat pie, I guess."
Erich Schaefer seemed quietly confident in what he and his fellows at Double Damage Games are building in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. "We're just single-player. We're fun, action, space. Those guys are completely different games. We can all exist at the same time, I think." He has every reason to be. What we've seen so far is looking pretty good.
"We're not really competing with them at all. We thought we would be, but it turns out we're not. They're making much more realistic space sims whereas we're making an action space game." -Erich Schaefer, President of Double Damage GamesOne critical component of a space combat game is the controls. According to Mr. Schaefer, "95-100%" of joysticks will work with the game. This might seem a silly thing to bring up, but I've certainly found myself playing games with flight components (cough cough Battlefield franchise) only to find that support for joysticks was a bit lackluster. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw knows what it wants to be and that means joysticks. Thank goodness.
A somewhat less critical component (but still important) is the music. A problem had cropped up with the first Rebel Galaxy - streams were getting takedown notices because Double Damage had not gotten the appropriate rights. That problem is solved the second time around and streamers won't have to worry about muting Outlaw's music while they play.
I also took the time to ask about the possibility of a soundtrack. The first game didn't have one and I noticed a few people hankering to buy the songs but with no good option to do so. That is something that is still up in the air. Thankfully, we shouldn't see any Grand Theft Auto-esque removal of music years after the first release as Double Damage had smartly secured the appropriate licenses in perpetuity.
Throughout our conversation, Erich Schaefer made several things clear. His time at Blizzard and Flagship Studios has made him somewhat adverse to large teams. Even now, Double Damage Games has only added three permanent employees in the last several years (making for a total of five). He likes to create games, release them, patch them up a bit, and move on.
That's not to say we won't see any DLC for Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. While the first game was certainly a one-and-done kind of thing, the possibility for proper post-launch content in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is very much a thing. For the moment, Double Damage Games is focused on getting the core game working right. The future may hold a few balance patches or it might just grace us with some fun extras.
If the devs decide not to make DLC, the fans might be able to do it. "We are gonna have much better mod support this time. It should be pretty easy for players to make their own ships, their own missions, their own style of games." Erich related a tale to me where his co-founder Travis Baldtree had recreated the entirety of Wing Commander: Privateer in the game's engine. While their Star Wars pitch never got off the ground, fans will surely take it upon themselves to make something like that happen anyway. Personally, I'm more interested to see what kind of original stuff people can come up with.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw will support joysticks from the get-go, have mod support, and we may get a bit more out of the game after release. The imagery I've seen (some of which I've been able to share with you here) is positively tantalizing. I loved the first game and I can't quite contain my excitement for the next journey into this universe. We won't have to wait long - it comes out early next year for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
What do you think of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw? Are you disappointed by the genre switch or are you looking forward to the change of pace? Let us know in the comments below!