Rebel Galaxy Outlaw hands-on preview: See you, space cowboy

The real folk blues.

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It's been 25 years since Wing Commander: Privateer first debuted, but at the beginning of September at PAX West in Seattle, I swore I was playing it again (or something very close to it) for the first time. That, or someone released a new Starlancer. I couldn't tell.

Double Damage Games' Rebel Galaxy Outlaw was the first game I had the pleasure of previewing at the show. I hadn't previously played the original Rebel Galaxy, though I've since rectified that since returning home. Without a frame of reference from the first game in mind, I still thoroughly appreciated what was on offer, and I'm itching to go back and play more when the game's finally done. With Travis Baldree at my side as my co-pilot, I zipped through the world of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw at a breakneck pace, and loved everything there was to see.

Outlaw finds you jumping into the shoes of Juno Markev, who actually appeared in the original Rebel Galaxy as the player character's aunt, is the star of this "sort-of" prequel. While she was in her 70s in the original game, she's found in her (very rough) 40s in this game. I appreciated that she was just a regular character, and one with a connection to the first game, as Baldree imparted to me, and not just a woman for the sake of there being a woman to play as, like so many series have shoehorned into their games recently.

I began my adventure in the "Texas" mining system with what was essentially a powerful garbage truck-like ship, making my way out into space via with a twinkle in my eye and a hopefulness that I wouldn't just end up spinning in circles with my first dogfight – more on that in a moment.

You start at the menu, which is essentially a station comprised of the commodities market, ship dealer, mission board, bar, mercenaries' guild, etc. The bar's good for playing mini-games like dice, pool, and even slots. These are easy to waste a lot of time on, especially if you tend to get mired in fun extras like Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad or The Witcher's Gwent. The things that are available for you to do at each station vary from place to place, but most of the important bits stay the same, such as ways to pick up new missions and bounties, and marketplaces to make sure you've got everything you need to succeed.

Rather than focusing on more random elements like Rebel Galaxy did, Outlaw chooses to focus on story-based quests that feel more akin to a traditional role-playing game, with character variety, personality, and adventures that make more sense in the context of space. While the game itself feels a lot like Privateer, it takes heavy inspiration from the anime masterpiece Cowboy Bebop.

After selecting a mission, it's time to head out into space. You can seek out bounty targets or tackle various missions, each marked on your map with special icons. Navigating space feels like a dream, which satisfying turrets, missiles, and other ways to screw up your enemies' day. Outlaw's space combat is by far its greatest element, with a feature that I appreciated immensely: the ability to auto-track enemies if you choose to turn it on.

It's totally optional and can be turned off entirely so you don't even have the feature available to if you're more into playing with more hardcore aspects, but if you're absolutely awful at navigating a 3D space like I am sometimes, it's especially useful to have. This way, you can focus on out-maneuvering your opponents and making sure they're eliminated rather than getting turned around in the middle of a fight.

Completing missions nets you credits and other special rewards, of course, which you can utilize to upgrade your ship and purchase commodities to make additional cash. It's all about making some coin as Juno, which I found a refreshing change of pace. I wasn't interested in playing as some wise-cracking, altruistic "save the world" type, and she fit the bill nicely. I'd be all about that space hustle trying to make some extra cash, too.

The soundtrack has been improved tenfold over the original game, also. The team took on the monumental task of putting together 7 different radio stations with 21 hours of original music, complete with DJs. If you've got a favorite genre, chances are it's represented here.

While space combat is by far the best part of the game, there's also one that's being worked on at the moment that absolutely blew me away. Yes, you can customize your ships. That's a given. But the extend to which you can do this is insane. There's a special editor mode independent of the game that resembles a generic Photoshop, and it's a full-featured editor that lets you skin, stamp, and even edit the texture wrapper of whichever ship you choose.

As I watched over Baldree's shoulder, he showed me how you can select just about any image from your PC and use it as a "stencil" on the ship, adding flourishes to your vessel in the blink of an eye, whether you're a Photoshop whiz or not. Then, with a few clicks of a button, he sent an edited and finished ship to presumably a third-party manufacturer to make a 3D-printed model of the creation, which you'll actually be able to receive in the mail. He had one on hand to show off a finished product, which looked fantastic. Visions of waifus and ahegao danced in my head as I ran down all the possibilities in my head. This is going to change the way folks customize their in-game goodies. It's going to be huge. Mark my words.

I left Rebel Galaxy Outlaw with an overwhelming feeling of excitement and anticipation. This is a game that clearly knows its audience, and wants to provide an experience that serves to offer one of the most Bebop-like out there in the game industry.

Unfortunately, right now there's no concrete release date for Outlaw. It is, however, heading to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC sometime in early 2019. Better start making some time for a few hot space voyages between now and then, because you're going to need plenty of it.

Senior Editor

Fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games, Brittany is a Senior Editor at Shacknews who thrives on surrealism and ultraviolence. Follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake and check out her portfolio for more. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!

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