Double Damage Games made a positive impression with the first Rebel Galaxy, a sci-fi space shooter with trading elements, but this follow-up (it's actually a prequel) improves on the original in nearly every way imaginable thanks to a number of welcome additions. You'll spend most of your time sitting in a cockpit, floating in space, blasting away at pirates and grabbing resources, but there's a quirky story woven into the adventure that gives your privateering more significance.
You, the player, take on the role of Juno Markev, a very capable pilot with plenty of attitude and a score to settle. You start Outlaw with noting, just a rickety old ship that a friend gives you when you call in a favour. From here it's a case of earning the coin you need to upgrade and eventually replace your bucket of bolts, at the same time following a narrative strand that leads Juno on her path to vengeance.
There's quite a lot to do in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, but there's not a huge amount of variety and there's a fair bit of grind to navigate through too. Most of the time you'll be making patrols or delivering shipments to nearby systems, and often the only thing that differentiates these activities from similar missions is whether or not there's combat involved. Dogfights are fairly commonplace so even when they do appear they don't do much to make the encounters particularly memorable.
It's a good job, then, that the combat is great. Using a setup not dissimilar to the one that genre fans will know from Elite: Dangerous, you've got to balance your power, shields, and weapons. Most of the time you don't have to worry about any of that stuff and you can just get on with blasting away at whoever was foolish enough to engage you in combat, but one of the things that we didn't much like about the game was the frequent difficulty spikes that saw us undone in seconds, losing valuable progress in the process (when you turn to space dust you return to the last jump gate or base you exited, which can mean a potentially significant loss of progression if you've been grinding your way through a system).
These difficulty spikes weren't even skill checks per se, often appearing out of the blue, and the main story missions tended to be quite difficult too, and as such players are incentivised to grind a little in the lower difficulty systems (you can see which areas are high risk in the sector map) until they're ready to take on the next big challenge. If you're happy to take your time over dozens of hours and slowly and steadily build-up to the more dangerous battles then you'll be fine, but if you're after a story-driven romp then you might find the amount of gating that surrounds the story to be a bit frustrating at times.
In between the frantic space battles you'll be visiting bases and stations throughout the system, which has a Wild West theme that pervades nearly all aspects of the game. While you're not able to walk around the space stations you visit, you're still given detailed 3D backgrounds to look at which adds flavour to the various locations. Dialogue is mostly delivered over comms, but there are talking head conversations when Juno meets up with named characters, and while it's all a bit stiff, the voice acting is decent and it's much more involving than reading boxes full of text. You can visit a bar and play games, repair your ship and make upgrades, and grab new quests (both generic ones and others for paying guild members) - it's much like visiting a station in Elite, but the experience is a bit more characterful here.
The "like Elite but more characterful" tag can also be applied to docking with a station or moving through the systems. Unlike Frontier's space sim, which wants you to carefully land your ship and master all aspects of its use, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw automatically docks you when you fly close enough to a base, and supplements this with a classy little cutscene that makes the whole thing feel seamless and cinematic. Similarly, when you're out in space and moving to objectives, often it's as simple as pointing the ship at a marker and then holding a button to jump. There might be a bit of repetition and a fair amount of grind, but we loved the way you can effortlessly move around each system as you go about your business.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw isn't perfect, however, and there were a few things that started to niggle the longer we played. The aforementioned difficulty spikes are one example, but sometimes we thought that the game's features could have been explained better. Lack of hand-holding is fine, encouraged even, but there could have been better tutorials buried away in the occasionally confusing UI, and that would have been both helpful and unintrusive.
One thing we did like was the visuals. They're not going to win any awards, but there's some seriously solid sci-fi design here, and the space battles can, at times, look fantastic, with lasers and missiles crisscrossing the screen along with explosions and collisions (we noticed that a lot of AI-controlled ships would "accidentally" run into us for no reason at all). Another huge plus was the western-themed soundtrack, which is punctuated by irreverent adverts and brings a whole bunch of additional atmosphere to your exploration.
If you love the idea of being a scallywag in space, running deliveries here and there, shooting policemen and pirates, selling contraband, trading your goods, and then upgrading your ship with your hard-earned coin, then Rebel Galaxy Outlaw could well be the sci-fi adventure that you've been looking for. It's not flawless and sometimes the setup can wear a bit thin, but generally speaking, we were pleasantly surprised by the whole thing and we'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for action and adventure in the stars.