Check out our Monthly Survey Page to see what our users are running.
We do often include affiliate links to earn us some pennies. See more here.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw and some reflection on Steam Reviews

By - | Views: 23,074

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a fantastic open-world space game but Rebel Galaxy Outlaw has a terrible Steam reviews score. Are Steam reviews making us miss out on good games?

Linux gamers on Steam have a particularly close relationship with the Steam community. Before the days of ProtonDB it was Steam reviews and discussion pages where we would find out how well the game ran on Linux (excepting, of course, this publication). We also may be the most outspoken minority on Steam. Think of the obligatory "Will this come to linux?" Steam discussion post. We should be proud that our feedback can be especially helpful to developers.

There are tireless Linux gamers dedicated to producing Steam reviews with Linux in mind (check out cbones, Houtworm, and the GamingOnLinux Steam group). However, I have come to realize that my faith in Steam reviews may have come at a cost, and perhaps you will to. Think of a game that you love and believe most gamers should love, but which has an incomprehensibly poor rating on Steam. If you came up with one, we share something. If you can't think of one, sort your Steam library by Steam review and take a look near the bottom to see what you can find. This article is about Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, its 'Mixed' steam rating, and the system of Steam reviews upon which many of us rely.


You can sort your Steam library by rating to find games you have played with poor ratings.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (RGO) is the sequel to the indie hit Rebel Galaxy and a spiritual successor to the Privateer franchise. It's an open world space game with light simulation elements and an old-school Western feel that plays great on my aging Geforce 1070 via Proton at 4K with maxed settings. There are some reports on ProtonDB that you need to install mfc42 from Protontricks, with GE-Proton7-30 I did not need to.

We play as Juno, a cynical spacer down on her luck, on a meandering adventure through Dodge Sector: a collection of stellar systems replete with various unsavoury characters, most of whom speak in a distinctly Deep South accent. Firefly is clearly a source of inspiration. You can fly trade routes, mine asteroids, take mercenary contracts, bounty hunt, smuggle contraband, and rob traders blind at gunpoint. The visual aesthetic is a delightful oversaturated kaleidoscope. It's well optimized and runs buttery smooth. The combat is smooth and satisfying. The writing and voice acting bounces between well-done and superb. It has a simulated economy with random events and fluctuating prices.  It has an embedded GIMP-like application for custom ship paintjobs. It has space station bars where you can play full-fledged minigames of dice-poker, 8-ball, slots, and Asteroids. You can flip twin birds to your enemies from inside your cockpit. It has the best licensed soundtrack of any game I have ever played, spread over seven different radio stations.

YouTube Thumbnail
YouTube videos require cookies, you must accept their cookies to view. View cookie preferences.
Accept Cookies & Show   Direct Link

 Content warning: Watch Juno rob innocent traders, destroy dastardly pirates, and sometimes both at once. Cringe as Juno fails at Asteroids on an arcade cabinet. One very mild story spoiler.

And yet despite all this, RGO has a resoundingly 'Mixed' rating from gamers on Steam. No review bombs, no political brigading, no glaring technical issues or mentions of Epic exclusivity, just gamers that don't recommend RGO to their peers. The complaints in negative reviews vary wildly; the game is too different from the original, the controls are poor, the game is repetitive, too difficult, or too simple. It's tough to pin down what gamers didn't like. The gaming press, on the other hand, liked RGO considerably more. On OpenCritic, 84% of critics recommend the game, with an average score of 77%.

There are plenty of criticisms in the Steam reviews that I agree with. The mouse and keyboard controls are not great (I play with a Steam Controller). There isn't the same amount of content as games like Elite; I'm 20 hour in to the game and I'm starting to upgrade to what I suspect is the highest equipment tier. The main story, while good, is spread a little thin. But given the positives, none of these complaints should be death-knells to a 30$ USD game that regularly goes on sale for 6$ USD. The mismatch between RGO's Steam rating and its positive qualities simply doesn't make sense. And what if RGO is not a one-off case, but one of countless games unjustly ignored because of poor Steam reviews?


  Privateer fans will feel right at home in the cockpit view

The wisdom of crowds is the idea that the Law of Large Numbers from statistics can be applied to people's individual decisions. It roughly states that given a large number of independent assessments, the mean of those assessments will be correct. To the (albeit limited) extent that the quality of a game is objective, one is tempted to take Steam reviews very seriously indeed; after all, regular gamers are probably less likely than journalists to be influenced by each other (independence) and there are a lot of gamers writing steam reviews (large numbers).

For me, Steam reviews have been something close to gospel. An 'Overwhelmingly Positive' score is nearly an automatic wishlist. My brain translates a 'Mostly Positive' into 'Move Past', and a 'Mixed' into 'Melanoma'. There are benefits to this extreme faith in Steam reviews. If you play and browse through a lot of games it's difficult to investigate each game thoroughly, and a Steam review score offers a simple heuristic for whether to linger on a game's store page or move on. However, since discovering how fantastic RGO is, I'm haunted by the idea that I've been missing out.

A user-created paintjob for one of the ships in RGO, turning their cargo hauler into a mobile whiskey distillery for the premier in-game whiskey brand.

Steam reviews are also a mixed bag for developers. For better or worse, Steam reviews make developers more responsive to the reviewer feedback. As the average gamer has more conservative taste than your average journalist, the Steam review system may makes developers more cautious when experimenting. The Steam review system likely favours lower-spec gamers and smaller gamer communities (like ours) compared with mainstream gaming journalism. A positive rating can be especially useful with smaller titles that don't have a lot of attention from gamer press or content creators. There are also unambiguous drawbacks to Steam reviews: buyers are more likely to complain than praise, trolling/brigading, out-of-date Early Access reviews, and the high playtime negative reviews (for bad reasons), to name a few.


  A couple of Elite: Dangerous reviews. One complains about the entirely optional multiplayer gamemode, the other is too busy playing Elite to elaborate.

Well, what's the solution? How do we as gamers balance the tempting simplicity of the Steam reviews system with its drawbacks, and the possibility of missing out on gems? Perhaps as you have guessed, there is no simple answer. All we can do is be aware of the limitations of the Steam review system and adjust our own mental processes accordingly. Personally, I will keep using Steam reviews as a useful tool in deciding how much time to spend looking into a game, but finding RGO has left me humbled. Now my brain reads 'Mixed' as 'Maybe another Rebel Galaxy Outlaw'. Which isn't all that bad; if the cost to finding another RGO is moving a little slower through my discovery queue, I think it's a fair trade.

Addendum: The only other game I own with a 'Mixed' rating that I loved is Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, but there I at least understand the Mixed rating: people wanted a horror game and got a walking simulator. I'm curious to hear what other people come up with.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Editorial, Meta, Steam
31 Likes
About the author -
author picture
I'm a long-time Linux user and a long-time gamer, and have enjoyed combining these two hobbies over the past 10 years or so. When I'm not gaming or working, you can find me annoying my cat, watching movies, or raving about my 40% keyboards to anyone I can corner.
See more from me
37 comments
Page: «4/4
  Go to:

MacPoedel 18 Sep
Quoting: KimyrielleTo be fair, as awesome as the game otherwise might be, I expect to be able to play -any- PC game at least reasonably well with mouse/KB. I wouldn't have appreciated having bought the game only to find out I can't really play it. While I bought a Steam Controller for giggles back then, I am still utterly not used to this kind of device and couldn't seriously play with one.

I don't agree with this dogma that all pc games should work with mouse and keyboard. Especially for flight games, mouse and keyboard lack degrees of freedom to properly control a plane or spacecraft. I saw someone else mentioning Freelancer which had proper m+kb support, but I remember the actual flying as not very spectacular, I never rolled, mostly flying in circles.

A controller costs as much as a single game and a fraction of a GPU, sounds to me like some people just don't want to buy one. I only really play shooters and games with an actual cursor with m+kb. Racing games, flight games and platformers are better with a controller or other peripheral. So many are supported on PC and for so much longer than on consoles, why ignore them.
Valck 19 Sep
Quoting: ShugyoushaI also think the game is gorgeous (those cockpits! :swoon:) but my graphics standards may be somewhat low since I grew up with the old Privateer games and thought they looked great at the time as well ...
Say what you want, but they did look great at the time. As did both early Wing Commander titles, and not to forget Strike Commander, before Mr Roberts decided to go "multimedia". And even WC three and four still had brilliant graphics for the time, before the competition finally started to catch up -- if one could make it past the cut scenes :)
Enough with the nostalgia already. Isn't the future a great time to be living in...
beko 19 Sep
Quoting: MacPoedelI don't agree with this dogma that all pc games should work with mouse and keyboard. Especially for flight games, mouse and keyboard lack degrees of freedom to properly control a plane or spacecraft.

I generally agree. In this particular case tho… RGO does only support a gamepad (singular!) so that is really half-**** support for anything else _beside_ KBM. So in this very particular case the critics on controls are very legit no matter what type of input is used. For me the joy only started when I managed to bind my X52 into that game via external tools.
Quoting: anewsonsomeone else mentioned InnerSpace to me as an overlooked gem, also Liam really liked it. I'll have to check it out

Someone described it as a flying "walking simulator" which is perhaps a bit unfair, but at least it sets some expectations that it is more about the chill experience than any kind of serious challenge. I like games that craft an interesting world to explore.
audiopathik 22 Sep
Mafia 3 Definitve Edition has a Steam review score of only 53% while I have throughoughly enjoyed it, if a bit repetitive in the long run.
The reason is the launcher that 2K have put in place, I dont think it was there when I played and I think the game had a very positive score before. There are obviously all those 'in the old days everything was better' (the old games were better I have played them before Jesus was born already, all the rest sucks etc etc).

Dungeons and its expansion have very low score for technical reasons mainly as well, as do a lot of other games and a lot of older games that dont run without user fixes or dont run well on modern systems, such as the King's Quest Collection.

I think these issues shouldnt drag down the score entirely but the score should be diversified into topics such as technical/performance, graphics/audio, gameplay/fun.

Having a look at the playtime of the reviews is also a good indicator, for one to determine how qualified the review is and to see how fun the game actually is.

SteamDB has published an article on how Steam calculates the review score and how SteamDB used to (Wilson's score) and how they changed to a different algorithm.

It's not anymore up-to-date, meanwhile Valve have put methods in place to mitigate review bombing (NBA 2K20 was tagged Horror and Dating Simulator and had a review score of 20% when it launched) and reviews from Early Access versions, but it's still a good read: link

QuoteIf you've ever taken a slightly longer look at the Steam store, you've probably noticed their method of sorting games by review score is pretty bad. They just divide the positive reviews by the total reviews to get the rating. A game with a single positive review would be ranked above some other game that has 48 positive reviews and a single negative review. While they do have “steps” at 50 and 500 total reviews, meaning that no game with a rating of at least 80% will be ranked below a game with less than 50 reviews, and no game with a rating of at least 95% will be below a game with less than 500 reviews, it's still a bad system. Because if our 48 to 1 rated game suddenly accrued 11 more negative ratings, Steam would miraculously still place it higher than it was before.

In general the Steam review are a decent source of information and if you dont fall for the first word and can think for yourself you can make a very good picture of the game from them. They are also from gamers for gamers rather than from a profitable magazine for the mainstream market, who would for example never call CS:GO a trash game because it is against what's the general publics opinion, or so it is assumed, and they are who those publishers depend on. After all, if you are not writing for yourself it makes no sense publishing articles that are never being read, therefor magazines depend on people to read them and if people dont like what they are reading they will stop doing so. Thus they shape their opinions based on what people like to read and when those people are a crowd of millions it is impossible to come to a distinctive and at the same time shared opinion by everyone.


Last edited by audiopathik on 22 September 2022 at 10:49 pm UTC
audiopathik 22 Sep
Quoting: MacPoedel
Quoting: KimyrielleTo be fair, as awesome as the game otherwise might be, I expect to be able to play -any- PC game at least reasonably well with mouse/KB. I wouldn't have appreciated having bought the game only to find out I can't really play it. While I bought a Steam Controller for giggles back then, I am still utterly not used to this kind of device and couldn't seriously play with one.

I don't agree with this dogma that all pc games should work with mouse and keyboard. Especially for flight games, mouse and keyboard lack degrees of freedom to properly control a plane or spacecraft. I saw someone else mentioning Freelancer which had proper m+kb support, but I remember the actual flying as not very spectacular, I never rolled, mostly flying in circles.

A controller costs as much as a single game and a fraction of a GPU, sounds to me like some people just don't want to buy one. I only really play shooters and games with an actual cursor with m+kb. Racing games, flight games and platformers are better with a controller or other peripheral. So many are supported on PC and for so much longer than on consoles, why ignore them.

A keyboard is a typewriter and as such was never meant for gaming, the mouse a pointing device. It is just that the games have evolved around this and are shaped for these input devices whereas gamepads, arcade sticks, HOTAS, yokes, wheels asf were designed for their very purpose and are much better at that, with a keyboard you cant gradually control throttle because it has no axis as is a pedal or a trigger.
anewson 23 Sep
Quoting: audiopathikMafia 3 Definitve Edition has a Steam review score of only 53% while I have throughoughly enjoyed it, if a bit repetitive in the long run.
The reason is the launcher that 2K have put in place, I dont think it was there when I played and I think the game had a very positive score before. There are obviously all those 'in the old days everything was better' (the old games were better I have played them before Jesus was born already, all the rest sucks etc etc).

Dungeons and its expansion have very low score for technical reasons mainly as well, as do a lot of other games and a lot of older games that dont run without user fixes or dont run well on modern systems, such as the King's Quest Collection.

I think these issues shouldnt drag down the score entirely but the score should be diversified into topics such as technical/performance, graphics/audio, gameplay/fun.

Having a look at the playtime of the reviews is also a good indicator, for one to determine how qualified the review is and to see how fun the game actually is.

SteamDB has published an article on how Steam calculates the review score and how SteamDB used to (Wilson's score) and how they changed to a different algorithm.

It's not anymore up-to-date, meanwhile Valve have put methods in place to mitigate review bombing (NBA 2K20 was tagged Horror and Dating Simulator and had a review score of 20% when it launched) and reviews from Early Access versions, but it's still a good read: link

QuoteIf you've ever taken a slightly longer look at the Steam store, you've probably noticed their method of sorting games by review score is pretty bad. They just divide the positive reviews by the total reviews to get the rating. A game with a single positive review would be ranked above some other game that has 48 positive reviews and a single negative review. While they do have “steps” at 50 and 500 total reviews, meaning that no game with a rating of at least 80% will be ranked below a game with less than 50 reviews, and no game with a rating of at least 95% will be below a game with less than 500 reviews, it's still a bad system. Because if our 48 to 1 rated game suddenly accrued 11 more negative ratings, Steam would miraculously still place it higher than it was before.

In general the Steam review are a decent source of information and if you dont fall for the first word and can think for yourself you can make a very good picture of the game from them. They are also from gamers for gamers rather than from a profitable magazine for the mainstream market, who would for example never call CS:GO a trash game because it is against what's the general publics opinion, or so it is assumed, and they are who those publishers depend on. After all, if you are not writing for yourself it makes no sense publishing articles that are never being read, therefor magazines depend on people to read them and if people dont like what they are reading they will stop doing so. Thus they shape their opinions based on what people like to read and when those people are a crowd of millions it is impossible to come to a distinctive and at the same time shared opinion by everyone.

Great comment, I agree about using playtime, I use it a lot. And yeah adding different review categories would be a good -- I do like how simple Valve makes the review process, but categories would be really useful.
While you're here, please consider supporting GamingOnLinux on:

Reward Tiers: Patreon. Plain Donations: PayPal.

This ensures all of our main content remains totally free for everyone with no article paywalls. We also don't have tons of adverts, there's also no tracking and we respect your privacy. Just good, fresh content. Without your continued support, we simply could not continue!

You can find even more ways to support us on this dedicated page any time. If you already are, thank you!
Login / Register

Or login with...
Sign in with Steam Sign in with Twitter Sign in with Google
Social logins require cookies to stay logged in.