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GOG Galaxy 2.0 (Closed Beta) Analysis

GOG has always been the underdog in the digital distribution scene. From their origins in 2008 as classic games distributor Good Old Games, GOG has gone from strength to strength while staying true to their core philosophy of DRM-free gaming. As a subsidiary of industry darling CD Projekt, it isn’t a surprise that GOG mirrors the commitment to quality and gamer experience of CD Projekt’s other baby, The Witcher. GOG Galaxy launched in 2014, and customers were understandably concerned – yet another launcher. True to their core philosophy of gamer choice, GOG made the launcher entirely optional.

In its original form, GOG Galaxy was little more than an optional launcher, but eventually incorporated additional features like cloud saves and achievements. Then in May 2018, GOG announced GOG Galaxy 2.0, which entered closed beta in June this year. As a tragic GOG fanboy, I was signed up from day one, and shortly afterwards received my invite e-mail.

I’ve been using GOG Galaxy 2.0 for a few months now, and while it is lacking in a few features, it has rapidly become my favourite launcher, for a few key reasons.

The Features

When it comes to features, GOG Galaxy 2.0 is a huge leap forward from the Galaxy 1.2 (the current release version). Not all the features are available yet, but it is clear from the outset that GOG is on the right track. Here’s an outline of the core features:

  • One Library: Probably the flagship feature, Galaxy 2.0 allows you to import your libraries from all other launchers, and even games that run without a launcher.
  • Library Customization: It is incredibly easy to create custom lists and display them how you like.
  • Patch Rollbacks: Didn’t like the most recent patch of a game? Did it break your game? This feature existed in Galaxy 1.2, and thankfully it’s still here.
  • Game Stats: Game stats are tracked across platforms, and even features like Steam Achievements are imported and tracked in Galaxy 2.0.
  • Cross-Platform Social Features: Yet to be integrated, but this is one of my most anticipated features – the ability to chat with my friends across all launchers in one place – even console launchers, like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
  • No Data Sharing: Data security is one of the biggest issues in the modern era, and GOG claims that they greatly value user privacy. Whether you believe this is up to you.
  • Community Features: Already in use, GOG Galaxy 2.0 is accompanied by a Python API that allows users to build their own launcher integrations. So, if your game launcher isn’t already supported, chances are someone has created a community integration.

Launcher tags and custom tags on the left, and a cross-platform summary, presented with a slick design aesthetic.

The Pros

Firstly, the aesthetic. GOG Galaxy 2.0 is clean, minimal and gentle on the eyes. If I had one major criticism of Galaxy 1.x, it is that it almost looked like a program designed for Windows XP. GOG has stepped up their presentation game this time around, and it looks spectacular.

My favorite Galaxy 2.0 feature so far is the consolidated library. Playing a game from another launcher still requires you to have the relevant launcher open in the background, and this is unlikely to change – Steam, Origin, and Uplay are not going to let you abandon them entirely. However, if the launcher isn’t already open, Galaxy 2.0 does this for you. You can even install and uninstall games from other launchers.

Not implemented yet, but you can secondary launcher behavior.

While it hasn’t been implemented yet, Galaxy 2.0 will also allow users to customize the behavior of secondary launchers, meaning you can minimize your interaction with them even more by forcing them to close together with the game they support.

Adding new games and launchers is incredibly easy, accessed from the Settings cog. From here, you simply click “Connect” for the relevant platform, or you can manually add a game. You can also sync any existing integrations, although I’ve found that this happens automatically and quite quickly; new games are added before I even have a chance to choose this option.

Almost all games added to GOG Galaxy 2.0 come with box art, a game summary and screenshots, regardless of which launcher they’re associated with. Even manually added games are accompanied by background art – I was shocked to discover that even 1983’s Alley Cat was listed, with accompanying screenshots and description.

The only Fallout games worth playing, all in one place.

The library is highly customizable too. You can manually add tags to any game by simply right clicking it. By default, bookmarks are added to the sidebar for each of the launchers, but you can bookmark any filter you like – I’ve got one bookmarked tag that lists all my RPGs, while another lists all my Star Wars games, and another lists any Space games. You can also display your library in multiple ways – with the box art (which you can scale in size) or as a list, with stats next to the games.

The list view of my RPG collection, ordered by playtime.

GOG Galaxy 2.0 still has a long way to go, but the features that currently exist are brilliant, and already put Galaxy 2.0 in strong competition against established giant, Steam (even with their Library update, which launched at time of writing).

Best of all, however, is that GOG Galaxy has always been and continues to be entirely optional. Other launchers might force you to use them, but any games purchased on GOG are DRM-free and can be installed independently.

The Cons

As much as I love it so far, GOG Galaxy 2.0 still needs a lot of improvement. There is currently no easy way to access the GOG Forums or the Goodies and Extras for your GOG games from within the launcher, as you could with Galaxy 1.2. This means that, for now, you’ll have to access that content from GOG’s website, a significant annoyance, but thankfully I don’t regularly access these features.

The social aspect of Galaxy 2.0 is, so far, pretty minimal. For most gamers, the bulk of your social network will probably still be sitting on Steam, so until cross-platform chat launches, it is hard to really get a bearing on how good or bad the social aspect of Galaxy 2.0 will be. Thankfully, the existing features hint that GOG is headed in the right direction, so I’m remaining hopeful.

Depending on the game, you might also use features such as the Steam’s game-specific Community Hubs, or the Steam Workshop. At this stage, you’ll need to access that through Steam, but features like the Steam In-Game Overlay still work exactly the same – Galaxy 2.0 is simply launching these games for you.

Another feature I’d like to see is Steam’s screenshot libraries. Currently, you can take screenshots in GOG games by pressing F12 (like Steam). However, rather than your screenshots being added to some easily accessible spot that you can locate within the launcher, they are instead saved to a GOG Galaxy folder in My Documents. Steam’s in-launcher access to your screenshots, along with the ability to store them in the cloud, is still a significant advantage.

The Final Say

GOG Galaxy 2.0 is already a fantastic launcher, better than anything except probably Steam. That’s to be expected – Valve practically invented digital distribution, and have been polishing Steam for the better part of 15 years. The fact that GOG is competing at all is an achievement. Meanwhile, EA, Ubisoft and Epic Games, with their hundreds of millions in revenue from countless blockbusters, simply can’t compete with the beloved Polish crew at GOG.

The good thing about GOG Galaxy 2.0’s missing features is that they are mostly listed as Coming Soontm. If the GOG crew are anything like their colleagues working on Cyberpunk 2077, then those features will probably come “when they’re ready”. But that’s a good thing, and I think the industry should take inspiration from CD Projekt and focus on quality over release schedule more often.

Getting the most out of GOG Galaxy 2.0

GOG Galaxy 2.0’s big strength is customizability, which has quite a lot of depth, even at this early stage. If you want to get the most out of Galaxy 2.0, I’d recommend starting with the GOG Galaxy 2.0 Atlas Update overview. Other good resources are the GOG Galaxy 2.0 Forum and GOG Subreddit.

The one useful hotkey you need for Galaxy 2.0 is Ctrl-F/CMD-F. This opens the Global Search function from anywhere within Galaxy 2.0. From here, you can just type in what you want – a tag, like “Steam” or “Shooter”, or the name of a game. From the list, you can view a game’s Overview page, install or uninstall it, mark it as owned, or (if it is on the GOG store) buy it.

Adding a game manually is straightforward – once you search for it and mark it as owned, you can then link an executable from the game’s Overview page.

If you haven’t played Rocket Jockey, do yourself a favor and PLAY IT. It’s brilliant.

In most cases, the game should already be listed in GOG’s database (I don’t actually know where this is sourced from – add comment if you do), and will be accompanied by a summary, screenshots and metadata. If it isn’t then you might need to source this yourself – something I had to do for Segasoft’s 1996 cult-classic, Rocket Jockey.

If you’re adding a classic DOS game that isn’t already available on GOG, then you might need to create a custom shortcut to launch the game in DOSBox – this is how most DOS games sold by GOG are configured. The DOSBox Shortcuts page on the DOSBox Wiki explains how to do this, and the DOSBox Subreddit or DOSBox Forums are another great place to ask for help.

Have fun with GOG Galaxy 2.0!

In about 1989, Gavin Annand played his first games on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Thus, began a lifetime obsession with games. A gaming addict or connoisseur, depending on your perspective.