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X Rebirth Review

27 Nov 2013  by   Peter Parrish
Game Details
Developer: Egosoft
Publisher: Deep Silver
Reviewed on: PC
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X3: Terran Conflict was one of the first games I reviewed for IncGamers. The release version was rather undermined by bugs, but underneath the obvious glitches and awkward interface there was a solid basis for creating and managing a sprawling, if rather dour and spreadsheet-oriented, space empire. I gave it 6/10, and in the following years Egosoft released a pair of X3 expansions and worked through updates and modders to tart the series up into something far better than its initial launch suggested.

I’m not sure that’s going to be possible with X Rebirth.

x rebirth (1)

Maybe there’s still time to escape through this jump-gate to a better game.

Here’s a primer on how things have gone for X Rebirth since launch. The developers have publicly apologised for the state the game was released in. There is a 34 page (and counting) thread on the official forums for workarounds to bugs. It sits near an extensive guide on the subject of how to coax a refund out of Steam’s notoriously tight customer service team. If you pre-ordered the game, you might want to bookmark that one.

Performance is dreadful and has been since the game’s release on 15 November. A substantial portion of the title seems to be CPU-bound (which is fair enough,) but it seems incapable of making proper use of multiple processor cores or offsetting any of the load to the GPU (which is not fair enough.) The “Level of Detail” slider has notches between 0 and 100, but there’s a strong chance you’ll periodically be watching a slide-show no matter where you set it. Zones in which there are a great many objects (ships, asteroids, structures) being displayed at once appear to bring PCs of all types to their digital knees. There is no way to reduce the density of objects, and the “View Distance” slider is about as useful as the LOD one in teasing extra FPS out of the creaking, DirectX 9-based engine.

Even more embarrassing, these frame-rate issues persist even inside the dockable space stations. Nothing that is being rendered inside these structures should be causing stress to any PC made in the past half-decade. I can only assume that the FPS continues to tank because the game is still trying to render the entire zone outside. Quieter areas of space offer some respite from the frame-rate issues, but I’ve still encountered moments where X Rebirth will fall into single-digit FPS for no apparent reason. Attempting to do simple tasks (let alone space dogfighting) is impossible in these situations.

x rebirth (7)

It looks fairly nice, but you’re seeing it moving in real time here.

Prior to release, Egosoft’s Bernd Lehahn told us the following in relation to how performance would scale:

What we currently specify as minimum specs should be good enough to get a decent frame-rate with minimum LOD settings. The one graphic settings that has the biggest impact on performance is the “LOD” (level of detail) and the closely related view range.

Currently, this is not the case. It is not even close to being the case. Lowered settings do very little to boost the overall frame-rate, and there are scores of reports from people with rigs well above the recommended specs who are suffering from FPS woes. Optimisation, then, is a major issue. Given enough time, this aspect should be fixable. That doesn’t help the people who are trying to play the game right now, but it is something about X Rebirth that could, in time, be salvageable.

Now let’s discuss bugs. It may be difficult for me to write this, because I lost about four hours of my life to a mission involving the simple transaction of 100 energy cells and I’m still in therapy for it. X Rebirth players will know the part of the game I’m referring to. It’s fairly early in the campaign, it’s designed to teach players about the new trading system and it’s indicative of not just the bugs infesting this game, but also the deep-rooted design issues that will make the title extremely difficult to rescue from its fate.

x rebirth (4)

The amazing clarity of the in-game map screen.

Trading 100 energy cells goes like this. The campaign gives you a freighter ship, so that part is taken care of. Next, you need to find a Captain and Defense Officer to fly and protect that ship. The easiest way to do this is to ask a passing civilian vessel (by tediously working through a series of nested menus) where the nearest one might be, dock at the relevant space port, wander through some identikit corridors until you find the right guy, possibly hold a baffling “small talk” mini-game with them in order to savour some atrocious voice acting, and then watch a rubbish cut-scene of the person walking into the hold of your vessel.

If you ever want to own more ships, then you’ll have to go through this entire staffing process again (a lengthier one if the ship requires more personnel.) It’s about as exciting as you’d imagine, and fleet management is something of a nightmare. It doesn’t matter how skilled your hired captain is, ships will still be incapable of refueling without asking you first.

With a crew on board, you can travel to a space station that wants to sell the energy cells. Doing so will require you to use the in-game highways that propel you between zones and systems. For some reason, travel on these is pretty slow unless you slipstream other traffic in yet another odd mini-game. This gets rather stale after the third or fourth journey, but there’s no way to skip it and (to add further joy) highway travel tends to be yet another aspect of X Rebirth that has a vendetta against smooth frame-rates.

x rebirth (3)

Get used to seeing a lot of spaceship butts.

Once you’re at the station and have purchased the goods, your freighter may go and pick them up. I say “may,” because if you decided to take the optional campaign mission to escort somebody to a meeting while this was going on, your freighter could now be terribly confused and unable to complete the task. Even if it has managed to pick up the 100 energy cells (which can take, no joke, at least fifteen or twenty real life minutes to achieve,) it might still be in a state of bafflement and forget to follow you out of the system to your destination. This is strange, because normally ships will follow you absolutely everywhere. Even into dangerous war zones that you’d rather they stay out of.

There are fixes for the stuck freighter which range from asking it to leave and rejoin your squad, editing XML saved game files and making desperate sacrifices to local spiritual deities.

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  1. DrWiz
    +5

    Right on spot, this is the best review I been reading, couldnt get any closer to the feelings I get from Rebirth (Stillbirth).

    Thanks for your efforts trying, just like all of us did :)

    There are good things about this game, especialy this one : http://steamcommunity.com/app/2870/discussions/0/648812916784186353/

    November 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm

  2. DavidTheSlayer

    I agree with DrWiz.

    From playing X3: Terran Conflict despite being hard for me to get into, was actually good once I got used to it. The more I watched the trailers and read about X Rebirth the more I wanted it. Now if I have to fiddle with save game files or fight all those problems with the game, it’s not worth the hassle. Peter, you’ve just saved me £30! Thanks for the detailed review and info on your podcast.

    November 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

  3. Audent

    Arse. I was hoping this would be the one.

    So if X-Rebirth sucks like a vacuum cleaner (I couldn’t even get it to run) what do you recommend for a player hunting for a fly spaceships/upgrade/dogfight/smuggle stuff game?

    November 28, 2013 at 12:37 am
    1. Avatar of
      Lazerbeak
      +2

      Freelancer

      November 28, 2013 at 11:23 am
    2. Avatar of
      Durandal
      +2

      Wait for Elite: Dangerous

      November 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm
      1. I agree!

        November 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

  4. lamb
    +5

    Egosoft make a fool out of everybody with this game. Game was designed for Consoles and it failed. Thus they released it for PC to cover their cost.

    November 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

  5. X3 player / Albion Prelude
    +1

    Wow what a total dissapointment. I can’t believe they made soemthing so terrible and shallow after making the x3 series, culminating in Albion Prelude.

    THEY MADE AN X GAME WHERE YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE SHIP!!? What the f…

    I was expecting a more shiny, upgraded version of Albion Prelude. What the hell is this game?

    November 29, 2013 at 11:57 am

  6. Nightranger
    +2

    I pre-ordered this game and watched every compoany video and looked at the alpha video. It was all lies… 45 bucks down the drain. This game and the company are frauds. They lost me as a customer for ever.

    December 1, 2013 at 2:35 am

  7. Patrick
    +1

    Having about 25 years as a gamer I resisted the force to buy into this game until it was properly reviewed, patients has paid off! its always been a good thing to wait for the latest thing to merge into community first, my alarm bell went off because of the lack of a playable demo ….. one needs the demo and not classy pictures.

    December 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm

  8. Amanndaa

    Played it on 2 different machines/configs with everything on max, pretty good fps around 25-30 so no issues there

    December 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

  9. Anton

    Thx egosoft for destroying my lifetime. I was so excited to the release time. even buyed PC for 1800 euro. Nvidia 780 ti ….

    But this game is so boring and bad made. Now i hate egosoft forever.

    Releasing alpha game ! so bad made after 7 years ! You are money hungry company with no heart for gamers !!!

    December 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm

  10. max2go

    Same here with over two decades of gaming exp of almost any game type… I’m a huge X3:TC fan (never played the others), which I played after a few weeks of EVE Online… and I like X3 so much better, especially the capping of other ships, pretty awesome.

    So I was very excited (although admittedly a bit skeptical because of the changes) when Rebirth was originally launched… then I forgot about it, just a week ago I got some free time to install Steam for playing Dota2 and saw that I had missed the pre-order deadline for Rebirth… I was pissed.

    Yet I told myself that I first wanted to see some actual gameplay before dishing out money… I just don’t give out money easily, especially not to titles showing screenshots and PR talk and especially considering how much I enjoy X3:TC but also remembering X3’s dev / release history.

    And after reading this review, also not going to happen. I’m a huge anything space related fan, considering that this is where humanity is inevitably heading into, colonizing other planets and such, that’s why I’m even working on my own space colonization MMORPG. Yet even despite my reservations I had about this title before I read this review, I’m just devastatingly disappointed…

    But it seems that Egosoft continues to be plagued by bad executive decision making. They had a (quite fairly) solid title with X3:TC, so if they had just stuck to it to the most part (technology and gameplay wise) and improved on this fairly solid foundation (yeah, pathfinding quite sucked in it and that was a point addressed when Rebirth was originally announced, and Egosoft reassured that it will not be an issue anymore!) then they’d have me as a customer.

    Enough said though… I agree, sadly: Rebirth = Stillbirth

    December 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm
  11. Avatar of
    welyn dowd
    +1

    I loved the x series. I bought this game the day it came out on steam. I’d have got more enjoyment from my money if I’d bought a hammer to hit myself in the head with. The worst part is by the time egosoft and the modders finally get this game to a playable, enjoyable level it’ll be available to buy on steam for £2.99.

    Gutted just doesn’t quite sum it up.

    February 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

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