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X Rebirth Review

27 Nov 2013  by   Peter Parrish
Game Details
Developer: Egosoft
Publisher: Deep Silver
Reviewed on: PC

You should now be ready to sell the energy cells. To do this, you need to babysit the freighter to the point of sale in another zone and make the trade with the relevant space port (later, it’s theoretically possible to do this remotely.) If you are very, very lucky the freighter will acknowledge your orders and make the sale. If you’re like me and many other X Rebirth players, it will sit in space and do absolutely nothing. The reason for this, I suspect, is because another freighter tends to park itself in front of the plot-critical space station and your freighter has to wait for it. Not necessarily a problem, except trade is currently so broken in the game that the NPC freighter is not actually buying or selling anything. It remains in place, blocking your trade forever.

This blocked trade is a game-ending glitch that I could only bypass by finding someone online who’d been kind enough to post a saved game file from the relevant point. Later, I came across another lovely bug which made the in-cockpit menu screens entirely disappear. Those are the screens which allow you to organise your missions, navigate the world, see the status of your ship and … well, basically do almost all administrative tasks in the game. The way to solve this was to bring up the (invisible) map screen, visit the tiny back area of your ship where the crew hang out, then return to the cockpit in order to re-trigger a “getting into your seat” cutscene. Of course. I mean, how else would you resolve it?

x rebirth (5)

Once upon a time there was a menu here.

Previous X titles allowed the player to buy and pilot new ships, giving a sense of purpose and a reason for earning all of those credits. You would come up against difficult foes or see a shiny ship with a desirable design and set about trying to scrape together enough cash for a new ride. In X Rebirth you are relegated to the ‘Albion Skunk,’ a ship that is neither a rapid dogfighter nor a capital craft powerhouse. It handles very much like a starter ship; one that does the job just fine but that you’d aspire to leave behind for a superior vessel.

In fact, you’re stuck with it. X Rebirth has no other ships for you to directly fly. The only changes you can really make are in the form of underwhelming upgrades with lackluster names (no space sim fan in the history of the genre has ever been excited to swap a Plasma Cannon Mk 1 for a Plasma Cannon Mk 2,) and the addition of drones. Certain types of drone can be piloted remotely from your craft, but offer a pathetic substitute for the thrill of owning a new ship. These ones also leave your ship floating and vulnerable to attack, so their uses are somewhat limited to situations where that would be desirable. Still, it’s rather apt that the game’s only option for an alternative craft to pilot is a synonym for tedious, monotonous speech.

Since the Albion Skunk is the only craft you can pilot, the game’s combat has to be ‘balanced’ to reflect this fact. This means the Albion Skunk can take on any other ship, including larger vessels, with relative comfort. Only overwhelming force provides a serious risk of harm, but it does helps that the enemy AI pathfinding is so poor that it regularly leads them into getting stuck inside the external structures of space stations. The most difficult aspect of combat is keeping track of the tiny red triangle icons which denote an enemy craft, because X Rebirth has no radar/gravidar and absolutely no way of cycling through targets. You’d think there’d be room for at least one of those features inside the Skunk’s gigantic cockpit since it has the indecency to take up about 40% of your view, but no.

x rebirth (6)

Long-range scanning has a pretty effect and can earn you lots of money. But for some inexplicable reason it takes three key presses to reach this mode.

Being trapped inside the Skunk also means being trapped with Yisha, the Jar-Jar Binks of the X series. Yisha is terrible in every way. She’s a blank-eyed automaton who delivers her lines as if at gun-point (though, in fairness, so does everybody else) and makes ill-advised attempts to inject her grating personality at any available moment. It’s ironic that she tells the on-board ship computer to shut up so often (so, so often) because Betty’s robotic tones are one of the few pieces of voice acting in the game that don’t make me cringe in horror. Turning the voices off helps to some extent (as it does with the freakish clones who inhabit all of the space stations,) but it means you have to put up with her staring eerily at you in silence.

Between the show-stopping bugs, awful frame-rates and tedious busywork masquerading as game mechanics, X Rebirth does apologetically provide some classic moments of space sim wonder. Alexei Zakharov’s soundtrack is absolutely terrific, and I’d like to offer personal thanks to Mr. Zakharov for keeping my spirits up through hours of monotony and despair. Drifting and rolling in the great voids of space as the music evokes an unreleased Brian Eno-Human League collaboration of the mid-80s, and a distant sun spreads its rays across the sector, you’d almost be forgiven for slipping into some brief moments of enjoyment.

Then you remember that the trade system in this trading game is broken, the method of space station construction is confusing and possibly broken, the combat is facile, the ship upgrades are mundane and the whole process of scanning and tramping through space stations to ‘talk’ to the equivalent of a drop-down menu with a face on it is really not worth the effort. It’s pretty telling that the most popular X Rebirth mods at this time all remove features from the game.

x rebirth (8)

If you shoot back at people who attack you, they will complain to the space police and ruin your reputation with a station. You cannot report people who attack you.

I don’t like to just give up on games, but after spending another evening trying to complete a simple trade of 300 food rations while suffering cold sweats and flashbacks to the 100 energy quest, I threw in the towel. The systems in place at this time are too convoluted, too frustrating or simply too bugged for me to be able to rationally take X Rebirth’s sisyphean campaign beyond the twenty hour mark.

Look, I’m very receptive to the idea of walking around space stations and having meaningful interactions with NPCs. I’m fine with the concept of highways being used for rapid travel instead of a time speed-up feature. I can even see the potential in investigating parts of space stations to learn useful information and leverage better deals. Unfortunately, the implementation of these features has been unanimously awful. NPCs provide no life, no spark, no interest in the universe at large whatsoever, while highway travel and space station scanning are both tedious chores that add nothing to the game but wasted time.

X Rebirth has something rotten at its heart that has poisoned a reported seven years (seven!) of development. Attempts to make the series more accessible and a search for broader appeal are not inherently to blame for this, but have both backfired catastrophically. Instead, we have a game that will devastate the fan-base, repel anyone new to the series and enrage anybody who pre-ordered it. I didn’t think anything would be able to top SimCity and Total War: Rome II’s abysmal launches, but somehow, someway, Egosoft has managed it with X Rebirth.

2/10
X Rebirth is the most disappointing PC title of 2013. A heartbreaking, gut-churning mess.
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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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