X Rebirth Review: Sucking Vacuum

To top off a growing tower of gripes, navigation around space in Rebirth is an astounding hassle. While flawed, the solution in previous games was simply to mark your destination on the map, activate autopilot and turn on time-compression to speed up your travel time. Rebirth cripples all three parts of this process. The map is almost unreadable, and intensely difficult to navigate around with either mouse or gamepad. There’s no autopilot anymore, either, with the game just offering waypoints on your HUD after plotting a course. Time acceleration is missing entirely, too — understandable, given the shorter distances traveled — but the replacement isn’t much better. The last, worst aspect of the new travel system is just the icing on the cake.

Every sector in Rebirth is connected by a network of glowing yellow space-highways. These tunnels suck up any ship that enters them, and propels those ships at high speed to the next exit point in the network, although you can leave early if you so desire. You can speed up this process by tailgating highway traffic (I wish I was joking) for a speed boost and reduce the amount of waiting, but this effectively turns long-distance travel into a tedious minigame where your goal is to smoosh your face up the tail-pipe of the ship in front of you, and the reward is getting to stop this silliness just a little bit sooner.

And, of course, if you miss your exit then you’ll have to take the long way around — many highways are single lane, one-way systems.

There’s an inkling of a good idea here, and again, its underdeveloped nature reflects X Rebirth’s entire design. Reducing the size of the game-world and the amount of time you sit around waiting for the game to move you around? A laudable decision. Removing autopilot so that you get to experience the whole process of travelling to/from anywhere? Less so.

The highways could so easily just time-skip you directly to your destination, but instead force you to play a bizarre action minigame. Even a pure fast-travel system might have been preferable, but once again, Rebirth offers a new kind of drudgery in place of meaningful gameplay.

Probably the most frustrating thing about this whole debacle is that there’s a potentially great game in here. The space combat often looks spectacular, and a lot of the new concepts, like handing off boring tasks like mass-scale industrial trading to NPC employees are interesting, just half-baked and poorly implemented. The graphics can be spectacular, especially if you poke around the moving, detailed parts of the space stations. There’s a fascinating, addictive game here, just wrapped in so many layers of poorly thought-out design decisions and janky presentation that it’s easy to dismiss it.

The final nail in Rebirth’s coffin is probably the return of many of the X series’ most irritating gripes. On top of all the bugs, performance problems and tiresome NPCs, the allied AI (which you will have to rely on in many situations) is still dumb as a sack of hammers. You’ll often see your loyal hirelings getting confused, lost, stuck trying to navigate station geometry or worse. This is bad enough, but for some reason there are fewer squad command options or even basic orders to give, and they’re harder to hand out due to being lost deep within an endless spiral of radial menus, which work decently for short conversations but are a poor choice for anything larger.

A lot of the complaints leveled at X Rebirth elsewhere – and even the comment boxes here – have been barking up the entirely wrong tree. Gnashing and wailing about how consoles are destroying the sanctity of PC gaming is preposterous, and while a lack of native joystick support is problematic, supporting the Xbox 360 gamepad — the one vaguely standardized analogue controller the PC has ever had — is not some grand evil, but rather a positive step. Rebirth was always billed as a return to the roots of the series, too, with a smaller and less cluttered universe and a single, upgradeable player ship.

While fans who have been with the series from X2 onwards might not like the direction Egosoft has taken the game, these are not inherent flaws. They are not why X Rebirth is a bad game. There are plenty of very real reasons to avoid this game. Egosoft has built up a solid reputation over the years for supporting their games, and there have been some fairly strong promises to further support and fix X Rebirth. Whether these promises ever come to fruition is beyond the point now, though. If you’re a fan of the series or a complete newcomer, you should probably steer well clear of Rebirth.

There’s a chance that patches, tweaks, mods and possibly even expansions might salvage this game over time, but right now, there’s really nothing here worth playing. If you’re willing to watch some YouTube tutorials or look up a guide, then X3 is still your best bet for scratching that freelancing space-rogue itch.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous graphics, detailed space-cities full of life, albeit at a cost
  • Controls are simple and more accessible… initially
  • More gentle learning curve than earlier X games, starting off slow

Cons:

  • Buggy, rough, unpolished and still rife with old problems from earlier games
  • Radial menus and truncated options make more complex actions harder than ever
  • Awful voicework, cloned NPCs and a co-pilot you’ll want to strangle within minutes
  • Additional busywork and minigames add tedium where there should be action
  • After so many years, the central space combat should be better than this

Final Score: 47/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.

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17 Comments on X Rebirth Review: Sucking Vacuum

Niserox

On November 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I think that the one good thing about the game sucking so bad is that it makes people more interested in Star Citizen.

The X games have always had buggy starts or issues, but this game REALLY let it all go. People with titans and i7s are barely breaking 35 FPS and the graphics options do almost nothing. I think someone said that the first girl you meet (can’t remember he name), her cleavage is actually just a texture, there’s no actual 3d rendering. Idk if thats true or not, but we live in 2013 (2014 in a month). We can handle some god damn 3d rendering.

Overall, after I installed this and played for 3 minutes, I just uninstalled and went back to Albion Prelude.

Star Citizen is the savior we need (fingers crossed – don’t jinx it) and it can’t come soon enough.

ddrulez

On November 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm

The German voice actors are awful tool.
Requested a refund from steam but don’t get one :/

This game is in early beta phase stadium.

Codcat

On November 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I really hope this game can be salvaged but I think it’d require an overhaul replacing all the negative points that were listed in this article. Another point that wasn’t mentioned here that I do not like about the game is the no collision damage, you just bounce off of everything and the flying police cars with sirens – oh god its so bad are we meant to be in space or a city on a planet…

Traeon

On November 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm

47% is incredibly generous. I was expecting between 20% and 30%. This game is very, very far from finished.

rickshaw

On November 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

Really Nice review!!
Its been patched again, but I ain’t played it yet, again. I have to wait a few days to get over not playing but for a few brilliant moments. I really like the game! but, it crashed for me too many times during each patching. I ‘m hoping and praying the new patch will let me play. I love the game play of this game!! I love the atmosphere that it gives! I hate to copy and paste and can bare it..yes I can bare it.
Its patched fast, only to be downtrodden by more flaws..
It’s a really a nice dreamy game!
It was rushed into the shop before it was built!! the wheels weren’t on! the brakes never worked! its dam shame it never launched before a proper beta testing. :)
some devs do ave’em ;( money thoughts over reality checks

Loyal

On November 21, 2013 at 3:12 am

I wish someone would pick up the Freespace IP and make an open world game sorta like what WC: Privateer was going for.

Daniel North

On November 21, 2013 at 8:12 am

What a stupid review, the fact you didn’t give this 10-20 is mind blowing, let alone fail to understand not even patches will fix this pile of crap.

Polarity

On November 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

There’s a lot of hard to dismiss evidence (X360 level visual detail inside the stations and ship, numerous references to “xbox360″ and “xbox” inside the game’s code files, a pretty damning timeline complete with Egosoft job postings for someone with console development skills, using an address aware 32bit executable while requiring a 64bit OS, a clearly controller centric ui, the halfassed introduction of pointless minigames to engage the player in tasks they never needed to pay attention to before, etc) that X Rebirth was scheduled to be a console title, and only after Deep Silver and Egosoft realized how absolutely unworkable that goal was did they grudgingly turn back to PC.

I think that at this point, it’s fair to say that consol-itis did claim Rebirth’s soul from the start.

Dominic Tarason

On November 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

The score, I think, reflects that the game is *playable* now, just not enjoyable, and that I do believe that it can be salvaged.

For Egosoft to turn this around, them or their fanbase need to…:

Launch Yisha out an airlock. Along with most of the NPCs, but her first and foremost.
Put Autopilot back in, along with a map UI that human beings can comprehend.
Remove the tailgating minigame from highways and double the base travel speed.
Cut out the ugly HUD (fans have already done this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUUm6eIfI0o)
Add a radar, filling some of the space in that newly opened up HUD space
Allow the player to quickly and easily automate/delegate hiring staff and assigning trade missions.
Improve the command UI so that the player can micromanage things easier if needs be.
Save walking around on stations/ships for special story sequences, rather than being required.

Honestly, if they did all that, it’d be a good game. Not a great one (and I doubt it ever will be), but I honestly believe there’s potential here for it to be good.

Alan Roberts

On November 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

47% is WAY too generous

today i tried it again after the latest patch and landed on a station .
at some parts of that slideshow afterburner reported 1fps. (it is now worse for me than it ever was)

my machine is no way top of the line (6core phenom at 3.8 16gb ddr3 gtx660Ti) but it should eat this game up.

it doesn’t even support joysticks.
I have a saitek x52 pro and the game only sees 8 buttons from 24 and 1 hat switch from 3.
the throttle doesn’t work the scroll whells don’t work the sliders don’t work
(what it does see on my Hotas flightsick which would be the perfect controller for such a game equals a 360 controller and a d-pad)

I do own a 360 controller but i have no intention of ever playing a “sim” with a gamepad

Bob

On November 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

I loved X2 and X3 – I sank hours into trading, fighting, and empire building. I still play X3 AP occasionally, because there’s nothing like getting attacked by a bunch of pirates and warping your carrier & destroyer in to wipe them out for their audacity!

All the time X Rebirth was in development I’ve been hoping against hope that they wouldn’t arse it up, but knowing deep down that they would. Hey ho – in 2 years, with lots of community mods, this might be worth looking at.

Ripped off

On November 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

Warning – to anyone about to purchase this game, I am speaking on behalf of the majority of people who have purchased this game – do not buy it- Please see the following thread, which links responses from devs etc. I hope to save potential new buyers a lot of pain.

http://steamcommunity.com/app/2870/discussions/0/648811852746554801/?tscn=1385091770#p1

Also, metacritic

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/x-rebirth

NLS

On November 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

47/100?
You are very generous.
I don’t even care about the bugs because as you said they have a reputation of eventually fixing them (in the next few months or 1-2 years… although people that bought the game paid for it NOW)… What I am actually furious (because I really wanted to like this game), is that it is FUNDAMENTALLY broken. Many many design decisions (that won’t be patched, they are not bugs… will be there until Egosoft closes down or they release whatever follows X-Rebirth) are soooooooooooooo wrong. It’s like they learned nothing, nothing at all by making all these space games all these years.
Unbelievable. This game is almost insulting (actually definitely insulting for pre-order people).

RGT

On November 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm

The Console complain is WAY deeper than the controller issue.

Its the fact that the game files show hundreds of code lines for Xbox shaders, something no PC game needs whatsoever.

Then comes the fact Egosoft specifically was looking for coders with console experience.

THAT is why we are feeling this might be a failed console game that got ported to the PC to save it albeit slightly.

Arseny

On November 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

the part about consoles breaking PC gaming does make sense though. Consoles have obviously larger profit margins and less piracy, so they are the obvious first choice. At the same time, they offer huge limitations which don’t exist on PC, and we see it in maaany newer games that they are actually dumbed down a lot, just so that they can run on consoles. Furthermore, the last decade or so saw huuuge increases in graphics quality etc., but hardly any increases in sophistication of gameplay

RedLeader6

On November 27, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I hate to be cruel, especially in these times, when games released for the PC are few and far between, let alone just really good games.
We just don’t have what it used to be in the 90s. There are genres gone near extinct, such as simulators and space games. Do not bring up Mass Effect, because that’s more like Jersey Shore in space, it has nothing to do with being a spaceship-trader-galaxy discoverer.
So anyway, as I said, I hate to be cruel, but it’s time to make an example and Egosoft must have to go. Egosoft isn’t a giant company, but I wouldn’t mind sacrificing them in order to make a statement.
You just can’t get away with horrendous games, just because you were making it for the XBOX and getting rejected and throw it at the PC gamers in alpha stage (because that’s what’s going on).
I want the company to sink now and die and unfortunately it isn’t going to be EA, but it should send a clear message for everyone else.

Valekin

On December 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Bah, I like this game despite the flaws. They should have never let it out with so much bugs, but the company I am sure will fix it. They are known to support their games a long time and even add free content. Past x games, which fans claim to love , were basically panned on their release as well. The trouble with most of these reviews is that reviewers probably got no more than six hours in – not enough to get into any depth in this game type of game whatsoever, but enough to see the obvious flaws and complain about user interface issues. There is enough CoD type games on the market – I want this one to work.