X Rebirth reviewed (PC): In space, no-one can hear you ragequit

X Rebirth

By on December 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I’m done with this game. I’ve had enough. My reserves of willpower and my fortitude for being screwed over are spent. No more.

X Rebirth, despite graduating from release to version 1.18, is utter chaos — not of the colossal and awe-inspiring kind space-fans expected, but of an infuriating, hair-pulling, IQ-destroying nature. Every positive carries at least two negatives, both of which probably cause the game to crash or your save to be corrupted.

Ironically, I couldn’t have wanted this game more. James Pinnell, one of this site’s senior writers and a fine fellow, was aghast when I got in first for the review copy. It wasn’t luck: I sent an email to our glorious and benevolent overlord two months in advance. I even went as far as to make a pitch as to why you, the dear reader, might care about Rebirth, as if it wasn’t obvious already.

I wanted this badly and it didn’t arrive until the last hour – literally. Two hours before the game unlocked to the public at large, the review key still hadn’t arrived in our inbox. Reading the tweets of fellow journalists, Pinnell included, I very, very, nearly bought the game myself just so I could pre-load it in time; part of me was convinced that the key wasn’t going to arrive. But arrive it did — precisely 23 minutes before midnight.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Nope, nope, nope

Shocking performance, corrupted saves, senseless gameplay — and that was for those who could play at all. I had to wait a solid fortnight. We even contact Egosoft for help; they kindly suggested I update the game to see if it resolved my issues. It didn’t. I ended up finding salvation in a solitary post on the Steam forums, with a user uploading a working version of an XML file that was permanently broken for me, despite downloading the cache from scratch three times.

In the spirit of paying it forward, I emailed the support team to let them know of my solution.  The response: the bug was known and fixed in 1.15.

I was running 1.15. It wasn’t fixed. The patch notes for 1.16, released two days after my last email with Egosoft support, contained the following line: “Fixed several more crashes during start-up and in-game.” A full week after release I finally reached the menu screen, no thanks to any official support.

If only the problems ended there. The official workaround thread on the Egosoft forums sits at 36 pages at the time of writing. A post on November 16 from the developers apologising for the sorry state of the game — back in version 1.13 — has over 1200 posts. Another Steam thread full of angry Russians has over 1800 posts of its own.

Introducing Ren Otani

My personal gripes continued when I began exploring the life and times of Ren Otani, a spineless brat who by the grace of the cosmos happens to come across the Albion Skunk (probably because it emits an odour which mirrors the game’s overall quality) floating aimlessly and unoccupied. Too incompetent to fix things of his own accord, Otani enlists the help of Yisha Tarren who can most charitably be described as the whiny, lobotomised, aggravating cherry on top this faeces-riddled cake.

I’ll say no more about Tarren other than that she’s effectively Rebirth’s Jar-Jar Binks. Her voice acting is still better than Otani’s, although the standard is spectacularly low across the board. What’s even more staggering is the writing direction Egosoft went with for Otani. Tarren sounds like she’s goading Otani into being a space explorer, which is essentially half the reason why people are interested in space games in the first place. Is it really too much to ask that the protagonist wants to explore space and get involved in dangerous situations? Did the writer somehow become inspired by Karl Pilkington?

Tarren, on the run, asks for an escort, prompting a journey through several intergalactic highways. Here you’ll encounter one of the many, many depressing time wasting activities. Highways have nine lanes laid out in a 3×3 grid and if you switch lanes to a ship that’s travelling faster than you, the Skunk gains acceleration from the slipstream.

It’s not an unreasonable concept on paper, but in practice means your attention is constantly required if you want to cut down on travel time. It’s not always guaranteed either: upon my first travel through a jump gate, I found myself in an abandoned sector and had to wait a solid minute travelling through a highway because no other ships were around to piggy-back off.

I eventually gave up on the whole idea and just kept my iPad Mini nearby so I could play The World Ends With You in between highway jumps. It says a lot when I’d rather progress in a Japanese RPG than tolerate another second of brainless busy-work.

What does this all mean

The plot’s weakness is only matched by the sheer lack of care with which it treats the universe it occupies. I flew through about eight or nine highways at the game’s behest in the first hour, not understanding where I was going or anything about the places once I’d arrived. You can always see your exact path, of course, but Rebirth makes no attempt to build any kind of lasting connection.

Otani, for all intents and purposes, has no home. Even intrepid explorers have a base of operations, a place to refuel and rest. Surely Otani would have one too — the guy doesn’t even like exploring space that much. He abhors danger and, initially, recoils at Tarren the troublemaker. Am I expected to believe someone with that kind of personality wouldn’t have a one-bedroom unit on a planet somewhere?

Monotony, it seems, is the order of the day. Exploring space stations is a laborious process that involves you flying within a few hundred metres of objects until you’re allowed to interact. Eventually you’ll be able to trade remotely on space stations once you’ve earned enough money to make it worth it, but for the first, oh, ten hours, you’ll be kissing objects with the nose of the Albion, waiting for that outline to appear. God help me.

Docking, incidentally, is quite fun at first. Walking out of your ship seamlessly onto the landing platform has a sense of “this is the future” about it, or maybe that’s just because I remember wishing I could explore planets when I played Freelancer. Most of the stations have largely the same layout and look, although the sameness is balanced by the ability to land on all variety of capital ships, bases, freighters and so on.

Once you arrive though, you’ll encounter more busywork if you want to earn a buck. I found a simple method early on was to find two or three traders of the same type on one station and just simply sell their goods to each other. If you’re lucky, one of the traders will pipe up about how lonely and miserable life is, giving you an opportunity to impress yourself with the seller via a little timing mini-game. Anyone with a pulse can get a reasonably good result, although a couple of times I failed because — incredibly — Rebirth doesn’t lock the mouse cursor to the game window and I accidentally clicked on my second monitor’s desktop, alt-tabbing the game.

That aside, it’s fairly simple to start raking in a million or two. It’s a mundane process that requires extreme patience, given that Otani and the NPCs only know two or three lines each. The torture is necessary mind you: the missions and side-missions offered at various bases pay bugger all. Decent weapons will set you back over 100,000 credits; most missions only offer somewhere in the region of 15,000 to 35,000 at the beginning. Hiring crew members can be costly and systems upgrades – engines, shields, scanners and so forth – are exorbitant early on.

I just want to punch something

Luckily, the combat is reasonably fluid provided the frame rate holds up. The Skunk is the only craft you can fly throughout, so Egosoft had to make sure it was capable of fighting all comers. Four thrusters, an afterburner and the standard engine give you enough maneuverability to survive in combat, while an array of drones (the ones you aren’t hocking off, anyway) allows you to contribute to the fray without being directly involved.

Where the fun ends is with the lobotomised AI. While you can only fly the Skunk, you can issue commands to a fleet of your own; it’s just a shame they don’t seem to… do anything. Luckily you might not need them, because I came across multiple enemies floating happily in space, refusing to even acknowledge my presence until I’d unloaded a few rounds of plasma into their engines.

The worst part is the reputation algorithm underpinning the different factions. Completing missions or protecting a certain station from bandits will improve or harm your standing with the parties involved. Unfortunately, any action affects your standing. Neutrality isn’t acceptable. Self-defence isn’t recognised either, which makes the campaign an utterly infuriating experience.

After wedging you between the Heart of Albion and the Plutarch Mining Corporation, the plot forces you to back the former, despite Otani’s half-hearted objections to conflict of any kind. What’s frustrating is that the Plutarch ships are holding you in high regard while they’re jamming lasers down your throat.

The second you fight back, the Plutarch forces kick up a stink and “report” you to the local authorities. It’s an astonishingly poor design decision given the plot forces you to dock at a Plutarch station later, when you’ve thoroughly trashed your reputation with the mining corporation to the point where you’re not allowed to dock. My salvation came from dying and restarting enough times until Rebirth felt sympathetic enough to let me land. The plot wouldn’t progress otherwise.

It happens in the side-missions too. Occasionally I’d be warding bandits away from a station, when one would inextricably get stuck inside a wreckage somewhere. They never fired back, but any time I tried to find a small gap to squeeze a shot through, the shot registered against the friendly station, immediately trashing my reputation with the faction that issued the mission and prompting a restart — which subsequently failed because the save game was corrupted.

Do not buy this game

I could go on, but there are only so many bugs, poor design choices and frame rate drops one can withstand. I’ll keep persisting with Rebirth mind you: like the X3 games, Rebirth should be a completely different product after, oh, a year of updates. And that’s not factoring in the amount of mods that will be released (although it provides me with great amusement that in the first few weeks, most of the popular mods removed features because they were so buggy and broken).

The time the next Steam sales come around, Rebirth might actually mirror the kind of experience Egosoft originally envisioned. Right now, it’s a miserable, soul-crushing disappointment. It won’t stay that way forever, but until the situation improves, give this one a miss.

Good:

  • Beautiful backdrops
  • The Albion Skunk is fun to maneuver
  • Enormous world to explore
  • Can land on practically any station or ship (most of the time)

Bad:

  • Atrocious performance, with a frame rate that plunges into single digits
  • Abysmal voice-acting
  • Rubbish plot
  • Too much busywork, like the highways and conversations with sellers
  • Too many broken or poorly designed features, like fleet management, the AI, combat
  • Fonts and icons too small and difficult to see in some sectors
  • Doesn’t lock the mouse cursor to the game window

X Rebirth costs $49.99 on Steam. This review copy provided by Egosoft.

Screenshots in this review also provided by Egosoft.

Tags:
14 comments (Leave your own)

Daaamn. So it’s good huh?

 

I’ve logged 36 hours in X-Rebirth and at least 500+ hours in the other X games.
All I can say is that I think this reviewer is being gentle.
Though that last paragraph sums it up well.

 
charliebrownau

I recommend getting Star Citizen instead of X rebirth

X Rebirth game play
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKIdfBPE5kk

Star Citizen US$40 package
https://robertsspaceindustries.com/store/316-aurora-mr

Star Citizen Hornet Commercial trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0gZES2pTWk
What is Star Citizen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLDkvY0Mx5s

 

I always scroll down to read the conclusion of a review first. This is why — thanks for saving my time.

 

:( So sad this game didn’t work out. I really really hope it gets properly fixed up over the next few months with a few patches and mods. I will likely pick it up on the cheap next year sometime.

 

Logged 62hours so far. And I while I agree with a lot of the statements made, what is making this game playable and actually pretty good are some of the mods that are coming out.

So I would honestly say – Watch this space. The X series really has been made by the mods released over time, not just the core game.

 

charliebrownau:
I recommend getting Star Citizen instead of X rebirth

X Rebirth game play
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKIdfBPE5kk

Star Citizen US$40 package
https://robertsspaceindustries.com/store/316-aurora-mr

Star Citizen Hornet Commercial trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0gZES2pTWk
What is Star Citizen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLDkvY0Mx5s

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big backer of Star Citizen, but everywhere I go I just see plugs for it. It may be that Star Citizen will launch in a similar state to Rebirth.

You can’t recommend a ‘game’ that only has a hangar module. It’s 2 years away from being remotely finished. Even if Rebirth is broken, its more playable than Star Citizen is currently.

Like most rushed games these days, lets wait and see how Rebirth turns out. This and other reviews made me wait.

 

helos: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big backer of Star Citizen, but everywhere I go I just see plugs for it. It may be that Star Citizen will launch in a similar state to Rebirth.

You can’t recommend a ‘game’ that only has a hangar module. It’s 2 years away from being remotely finished. Even if Rebirth is broken, its more playable than Star Citizen is currently.

Like most rushed games these days, lets wait and see how Rebirth turns out. This and other reviews made me wait.

You can actually. I can recommend it right now. I know the amount of work and how the people at Egosoft worked on Rebirth. While they are a nice bunch of dev’s who, right now are getting their balls kicked repeatedly by the people they ignored during the development of Rebirth (i.e. all the people who’d bought older X games), they have their hearts in the right place. The worst decision was to keep Rebirth locked down and beta tested by a select few from the community. A few who couldn’t provide a wide enough cross-section to highlight all the problems. It’s just one factor in many that lead to Rebirth ending up like this.

For SC though, it’s being community tested from the get go. There have been patches to the hangar module to get things working properly, you can see the quality of the modelling in the hangar which so far outstrips most games in detail already despite only being first pass on texturing. If you want to see the second pass on texturing the next hangar module patch will show that with the Avenger at least. Maybe applied to some of the others too.

The difference is SC is an alpha. It will be until all modules are brought together for the beta test at the end of 2014. Until then it’s alpha and should be thought of accordingly. Additionally with 300,000 alpha testers (100,000 of them active most of the time) it’s going to be hard for them not to know and fix most of the gamebreaking issues. As we all know, the best QA peeps are the masses.

 

I want to love this game. The scenery, the size of the game, the freedom it offers and the potential it has is actually very impressive. However it completely fails in the fundamentals. Weaknesses can be the average to poor voice acting, flying only one ship and a steep learning curve with minimal in-game assistance to learn which all can be tolerable… But the story, the performance, the broken features and accessibility are all so GOD DAMN awful. I’m certain despite a few patches various features are still broken as I spent hours in more than one occasion researching how to do something which generally results in the sad conclusion of it not working correctly.

I love and hate this game but as I find more issues and stuck doing repetitive actions I just have to give it long breaks before another attempt.

 

Its pretty bullshit that this even happened to be honest.
Well at least we still have Albion Prelude. An infinitely better and cheaper game, just go play that instead.

 

So tell us how you really feel :P

Was on the edge of getting this game but looks like I’ll just have to wait till Star Citizen releases their next modules for my space sim fix.

 

gamertech
Just grab a copy of Albion Prelude. X: Rebirth gave myself and my colleague the needed impetus to finish our total conversion of AP to X-Timelines. A properly simulated universe, with working trade and manufacturing lines. Totally reworked ship balance including no need for SETA any more as the speeds are now useful and tolerable.

LOTS of fixes to the base game mechanics, like Hardcoded bounce by Litcube to prevent ships from crashing into things for no reason. Fixes to missiles, weapons and other elements that had known problems. Fixed the docking explosion bug which Egosoft even put in the 3.1 patch for AP.

We are currently alpha testing the economy and hopefully not long after we should have a playable build for release. It took a while to get to this stage, but seeing as Rebirth really is everything we didn’t want from an X game, we are committed to getting XTL out to show what could have been ;)

 

The time the next Steam sales come around, Rebirth might actually mirror the kind of experience Egosoft originally envisioned.

The time the next Steam sales come around, Rebirth wont matter because we’ll be in the SC beta test.

FTFY.

 

helos: It may be that Star Citizen will launch in a similar state to Rebirth.

There would be blood, also I’m pretty sure Crytek wouldn’t let it happen … they are giving amazing amounts of support to the star citizen team

 
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