When X Rebirth was announced a couple of years ago, I was very excited. I love the X games. They were sometimes a buggy, overly complicated mess but by the time you get to X3: Terran Conflict or Albion Prelude, what you get is quite a polished, complex and involving space simulator where you can build up an entire empire of stations and fleets of ships to defend or expand with. Its even better with some of the awesome mods that the community has created for it. So I was understandably very happy about a new X game rebuilt from the ground up. I pre-ordered it without much thought at the expensive price of £40. Oh my, what a mistake that was.
It’s my own fault, I should’ve realised the early warning signs implied something fishy was going on. The lack of interaction between the developers and the community, the more in-depth trailers I saw explaining some of the game mechanics worried me somewhat and no kind of Alpha/Beta testing either for the community. This isn’t the first time I’ve been burnt pre-ordering a game either so you’d think I would’ve learnt my lesson by now.
Bottom line? X Rebirth is a poorly designed game that removes a lot of the complex gameplay present in the previous games and if the evidence is to be believed, is actually just a failed console game ported badly to PC. It bears all the hallmarks of a game that’s just not ready to be released in its current state.
I really wanted to like X Rebirth but I just couldn’t keep playing it, so as a result I’ve only got a couple of hour’s playtime under my space belt before I simply gave up on it. As a result this review may not be as thorough as my previous ones. Still I saw enough to be rather pissed off. Basic things you simply take for granted in most space sims are just not there. There’s no autopilot, you can’t map any buttons to target other ships, and there are no external or manual camera controls – at all. The UI is horrible, messy and confusing, there’s no minimap or radar to indicate where everything is relative to you. You have to actually manually fly around stations looking for a place to dock, it doesn’t show you were the docking port is. You also have to board stations and look around aimlessly in the copy/pasted station interiors for NPC’s to pilot your ships or get the right trade wares. The NPC’s themselves are atrociously bad in design and voice acting as well with lines straight from Waynes World (“Nice talking… not”).
It doesn’t stop there either. When the game was first announced, the biggest worry from everyone was the decision to only have you flying one ship, since previous X games allowed you to fly pretty much anything from a fighter to a massive destroyer or carrier. Ok, I thought, that’s disappointing but if they do it right and I can still control fleets of AI ships, that’s not so bad. I figured it would have lots of upgrades, subsystems and things you could mess with, something to make it worth investing and spending all your time in that one ship. But apparently not. Despite a very shiny looking cockpit and the fact you can walk around the rest of your ship (which comprises of two tiny rooms and the airlock), the cockpit scenes once you enter are entirely scripted events. You have no control whatsoever in moving around the cockpit, you can’t even just turn your head to look around. You can’t even turn off the cockpit to see more of space and as a result, a significant amount of screen real-estate is simply taken up by the cockpit.
As well as all this, there are numerous bugs and technical issues as well as some serious performance drops for some, though to be fair these are less surprising for a game of this scope on its release day. Did I mention though the atrociously bad Joystick/HOTAS support or lack thereof?
There are a few things I like, it is generally a very pretty game when you’re in space and the combat is also very pretty. I like the exploration aspect and the more seamless nature of the game world you inhabit. But these few things are no-where near enough to make this anywhere close to a good game.
This is £40 of my hard earned cash I will never get back (because Steam doesn’t do refunds) and I have once again been burned by a pre-order of a very promising game that turned out to be a steaming pile of unfinished or broken shite instead. I am really disappointed with Egosoft but I wonder if the faults in the game design have more to do with their publisher (Deep Silver) pressuring them to make the game ‘more accessible’ which as we all know is just a polite way of saying ‘dumb it down for the masses’. Perhaps in time Egosoft will patch up X Rebirth to be more playable and enjoyable, but for now, it is most certainly NOT worth the £40 price tag.
And I’m done with pre-ordering games period. I’ve just been burnt too many times now. In fact its quite appropriate that the latest episode of South Park is commenting on the latest console wars when the kids dress up as Game of Thrones characters and fight over whether to buy the Xbox One or the PS4. Cartman comes out with the winner line of the episode about pre-orders which I shall leave you with as my closing:
“When you pre-order a game, you’re just committing to paying for something some assholes in California haven’t finished working on yet. You know what you get for pre-ordering a game? A big dick in your mouth.” – Eric Cartman