Wot I Think: X Rebirth

By Craig Pearson on November 21st, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Pretty, yes? IT IS MADE OF MY TEARS.
X Rebirth was the one game in the current glut of space adventures that I was certain would work. After all, Egosoft has spent the last decade making the most visible and complex space games on the PC. They know how to do this. They also know that the X series has been built for people with an innate understanding of how to play their open-world adventures. X Rebirth was supposed to be a game as complex and as malleable as their previous games, but one that was accessible to everyone. It’s neither of those, and in trying to figure out how to make it work for everyone, it’s gone horribly, completely, utterly wrong. Everything I wrote in my Impressions piece still stands, so if you haven’t read it I’d take a look at it. I’ve spent 30 hours trying to find something functional in what they’ve released, and now I really need a hug.

Egosoft has released broken games before, but I could always see through the fog of bugs into the game beneath. X3 took two updates and years of patching before it turned into a game that matched its lofty goals, and left me feeling like I was part of a living universe of ships, stations, trading, and fighting. That complexity has been stripped, and Rebirth’s problems feel too all encompassing for me to think that I can return in six months to find a game worth playing.

It’s an attempt to redo an entire universe, to create a more organic world for the players to explore. The biggest change is in the structure of the galaxy. They’ve moved on from a series of interconnected systems that were shaped and traversed by compass points, where space somehow conformed to a patchwork quilt design. Rebirth is a world of systems, smaller sectors, and interconnected zones. Now moving from zone-to-zone is accomplished via the highways, charged tubes that snake through space, delivering you from point-to-point, or you can choose to hop-off wherever you choose. That could be at any of the zones along the way, or even between those areas, where there are at least a few things to discover. This is probably the only good thing to come out of this mess, because it allowed the world’s designers to think big: zones might be far apart, but they’ll still be part of a system dominated by, say, a huge sun, and it’s impressive just how often I’ve marveled at the view the new zone provides. But, really, I’m only saying that because I don’t have many more nice things to say about it, and I wanted to get it out of the way. I like the look of Rebirth, even if the textures are murky, but I just wish the developers had given me a cockpit that I could see out of, a third-person camera, and a wider FOV. Even when I’m going out of my way to admire it, it lets me down.

The cockpit is pretty useless.

I stuck with the narrative because Rebirth introduces wholesale changes to trading and how you order your fleet around, and I could only find that out while torturing myself with the abysmally told story of a Ren Otani, the captain of a salvaged ship who’s dragged into an ideological battle between two huge factions. The slavers of The Plutarch Mining Company and the remnants of the military movement The Heart of Albion are at war, and you’re dragged into it by a witless co-pilot. Yisha, your constant companion, is honestly the most annoying character I’ve ever had to deal with in a game. Aside from her utter uselessness (she doesn’t take control of the ship when you need to pilot a drone), she’s performed with all the skill of the child from Revenge Of The Sith.

There is an early mission in Rebirth’s story, one where I was asked to deliver 100 electric cells from one station to another. A change from the previous games (though a similar set-up as the original) means the player only directly captains a single ship, but will eventually accrue a flotilla that you’ll use to perform these tasks. I needed to visit a station and order electric cells, and then visit another station in another zone to deliver them. This would be fulfilled by the trade ship in my squad. The first thing that went wrong: the ship wouldn’t follow me. This was a bug, not a flub on my part, and it meant I had to travel all the way back to the region where the trade ship had stalled (manually, because in this huge, complicated world there is strangely no autopilot), remove it and then re-add it to my squad. And it still wouldn’t make the trade. My mistake? I doing everything correctly. I was following the mission prompts that popped up at the station, selecting them, and then expecting the game to follow through the orders. What I needed to do, though it was never made clear to me at any point, was ignore the pop-up and instead use the game’s trading menu. This is a plot point. Rebirth wouldn’t carry on without it occurring. I ended up returning to an earlier save, but for those players unlucky enough not to have such a thing, the alternative is restarting or hacking the save file. Why do they have to hack the save? Because there is currently no in-game method of removing trade orders, so the flubbed order would block the correct one.

I just wrote 285 words describing all the ways a simple delivery mission messed up. It gets worse. I was about to be introduced to the concept of drones. Drones play a few roles in the game: as one of the meagre upgrades to the ship they can act as defence buffs, and they can be directly controlled by the player in offensive roles. In this case, I was told to use a hacker drone (actually called a “Beholder Drone”, but why use the actual word when an unused term can be substituted?) to compromise a station’s defences. But because of my standing with the zone’s police state – a standing that the plot forced on me – my ship was a beacon for all the police in the zone. Leaving the ship in the drone meant I couldn’t defend it while it was under attack, and there are no automated defences: the co-pilot just sits there, dimly allowing the shields to fail and the ship to be destroyed. I had to return and defend myself, which only escalated the problem. This isn’t really bugged, but it’s a good example of the lack of care Rebirth has received. I managed to complete the mission by jamming my ship into a gap in the zone’s station.

I was then dragged into a huge space battle. My role was to disable a prison ship so a small team of marines could board it. Following ridiculously woolly instructions about collecting the marines and their commander, I was able to populate my ship with the people who’d be able to take control of the target vessel. For whatever reason, the game substituted the ship I was supposed to be boarding with another, a ship that didn’t advance the story when it was defeated. It allowed me to beat it up, to send my acquired soldiers to board it, and then the order came in for me to flee. I lurched through the space highways, trying to find some joy in the tedious slipstreaming mini-game that would make the journey speed up, and arrived at the target zone. The ship I was supposed to disable had somehow appeared here, and because I’d completed all the plot-mandated action on the other ship, this one was an inert, plot-blocking clog. I tried again and again and again, but there was no shaking myself from the trap that it had laid.

It really can look spectacular

At least it gave me a look at the combat: the cramped cockpit view and tight FOV turns the dog-fighting into space jousts with the smaller ships, and larger cap ships are taken down with a game of turret whackamole. There’s no tension in those larger fights, because everything you need to do is called out by the idiot co-pilot. It brought out one of the more bizarre elements of Rebirth’s UI: I can use the awful, unzoomable in-game map to find out where ships are zones and zones away, but I can only target what’s directly in front of me. There are no targeting hotkeys of any kind. There are at least some upgrades to the ship: new engines can be fitted for different types of piloting, enabling boosts in direction or speed, and I can upgrade the guns once. But in comparison to X3′s selection of ships with multiple hardpoints, this is nothing but a dirty little smear of space dust. The only way out of the space battle was to acquire another person’s save, because I damn sure wasn’t about to restart the entire game.

I was sent to an outer system, a zone built in the corona of a star. As you’d imagine, the people living here were outcasts trying to keep away from the on-going war, but in need of resources. I was told to bring some food supplies to the base. When was I told that? When I arrived at the station that needed the supplies an icon popped up asking for me to complete the delivery in same instance I was being informed of the mission. How was I supposed to carry out the task? Not with the previously mentioned trade ship, which was now nowhere to be found (it was impounded, apparently), but with a new station-building ship that became part of my little crew. That new ship, by the way, was not equipped with the drones that would enable it to trade, and it’s not like the game told me how to fix it (though I suspect that the dialogue was missing). When I discovered what I needed to do (thanks to Google), which was procure some automated cargolifter drones, I couldn’t find anyone nearby to kit the ship out. I had to hack the save file and give myself the equipment in order to carry on.

I’m getting depressed just writing this out. It doesn’t include all the little bugs: menus that forget they’re mouse-driven, the engine crashes, a time I got stuck inside a station, the other time I was blasted out of a zone-to-zone travel corridor millions of miles off course, the animation bugs, the missing dialogue… Jurassic Park had a shorter buglist, and it had less disastrous consequences. There is honestly a support network of players providing save games for people who are stuck.

But by now I thought I’d have enough know-how to make a go of it in the plot-free wonderland of “Free Play”. There you start with a decent standing with everyone, 100,000 credits, and a dream of a working game without constant interruptions from your witless, stilted companion. Don’t dare to dream, people. You’ll only end up hurt like I was.

Stations are gorgeous places to hide from police

With the freedom to think and plan, I butted right up against the UI (and left an impression of my tear-streaked face upon it). It’s been built with a controller in mind, with radial controls forcing you to flick through menus that could otherwise be readily accommodated. Instead of allowing the player to contact people on stations, to buy goods and hire goons, you’re now forced onto the station to make contact directly. And when you do, out pops the radial menu again. The goal of this is immersion, but it’s a time-consuming waste of effort: there’s nothing immersive about the stations populated with a poorly written population of data points, who might or might not have what you need. There’s no character to anyone you meet, aside from random snark, and everything they say or do could be accomplished by a machine.

It’s not like there’s not a system in place. There are icons on stations that allow you to deal with some people without the tedium of landing and hunting them down. Missions can be taken from these, though the selection is slim: protecting the station from invaders, assassination trips, escort missions and deliveries all pop-up. None are worth writing about.

Fleet management and trading have both been exposed to the vacuum of space for too long. You can’t have trading without ships in the X series, though previous games allowed you to get your hands dirty and also allowed you to set up an incredible system of automated trades. Not Rebirth. No, as I mentioned before, you must manually order ships to collect and deliver. You have to personally gather all the information about sales, which means swooping near a station and gathering the nearby info, and then order a ship to buy it, using the trade screen to figure out the distance and difference in price. It’s all so clunky, and the trade menu’s language baffles me. It says “to offers” and “to sales”, and I keep forgetting which of those means I have something to sell because the language is so murky. Not that it really matters: you can make more money using the long-range scanner and pinging the universe for loot. I managed to upgrade my ship, adding the best guns, fastest engine, and the best selection of shields after an hour of looting, selling my wares to the station dwellers.

This about sums it all up: when one of your trade ships runs out of fuel, even if you have a pilot, an engineer, and a captain on board, it waits for you to tell it to refuel and where to get the fuel from.

Stations are completely and utterly useless

It’s not like Egosoft don’t know how to do this stuff. The previous game in the series, and the prequel to Rebirth, Albion Prelude is ponderous, but it’s slick and remarkably satisfying. A slow space brain-sink that you happily can lose hours to. The only hours I’ve lost to Rebirth are the ones that I had to claw back from various crashes. The final one happened just as I was watching a station come together: it’s an interesting process, and at least one that involves some planning. You grab an architect NPC and go through the selection of what the station should spawn with. Then you need a construction ship, the parts, the materials. It’s a goal, to be sure, though there’s also the option to pay for all of that and let the process run its course. It was the one moment when I felt like I was making a meaningful decision, even if the game will only allow the station to be placed at pre-determined points. The only time I felt like I was making an impact, changing the world. It was going well enough that I looked up some mods to see if there was a chance that I could begin rebuilding the game. If there’s anyone who can parley a disappointing game launch into something positive it’s the people who made X3. They wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t. And neither would the community.

Then it crashed and the save corrupted. I’d spent about 30 hours getting to that point, and I’d had enough. It’s an appalling, broken mess, and I’m not going back.

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178 Comments »

Top comments

  1. irgndsondepp says:

    *hug*

  1. Awesumo says:

    I gave up on the game when it became a wildlife documentary on Trading ship – space station mating rituals… mostly involving repeated violent ramming.

  2. nothingfaced says:

    Yup – this, I made the error of pre-ordering as well (no, dont pre-order anything you daft tit).

    I gave up and went back to Albion Prelude with a few mods. A significantly better game.

    • bstard says:

      I wonder. Are there people around who a) actually take breath and somehow manage to survive, and b) pre-ordered Simcity, Rome2 and this Rebirth.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        You forgot Aliens: Colonical Malice in b)

      • Triplanetary says:

        I preordered SimCity. I admit it. I’m not proud of it, but I did it, and now it’s something I’ll always have to live with.

        To my credit, the experience was a learning one. I most certainly did *not* preorder Rome 2 or X Rebirth.

        • Romah says:

          My biggest gaming mistake was to preorder Star Trek Online… Lifetime sub that was around $250…
          I truly believed it was going to be on the scale of Eve Online… My reasoning was I hated subscriptions so much and wanted a deep sci fi game.. STO was a huge flop and now its free to play… *cries*
          Lets just say now I find a way to “try” games before buying them… The gaming industry seems to morph into a swarm of money sucking corporations rather than creators of virtual worlds we had in the past :(

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Same for me, pre-ordered (idiot) but ultimately went back to Albion Prelude with mods.

      Only difference being that mine got lost in the post and showed up 4 days late by which time the reviews were well and truly in. So I just stuck it straight back in the post unopened for a full refund.

      Yay for Royal Mail eh? :)

      • Lev Astov says:

        What mods do you guys recommend for Albion Prelude? I’m thinking of doing the same.

        • Keyrock says:

          Start with XRM, it;s a complete overhaul of the game and works with either Terran Conflict or Albion Prelude.

          • Stardreamer says:

            I have just started XRM in Terran Conflict and the difference even this one mod makes is quite incredible. For the first time in years I’m really enjoying an X-game! Ships are faster, combat feels meatier, there’s lots more going in in the universe threat-wise, lots of new ships – including old favourites from X2 spruced up for X3 graphics…it really feels that much closer to the promise that Egosoft themselves never quite managed to achieve. Just wonderful.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Thank CHRIST I waited! I have been scrimping and saving after buying the disaster that was Rome II Total War. To then end up spending the money on this sounds like it would’ve broken me.

    • razorramone says:

      Not trying to sound like an ass, but who in the year 2013 is pre-ordering strategy games? They’re guaranteed to come out with game-breaking bugs and hideous balance issues. You’re basically paying to be a QA tester

      • majorcornwallace says:

        I agree pre-ordering is something to think twice, three then four times about. But fans of X-series weren’t entirely irrational for doing so. After all this game does have a track record — so there was something to draw on in predicting possible outcomes.

        The real problem with X Rebirth isn’t the bugs. It’s the entire design process — it is a functionally broken game. I wrote up an entire review from a game-designer perspective starting with UI. It ended up being quite a long review and included stuff like Craig has as well as many other reviewers. I showed it to my friends. I posted it to some private G+ groups becaue I’d written it… and then decided I was done with the game, even reviewing it.

        So — like the first thing that is discussed during initial design is UI functionality. There’s not just one way to do it — but most of the groups I’ve worked with start categorizing on a graph Fast-to-Slow functions. Fast things you need in real time, almost real time, quickly and with ease. This stuff applies to more than games. Slow stuff you can take your time or are infrequent tasks that you’ve already interrupted your workflow (gameplay) to do.

        X Rebirth fails on even these baby steps of design. Just the layout of the HUD UI, the horrible multiple (and seemingly unrelated) menu systems and the fact that for Fast type actions you have to literally turn your character away from piloting to stare at another menu system and dig through an opaque (and often fruitless) series of actions.

  3. thekeats1999 says:

    I have all of these, picked up in a steam sale, but not played any of them yet.

    So the question is which is the best one to look at, is it a case of X3 (whatever expansion pack) or are any of the earlier titles worth a look?

    • Dorque says:

      Many are good but the generally recommended game at the moment is X3:Albion Prelude.

      It’s mostly X3:Reunion repackaged with some mods but the repackaging actually makes for a pretty slick UI, as compared to Reunion.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        It’s a repackaged X3:Terran Conflict to be more precise

        • Dorque says:

          Well yes, but TC was also Reunion repackaged with mods, so it’s a recursive repackaging. ;)

      • thekeats1999 says:

        Thanks for that, will start the install when I get in tonight.

        Cheers.

      • oceanclub says:

        I bought X3: Reunion (as part of a Humble Bundle) a while back. When I get around to installing it, which mods are must-have?

        P.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Albion Prelude is the most polished, but TC is also good on it’s own.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Go all the way back to X2. In X3 they did a few things that ruined the game.

      • Stardreamer says:

        They really did! I really missed the volumetric nebula/gas clouds they used to have! And the shadows. I liked the way they rendered shadows in X2 very much. /sadface

        • BobsLawnService says:

          They also got rid of the gates at cardinal points so it was a mission to find them and added a terrible reputation system to the game which made trying to buy some of the bigger ships a painful grind worse than the worst MMO. Then they had a system in the living world where they would just randomly blow up a space station every few minutes in the namy of “dynamicism” which could sometimes stuff up the entire economy and screw you.

    • majorcornwallace says:

      X3 TC and X3 Albion Prelude (essentially the last has some very useful improvements to gameplay) — then mod it with XRM. And other mods. Those games are a lot of fun if you like a space sandbox. It’s a little cludgy but nothing like Rebirth’s fail.

  4. Lexx87 says:

    Blimey

  5. ropable says:

    Sadface.

  6. Dorque says:

    Forum speculation (with a lot of second-order proof lifted from the game files and elsewhere) is that this is a failed console port.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Unfortunately that code isn’t proof of anything except Egosoft is using an engine also designed to run stuff on consoles (and some of that code is automatically inserted into newer projects by Visual Studio.) You can find console references in Kerbal Space Program’s code for instance, but that’s not an aborted console port.

      There were a lot of cries for better controller support after Egosoft tried it in previous titles so that’s also not really proof this was intended for a console.

      The only thing that could really indicate that this was intended for consoles is that it doesn’t support DX 10 or 11, only 9c. The same one the xbox 360 uses. It could also be a consequence of the engine chosen or the fact Egosoft is a very small developer without the budget to push into the newer tech.

      Plus, everything it does poorly would be still be poor on a console and most of the complaints are repeats of ones levied against X3: Reunion when it first came out. Egosoft always has issues when they try something new but their support is much better than a lot of companies so I expect most problems with Rebirth to be ironed out in time.

      • Syphus says:

        I also expect most of the issues to be ironed out. There have also been daily patches. But the biggest question still remains “Did they learn absolutely nothing from X3?” And this is from someone who is still futzing around in Rebirth, and mildly enjoying it.

      • Dorque says:

        To be completely fair, they didn’t “choose” the engine, they built it themselves from scratch so I have to assume that there was at least some intent for Rebirth to run on consoles.

        • Joshua says:

          Then again, this game has been in development for several years (6 or so?), back when DX10 had just cropped up and nobody really liked it and when DX11 still was a long distance away.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        DX9 is not the only the thing that suggests a console basis. Text is scaled best at 720p, or TV-for-console resolution, and switching to the more PC standard of 1080p reduces legibility and negatively affects formatting. Menus all work best with a controller. The entire game fits on a DVD. FOV is locked to an angle suited to playing on a TV from a couch. The game appears to suffer less performance variation on lower specced machines, lacking optimisation for anything above mid range (Many users of high end machines have noted that the game judders whilst CPU usage sits at some very low number).

        We know they have admitted consoles were the start point – that is not the issue. Whilst none of the above points constitutes proof, and perhaps many would not care anyway, it does however lend a degree of weight to the idea that Egosoft did not expend quite as much effort, nor begin working perhaps as long ago as suggested, on changing this into a PC title.

        • Geebs says:

          I genuinely think anybody who tries to draw inferences about “optimisation” from the system CPU stats should be forcibly sat down with a compiler and a copy of the Orange Book for a couple of months before they are allowed to offer their opinion. It is never, ever that simple.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            I’d rather you sat me in front of the Orange Box. It was full of games that were actually fun.

          • Baines says:

            I believe Egosoft admitted that they didn’t optimize the game for better machines.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Nah, the text would be unreadable on a TV at 720p or 1080p. A lot of it is way too small.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      It seems more likely that they tried to make it multiplatform but they abandoned it due to memory issues, rather than it being a straight up console only game. It’s pretty much what they hinted at themselves.

    • soldant says:

      Being designed for consoles is not synonymous with being a bad game – this sort of ridiculous thinking does nobody credit. I’ve played X: Rebirth with a controller and the UI is still atrocious. Ridiculous decisions like forcing you to walk onto stations to accomplish basic tasks has nothing to do with a ‘possible console release’ and everything to do with ‘making crap decisions.’

      • Zenicetus says:

        It doesn’t have to be one or the other. A game can suffer from both intrinsically bad design (like Rebirth’s menus and “nav map”), and also flaws directly related to being designed to fit best on a console, without taking advantage of a PC’s capabilities.

        A prime example would be missing key bindings for “next target,” or “closest enemy,” or the lack of a missile countermeasures key, or a dozen other things you’d want in a game like this, because there aren’t enough buttons for it on a gamepad. That’s the kind of thing that can be directly blamed on a primary focus on console capabilities, and not just bad design in a vacuum.

        • soldant says:

          Actually there is a free keybind (right stick click seems to do nothing) which could function easily as targeting selection. They could also easily use modifier buttons to expand the available options. You don’t need to use the entire keyboard to create a functional game.

          • Zenicetus says:

            I don’t want just a functional game, I want one that has enough controls for deep immersion and fun.

            We’re supposed to be flying a combat spaceship here, not a city bus. If the conceit with this type of game is that we don’t have what a futuristic spaceship would actually have — a computer that did most or all of this — then at least give us enough controls and functions to have fun flying and fighting.

            I mean, look what we had back in the days of games like Privateer, a game released 20 years ago:

            http://www.allgame.com/game.php?id=5953&tab=controls

            Look at all those things we could do, way back then. And then look at what we can do with the (aptly named) Skunk. It’s pitiful.

          • soldant says:

            Most of those commands though could be condensed into a mouse-driven UI, or they actually do exist in X Rebirth except as part of menu-driven interfaces. The one glaring omission is the lack of a dedicated targeting key, which again isn’t impossible on the controller because the right stick apparently does nothing and would have worked perfectly as a targeting button! Also there are quite a few key binds for the Skunk which may not be readily apparent – you’re not just limited to what the 360 controller can do.

            Just because you have 104 keys it doesn’t mean you have to actually use all of them, particularly in the age of modern high-resolution displays where a mouse-driven UI is entirely practical. Particularly for the X series. If “MORE KEY BINDS!” was indicative of a quality game, then Battlecruiser 3000AD is the best game ever made and (Dr) Derek Smart is the God-Emperor of Mankind.

          • Zenicetus says:

            Soldant, you’re missing something really big here. Many of us grew up with these space games when they supported not just joysticks, but full HOTAS controllers, and many of us still use this type of control setup for civilian flight sims and combat flight sims. They’re supported in many modern games like the DCS series, Rise of Flight, the upcoming Battle for Stalingrad, and many other games even though it remains a niche area.

            I use a Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS and Saitek Combat Pro rudder pedals with these games. I have a TrackIR setup too. Freespace 2 Open supports all of that. I can map all the commands in that game to my HOTAS setup. I don’t have to fly with a mouse. I don’t have to fly with a gamepad. I want to map a shit ton of commands to controls that never leave my hands when I’m flying, like we used to be able to do with these cockpit-level space games.

            And yes, I know joysticks are Old Skool and few people use them now on PC’s, unless they’re into hardcore civilian and combat flight sims. But what exactly is the market for anything but an arcade-level space game, if the hardcore flight simmers like me aren’t part of that space game market? I guarantee that people like me aren’t interested in flying this type of game with a console gamepad, or a mouse.

            People like me aren’t even asking for direct support of our controllers (except for basic axis mapping, which isn’t even working now). We have software we can use to map flight and combat keystroke commands to our HOTAS setups. But if the commands aren’t there in the first place — if it’s been dumbed down to a small set of commands that can only work with a gamepad or mouse, then there is no point.

          • Stardreamer says:

            I would add that, as a veteran gamer, having a keyboard in front of you with dozens of mapped keys also adds immersion to the experience of controlling a spacecraft (or Mech. Half the fun of playing Mechwarrior used to be getting to grips with the controls, making them sing in harmony with your actions on screen. Good times!) Back in days of yore there used to be cardboard keyboard overlays that came with the game to help keep you right. Correspondingly, ships came with lots of different systems for you to get to grips with. Turning to a co-pilot and pressing ‘X’ just doesn’t have quite the same feel to it.

  7. bambusek says:

    Another game that fails because publisher tries to please two different groups and made something more mainstream while keeping old fans happy. Sad, very sad. It should stay for fans only.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I don’t think this is the publisher’s fault. I can understand Egosoft, it must feel rather dangerous to develop games for the same niche audience for over a decade while technology advances (which means fans may start demanding prettier graphics which of course mean more expensive development) and you don’t see a way to increase the sales of your games.

      The problem was that while they replaced many parts of the game the replacements were apparently created with moon logic. Look at Freelancer for a more successful take on dumbing the space trading game down. Remember that X-Tension came out before that and X2 was released half a year after FL so FL is not a case of that complexity not having been invented yet.

      • soldant says:

        Freelancer’s entirely static economy didn’t make anybody happy. What did was the excellent UI and easy controls.

    • Cinek says:

      It’s more because they released a game that wasn’t finished than the fact that it was suppose to satisfy 2 different groups. There are very few issues regarding it’s duality comparing to simple and plain bugs / missing features.

  8. GamesInquirer says:

    Yep, a wretched game that seems impossible to fix unless it’s a complete remake only keeping the ship and station models and next to nothing else. I don’t care if the intention was a console version, this sucks regardless of platform. If by some miracle the word is it got fixed I’ll try it again next winter.

  9. caseworks says:

    I pre-ordered it due to an unhealthy obsession with the X-universe. After 5 hours I uninstalled it and have set myself a 30 day cooling off period. On the 15th of December I’m going to look it up again with mods. That should be long enough for modders to strip 90% of the utter bollocks I hate about this game.

    • Keyrock says:

      I didn’t uninstall it because I have hard drive to spare, but I too have abandoned the game for now and plan to return in the future to see if some kind of miracle has been performed to make this game even approach something decent. I fear a month is nowhere near enough time. The X modding community is good, but they’re not THAT good. This is going to take a really long time to fix, if it’s even at all possible to fix. The game is broken so far down to its core that it may make more sense to just start from scratch.

  10. irgndsondepp says:

    *hug*

    • Guvornator says:

      Indeed. I haven’t bought it, but you can tell a lot about this game from my friend’s steam updates:

      Day 1 after release: “Steamname* is playing X: Rebirth” (ooOOoo the excitement! I wonder if it’s any good?)
      Day 2 “Steamname is playing X: Rebirth” (It must be good if he’s still playing it!)
      Day 3 “Steamname is playing Torchlight II” (Oh.)

      And he’s still playing not X: Rebirth as we speak. I have a feeling that he only played for the second day because he dropped £40 on it and needed to find something, anything, good.

      *not his real name, obviously.

  11. Sharlie Shaplin says:

    So sad. :.(

  12. Surlywombat says:

    X Rebirth was the one game in the current glut of space adventures that I was certain would work.

    I decided to never buy an X game at launch again after I was greeting by two eye balls floating above a uniform talking to me in the X2 opening cutscene (the head failed to render). It is my most disturbing gaming memory.

    Eventually it got patched and went back and I enjoyed my time in it. However from reading this it really doesn’t seem like there is much hope for this one.

    • Dozer says:

      I’d like to think that was deliberate. That kind of emotional scarring is the good, hilarious kind.

      Ooh, I wonder if I can mod OMSI so one in every thousand passengers is like this?

    • Herkimer says:

      “I decided to never buy an X game at launch again after I was greeting by two eye balls floating above a uniform talking to me in the X2 opening cutscene (the head failed to render). It is my most disturbing gaming memory.”

      There was a bug in the first Arma II campaign mission where the NPC’s heads all rendered as horribly distended nightmare visions, with gaping, stretched-out mouths. I’m trying to find a screenshot and failing, but it was pretty entertaining.

  13. Caiman says:

    I haven’t been this gutted since The Great Space Race turned out to be a steaming pile of crap.

  14. Granath says:

    Damn shame. This sounds very similar to my own Ultima 9 Ascension review 15 years ago, right down to the “get a save file from someone else because mine is corrupted”. Since I know what it’s like to play an utterly broken game that you expected to love for a lot longer than you want to in an effort to write a comprehensive review, my sympathies go to Craig for the torture he endured.

  15. KDR_11k says:

    In the german version the hacker drone is called a trojan drone. At first I made the mistake of bringing a traitor drone which is actually a minelayer.

    Cargo lifter drones? I’ve been scouring the merchants in Free Play mode looking for some sort of mining drone (not found any yet) and I have never seen a cargo lifter drone. Really strange how seemingly key drones are rare goods. I can get constructor drones everywhere but they’re completely useless unless I buy a construction ship.

  16. chunkynut says:

    I’ve found so far that its great if you don’t touch the campaign, but I’m only about 10 hours in and haven’t experienced any major bugs. Exploring and fighting has been quite fun but I’ve not managed to get a trade ship yet so my enjoyment may suffer there after.

    I can say however that a major annoyance is the ‘Syndicate Boss Vulnerable’ combat missions have no rhyme or reason to how much money you get. Destroy a trade ship – heres 50k, destroy two heavy carriers – heres 20k?!

  17. cluster says:

    They seriously need somebody for QA, it has been an issue for years and years with them, I actually had a bug when I bought X3 Reunion (months after it had been released) that only cleared when I re-installed the game, the game had been installed from a clean installer. The bug would disable the auto-pilote to dock onto stations (well it had simply disappeared from the game), and I would crash and crash approaching stations assuming I didn’t know what I was doing. Clean install and, oh miracle, I could dock. I promised myself some hours after I abandoned the game I would never come back to one of their games, because despite how interesting it sounded reading the experience from others gamers, I can’t stand this kind of games with insane bugs everywhere years after release, crushing your experience of play.

    When I saw this one, I was ready maybe to forgive, I read interview where they said they had heard “gamers” and would try to iron out their game in a better way. Well. Hire someone guys. Something is wrong with your processes, and it’s probably not all because of money issues thoses games come out this way.

  18. DThor says:

    Right at the start, the first time I went into that utterly pointless multi – highway minigame where you can increase your speed by shifting to other lanes (this gets old *really* fast), I exited and was promptly wedged *inside* a space station. Stuck. No way out. Start over. Did not give me the fuzzy-wuzzies in any way.

    The voice ‘acting’ is beyond the pale. I can’t even come up with a metaphor, since it’s insulting to all the high school plays and community theatres out there. To add more insult to injury, you *can’t* bypass them!

  19. WrenBoy says:

    You came though.

  20. Robslap says:

    Well fuck. Can anyone recommend any alternatives (that aren’t the predecessors) ?

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Similar games I can think of.

      Freelancer
      Darkstar One
      Evochron Mercenary
      IWar2.
      Starpoint Gemini 1-2
      Spaceforce Rogue Universe

      Plus the upcoming Elite Dangerous, Limit Theory and Star Citizen I guess.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        None of those are a suitable alternative to the X series. The X games have always had their own specific thing going that Rebirth seems to have lost. X is supposed to be about being a part of a huge dynamic sandbox economy. It could have been called Space Tycoon. They’re slow-paced games that gently draw you in.

        Here they seem to have tried to go for the more “visceral” route at the demand of many players who wanted kick-ass dogfights in space, etc. Wrong audience entirely. I think they should take a hint from Paradox and Spiderweb software – do your thing that you do well, and keep doing it. And when the time comes to improve what you are doing, make sure you know who you are first.

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          There really isn’t really a suitable alternative to the X series. They are just the closest type of games I could think of.

          I agree, they have been making hardcore games for too long, to be able to just suddenly know what casual gamers want. They made a rod for their own backs.

        • qrter says:

          Or if you do decide to make a more ‘user friendly’ version of your game, make it a specific project of its own. For example, the Avadon games from Spiderweb Software are a bit more streamlined, as they basically are supposed to be more open to players new to the genre.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          They made the mistake of trying to make the series more immersive through cumbersome systems. Something I fear Star Citizen will do as well.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          To a total X-Noob then, what is the recommended starting point? I am looking at the X games in Steam and there is a dizzying array of base games and add-ons. I guess once you have the game, you then need all the mods too. Is that Roguey chap and his online emporium worth consulting?

          • Vercinger says:

            To echo what others have said, X3: Albion Prelude is probably the best choice. Though I don’t think there’s any wrong choice, to my knowledge none of the games are especially newcomer friendly or extremely newcomer unfriendly.

      • soldant says:

        Darkstar One was terrible.

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          Still, it was a better game than Rebirth.

          • soldant says:

            Hyperbole helps nobody. As bad as X: Rebirth is, it still has more depth than Darkstar One by the simple virtue that not every system is practically identical

          • Sharlie Shaplin says:

            How is that hyperbole? It’s just my opinion, and pretty much the opinion of the majority according to reviews so far. I think you should learn what the word hyperbole means. If I had said, Darkstar One is orders of magnitude greater than Rebirth will ever be, that would be hyperbole. I only said it was better.

            Also that’s not to say Rebirth won’t possibly be better in the future, past experience has told me that Egosoft don’t abandon their games.

    • Dozer says:

      How about a nice game of chess?

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        “The only winning move is not to play”. Very appropriate. Or perhaps “not to pre-order” would be more …. timely.

    • Dorque says:

      As much as people are gonna slap me for saying this, EVE. X3 was often referred to as EVE:Offline.

      Just to be clear, I’m not offering advice so much as I’m answering your question without bias.

  21. Baltech says:

    German games do have a reputation of being detailed but often frayed around the edges. But most of the time, one can put up with it. But never would I have guessed I’d one day play a game more broken than Gothic 3. I really should have known better… Egosoft of all studios release a long anticipated game not only with apparently no review copies but during the two busiest gaming weeks in long time, right in the middle of the PS4/Xbone kerfluffle.

    I just wonder what game they were showing off during demonstrations and in videos. The released software looks to those demos like a 30 year old VHS tape looks like to a mint DVD.

    • Frosty840 says:

      Gothic 3! Infinite boar stunlock of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

      They patched that out fairly quickly, IIRC. I never had many problems with the game after that, but it was all a bit empty and boring, sadly. Not a high-point in the series.

      Risen 1 was decent, though Risen 2 was not. Vaguely looking forward to whatever they do with the Gothic license now they’ve gotten it back, but not particularly hopeful…

      • dE says:

        To be fair, Fans generally consider Gothic 2 – Night of the Raven to be the last official release in the series. Everything after that was… well I don’t know what happened. They never quite managed to find that magic again. Gothic 3 was a mess, not just from a bug standpoint. But one could at least see their ambitions. Risen seemed like they could get on track. They didn’t manage to get there but it seemed like they could, coming from that point. And then there was Risen 2. A game about pirates that can’t swim, where even the sheer idea of water means your hero teleports back to the beach.

        • frightlever says:

          I played Gothic 3 on release then promptly put it away for a couple of years. Once it had been patched up it was decent, if you’re into big sprawling exploitable RPGs. Still haven’t played the expansion, which apparently was never any good.

    • Dorque says:

      German everything seems to have this problem. Did you see some of the weapons they did make or try to make during WWII?

      They’re a very high-concept people. I mean, German engineering is amazing when it works but historically they seem to have a real issue with ironing out bugs and not thinking through consequences.

      • gwathdring says:

        Hogwash. That describes military engineering everywhere. It does not require essentialist stereotyping to explain it.

        The US invented the M16, a weapon that jammed frequently and was unusually sensitive to moisture … and used it in the jungle. There were problems with our striker units and various planes we’ve developed, as well. And we developed these with some luxury–Germany’s developments during WWII happened in the middle of a war and some of them–particularly the aerospace developments–during a losing war. Not exactly prime-time for QA testing.

        I could go on to do a better job systematically debunking the idea that this is a fundamentally German thing, but I should hope it isn’t necessary.

        • Lamb Chop says:

          The U.S. has spent over $400 billion on the F35, a fighter jet that isn’t operational. Because it can’t fly if it’s cloudy. Or night time. And the ejection is unreliable. USA!

      • frightlever says:

        Yeah, sure. “Half-assed” is what everyone thinks when you mention German Engineering…

  22. amateurviking says:

    It hurts so bad. So so bad.

    I think it’s worth saying: thank you Craig for trying so hard to find something redeemable about this.

  23. Casimir's Blake says:

    To those that are playing this: Keep multiple saves. Always, when possible. (Craig didn’t you do this?)

    Otherwise, oh dear this is horrible. Elite: Dangerous cannot arrive soon enough. Or Limit Theory.

    Apart from the X games, what else is there right now that does this kind of space combat, trading and exploration well? Edit: Just seen Shaplin’s post just above… any others out there? How about getting Frontier: First Encounters running these days?

    • Guvornator says:

      Doesn’t everyone do this? Anyway, it may well be that it doesn’t make any difference – remember Far Cry 2? I got a game-breaking bug at 70ish % completed due to something I did at 23%. That was a low…

    • Dys Does Dakka says:

      Another who knew (and loved?) First Encounters. Is it possible…?

      -Anyhow, I don’t know about running FE on Win 7, but look up Pioneer Space Sim, which is an open source remake/tribute to Frontier and Frontier II.

      Pioneerspacesim.net

      • Casimir's Blake says:

        Dys: I used to have Frontier and First Encounters boxed editions. Now I feel old. But I spent so much time with both games and felt so tremendously immersed into them. I hope that Elite: Dangerous is more of the same with updated visuals and – perhaps – more accessible controls and combat. Thanks for posting Pioneerspacesim.net!

    • HighHill says:

      It’s been a few years since I played Frontier First Encounters, but try google’s results on FFE3D.
      I understand there’s at least a couple of updated versions out. I briefly played an earlier one a few years ago and it seemed to work faithfully as the original except a lot prettier.

  24. Lanfranc says:

    For my part, I think it’s baffling that you would make the choice to limit the player to flying a single ship with a co-pilot, but then not make even a minimal effort to develop the character and personality of either of them.

    Then again, apparently both the voice acting and the English translation were done by volunteers, so I guess that shows how seriously they take that part of the development…

    • KDR_11k says:

      I can understand the single ship, that way the player can be more powerful than the average mook (which is important since the player’s death ends the game, regardless of any allied forces the player has) and still have a ship that also works for all the other tasks in the game like trading or mining. XBTF had only the X shuttle and that thing did the job (though it also started out weaker than the enemies, it could fit the largest equipment even beyond what M3s can use and expand its freight capacity to that of a TS). Freelancer solves the “vulnerable player” problem by giving the player a massive stat boost instead which seems equally weird when you wipe out a military squad with literally the crappiest ship in the game right at the start.

  25. c-Row says:

    And there I was, thinking how silly it was to buy the Humble Egosoft Bundle with X: Rebirth just around the corner. Guess I made the right decision after all.

    • Baines says:

      I held off on the Egosoft bundle because I figured I might as well just wait for Rebirth.

  26. Bishop149 says:

    Well I hope Egosoft survive this experience, learn some lessons and make something that people actually want. . . which is X4. I agree that I think they’ve been focused on the console market for this release. . . which is doubly sad as its not even on consoles. . . so they’ve dumbified their whole model, released a crap game and won’t even get the $$ from flogging it to idiots.

    Like I said, hope they survive it. . . I fear they may not.

    And they REALLY need to hire a decent writer for next time, all X games I have played (X2 onwards) and apparently this one as well (which fortunately I didn’t buy) ALL are utterly dire in the area of plot and characterization. It all reads like its a 8 year old’s creative writing project. In fact I think when I was 8 my stuff may have been better.

    Fortunately in the rest of the X-series the core gameplay was good and the plot optional so you could just ignore it and move on. Neither seem to be the case here.

    • KDR_11k says:

      That writing makes me wonder what all those X novels are like.

    • WrenBoy says:

      Im not a bitter man but if Egosoft collapsed, Bernd fails to repay his mortgage, ends up homeless, his wife leaves him for a medallion wearing, pot bellied car saleman, his kids refuse to speak to him and also change their last name, well, I could live with that.

    • LVX156 says:

      Egosoft are doing fine, at least financially. X Stillbirth has already sold more than X3 did, if the sales charts someone posted on Egosoft’s forums are correct.

      • frightlever says:

        But what will sales be like for the game that comes next? That game will probably be X Rebirth in name only and X4 by design. Will it be too late? I hope not.

      • Bishop149 says:

        Well good I guess.

        On the other hand this pisses me off. Crap game is released, Dev and publisher make massive profitsssss anyway. Therefore think they are doing well and carry on as usual/
        This is why no one should ever buy games on release or preorder. Wait, see if its any good, then buy. . don’t reward them for releasing garbage or give them you’re money before even knowing what you’re buying.

  27. Keyrock says:

    You summed it up nicely, Craig. The saddest part is that this was all clearly done in the name of consolization, I’m guessing for the upcoming Steam Machine, and to make the game more accessible to potential newcomers. The part about making the UI with a controller (I’m guessing the Steam Machine controller, since the game is PC only) in mind is the most mind boggling since the Steam Machines won’t be available to the general public likely for at least 2 or 3 months, probably significantly longer than that. So they designed the game around a machine and control method that isn’t available yet and are now scrambling to make a semi-useful control scheme for m&kb and flightsticks (flightstick support was straight up broken the last time I checked, I won’t be checking again any time soon). Wouldn’t it have made a billion percent more sense to design the game around m&kb and flightsticks first, you know, on account that these things exist and are available for consumers right now, then make a separate control scheme for the Steam Machine controller afterward, on account of it not being available to consumers for quite some time anyway?

    The other crazy thing is that they managed to make the game even less accessible to newcomers than before. The “plot”, which is essentially one very long, very boring, and horribly constructed tutorial, is so confusing that it’s counterproductive. It actually would be easier for players to learn how to do things by just being plopped into the universe with no guidance whatsoever and figuring things out entirely on their own. Added to that is the fact that the UI is such an abomination that it makes pretty much everything, even the most basic task, an utter pain to accomplish.

    In one foul, horrible, putrid swoop, Egosoft managed to both make a game even less inviting to potential newcomers and to completely alienate their loyal customer base. I was one of the people foolish enough to pre-order this. It’s essentially money I threw into a trash bin and lit on fire. At least with previous X games you could see a light at the end of the tunnel, that beneath all the bugs was a foundation for something great and satisfying. This game is not like that. It’s not a matter of just fixing some bugs and doing a bit of balancing. This game is broken right down to the core. It needs a complete overhaul down to its most basic systems, a few tweaks here and there won’t get the job done. The X modding community is great and they’ve worked wonders before, but I fear this is likely beyond their power to save. I’m going back to Terran Conflict with XRM (complete overhaul mod). I’ll check back on X Rebirth in 3 or 4 months. If it has become a halfway decent game by then it will be a miracle of the highest order. Needless to say, I’m not counting on it.

    • frightlever says:

      The game was in development for 7 years and has no official joystick support. It’s a Xbox 360 game by the looks of it. There’s no way the Steambox had any effect on design decisions.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Some of the other clues are menu text designed for 720p resolution, the game fits on a single DVD, and it’s a 32 bit executable with expanded memory addressing (hence the 64-bit requirement). Everything points to an Xbox 360 design that didn’t make the cut, for whatever reason. Steambox has nothing to do with it, or those specs would be different, and it would be a better fit as a PC game.

  28. CaptainVolcanoes says:

    Well, then you wonder what the point of the station EVAs are in the first place, is it to hinder someone that wants to do something fast?

    Is it to increase immersion and make you feel like you’re living in the universe?

    Sure, but robotic creatures with bad voice acting, bad animations and absolutely mortifying dialogue options, copy/pasted into specific “slots” around the copy/pasted station interiors that are all maintained by infantile-minded racists, layabouts and half-wits who like to stare at big pictures of holo-boobs in between trading missions and general space shenanigans, perfectly explains why the station is falling apart and the other 95% of it is off limits, because who wants to open the door to the loo and get sucked into a vacuum, freeze instantaneously and smash into the side of the giant, (whack-a-turret training dummy) trading ship that made the hole in the first place trying to mate with the station (probably the wrong one) for the 60th time? Probably explains why there are only a select handful left, robots don’t need to use the loo.

    On the chance that I don’t need the loo, I’ll jump back in the space mammal, go tailgate some poor guy on the space lanes and feel good about it, I’m a low-rent Han Solo with Captain Boob-window to talk to in between missions, and I have no qualms about risking the lives of innocent people either.

    Well yay.

  29. Errata says:

    Well, Rome 2 Total war was buggy as hell at release and after 2 month and 7 patches, turn out to be pretty good. Egosoft could find a way to patch this one with the same efficiency, and it will be good.

    • Keyrock says:

      Unfortunately, bugs are just the tip of the iceberg. Ironing out the kinks won’t solve X-Rebirth’s problems. The game is plagued by horrifically bad design decision right down to the core. It will take way more than bug fixes to salvage anything out of this mess.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Have you played Rebirth? Rome 2 was buggy as hell on release, and had some disappointing design decisions for many in the community, but there is still a game underneath all that, and it’s starting to be fun to play. I don’t regret the money I spent on it. It won’t be the game I was hoping for, but I can manage to have fun with it.

      Rebirth is different, I think. There just isn’t anything fun or interesting about what’s left under the hood, if all the more annoying features are stripped away or modded. There is nothing worth salvaging without a complete re-write from the bottom up, and nobody wants to wait another 7 years for that.

      • KDR_11k says:

        It’s hard to tell what’s under the hood with Rebirth since it’s a series that takes so long to get into. I have 9 hours on my Steam counter and still feel like I only have a cursory understanding of what’s there. The 30+ hour people sound like what’s there isn’t very good though.

        Shame, the “it takes so long to get into” problem is likely what they wanted to fix and just failed to.

        • WrenBoy says:

          I have 25 hours. What is there are poor ideas which are poorly implemented. Even if all the bugs were fixed and the modders improved what Egosoft cant or wont, it will still be a poorly thought out mess.

          Its possible that the engine could allow for an equivalent of Terran Conflict or something but I am now of the opinion that Egosoft would not be the company to do it.

  30. rustybroomhandle says:

    By the way, if you want to see what this game looks like with the stupid cockpit modded out, see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUUm6eIfI0o

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      If we could get a nice little gravidar display aswell, that looks promising.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        There was a nice one someone made for TC, so here’s hoping. As I understand from the guy who made the “Never Enter Stations Again” mod, the modding API is a bit limited, but people tend to find a way.

      • KDR_11k says:

        I read a claim that the gravidar is actually a purchaseable add-on (which would be fair, in XBTF you had to buy the SINZA and the map display and such). I haven’t seen it for sale though.

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          I am really lost without it. Those little red triangles moving all over the place are useless to me, because I am colourblind. They just blend in to the background textures.

  31. DuneTiger says:

    It sounds a lot like they wanted to move towards Freelancer (PLEASE can someone make Freelancer 2?!?), but wasn’t quite sure how far to move in that direction. Indecision leads to screw-ups. It’s a damn shame.

  32. Wisq says:

    I already detailed my thoughts in the forum thread, but there’s one thing that still sticks out at me about every single space game: we still can’t get over the idea that there’s no air in space.

    I’m actually not talking about physics in space — although there have been some decent strides in space physics recently. X:Rebirth is one of the many games that now abandons the notion that you can turn your ship and retain all your forward momentum (like a jet fighter in air); it has your engines decelerate you along your old axis and accelerate you along the new one. Other games like Evochron Mercenary do away with the arbitrary speed limit, allowing you to accelerate indefinitely if you so desire (and if you disable the typical flight-style limiters). But that’s only part of the puzzle.

    I’m also not talking about sound in space — that’s a well-known one, and one we sorta choose to ignore a lot. Some fiction explains it away by saying that your sensors are detecting stuff and making the appropriate noises just to make things more manageable for the human pilots. Others just do the age-old “whatever” thing and don’t explain it at all.

    But what really makes me chuckle is how we treat light and visuals in space. Every new game insists on trying to add more fancy visuals to the space experience. Look at any modern space game, and you’ll see stars with big light halos around them; dust clouds (usually with asteroids hanging around) and gas clouds (“nebulas”) that you can fly into and/or hide in; stations and ships that are remarkably evenly lit from all sides; ships firing brightly-coloured lasers at each other; big firey explosions; etc.

    It makes for good visuals, but it completely undersells the unfamiliar, awkward reality of outer space. Lights in space are the ultimate point-source lights, crisp and well-defined; all those halos and diffusion we expect to see are artefacts of our atmopshere. If something isn’t being directly lit by the local star (or to a lesser extent, from a very nearby planet), it’s going to be almost completely black. Explosions are mainly just puffs of rapidly expanding gas that quickly disperse into invisibility. Lasers are only visible if they’re directly targeting your eyes (or have made it inside your air-filled ship), because the odds of them actually hitting a particle on their paith, and the reflection from that particle actually finding you, are almost nonexistent. And space is huge — nebulas are incredibly sparse and only appear so colourful because we’re looking through light-years of exceedingly tiny tint.

    You could pull the same argument as for sound and say that your sensors are interpreting what they see and just presenting things in a manner that’s more reasonable for your primitive monkey eyes. But if that’s the case, those sensors see everything and could be doing a much better job of presenting it. Magnify stuff! Colour code it! Don’t blind me with that silly sun halo! Etc.

    The irony is that minimalist-graphics space games from the 80s and 90s were actually way more visually realistic than anything released today (even if they still did some of these things). I certainly know why that’s the case — fancy visuals sell games, and these are indeed meant to be games, not simulators. But I’m just surprised that nobody ever comes along, turns the realism up to eleven, and says, “Hey, listen, all those other games got it wrong. This is how space really looks, and yeah, it’s stunningly alien and terrifyingly huge.”

    Although, really — at this point, I doubt anyone would actually believe them.

    • DuneTiger says:

      Have you played Kerbal Space Program?

      • Wisq says:

        I have, but even KSP falls into most of the same traps. The rocket physics and lack of a speed limit in space are really the only ways it doesn’t.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Evochron limits you to a speed of 8000 (IIRC) even in unassisted flight.

      Real space is big. I could quote a thousand memes on how big it is but let’s just say it’s too big for human comprehension. You’d likely just see one object at a time and have to FTL anywhere else because even light speed is too slow for space in a game. Manual controls for combat would be completely useless due to the distances involved, everything would have to be done via computer assistance. I don’t think you could make much of a fun game out of flying one craft in real space. You could make a realistic 4X or something but a single craft would have to be flown almost entirely by the computer.

      We don’t even get games about flying a B2, the pilot would do even less in a space craft. What would be there would be more about strategy than twitch and it seems people want twitch from their space games.

      • Wisq says:

        I agree it wouldn’t make much sense to manually pilot a craft in this sort of environment, but as mentioned in my forum post, I’d love to see some capital-ship style games that involve plotting courses (with computer assistance) and the like anyway, freeing the player to work on the more strategic elements and to work with sensors and ship’s systems, rather than grabbing the stick and doing day-to-day piloting.

        I think there’s still fun and interesting gameplay to be had, I just don’t think it would be very similar to the current crop of games. But doing something different seems like a positive rather than a negative, no?

        • Vercinger says:

          I so want to see a game like that! Commanding large vessels just isn’t fun in the cramped level design of fighter-based space games. Inventing a new genre for the big toys would be wonderful. I imagine it would be something similar to Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, only open-space instead of mission-based.

      • Zenicetus says:

        There are ways to simulate large-scale planetary systems and high speeds without going into full realism. The Independence War series did this very well, especially the last I-War 2 game. You had different speed modes for different scales of travel and combat, with enough help from the ship’s systems to make it manageable.

    • LVX156 says:

      Why don’t you write another wall of text about how we shouldn’t make games like Uncharted or Super Mario because they are unrealistic? Not to mention Wasteland 2 and Fallout (radiation doesn’t work that way), GTA (very unrealistic physics; people can take multiple shots from firearms without it affecting them), all LEGO games (plastic models can’t move or talk) etc.

      I guess your idea of a perfect game would be Monday Morning: Fast Food Edition, where you get out of bed and go to work at McDonalds, flipping burgers and sweeping floors in real-time for eight hours?

      • Wisq says:

        Ah, yes, I remember you from the Brad Wardell thread on the forums.

        Please take your strawman trolling elsewhere. You won’t get any bites from me, as I won’t be seeing your comments in the future.

    • gwathdring says:

      While what you type is true, I’m confused as to what you think the take-away should be. There’s a more fundamental problem in space games and that’s the issue of scale and speed–you can’t travel across the galaxy or even between two solar systems at sub-light-speed in any reasonable amount of time. Some games do away with this by creating some form of FTL transit … but then we still end up with problems of scale within a solar system. It takes minutes to go from planet to planet at speeds that should take days.

      But … so what? No one wants to play Astronaut Sim 2098 except as some kind of novelty or joke. No one wants to sit in a ship for days of play time before anything remotely interesting happens. No one wants space combat to be the battle of whoever has longer range sensors and meta-material encased (or micro-antenna cloaked) missiles that cannot be detected in their opponent’s sensors’ frequency range. It would be boring. It would be slow. There would be no explosions. It would look relatively bland and uninteresting. There’s really no reason to play a properly “realistic” hard-sci-fi space trading simulation.

      • Wisq says:

        And I still think that’s just because we haven’t tried. We’re still making the same pew-pew fighter games that we made twenty or thirty years ago.

        Compare movies. Back in the old silent film days, they had A Trip to the Moon, involving a bullet-shaped spaceship landing on the literal (human) face of the moon and delivering a group of gentlemen who proceed to battle the moon-imps with their umbrellas. More recently, we’ve had Star Trek, about giant ships with thousands of crewmembers travelling at tens of thousands of times the speed of light to explore the entire galaxy. We’ve had 2001: A Space Odyssey, a reasonably realistic take on a journey to Jupiter. We’ve had the new Battlestar Galactica, a show that just uses space as a backdrop and is mainly about the drama of being the last 40,000 survivors of the human race, in a hostile environment, facing a frightening unknown enemy. And we’ve had Apollo 13, a reasonably true-to-life dramatisation of the real life event.

        Meanwhile, games have basically been stuck recreating Star Wars, over and over and over again. Occasionally you get something where space is just an ocean you use to travel between planets where the actual fun happens, or you get a grand 4X strategy game that is just Civilization in space. Most attempts to produce anything outside of that have flopped or been stillborn.

        I guess what I’m saying is, I’m just a little surprised that with all we know about space these days, and for how long we’ve been making space games, and how fast games have developed as a medium compared to older media … we seem to have progressed from “A Trip to the Moon”-levels of unrealism to “Star Wars”-levels of unrealism, and then just sorta gotten stuck there, with nobody trying anything more.

        • nitehawk says:

          I was going to comment on how Apollo 13: The Game would kick ass. Then I realized that this is the story of every single mission for me in Kerbal Space Program.

  33. Jenks says:

    I’ve never played an X game. This does not sound like a good point to jump in.

  34. Ham Solo says:

    “Merry X Mess” …brilliant!!

  35. schlusenbach says:

    I usually do not have strong emotions about games, but when I do, it’s about the fucking X-series. I think, it’s because it promises so many things I want to play in a space game and then it hits you with its hateful UI, idiotic design choices and grindy gameplay (is grindy a word?). I played about 120 hours in X3TC/AP (+mods) (in three attempts over four years), because I really wanted to like the game… Now I feel like rage-puking when I only think about commanding a fleet or building station complexes with this user interface from hell. The game hated me and now I hate it back.

    Fun fact: many scripts for X3TC are about automating things, so you _don’t have to play_ parts of the game. The same happens now: the first mods remove the need to visit stations, remove the copilots comments, remove the space highways, etc.

    I hoped, they would get the core gameplay right with this one, but Egosoft continues to make the worst gameplay decisions possible.

    • Fiatil says:

      This point of view always puzzles me. The scripts aren’t there to make the game play itself, they’re there so you can build a super awesome space empire. You start off with 1 or 2 ships and get enough money to eventually afford automated traders, automated fighters, and dozens of space stations. I love being able to fly around shooting stuff while my fleet of space traders earns me some space bucks. Owning 20 space stations is super cool, but micromanaging 20 is not. It’s a first person space sim that allows you to control an armada of ships, some automation is necessary

      • schlusenbach says:

        The automation is absolutely necessary at some point, that’s true. But Egosoft did NOT add it to the game, the community did.

        My point is: It should be FUN to slowly build and equip a fleet and to assign trade routes in a zoomable, interactive map. With context menus. It should be simple to automate traders in a dedicated interface. It should feel good to assign ships to a wing. Fleet management and automation should have been a part of the game from the very beginning, because it is at the very core of the game. Instead the community has to write bots to get rid of egosofts ideas. Same with building stations: the vanilla process of building stations is utterly boring and tedious, only a script makes it playable by removing most of the process.

        And then even _with_ scripts the management of my super awesome space empire means I have to constantly repeatedly again again again press key combos like c-1-2-2-4 in some non-scalable list menus. It’s the very opposite of fun.

      • soldant says:

        When common advice is “Have some universe traders, leave the game running overnight playing itself, and come back in the morning to play with all your credits” counts as ‘gameplay’ then there might be something wrong with the game. Automating things reduces micromanagement because the X series can get bogged down in it (and ironically X Rebirth doesn’t fix that) but it’s also heavy in micromanaging menus, which is ridiculous. I don’t want to wait 12 hours for traders to screw around, that’s 12 hours of ‘gameplay’ where I’m not really playing much.

        • Fiatil says:

          That’s common and very lame advice, and a bit you shouldn’t pay any mind to. You absolutely make more money just trading on your own in the beginning. Once you have enough to afford a sector trader and level him up to a universe trader you can absolutely substitute a couple of hours of manual trading for 12 hours of time compressed scripted automation. Or….you can actually play the game. There are infinite money scripts as well, I don’t see why the proponents of that strategy don’t just use that route instead.

          Just about every economy sim or city builder has a point where you can just speed up time for a day and rake in cash, but you may as well just cheat it in at that point. The game in no way requires automating stuff and going to sleep to advance at a practical rate. You can upgrade ships and have a healthy bank account in no time. Having a massive empire and destroying other factions IS a time sink, but it’s a fairly epic feeling feat as well.

  36. Chaz says:

    Still got my X2 save some where to keep playing through. I just wish I could get rid of those damn Khaak clusters or at least dampen their spawn rate, as I lose transport ships like flies when they’re about.

    Anyway I haven’t tried running X2 on my win7 pc yet. Will it work OK?

    • skalpadda says:

      Haven’t played X2 in ages, but it worked on Vista, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t on Win7.

      Setting up an M6 or two (I used the Boron ones, whatever they’re called, or Centaurs) with good weapons and maxed shields to guard sectors where you have stations or a lot of other traffic works pretty well if you can afford it. M2s will make mince of pretty much anything smaller than a full scale Xenon invasion but like all capital ships they have a nasty habit of colliding with stuff if you enter the sector with them.

  37. blackfire83 says:

    This review made me incredibly sad. But probably less sad than if I had purchased the game…

  38. Megakoresh says:

    Let’s all calm down and revisit this game in a year when it’s playable.

  39. Lagwolf says:

    Egosoft must be so confused… another game with X in the title came out a few months ago that was a buggy mess with broken multiplayer. Yet the fanboys made excuses and still made sure it had high ratings & to shout down any critics.

    • Wisq says:

      I certainly didn’t shout my praises about XCOM; I found it shallow and lacking compared to the original. But I’m also not the sort that runs around rating games and/or shouting down any critics, so if I’m to assume there’s some correlation there, then I’m not surprised that it has such a positive rating.

      Granted, I also suspect that a lot of the people praising it are people who never played the original. I’d love to see stats on what strong fans of the original think of the new one, on the whole.

    • WrenBoy says:

      XCOM has a few bugs alright but compared to X Rebirth it is as slick as Bill Clintons mickey.

    • tsff22 says:

      You’re still ragging on how RPS liked Enemy Unknown, eh?

  40. BobsLawnService says:

    When everyone was drooling in the comments of the preview article and raving about how awesome Rebirth was going to be I was just silent. I made the colossal mistake of buying X3 at release because I discovered X2 at the end of its life cycle. X3 was also a buggy, literally unplayable mess at release and I swore to myself that the next game they released I’d pirate it out of principle. Fortunately, I don’t even care enough about playing another one of their buggy pieces of shit and I’m not even going to bother doing that.

    I’m sorry that people were sucked into the hype machine this time around as well. My advice is to shelve the game for two years and then revisit it if you even care any more and remember – Egosoft are scum and will happily take your money for shit sold as gold.

    • Wisq says:

      I have a little trouble with the notion of labelling them as scum for this. Isn’t this a model that has worked reasonably well for everyone in the past? They get the money to patch the current game and work on the next game, and while they’re doing that, the community mods their game and makes the community happy in turn.

      I know it sounds like a dick move to have the community do a lot of your work for you, but really, that’s the same model used by Bethesda for their Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, or by Shadowrun Returns with their one (short, limited) core campaign — or by any number of games that provide an engine and then have players fill it in with maps, campaigns, items, etc.

      The thing is, while many modders can do amazing things with an existing game, most aren’t really capable of producing a game from the ground up. Of all the community-made games I’ve seen (that try to address a lack of recent titles in a particular genre), almost all of them tend to die out before completion. I imagine this may be partly due to a lack of technical skill (there’s usually only one or two engine programmers who can get burned out), but it’s also likely due to delayed gratification — as a modder, you can often see the effects of your work almost immediately.

      By providing an engine and a base game upon which to produce mods, you’re still doing the community a service, even if it’s perhaps not the same kind of service we’re used to from typical games.

      You could perhaps argue that Egosoft should be announcing that the game likely won’t be very playable for a few months or years, but that would be suicide. Or perhaps they should’ve done the Steam Early Access thing and given the modders and bug-reporters a head start, but that was only introduced recently. So I’m not really sure how this could’ve been done differently. But maybe there’s hope for a better rollout with the next one. Maybe.

      • BobsLawnService says:

        You can’t compare Bethesda with Egosoft because Bethesda games may be a bit limited at release but they are still enjoyable, playable games out the box (Even if modding adds immensely to then.). Egosoft makes no effort to ensure that the game that ships is remotely playable. It is more like a dishonest beta system than anything else.

        Egosoft are never going to ship a working game.

  41. geldonyetich says:

    The straw that broke my back about this game was when I realized that, without modding, there was no means to actually order a ship to stay out of harm’s way.

    If you add a ship to your wing, it will follow you.
    If you remove a ship from your wing, it will follow you.
    If you go through hostile sectors, and enough enemies catch up to it, kiss that ship goodbye. There is no option to tell it to go to a safe sector and wait.

    A larger part of the weight that made the game so difficult to bear has just been the spotty performance. I could probably humor most of what X Rebirth did wrong if I did not have my frame rate fall into a slide show at times. If the framerate was silky smooth at all times, at least I could say I had a space game that reliably allows me to blow up ships while I’m thinking, “pew pew pew.”

    So lets go down the list of what the X series is supposed to do:

    * Fight – Undermined by the poor engine performance.
    * Trade – The economy is hidden from the player, the ship captains get stuck, this is a no go. I guess the part where Ren Otani is able to sell the 372 space suits he’s stuck in his pocket to somebody he meets on a station technically counts as trading… in the same way getting your mail counts as working for the post office.
    * Build – Sure, you can build, if you can stomach the chore of feeding your architect resources. I should have went with the credit option.
    * Think – This part has been cut down to a nub in the name of accessibility, the inability to directly control the ships I own being a large part of that.

    Prognosis: the developer myopia was at maximum, and Deep Silver probably pushed them into a premature release besides.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I haven’t had any performance problems, and I was hoping that since the frame rate was fairly smooth, I would at least enjoy the pew-pew part of the game, even if the trading and exploring sucked. I even bit the bullet and unplugged my joystick/HOTAS setup and got reasonably comfortable flying with the mouse to check it out. But the combat is just awful.

      I know most of this has been mentioned, but it bears repeating. The enemy AI is just as dumb as it was in previous games, with brain-dead circling or head-on attacks in two dimensions. There is no radar (gravidar), and no way to select more distant contacts from the nav maps. The little target icons that float around the edge of the screen have no distance markers, so you can’t tell which are closer. There are no targeting keys for “closest enemy,” etc. The choice of weapons for your ship is limited and uninteresting. You can take out what passes for a capital ship with your single heavy fighter, because the cap ships only have a turret on one side. Jumping into a drone to fight is impossible because your ship will do nothing if you’re not on board. No joystick support (not for mine, anyway).

      Here’s another kicker… maybe I missed it because I bailed out of the game too soon, but I think I was the only ship in the new X-universe to use missiles in combat. Of course without a radar you’d never know where incoming missiles were anyway, and there are no countermeasures or chaff on your ship, so hey… who cares about missiles, eh?

      Some of this will eventually be patched in or modded, but I’m not convinced it will ever be as fun as even the more mediocre “action” space games of the past. It’s just a complete mess.

      • geldonyetich says:

        I have noticed that the enemy does use missiles too, but they do surprisingly little damage to the Albion Skunk.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Well, that’s something anyway. Maybe they nerfed missile damage on the Skunk because there isn’t any radar and no countermeasures key right now. It’s pointless to get hit with missiles when you don’t know where they’re coming from, and how close they are.

          Bernd (the developer honcho) posted a new note today on the Egosoft forums with some updates on things they want to add. One item was installing a gravidar in the cockpit monitor that would show up instead of the current “No Signal” message when comms aren’t active. It would be better placed off to the side somewhere that it couldn’t be interrupted, and so the main monitor could eventually show an actual target list. But that may be the quickest way to tap into existing code and make it work.

          A working gravidar won’t save the poor space combat, but it would be a small step forward. I think above everything else, they really need to do something about making the AI competitive. Right now the Skunk is basically invincible.

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  43. Surgeon says:

    I pre-ordered it from Amazon.
    It was supposed to arrive on Friday, but never did.
    I was scouring the web all day for reviews and info to see what I was missing out on.
    The Steam forums were alight with issues and disgruntled customers bemoaning all the gamplay, UI and NPC issues, and all the bugs in the world.
    And the egosoft forums were down nearly all day.
    Metacritic was the only source of cold hard data.
    It started out well with a few people giving it 10′s, and then all the ones and zeroes starting rolling in. Then the average review just kept sliding and sliding all weekend.

    So I torrented it on Saturday, and lo and behold it was a disgusting mess.
    It finally arrived on Tuesday, and it is going straight back, unopened.
    And I’m not even sorry.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Thats uncanny! I had the EXACT experiance! Except I didnt torrent it, but only because by then I didnt even want to play it for free

      only time ive ever had a pre order from amazon delivered late, and I could kiss them for it.

      still addicted to refreshing that metacritic page though, if only to see just how low that score can sink

  44. Neurotic says:

    Makes me want to reinstall X2!

  45. Kuloth says:

    Well, that’s depressing. I won’t buy this until I hear it’s been fixed up…

  46. crinkles esq. says:

    I couldn’t even finish this review, it made me almost physically ill. I had such excitement about this game, and Egosoft has provided an equal and opposite amount of revulsion to match it.

  47. Apocalypse says:

    If I would have any thrust in RPS and Space-Sims you really would made me avoid the game. Thing is, so far any space combat game you guys reviewed was simply … not really useful for me. So I will happy ignore this WoT, but feel free to tell me in 6 months that you told me so.

  48. soldant says:

    Here’s what Egosoft needed to do with X: Rebirth
    1. Rip out the terrible nested menus from the previous X games
    2. Replace it with UI designed for a mouse cursor first, with keyboard shortcuts
    3. Add in an RTS-style map for commanding ships
    4. Take, oh I don’t know, pretty much every automation mod and include it as part of the base package
    5. Box and sell

    That’s all that needed to be fixed – that god-awful UI that’s been effectively kicking around since the first X game needed to be scrapped entirely. Which they did… and replaced it with something even worse. It’s effectively still a series of nested menus except designed for a controller (and even then it doesn’t work very well) with even less options so that it appears easier. I don’t care about being in a single ship (it’s partway between an M3 and an M6, and they were the most practical and fun to fly) but I do care about the fact that the UI didn’t actually improve, and that’s what so desperately needed to change.

    Bugs will be ironed out, as others have said X3 was a total mess on release, as was X2. But some of the issues go deeper than that and need a gameplay change, and it remains to be seen whether Egosoft will remain committed to that.

    EDIT: That said, X Rebirth doesn’t seem intended to be a true sequel to the other X games, and there’s a positive post on the Steam forums from the devs suggesting that they are listening and are going to solve some issues, like adding an FOV slider.

    • geldonyetich says:

      What you’re describing there is a great fourth X3 installment, but a lackluster X4 because it would still suffer from a lot of X3′s grandfathered content.

      I think X Rebirth was probably on the right track when they decided to revamp their ship categorizations, get rid of all the old redundant weapon systems, create much larger sectors that are connected with freeways, and even the huge city-like space stations have a great deal of potential.

      Unfortunately, since so much of X Rebirth is imperfect, and so many other decisions they made turned out to be ill-conceived, the good of X Rebirth is buried under too many layers of bad.

      It’s probably going to be a good 2-3 years until we get the X Rebirth we deserve, likely released as a new X game in much the same way X3: Terran Conflict followed X3: Reunion (which was also a bit of a wreck).

  49. Muzman says:

    *sigh* What does it take to make a space game these days?
    As half -arsed as the original was in many ways, a new Freelancer is all I really want. With a proper dynamic economy and capital ships, better solar system scale etc.
    Is that so much to ask?

    I don’t think even Roberts is going to go back there. Squadron 42 or whatever sounds like instanced combat like Freespace and Wing Commander. I guess Elite and Limit Theory hold out some hope (in two years or whatever)

    • soldant says:

      That’s basically all I want too – Freelancer’s simple UI and easy controls along with a dynamic economy and being able to own stations/build up a fleet is my perfect game. Plus Freelancer’s universe, while not realistic, was really pretty and made exploration a delight. The X games have a boring setting and ugly sectors by comparison.

      • LVX156 says:

        That’s exactly what I want as well. I want Frontier/Freelancer with the 4X part added on. I want to do research. I want to send out spies and diplomats. I want to build galaxy-spanning empires and fly my flagship into battle, sending out wings of corvettes and heavy bombers to take out my enemy’s capital ships, and wings of fighters to deal with missiles and small ships. I want to bombard planets into submission. I want to build a trading empire, and I want a stock/commodity market that is affected by your actions in the game. If I blockade the only food producers in a certain part of the galaxy I want the economy to reflect that. I want a living, breathing universe where I can do whatever I want. And I want it presented with next-gen graphics.

        I wish I had a few billion to spare so I could pay someone to make that game for me.

  50. itsonlyme says:

    hey craig *again*,
    i kinda can find myself in your review im likely not the only one and some to the point of complains
    buggy some design issues
    it does get better when u get further in the campaign theres some sense of a world
    theres some work done and theres a feel i guess but it is some game with many flaws i think
    the stations change also u go further in the game the world looks bigger theres a story it takes a bit to go there
    u need to build station first and so til u get there (or for some cheat ur way there mods, saves, editing,..)
    partial cause the state of the game i think even with patches now!
    but i can still find myself in your review, not sure why maybe i simply can
    heres a question tho for you, craig
    when the * are they going to shoot me in space 4 serious?
    all the best