I’ve given this game around 40 hours of my time, and most of that was spent staring at a mundane ship HUD flying through space. I really tried giving it a chance, but for some reason I couldn’t gain enough traction to see the appeal. Most of the time I felt so lost, and I don’t think the glitches or the bad AI were to blame; it’s like the core of this game is either broken or unfinished. I’ve seriously tried to figure Rebirth out and that is the only reasonable conclusion I can come up with.
In a nutshell, X: Rebirth is a space combat and trade game that serves as an ambitious reboot of the ‘X’ series. Rebirth is aimed at giving the player a personalized view of the expansive universe by including extensive dockside gameplay, as well as piloting just one ship - rather than an entire fleet like in the previous games. You’re supposed to buy low and sell high to other freighters while avoiding space pirates, but the steps it takes just to get to this point is enough to put you off entirely.
The cockpit HUD looks good, but is kind of pointless when there are no bearings or free-look options. Your speed is depicted by a small bar that fills up on your yoke, and your boost is on a completely separate screen above your shield. The most important screen on your HUD is the cockpit interface that cycles between information and the mini-map; and there’s no way to keep one or the other on at all times, so don’t expect to know where you are when flying from one station to another. It’s seen a major overhaul though, designed to be more visually appealing to new players while offering the series’ unique depth and complexity for veteran players, which is really just intensely labourious. I have more fun taking out the trash than going through the entire list of things to do.
In the build-up to its release, developers EgoSoft said that they’d be simplifying the option interface when interacting with objects or people, but rather than pulling up a list, we now have sub-menus that now exist in scrolling tiers of radio sub-menus that only show six options at a time. After the first few objectives, I really got sick of hovering my mouse over options and the lack of menu hotkeys, switching to a controller to make things a bit more bearable.
One thing hotkeys would’ve been good for was the inventory. It’s not just the case of pushing Tab or Esc or ‘I’; instead it’s Enter followed by 2 followed by 1 followed by a micro button in a table called ‘DE’ that I’m guessing stands for Details. There are no hints or tool-tips to get you here, despite the fact that there is so much free space in the menus and not to mention the ridiculously large fonts. There are just too few buttons for the amount of things you have to do, and the stuff that is most important is buried deep beneath convoluted sub-menus.
The main story line, should you choose to follow it, turns the dominant economic powers of the world against you. There’s not much trading you can do outside their borders, and If you’re attempting to finish this game, you can’t. There aren’t enough resources to allow you to complete some of the campaigns, so I ended up doctoring my quicksave files with info that thankfully existed on Reddit from others with exactly the same issues.
The NPCs you meet along the way are a joke all their own. The character models look like something out of a horror film and the audio dialogue makes the game feel cheap. The English is so bad, it’s as though the game was dubbed in the 80s.
Rebirth has also picked up a reputation as being almost unplayable because of critical malfunctions. The steam update log for the game speaks for itself with 21 patches since its release in November. Glitches reared their heads even at the best of times during gameplay; multiple restarts, freezes, and a monkey could control my fleet better than the AI.
There are so many counterintuitive design decisions that almost seem built to lead the player in the wrong direction, like the simple task of trying to repair a ship in your fleet. For the Albion Skunk it’s easy; just visit an engineer and you’ll be sorted. For your fleet however, you need to find a ship dealer that specialises in the type of ship you want repaired, and if he’s not there, well, tough luck.
Another glitch that was driving me up the wall was being teleported to the middle of nowhere. This was finally addressed in the last patch, along with countless other fixes that should have been dealt with during development. It’s as though no one bothered to test anything before or after release.
Described in the Steam comments as a ‘miscarriage of the X series,' Rebirth definitely had potential and the ideas are all there, but it's almost an unsalvageable wreck and I’m not sure if it’ll ever recover to the point of playability from start to finish. Some of the cogs in the game mechanics are completely missing and it’s as though the entire game is designed to make you notice that you’re wasting time playing it.The interfaces and NPCs have this amazing ability to curdle every sense in your body, and at the end of it, you just wish you never attempted any of it in the first place.