In the build up to X:Rebirth’s release a few trailers were sent out by the developer showing amazing looking dog fights in space, jumping to light speed and setting up a range of fleets and space regions to help you trade and build your empire. It looked awesome, like a modern day X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. Why, then, have I tried to put time into this only to be met with disappointment and utter bemusement over what the hell I’m meant to be doing?
I always feel awkward criticising games – with very few exceptions every game released has been the result of someone’s hard work and dedication, and nobody likes to put every effort into their work only to hear negative feedback from those who could never even approach doing what they’ve done. But sometimes it’s difficult to figure out exactly why a game was released when it was; that’s where I find myself when talking about X:Rebirth. It doesn’t feel like it had enough time to turn it into the game it could, or even should, have been. Instead the released package was a buggy confusing mess, something that has prompted the fanatical X community to rise up and make themselves heard on various forums. The developers are working hard to amend as many issues as possible – as I write this the current version is 1.20 after its recent 20th patch – but if they’re going to do that why not do it before release?
The problems are numerous and frustrating – a total lack of direction in terms of what you’re meant to be doing or where you should be going, slushy controls that make you feel like the cockpit’s joystick is made of jelly, and dogfights which are severely lacking the dynamic excitement desired due to playing them all through the tiny window of your ship’s cockpit.Â And that’s just the start of a generally wonky game that despite the developer’s best efforts still makes you feel like you could be having far more fun somewhere else.
Rebirth was intended to bring newcomers into what had become a complex and unforgiving series of X games, but actually makes you feel less welcome than a muddy dog in a newly cleaned kitchen. Menus are small and difficult to read, objectives are unclear and confusing, and the controls take a long time to get your head round. If you’re planning on building up a space empire and taking on the baddest of the bad around the universe then you’ll be spending several hours on forums and YouTube trying to find some tutorials to help you get started. Luckily they do exist due to the community I’ve mentioned already, but it really shouldn’t have to come to that when they’re hoping to grab new players.
It could be the community that ends up saving the game – it’s very mod-friendly and there are already a lot of extras that have been built to enhance (or even fix) the main offering, which is admirable in one way and utterly crazy in another. Between that and Egosoft releasing updates every few days it’s not entirely unlikely that this could fulfil its potential at some point in the next few months. For that reason it’s difficult to put a score on it, but ultimately I can only rate what I’ve played, and what I played wasn’t enjoyable. The principles are sound, and the visuals beyond the cockpit are quite pretty, but it’s the gameplay that shatters the fun, and ultimately that’s the most important part of any game. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this, but I’ll stay away for a while until it hopefully works properly.
Reviewed on PC