Egosoft’s X games are the last word in open-world space sims by virtue of being the only word in open-world space sims. At least in terms of ones that are still in development. X Rebirth, the latest X game, is a mess. This is no surprise given Egosoft’s penchant for releasing messes and then tidying them up after the fact. But the problem with X Rebirth is that it’s a different kind of mess than the previous games, in new and terribly wrong ways that are beyond tidying up. X Rebirth doesn’t seem to understand what people liked about the previous games. It is a game based on misguided assumptions.
After the jump, X Rebirth’s serious misconceptions about me.
That space needs to be full of color and junk to keep players from getting bored. That I want my view of space hemmed in by cluttered cockpit graphics. That I’m willing to trade the breadth of ship ownership options for this fixed cockpit graphic of the single ship I have to fly. Which is called the Skunk. Which features an annoying co-pilot sitting next to me all the time. Who I have to look at every time I want to check an info screen because it assumes I want to see a first-person animation of someone twisting in his chair to watch a display panel slide up out a console. That one of things I want in an X game is a chatty co-pilot slash sidekick. Why is she telling the computer to shut up? Frankly, I wish they’d both shut up. That I don’t find every single piece of voice acting painfully embarrassing for everyone involved. That I can wait patiently while cargo flies around in other ships to be bought and sold. That drones should be a cornerstone of the combat, because then I might not realize I’m always and only flying the Skunk. The Skunk. As in something that stinks.
That I won’t care if text spills rudely outside the boxes that should contain it. That I don’t want to use my mouse wheel for anything other than scrolling lists. That I don’t need to rebind a lot of the controls. That I’m not attached to the limber control customization options in the previous games. That I’m going to use an Xbox 360 controller and that I therefore want a command rosetta that looks just like the conversation options from Mass Effect. That this map isn’t one of the ugliest and least functional maps I’ve ever pondered. That I can get used to a pointless combintion of clicks and hotkeys and button presses and menus and radial dials that seem like they were each designed by different teams for different games.
That I don’t find it utterly ridiculous that tailgating will be the preferred method of travelling between the stars. That I won’t miss having a way to admire the external views of various ships in a space game where I spend a lot of time in transit. That I want my character to get out of the ship, which is ironic given that they won’t let me admire the view from outside the ship. That I want to walk around the same sadly underpopulated sets of halls that represent a space station instead of navigating a menu. That I find these tortured excuses for character models an acceptible ways to populate a space station. That I want a conversation minigame. That I want to scavenge loot out of lockers. Oh, look, six more space suits that I can sell for a handful of credits next time I find a vendor who will buy my trash.
That the fast clean imaginative graphics of X3 weren’t good enough for me. That I like space when it’s as busy as the metropolis of The Fifth Element, frame rate be damned. That I don’t mind fighting the frame rate at the same time I’m fighting enemy ships. That encouraging me to fly around a cluttered space city to find collectible points to earn discounts is an incentive for me to explore this glut of busy graphics. That I haven’t had enough Blade Runner inspired graphics in my videogaming career.
That I’m willing to tolerate a launch title this buggy, this poorly prepared for its own release date, this far below the considerable ambition of the previous X games, this demanding on my hardware, this glutted with hard-coded story beats, this busy and ugly and cluttered. That I won’t instead download and play X3: Terran Conflict and not regret at all that I’m not playing X Rebirth.
In the distant future, the X universe faces a period of profound and irrevocable change. While the universe stumbles towards an uncertain future countless adventures await as new enemies rise in search of power. Enter a young adventurer and his unlikely female ally traveling in an old, battered ship with a glorious past -- two people alone against the galaxy, playing a key part in the events to come. The fate of the universe rests in the hands of the player. Will he struggle through this horrible game, or will he instead play X3?