X Rebirth is one of the last great space Sims. As a pilot in the vastness of space, you are largely free to act. Players can hire themselves out as mercenaries, merchants or station architects and put their own stamp on the galaxy.
Megalomania: the universe and space stations in XXL
It's clear right from the first few minutes of X Rebirth that everything is a little larger than you're used to from most other current games. So large, in fact, that you initially feel tiny and a bit lost. A tutorial makes the junior space pilot familiar with the first maneuvers and slowly introduces him or her to the story of X Rebirth. The initial game hours are devoted solely to finding your way around and to the game mechanics.
On the highway through space
Crossing space without help is a time-consuming process in X Rebirth. Previous X - installments had time manipulators to overcome long distances. X Rebirth dispenses with these kinds of clever tricks by allowing you to merge onto space highways at any time. In the long corridors, the spaceship gains thrust. If you hang in the slipstream of other faster ships, you'll make even better progress. The leap into neighboring sectors also works in a similar way. You pass through a jump gate and follow a multi-colored tunnel to the destination.
The absence of the Sinza time acceleration makes the transport system in X Rebirth more believable than in previous X - installments. What's even better is that the space highways also solve another problem on the side, one that had, until now, stood in the way of a possible online version of the X Universe: time manipulation is not possible in the collaborative game. In contrast, the new transport system also works with hundreds of players - a technical forerunner of a possible future X Online.
Space Stations: metropolises in space
Neither space stations nor factories are new to the X universe, but X Rebirth stations take their size to extremes. The buildings are of unprecedented size and complexity. In the spaceship you can orbit one of these complexes and get your fill of the many details: solar panels, shimmering energy cells, neon signs, share prices on trading platforms, entertainment modules with light shows and the like.
There are many ships orbiting the stations. Quite often they form a big tangle of transporters that crisscross each other like in rush hour. Vigilantes scan passing ships for banned cargo.
A new feature in X Rebirth allows you to enter stations. In this case you leave the cockpit and stroll on foot through the station in the Ego-Perspective. On the stations you can talk to people, trade or hire specialists and top up the crew.
The missions in X Rebirth include passenger transport or various combat missions, from the contract killing of the patrols to defending the sector. The deployment description also includes the difficulty level of the task. One annoying thing about orders is that if the police destroy the same pirate ship that you are meant to attack for an order, then the mission fails.
For successfully completing missions you get money and your reputation increases. Even with targeted hunting of pirates you can improve relations with space stations and therefore claim benefits, such as price reductions.
Not fun with a mouse
For creatures of habit among the X - gamblers, it may be a painful experience, but the mouse has had its day. Clicking through on-screen menus on the lookout for docking stations, missions or conversation partners, quickly drives you insane.
The gaming experience with the gamepad is completely different. You take off smoothly, circle seamlessly around space stations, freighters and through asteroid fields. The steering responds directly to commands. It's only the nested menus that you have to figure out first as they follow a very idiosyncratic logic. Anyway the game is totally easy to use with the gamepad and so is technically prepared for later use with game consoles. Apparently players with joysticks have less fun. In forums, complaints are piling up about faulty transplanted control commands.
Battles also go well. If you have a brisk and well-equipped fighter, you hang behind the pirates. You can take them under fire by laser beam, shoot missiles or launch combat drones and make the opponent sweat. You can take control of the agile drones yourself, which adds a little variety to the fights. However, you should be wary of other combatants. It's all too easy to anger one strong naval force and then you're suddenly dealing with more enemies than you planned for.
Enemies that have been destroyed sometimes leave freight behind them. You can get your hands on this desirable cargo by flying over the objects.
X Rebirth brings the vastness of space credibly to the computer screen. With colorful nebulae, asteroid fields, distant planets and a real multitude of spaceships, you get an impression of life and agility. Then there are the magnificent, detailed space stations with all their modules and quirks - pirate attacks leave their marks with visible shell fractures. Text overlays are a bit small and not always easy to read.
Excursions on the space station are less detailed. The interiors follow repetitive patterns. The people are always standing bored on the same spot and have a similar dialog sample. Animations and characters seem rather stiff and lacking in detail in first-person view. The lip synchronization of the dialogs is also mediocre. Overall, the atmosphere on the stations does not come close to other science fiction fare, due to the impact of the Mass Effect series. It must be said though that the atmospheric music is unquestionably a success.
From time to time irritating game errors make their presence felt, but the upcoming updates will hopefully fix these.
Conclusion: Gripping Space Sim for detail fans
X Rebirth exceeded my expectations. The game brings a vast - but lively - online universe to the computer, despite its size. Freedom of action, great graphics and excellent gamepad control make X Rebirth easy to master after some getting used to.
X Rebirth also brings many innovations into the bargain, which could lead the X-universe in new directions. Although there have been no concrete announcements, X Rebirth lays the foundation for an online universe such as X Online or portings for game consoles.
From time to time there are annoying game errors that appear, but these should soon be fixed by updates.