As a fan of previous X games, I pre-ordered X Rebirth and started playing it within minutes of release. Like many others, I was struck both by the sweeping changes to the “X” formula established in the preceding few titles, as well as the horrid, god-awful, soul crushing bugs and technical hang-ups.
I invested approximately 180 hours in the first couple of months, doing my best to study the universe and bludgeon my way through the infuriating campaign, and after doing so (the dev’s released a steady stream of patches through this period, turning the game from utterly broken to sort of kind of maybe just a little playable), and my private verdict to my gamer-y friends and family was “Do Not Recommend, Stay Far Away!” Which hurt a little, because I could see the game’s potential glimmering far down in the deeps.
I think the thing that troubled me most back in those early days was the fact that even if you got past the bugs, which many did by editing game files, the new universe was essentially simplistic and lifeless. Even if all the game’s systems worked flawlessly (and they didn’t, not by a long shot), there was really no point in playing because, in my opinion, the universe and the mega-stations that looked so darned pretty from a distance, were essentially just empty shells, no more interesting or compelling than glittery Christmas ornaments on a well dressed up tree.
Now fast-forward a year & umpteen patches later to the release of v 3.0 and the expansion Teladi Outpost.
What a difference a year makes. After letting the game gather dust since early last January, I finally re-booted and started a new Free Play session and dove back in. Right away, I noticed a plethora of changes, ranging from cosmetic graphics enhancements to radical shifts in the design of the game’s UI and underlying mechanics, most of which a very vocal crowd had screamed to the rafters that the dev’s either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, change a year earlier.
-The menu had been switched from a cumbersome, un-intuitive radial style menu to an easily manipulated sidebar style menu, one that was lightning fast to navigate and cool as all hell to look at. Contained within this menu was a newly redesigned map, complete with two different information modes, and a wealth of new tools for tracking and maintaining my property.
-Now there was a reason to actually go into the stations other than to crawl around inside their air ducts: to find loot that was useful for crafting items that was either worth a ton of money, or even better, could be used in exchange for virtual seminars (training videos that could be applied toward your hired officers, increasing their various stats) or even better yet, hiring permanent Trade Agents on any given station who would constantly update your trade computer with current buy/sell offers from that station, the XR equivalent to X3’s Advanced Satellite Network.
--Haulers/Traders from far off systems now populated the universe, such as the factions LI or PMC from Albion trading with stations in Omicron Lyrea, or Canterran vessels docking at the No Limits Spice Farm in Albion space. This had the overall effect of making the universe seem a lot more meaningful and bringing it to life, for me.
--Faction owned destroyers patrol and react to threats and many haulers travel with either fighter or frigate/destroyer class escorts, and the player is free to assign these kinds of escorts to his/her haulers, too.
--Redesigned mission offers & rewards; now there is always something for the pilot to do, patrolling zones and engaging in frivolous but fun dog fights, protecting stations, sabotaging rival factions’ stations, etc. These missions are plentiful and updated regularly, and function not only as a means to put some credits in the players account during the early game phase, but also to build faction rep for the later stages when the player begins to build their trade fleet/station network.
--There are now ways and means to order your squad around that actually work pretty well. Not exactly fleet management, but getting there.
--The ability to place stations anywhere I liked.
--Small shipyards open for business! More capital ship choices for purchase in general, as well as an overall increase of the types/styles/configuration of ships in the galaxy.
--Redesigned highway travel. On this note, I’d just like to point out that with the release of the Teladi Outpost expansion, Egosoft is now introducing a whole new style of sector to explore (new to XR): in Teladi space, you are given a huge area to explore, filled with hidden lockboxes, interesting new stations and nebulous electrical storms that obscure your view and potentially damage your ship, and you are not given any highways to show you the way around. This seemingly small touch does a lot to increase the sense of mystery and epic adventure that was missing from the initial release, essentially forcing the player to explore again.
--Most bugs have been squashed, leaving no game-breakers that I could find. That is not to say that XR does not have bugs, I’ve found some ranging from irritating to downright aggravating, but in all cases they were minor and easily ignored.
I could go on and on listing the improvements, but I think I’ve made my point clear that the dev’s have been hard at work tightening up their systems and introducing new content. I’ve got roughly 100 hours into v 3.0 and I feel that I’m hardly scratching the surface. The bottom line is that they’ve created a rich, compelling, beautiful space-fantasy for the player to become engaged with and tinker about in, a universe that can easily gobble hundreds of hours of the players time.
The best way to approach X Rebirth is to just enjoy it for itself and not hold it up in comparison to it’s older siblings.
Final verdict 80/100