For the plot, just watch on Youtube.
This game cost Egosoft a Roguey (*formerly* a big fan/promoter/guy who runs a nice X-game site) and was a waste of a Cycrow (modder who brought life to a lot of the X-games). It's bad.
Looooong version (sorry for grammar or speeling errors, it took awhile to write up):
The game has so much win buried under an avalanche of fail. After more than a year patching, patching, upgrading, and patching, there are still enough bugs you'd think it was released yesterday. I'm not going to go in a standard format: all pros, then all cons, but break things down piece by piece to show the good and how it's buried under fail, at the end will be a more personal take.
1) You get a highway system that takes you to most places quickly. (With a roller-coaster atmosphere).
2) You also get an overbooster that lets you move about 10x normal speed at the cost of shields.
3) You can dock at your own capital ships and order them to use jump drives to ferry you around for longer trips.
The Avalanche: With this system, and the layout of the areas in the game, a 1-way trip can take 10-20 minutes (not sure exactly how long) from one end of the game to the other. You also NEVER GET A PERSONAL JUMP DRIVE. Keep this in mind for trading later.
The autopilot and AI piloting seem a lot smarter - navigating the bigger and more complex stations is not lethal like it was in previous X-games. You only ever take shield damage, awesome!
The bad (not an avalanche): the game makes you scan stations in order to see their production cycles. If you're impatient, you'll bump stations a lot. (Pro: they won't go hostile for bumping them!) Sometimes when you bump a station, you'll end up inside the station geometry with no way out but to keep bumping until you bump yourself outside the geometry...
The fighters you face (in groups up to a dozen or more) have weapons that beat anything you can get in 2 of 3 categories: range, accuracy, dps. There's one common fighter that has four guns, which can beat you in all three categories (since there are only two useful/useable weapons in the game). Facing them in groups is only possible because you have an overboost and can run away again and again and again...
Stations and Trade:
1) You use construction vessels to build your own stations.
2) Stations are large complexes that generally produce a class of goods (turrets, foodstuffs) instead of one item as in previous games, which you used to have to chain into complexes in order to get large-scale, efficient production (my max was 171 stations in previous games IIRC).
3) Stations have guns and can defend themselves!
4) Trade ships can cue up orders (if you have trade software installed)!
5) Stations can only be built in certain areas (boon or bust on perspective), which prevents stations colliding with each other or being built halfway into an asteroid.
6) Stations with intended construction will have a red box in space until all ships leave the construction area (no more stations being accidentally built ON the player ship).
This game was obviously not made for trade or station building. Completed stations still retain their vulnerable (and unsightly) construction vesssels nearby. Ownership is slightly bugged with staff being shown as "Trade Manager ???" even after you've assigned somebody. Ships take a looong time (5+ minutes sometimes) to dock, trade, and undock. And they occasionally bug out and sit there, which requires a workaround to get them trading again.
Stations are nigh invincible, quickly obliterating anything short of a capital fleet you send at them (though the player can duck and weave to avoid fire, because many players are smarter than the AI). Destroyed NPC stations stay with 0 hull and will eventually be rebuilt, so a lot of options like meaningful faction war or annihilating the universe are impossible.
NPC trade ships are not built at shipyards. The NPC ships built at shipyards have the command 'explore' and will fly around a little bit before despawning. Functioning NPC ships just spawn, possibly with a full load of goods (to supplement broken the economy). So killing NPC trade ships won't affect the game economy much.
Production values of stations were poorly determined. There's a Med Despensary that will illustrate: it has a primary, secondary, and tertiary product (space weed, narcotics, and medicine). It requires space weed to produce narcotics, and both of those two to produce medicine. It doesn't produce as much space weed as it requires to make narcotics and medicines; this requires either another station or purchase of supplies from NPCs. There are other (cell fab) stations whose output is used by other stations (arms tech fab). The cell fab production is insufficient to fully supply one other station (and the stations should make much more than needed by ONE other station - they're massive stations that can take over a day IRL to complete - more if resources are scarce).
Trade ships are also frequently stupid - if a station has 50,000 of something and another station needs 25,000, a player-owned trade ship will transport 100 of it, roughly 1% of its cargo capacity, leaving 90% free (9% used by jump drive fuel).
The kicker: Where in previous X-games, station products could be used by the player (and the primary motivation of station building was often to produce certain things - missiles, turrets - on a scale larger than the rest of the universe combined), in Rebirth, station products (with 2 or so exceptions) serve to feed shipyards. The player can no longer own a shipyard. The NPC shipyards might decide to make a ship - for which it doesn't have the appropriate resources - when you're trying to buy one. So you have to get supplies to the shipyard, wait up to 20 minutes for the ship (which will only despawn anyway) to complete, then a few more minutes for it to undock, before you can place your buy order and gather even more resources for YOUR ship.
The above is actually the reason I stopped playing - I have 18 stations complete waiting for X:Rebirth 5.0 just in case it's worth playing. At the moment the only 'meaningful' interaction with the game world is to make stations that supply NPC stations that make ships that despawn shortly after creation.
But continuing: you can only directly order ships to trade if they're in your squad. You get a view of 'buy orders' and 'sell orders' that are stored in your computer. You order your ship to fulfill those orders. You can't say 'buy/sell X amount of Y product, optionally from A, B, or C station'.
You can only see those buy orders if you're looking at the intended station (within 1 km or so of it), which require you to travel through the universe to update trade offers, which is why a jump drive would have been useful. Note: you *can* get remote updates if you do a speech game with people on the station, but eventually you will have to go back out there and update the trade offers. (You speech them, they agree to update trade offers for 5-6 hrs or so, then the 5-6 hour period ends, and you need to go back to the station for trade offers to update for the next 5-6 hrs. You don't need to do the speech game any more than once per station.)
---More was here, but cut due to size limitation---
So there you go, a STILL bugged game with a paper thin, very underwhelming story which was obviously not made to enable trade, capital ship use, or station construction - most of the things that made X games popular, and which only does some of the combat right. At this point we all know this was supposed to be an X-Box 360 game, and NOT an X-series game. Ego says it was Deep Silver that pushed them to quickly release an X-game, but whomever came up with and pushed the idea for rushing an X-game should be fired and worse for gross incompetence.