All-Conquering Space Trade Series

The X sort-of-sequel, Rebirth, released in November by Egosoft and apparently not intended to be X4, apparently has copped some pretty poor reviews.  I had no idea.  I just thought it’d be another instalment in the all-conquering space trade series that everyone loves except me.

Don’t get me wrong, it does look awesomely pretty, and I’m told it has everything I love in a game: freedom, openness (where those aren’t the same thing), few constraints on what you do and how you do it.  In short, it allows everything EVE Online allows, without the hassle of having to deal with actual humans flying the other ships.

And, from what little time I’ve spent playing X3: Reunion, there’s even the facility to switch off the dumbed-down controls and use almost-Newtonian flight dynamics.  You are in space, after all.

The only thing that’s put me off playing X is how cramped the playing area seems.  And, indeed, the fact that there’s a defined playing area at all.  Again, you’re in space, for Pete’s sake.  Why is every space station in a system within rock-chucking distance of every other*?  Why is each sector surrounded by four invisible walls?  Seriously, this is the polar opposite of what any space sim should be.  It’s a Tyrannosaur on the Plains: artificially constricting player movement can be got away with if the environment allows for convenient rockfalls, barricades, impenetrable jungle, whatever – but open space is the very definition of ‘degrees of freedom’.

This may seem a minor point, but to me it’s been a serious discouragement from this series.  That’s probably unfair: much of the acclaim the series has earned has been because of the huge amount of player freedom in terms of how they choose to play the game – trading, fighting, empire-building, &c. – and since that sort of sandboxiness is what I look for in a game, I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by letting one little issue put me off.

I just don’t like being hemmed in when it’s not necessary – and particularly so when it seems the antithesis of what a game is supposed to be about.  Throw in the fact that X games feel the need to fix your character and push you through a predetermined plotline (albeit with great freedom as to how you progress through it) and it’s just too many constraints for me.

Still, for all the criticism Rebirth has garnered for its technical and design problems, it retains some loyal fans.  PremiereBoris is one of them, having posted Loyal Fans’ Standard Defence #1 on Metacritic:

Nov 15, 2013[Score] 10The game is awesome.When you read all these review, don’t forget that it’s the vocal minority, all the people that like the game, are busy playing it.

So there you have it: it must be a great game, because very few people are praising it on forums and in their reviews.  Oh, and if you’re interested in how PremiereBoris reached his score of 10, he offers this breakdown:

Graphics: 9Gameplay: 9Sound: 8UI: 4

Result: 10.  Somehow.

[* Yes, I know rocks would travel indefinitely in space.  I’m speaking figuratively.]

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