The Rebirth of X
The 'X' series of space-sims has always been an interesting place to play, going way back to the first 'X' game - X Beyond the Frontier. It's always been a series about evolution and change, some of that change is sweeping and dramatic and some of it is right smack-bang under the hood. Hidden away in game mechanics and design, X has never shied away of shedding a feature that didn't quite make sense or needlessly complicated things.
There are big changes coming to the game engine, the universe and the game's plot with the sequel - X Rebirth, a game which has taken seven years for Egosoft to finish and Deep Silver are the publisher. X Rebirth is a gigantic game and a massive leap forward for the series - even though on paper some of it sounds as though it's restricting the game you know and love.
TRADE FIGHT BUILD THINK these are some of the marketing bywords which have always struck a chord with people playing X-games. In many ways they're the 4X of space games. A massive universe packed with lots of ships, stations and places to explore is at the core of all the later X games, X3 being the last significant step for the game.
X3 Terran Conflict pushed the story more towards where the latest X-game is taking things and Albion Prelude (DLC for Terran Conlict) is taking that even further into the bridge between the old and the new.
X: Rebirth takes place in a significantly changed X-verse, with one major shift in focus towards an actual character, crew and co-pilot for the player ship. The Pride of Albion, introduced in Albion Prelude is the home-base of your new character and can be upgraded/outfitted with various equipment and modifications as you explore this new X Universe.
The Albion is your home; it is fully 3d and fully explore-able with a focus on NPC crew-interactions and an attempt to create more than just another ship in a vast living-breathing universe come to life like never before with X.
So what are some of the big things about the new X which you should take note of?
Size and scale: Just from reading between the lines, looking at the new videos and poking around the Egosoft official forums. X: Rebirth is grand in scale compared to the last offerings, and not just in terms of making a massive living-breathing universe where your actions have true consequences - we're talking actual 'scale' of your player compared to everything else in the game.
Not only is the universe in the game big, with local highways and super highways facilitating much faster travel than ever before in X - the many space-stations and complexes can be composed of hundreds of buildings and structures - all of them have a part to play and make up the complex whole, in turn that can form a cluster of zones connected by travel highways creating a massive solar system.
Destroying a particular part of an industrial complex within this zone could have a wider-ranging impact on manufacture and so on. This could impact trade in a sector and very quickly turn your newly minted trade empire into a crawling wreck as your own ships won't have goods to trade from the various stations. Of course it might be possible to influence the living economy like this, taking out a station which provides competition and then replacing it with one of your own factories and so on.
Size and scale is also important when talking about the scope of the game's interactivity. Never before in X or many of the space sims which have been touted around over the last few years, has the player been able to explore space-stations and giant capital ships to this extent - landing on them, interacting with crew/workers and getting quests from people aboard these gigantic structures.
Yes there have been games like Battlecruiser and Universal Combat, but these haven't quite gone to the extent that Egosoft have here. Looking at the last videos as well, these places are going to offer would-be space captains a plethora of interesting opportunities to immerse themselves inside the X-Universe like never before.
Not only can you poke around the Albion Pride, but you can land the Pride on the ships and capital ships. Since ships also have their own sphere of influence and create their own external gravity well etc, you can land on the hull of such mammoth vessels too.
Han Solo anyone?
You can own many of the ships in Rebirth, but this time you're not just going to sit in the cockpit of them. You'll be dictating NPC tasks to control these vessels, or remote controlling some of them using VR Drones. Whilst perhaps not as exciting as sitting aboard the new ship and doing it that way, it allows Egosoft to create a detailed vessel for the player to explore and own, rather than a plethora of ships which become part of your fleet and you don't feel a personal connection to.
You will still be able to land on gigantic capships and influence the control of the vessel from the inside though. Walking around the ship, talking to NPCs and ordering your captain to control the ship that way.
For me, this represents a cool step forwards rather than a terrible step backwards. I like the idea of owning a fully explore-able main ship and then being able to land on/interact with other ships of my own personal fleet. I think this builds a much stronger connection with the assets you're controlling and with NPCs as well, this should make for a more immersive experience.
One of the ways Rebirth changes things up is that they've removed the dry and text-heavy menus of the old series. A lot of the new controls will be done through interactive conversations, with NPCs responding and reporting back on their progress.
A good example of this appears on their official forums:
Talking to people - NPCs working for you
I have already mentioned the NPCs who help you operate your ships (all of them). This is another of these BIG things for us.
We want to make the game easier to understand by controlling many of the complex things you can do in an X game through conversations.
Instead of dry and hard-to-interpret text menus, you will be talking to people. You will give them commands and they will tell you about their progress - all in the form of conversations.
Some examples of NPCs working for you:
- Managers on-board your factories run the economy side. They buy and sell wares, but will only do what you allow them to do.
- Captain of a ship: He or she is the person on the bridge who steers the ship according to your commands. You can tell them what you want them to do in very fine detail, or you give them more freedom or assign them to work for a station manager.
- Your Co-Pilot: She was already mentioned above and she is the most important of all NPCs in this game. You will learn more about her soon.
- Boarding crew: Just one example of crew members working for you.
There's also a bigger emphasis in Rebirth on player construction tools, with new ways to build and maintain stations as they're being built. In an X-game for the first time: constructing capital ships to player designs - building your own massive vessel by controlling every fine detail, or delegating to the NPCs who work for you.
These new systems should bring Rebirth to the forefront and make it a highly interesting/interactive experience for ship captains. Having a station manager to control the various tasks and control other ship crew NPCs sounds excellent on paper, as much of this does in general - but the proof will be in how this all comes together in play.
Gamescom is soon and the game will be there to play and see, running on the 20th of August for a few days - this huge event is going to be one of the first chances you'll get at seeing X: Rebirth for yourselves if you're there. Of course there'll be a ton of videos following it, as there always is.
X: Rebirth is out for PC (and unlike PC elitists we'd like to see a next-gen version for PS4 and Xbox One) in the EU on November the 15th and in the US on the 19th. We are extremely stoked for this game and if you're at least a tiny bit interested then follow the links here to find out so much more about the next evolution of X.
Ships and controlling assets: http://forum.egosoft.com/viewtopic.php?t=306576
Tech and modding: http://forum.egosoft.com/viewtopic.php?t=306357
Navigation and universe: http://forum.egosoft.com/viewtopic.php?t=306348
Main game page: http://www.egosoft.com/games/x_rebirth/info_en.php
We can't seriously think of an X-game being much cooler than this with all the new features and streamlined controls. Using a game-pad to fly the ship or a high-quality joystick seems like a no-brainer to us and we're hoping to see more on the game as we scoot up to release in a few short months.
Until then: Ad Astra!