TL;DR: It's a Rebel. Don't judge it till you try it...
For those who want a little more info on how this design came about...
North as a brand (and I personally) have for 10+ years pushed the 5th line as the only reliable safety. We've also pushed the performance advantages of the loaded 5th line (while admitting it's shortcomings) and touted the positive bar feedback 'feel' of a loaded 5th line (though this is inherently subjective). We literally own the patent on 5-lines.
During that time period we've seen countless claims of "as good as a 5th line" (Recon anyone? How about Recon 2?) come and go. Early on we saw death spirals from single front- or back-line safeties. Which is why we started with a double-front-line safety, which we claimed was as good as any 4-line safety but still not as good as a 5th. Bridles/designs improved to account for single-point loading and we (along with other brands) developed perfectly adequate single-front-line safety systems that actually do rival the 5th line for safety/ease of use.
As we've seen 4-line safeties improve we started trying to make a performance freeride kite that would be 4-line compatible. I think we started the Fuse project in 2009 with this goal specifically in mind. The problem was simply that we couldn't get a kite to work as well as the Rebel. Ken can certainly shine more light on this, but from what I can tell, we based the shape of the Fuse on the shape of the Rebel, and though the Fuse was a cult classic, there were a lot of drawbacks to that shape that certainly did not fit the classic Rebel "performance freeride" bill.
When the Fuse project was abandoned, it was not the end of the work on a 4-line compatible Rebel. Ken has been working for the last 4 years as a side project on a 4/5 line freeride kite. Rather than basing his shape on the shape of the existing Rebel and forcing bridles onto it, he took what he learned from the Rebel and from the Neo and basically set out to create a kite that fit the classic Rebel 'performance freeride' category that would work on 4 lines. Last Fall he announced that he had a winning (sorry) design and he invited a very skeptical team out to test it. The entire team (myself included at a later date) had to admit that flying what has become the 2018 Rebel back-to-back with the 2017 Rebel (which was a very good vintage), the 2018 Rebel simply performed better in just about every way. It jumped bigger, was faster through the window, went upwind better, had better sheet-and-go power, turned faster, turned WAY better (more natural/roundly), is more stall-resistant, more stable, etc.
If we want to continue to make the best possible performance freeride kite, we couldn't very well take this gem that could fly on both 4 and 5 lines and reject it for a kite with lower performance characteristics that could only fly on 5 lines.
Does it have the classic 'feel' of a loaded 5th line kite? Not quite. Is that a sacrifice? Depending on your personal preference, possibly. But is it still a Rebel? Definitely. Will it fly on 5 lines? Yup. There are additional knots on the front pigtail to make it work with older 5th Elements so older Rebel riders can use their same bar.
The 2018 Rebel is simply the highest performing freeride kite that we've ever flown. It is a progression of the now 12-year-old Rebel project, and it is aimed squarely at the Rebel-loving crowd.
If you decide to ditch the Rebel because its 5th line is not loaded this year I'm not going to blame you or think less of you. But before you write it off as a mistake do me (and yourself) the favor of trying the 2018 Rebel. It's totally possible that you hate the feel (in which case act fast... You can probably get a good deal on older Rebels right now). But it's also totally possible that you'll agree that the design is a big step forward. The feel may take a session or 2 to get used to, but if a 2 session acclimatization is what it takes to start riding a kite that jumps bigger, turns more quickly/nicely, and is all-around a higher-performing kite, I'd say it's worth it.
Again, we are short on real-world reviews. If you get a chance to ride the kite and you want to chime in here please feel free. See your local NKB dealer for demos.