is a name that has a long history of involvement with space flight sims, it was the first space trading game and some argue that it is still the best. David Braben
and Ian Bell’s
seminal science fiction space fight/trade simulation changed the way games were played and ushered in a new era. It has never really been beaten, but it has been cloned several times.X2: The threat
was a big step forward and I absolutely loved that game, when I heard there was a sequel that really perked my ears – much was promised and some of it was delivered.X3: Reunion
requires patch 1.3 for you to get the best out of it, 1.3 has a lot of missing content and I decided to base the review on 1.3 to give the game a fair crack of the whip.Story
Around ten years has passed since the events in X2 and you’re back in the hot seat once more, Julian Brennan, ace pilot and troublemaker. You start by babysitting a patrol and are thrown into the deep end against the relentless Khaak invaders. The story quickly spirals forwards from then on in and you’re hardly given room to breathe as events drag you towards one encounter after another. Of course you can take time out to trade and upgrade your ship, even explore and you’ll need to do just that if you want to survive.Gameplay
X3 sports a newly designed interface and GUI. It does take some getting used to but is significantly quicker to access than the previous game. The gameplay styles prevalent in X2 are back in X3 and trading has been streamlined but its also been made a little harder, you can mine asteroids for money as well since patch 1.3 which is a welcome addition.
Combat has been improved in X3 but it still can be a twitchy affair. I noticed right away that capturing ships is a lot harder as the enemy pilots tend to prefer to go down in a blaze of glory compared to ejecting. For those of you new to the series the X3 game style can be broken down into a number of sub-styles.
Story: There’s a story that rockets along in the background and you can deviate from this story at any time, spending as much time as you want exploring the Universe or just doing trade runs and so on.
Trade: The way you will want to try and increase your credits and the quickest and best method, trading in the X3 Universe is the best source of income until you can get a ship, weapons and equipment capable of taking on the stronger vessels and obstacles both in story and in the X3 Universe itself. If you don’t like the idea of trading yourself, buy a ship and the right software; let it do it for you.
Fight: You can just wade in and blast away to your hearts content, you’ll probably die a few times, your reputation with the various factions will alter depending on what you do for them, or to them. Help out the inhabitants of the X3 Universe and rewards could be yours for the taking, hinder them and you might end up chewing more than you can bite off.
Empire Building: In X3 you can build stations to support your trade empire, you can also amass a vast amount of money and when you do, the sky or space is the limit since you’ll be able to buy a whole fleet/armada of ships and roam around space with them at your beck and call. X3 has fairly extensive options for the control of other craft that belong to you and the more you gain credits and notoriety you’ll get access to bigger and better toys.
Exploration: There’s a lot of space out there and you can just blast through the nearest jumpgate and go explore. If you have a satellite placed in a new system you’ll get updated information from that sat, mapping out the massive ‘Verse as you go. You could discover hidden secrets or something else.
All of this is set against an expansive and deep Universe, but the problem is that while the previous game’s Universe felt alive – this one feels cold, empty and somewhat drab compared to it. There’s a lack of audio chatter from the various other ships and stations (something which the much maligned Freelancer
had in abundance) and a distinct lack of life in that respect.
You spend your time using the Mouse/Keyboard/Joystick to gallivant around the X3 Universe, trading, fighting and so on. But it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else, you might have your cargo scanned and so on once in a while – but there are no traders to escort and you don’t really feel like the hero you’re supposed to be.
It is like the gameplay took a step forward and about three back at the same time, while the enhanced controls and other features are very nice the rest of the game just seems hollow.