Previewed: October 25, 2005
Release Date: November 5, 2005
The promise of being able to command your own ship, exploring uncharted sectors of space, defending innocent traders from pirates or robbing them yourself has drawn many to the likes of such games as Battlecruiser 3000AD, Freelancer, EVE: Online, Independence War, and maybe even Trade Wars: 2002.
However, despite each new incarnation and hyped release, no matter how good the game is, thereís almost always something missing or not quite right. Good news for us up and coming space captains then is that Egosoft has graciously decided to listen to our pleas and complaints. The result? Their newest space captain simulator to hit the shelves early November: X3: Reunion.
X3: Reunion is the newest space sim in the X franchise, developed by Egosoft and published by Enlight in the North America. Originally planning to release an expansion to X2: The Threat entitled X2: The Return as a bridge to the newest sequel, X3ís new engine designed for both the PC and an Xbox port (Q1-2006), exceeded developmental expectations and led to the expansionís subsequent cancellation.
X3 promises to include and improve upon the features planned for X2: The Return in an attempt to embellish the popular open ended game play contained in the previous X games to once and for all provide the space fix weíve been looking for in a universe full of disappointment.
The game begins with you, Julian Brennan, son of X: Beyond The Frontierís protagonist, Kyle Brennan, parked in space amongst a beautiful planet, its moon, and some equally impressive factories that do a fantastic job of showing whatís in store with the new 3D engine.
Next, youíll get your first assignment in what Egosoft promises to be its finest X story yet, developed by a professional scriptwriter. The story, however, is actually only one of the many ways to approach the game, and if at any time you feel your creativity being stifled by all the space drama, youíre free to snipe some pirates, rob a convey, or go run a trade route or two.
X3 promises to have a complete, dynamic universe that evolves in the background, responding accordingly to changes in politics, wars, economy, and the actions of both you and NPCs alike. The basis for this new universe, and certainly one of X3ís most impressive and welcome new additions, is the advanced economic system.
We all know money makes the universe go Ďround, and with the ability to seriously impact this fundamental driving force of both humans and aliens alike, you have an entirely new way of advancing and gathering power in the game.
For example, itís entirely possible to pirate in a sector to the point where they become desperate for traders, allowing you to buy low and sell high, force the traders through alternate routes, or set up your own station to become the dominant supplier and ultimately increase the size of your wallet. Then, you can expand into the next sector and attempt to force your will upon those unlucky enough to oppose you.
The ability to gather power by deciding how to budget and plan among the many profitable goods in the universe, creating monopolies and putting strangle points on individual sectors really draws one into the X universe like never before. Donít expect the NPCís in this galaxy to take it all sitting down, though.
To fans of the previous X games, Iíll be happy to report that a streamlined control interface has been implemented using fewer menus, more intuitive shortcuts, and better mouse support which can be used for flying, firing, or GUI navigation. Flight is essentially the same, using a stripped down Newtonian physics model that favors quick thinking over touchy reflexes. There are more ships to choose amongst, from lowly freighters to larger capital ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, thereís more equipment to modify them with to increase the different aspects of your ship or to add more features.
Finally, another welcome improvement and relief is that in all the combat Iíve seen, enemies seem to Ďget ití this time around and favor the hit and evade tactic popular with many living pilots over the hit and collide strategy that frustrated gamers in X2. Additionally, with the ability to eventually command entire fleets at a time, switching between ships, issuing orders, forcing surrenders to add enemy ships to your own armada and reveling in all the strategic decisions a good commander will have to make, combat promises to be quite a treat to those who seek it.
In short, barring any game-crippling bugs, X3 looks like it could be the space sim weíve been waiting for with improvements over both its own franchise, and the genre as a whole. The choice between following the story and following your individual calling in a universe rich with life leaves you with the feeling gamers have long craved for the most: freedom. The universe is alive, pretty, and all yours.
While we anxiously await the release of this amazing new title, check out our collection of exciting screenshots in our Preview Gallery.