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B_Delacroix
June 22nd, 2006, 07:32 AM
It is 6am. I hope I do justice to this first review I've written on the GUComics forums.

Many years ago, before the turn of the century, 3D graphics in games weren't the norm. In fact they were quite rare and usually line drawings. A game called Elite came out. THE Star Wars Trilogy had finished up the year before and so this was our chance to be a space pilot hero. It was a cult classic. Hardly advertised but those who found this gem became addicted to it almost immediately.

Since then, we've had Wing Commander and Freespace. They weren't the open ended games like Elite, but they filled the space combat hole and were fun in their own right.

Now, I have finally found a game that not only brings back the same feeling as Elite, but takes it a step further. It, too, is poorly advertised. It isn't something that will likely appeal to a mass market. It does, however, have all the traits that Elite had way back then but in better form. There is really only one thing that is bothersome with it and I'll get to that later.

I'm talking about X3 Reunion by Egosoft. I've had the game a long while now and only just finished the "storyline" last night. The game doesn't end there, in fact it just begins. You don't even really have to do any of the storyline but I did because it was there and wasn't really all that bad. It isn't blockbuster hollywood writing either.

In X3, you start off with a small ship, just like in Elite. You have a bit of money. In fact, I started on normal difficulty and you get a Buster and about 5k credits (I believe you started with an Cobra MK3 and 5k credits in Elite). You are placed in a relatively safe sector of space and have the rest of it open to you for your pleasure. Whatever that may be. You can decide to lead a life of piracy. Be a bounty hunter. Do odd jobs at stations. Trade on the galactic space lanes or even become an asteroid miner. You can have as many ships as you can afford to purchase and maintain. You can own and run a station or even a complex of stations.

In addition, you actually have factions with the races found in the game. There are seven. Six of which you immediately run into, four of which are considered main races. Depending on how well a race likes you will determine if they will tolerate you, trade with you or just shoot you.

Unlike Elite where it was you against 8 galaxies. You can have wingmen that fly with you or even entire fleets of everything from small fighters up to and including carrier class ships. I haven't experienced it myself but I even hear stories of people getting into fleet battles when their empire is large enough to be noticed.

The downside is what I call the game infrastructure. In that I mean the instruction book (documentation) and the interface. I play using a joystick and throttle. The Saitek X52 in fact - the only one I found worthy of replacing my F22/F16 Thrustmaster stick and throttle. You can and many people do, play using the mouse and keyboard. That isn't necessarily the problem. The problem arises in that there are a ton of little things you can do with the game but it isn't apparent from looking at the interface.

It has improved from the first release of the game, but it is still cumbersome. Once you do figure out how to get around to all the commands, the possibilities open up. You can direct your fleets, trade with distant stations. Buy your ships. "Hire" merchant pilots and instruct them on where and how to trade or let them go do it freely. They do learn and you get the profits. They'll even defend themselves and send you messages if something bad happens. A good highly experienced trader isn't something you want to lose. However, space is a dangerous place. There are pirates and enemy factions around. Religious fanatics and just plain accidents, too.

Since the documentation is lacking. It isn't even really apparent what the different ship classes and weapons do without experience. Which can be expensive. Even now, I only have a fair idea of what the classes are. I couldn't, for instance, tell you right away what an M3 is, nor what the game calls the Nova I fly around in.

People complain about the autopilot flying you into things. It does happen but hasn't happened to me a great deal. Maybe once out of 100 dockings. I've only run into two ships when approaching jump gates. Not a lot any autopilot can do about that when a ship suddenly appears in front of a gate.

There are some community made scripts that add to the game. Some of them actually get officially put into a patch. I haven't run any of them myself unless they are put in a patch. Some people swear by them.

All in all, I like the game. Sometimes it can be slow going and sometimes frustrating, but overall a lot of fun with a steep learning curve because of the lack of documentation and UI. If you liked Elite and have wanted another game like it, I recomend X3.

ADD: The graphics in X3 are NOT line drawings of 3D models. They are beautiful fully textured and lit models. The music isn't that bad, either. I recommend taking a slow flight through Kingdom's End. Very relaxing.