Jeremy Jastrzab
01 Dec, 2005

X3: Reunion Review

PC Review | A universe literally awaits.
Open-ended games are a tricky beast. On one hand, they offer endless possibilities and opportunities. On the other hand, if done incorrectly, they can be horrible, if they?re too ambitious, they set themselves up for huge backlash. Since it's tough to make an open-ended city or fantasy land, it may explain why not many have tried to take on making an open-ended universe. Developer Egosoft is obviously unfazed by the challenge as it approaches its third game from the X Universe series. When your up to your third title, you know your onto something but is the latest offering, X³: Reunion, worth venturing into or is it lost in the space of franchise titles and instantly gratifying gimmicks?

X³: Reunion kicks up where the last title left off, only assuming you start off the first story mode, as there are seven modes of differing scenarios and difficulty. For those who don't know, the game is set in the distant future, where humans are waging a constant space war against the Kha'ak. With the main story, you start off as Julian Brennan, one of the younger but more experienced pilots left with the fleet. Your forces are somewhat decimated from the last encounter and Julian has to escort a set of rookies to clean out a few enemy scouts from your sectors. The mission was meant to be a regular scout but, as you find your way through the first mission, it becomes immanent that the Kha'ak will not be your only adversaries.

The story has a lot of emotion and life but it will mean pretty much nothing to anyone who hasn't played the past two games. That and it's a fairly standard affair, nothing great but it gets the job done. Interestingly, the game doesn't really force the story upon you, almost as if it's just a suggestion. The real purpose of the game is to trade, fight, build and think. As simple as these four functions may sound, there is much in this game that purely boils down to the basics.

X³: Reunion is an absolutely massive game with a plethora of things to do. Not only that but they're all cleverly scattered around an almost literal universe. And by literal, we don't say it lightly, but the amount of space you have to explore is very perplexing. However, the majority of the gameplay and openness comes from all the depth within the game's four main purposes.

First off, X³: Reunion separates itself from most games with a very deep system of trade. In fact, the developers have managed to develop a very active and very accurate economy based off real-life business models. The main focus was to actually relate pricing and trading off volumes of supply and demand. It works well and is astoundingly deep as well as involving. However, X vets might require a little bit of time to get used to the tweaked systems but for anyone else, they'll have a really arduous time trying to figure things out. As it will be found in the rest of the game, there are a lot of things that aren't explained well at all.

Why are we so cluttered when there's so much space?

Why are we so cluttered when there's so much space?
So what do you trade? Pretty much anything that's requisite for space travel, development and combat. You can work with both currency and with bartering. This brings us to the second aspect that builds off trading and that's building. To build entails a large scope of activities. You can build a fleet of spaceships, all with plenty of upgrades and enhancements. In total there are over 200 ships and amazingly they all look very nice. However, in your pursuit of galactic supremacy, it's imperative to build your way up through this unique system of trade and building.

You start off with your rear-end hanging out the seat of your pants (in manner of speaking) but as you complete tasks and earn 'credit', you may eventually earn enough to build a factory. Manage it properly, trade, make some money and you may be able to build another factory, then another maybe a weapons factory here and there and eventually you may have an empire that spans several sectors of the known universe.

Combat is a little disappointing, but functional nonetheless. Despite the game's encouragement to partake in as much tycooning as possible, you're not going to avoid some dogfights with the enemy. It's a shame that the ship doesn't control as fluidly as you like and you're stuck in a first-person perspective but with no view of the cockpit. Regardless, you've got plenty of room to move and as the game progresses, there will be many, many different styles of play that should cater for most players tastes.

The final aspect of the game is the thought of how you go about your business. One way is to build your empire in a legit manner. Or you can go to the opposite scale and become a pirate of the seven galaxies. However, it's not that simple, as your status will affect you in many ways. The legit road is hard but respectable and eventually rewarding while the pirate road may be more enjoyable but your reputation will not hold you in good stead as others won't want to trade with you. Then there's always the middle road, which consists of running slightly illicit things on the side of you legit front.

Not the best place to put a gate

Not the best place to put a gate
On top of this, there are seven different game modes that mainly put you into different scenarios but have the same underlying functions and objectives. Some have stories, some don't. There is also a simulator that doesn't have any particular objective. It's a bit difficult to really gauge the scope of X³: Reunion. It really is a massive and immensely deep game with almost no bounds. Not only that but it manages to captivate the feeling of isolating and openness that you'd expect from a real galaxy. There are surprises and things to find in almost every corner, from abandoned ships, to enemies to other nice and nasty surprises.

It is a testament to the game's idea and quality when it manages to make it to a third title. However, the nature X³: Reunion does come at a few significant costs. The obviously loyal following will probably be over the moon with this latest title but for everyone else, there are going to be serious thoughts and opinions over how good this game really is. Simply, the depth and complex make for a game that is not very accessible. Well, not for all gamers.

The game is incredibly deep, but at the same time, incredibly complex. Complex in both the way things are done and with the control scheme. There is no real explanation of how things are done, even for simple commands such as docking your ship or toggling certain functions. Even when you do figure them out, there is likely to be a lot of trial and error along the way. The control scheme is adjustable but there are so many different functions for so many different buttons that it?s pretty much impossible to learn. That and the fact that actually controlling your ship and its many functions can be a bit of a chore with a mouse. If you have a joystick, you'd do well to use it in this game.

X³: Reunion is the kind of game that is the polar opposite to pick-up-and-play gaming. It is the kind of game that you need pretty much your whole time to dedicate to, as everything is so deep and there are so many functions that can take up a lot of time. Flying across a sector can take a couple of minutes alone. However, those who do dedicate the time and effort to learning the intrinsics of the game will be rewarded massively with a deep and engrossing experience that will keep you going until X4 is released. In all, it's an acquired taste of gaming that isn't for everyone. Although from the perspective of those for whom the game is made, they may think that the rest of the plebs won't know what they're missing out on.

I really hope that gate doesn't take us to that person with the freaky eyes

I really hope that gate doesn't take us to that person with the freaky eyes
Graphically, X³: Reunion is an absolute stunner. The universe, planets and spacecraft all look magnificent with an oozing of artistic style and futuristic architecture. The HUD does an excellent job of maintaining everything on screen and once players are used to the game, they shouldn't have any trouble making their way round. The aspect that manages to epitomise the graphic quality is the stunning reflections of a planet on the side of a spaceship. The only real complaint is some dodgy character models and FMV's that are comparatively ordinary. Sound-wise, there is some brilliantly composed music that is offset by some low-key sound effects and at times dodgy voice acting. Otherwise, the voice acting can be well above par and the music really does suit the setting very well.

There were some complaints about the game regarding the fact that it is a system hog with a few bugs. While it is an extremely demanding game, we spent most of our time playing with the latest patch. The game ended up being very stable, with a few minor hitch-ups along the way. Still, some players will not make it into the game simply because it is so demanding and the experience doesn?t work as well off the lower settings.

X³: Reunion is an incredibly deep, open, complex and unique game that has obviously got a dedicated support base if it's going around a third time. Fans are likely to lap up all the new features, tweaks and additions over the previous titles. However, newcomers aren't so welcome, in part due to the deep and complex nature. Still, anyone that fancies their chances with managing their own economy over combating through hordes of enemy fighter or has enough time to dedicate to this beast is likely to get some immense rewards out of this game.
The Score
As good as X³: Reunion is, the vets know what they want and the game's nature ensures that a lot of us are left out. Still, it deserves a worthy mention in terms of the depth and complexity of the universe that can be played out in the comfort of your own home.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Probably worth picking up if my system can handle it. I enjoyed X2 anyway...
7 years ago
Sorry to resurrect an oldy, but at my EB, one of the major AI programmers on the "X" series of games came in, and I had a long, long chat with him. Being a fan of the "X" games, I was really interested in what he had to say, and he actually ended up dropping a couple of tidbits of info for me.

As it turns out, X4 is deep into production and X5 has just been commissioned. In X4, you'll see a game much more like X2, with a focus on "easier to pick up, but can be as hard as you want it to be" gameplay. So, the best of both worlds. Cockpit view also returns.

He also said, since he's been lauded so much for his AI in the X games, he's been recruited for a new game that will have gamers frothing- a sequel to a game that has not even been announced yet. He said in no way can he tell me what it is, but to keep my eye out for an announcement of a sequel to another strategy series we thought was dead.
7 years ago
Well I came from playing Freelancer and saw this and thought to myself 'wow a better graphic version of freelancer!'

I was wrong >.> I do like the graphics and the story but it was the controls of flying the space ship which really got to me. I might give this another crack since its gathering dust, but i'll just have to wait and see when i get up the time to do it.

Good review though, really liked the explination of some things, might think of becomming a tycoon wonder if i can get people to make other people dissapear lol.
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