X3: Reunion

good
key review info
  • Game: X3: Reunion
  • Platform: PC
  • Gamepad support: N/a
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by: Ioan Sambeteanu
  • Show system requirements

What is space? Space is freedom, space is vastness. And above all things it is unclaimed. So there is only one thing left to do: conquer it, the old human way – with guns, with cash or guided by fortune and keen eyes. Of course, adding up a story that tends to complicate your life makes things even better. All great conquerors tended to complicate their lives as much as to their death. So why make an exception? Unfortunately, X3 brings something more to this formula: patience and tolerance with the game's interface. “Isn't this nice? But it's wrong!”

Story
An outpost of humans have been cut off in a far flung part of the galaxy facing first the threat of the Xenon (X – Beyond the Frontier), a race of terraforming robots turned into destroyers of worlds rather than creators, and the Kha'ak (X2: The Threat) - an unknown alien race that has appeared as if from nowhere and seeks to destroy all that stand in their way. The humans here have been separated from Earth for so long that belief in its existence has become limited to a set of monks (the Goner), until Kyle Brennan (the hero of XBTF) pops into the area in an experimental craft. When we reach X2, we are several years on and playing Kyle's renegade son Julian. Kyle and Julian have never met, but it is Kyle who pulls his son from a pirate's life and hooks him into his personal quest to find a way to return to Earth. A quest doomed to fail in X2 as the story ends with Kyle in a coma, after an encounter with the Kha'ak.

X2, therefore, had started a lot of stories, but didn't close any of them (it ends with the Kha'ak being defeated in an important battle but with the war still raging). Who are the Kha'aks? Why have they attacked the universe? How can the five loosely allied species (the human Argons, the Paranid, the Teladi, the Split and the Boron) fight against the technologically superior Kha'ak? Is there a way back to Earth? Who is Kyle Brennan and how will Julian and he relate to each other when Kyle recovers? What is the mystery of the A.P. Gunner – the ship Kyle was hunting when he disappeared? Will Julian ever get to sleep with the sexy Saya, or will they just be friends? All these important questions remained unanswered. X3: Reunion promises to bring some light into this darkness, while you will take control over Julian's destiny.

Concept
X3 tries to improve – and fails – what his predecessors brought up on the market. The idea is that you are more than a fighter pilot. You are a business man, a pirate and a voyager all the same, but in a primitive and hard to understand way. The learning curve is extremely long, only because the interface lacks the essential: to help you play faster and better.

Gameplay
X3 tries to bring us more than a dogfighting in space. I say tries, because even though it brings up some excellent elements, they are badly implemented, as if someone was in a big hurry, or some game testers played truant. The interface is far from being complete. There were many moments in the game when I yearned for some smart shortcuts, or some very useful right-click commands like form squad, match speed, outflank, or just orbit (play the game and you will understand).

But what's new in X3? For the first time in a space-simulator, you can influence the prices of all wears you can buy in the game. Build your own factories (like you did in X2) and blow up your competition. Bill Gates will be proud of you. Anyways, the game will look like this: you can buy or build whole space-stations and factories, colossal liners and freighters. And of course, all of this can be defended with warships with sizes that could have embarrassed all space whales if any existed. The sad thing is that you are barely able to administrate this kind of big stuff in great numbers. The game wasn't provided with a strategic (RTS like) map – although it has two, but with informational purposes - from were you can select your possessions and give them commands. You will have to select your ships one by one and give them simple tasks like follow me, protect me, go there, or attack given target, which is far from satisfying for a game which has so much to give. I gave up quickly trying to get a grasp on trading and its consequences, because it literally gave me headaches.

Even if you choose to get medieval and develop your violent side, you will still find things hard to handle. Credits are hard to raise – so most of the time you will have to settle yourself with greatly outclassed spaceships. And, if large, your fleet will act sluggish. Let's say you have a swift light fighter and a battleship. If you set on auto-pilot to go somewhere, its speed will be identical with your battleship – this means about five times slower. Which is a very, very bad thing. This forces you to keep your heavy cruiser docked when you need to rely on your speed to cross great distances.

Also, I find it annoying not to be able to quickly change the control over one of my ships to another. Two complicated systems are available: one that uses the means of teleportation – which has some weird requirements to be able to use it -, the other consists in the old fashion way of boarding ships - get in your space suit and float from one space shuttle to another praying to God not to crush against their hull, although all of these problems could have been avoided if your ships were manned by fully controllable crews. It feels implausible to have space sectors with tens of millions of men and see ships controlled by computers or God-knows-what. Which brings up another problem. The pause option doesn't let you give commands. In fact, it freezes the whole thing up. Evil, I'm telling you. You can forget about tactics and elite trading. This is all about getting postal for those who really want to do something with the newly implemented features of the game.

Hence, dogfighting remains the only strong point of the game. It looks great, it feels great and encourages many smart things like using individual turrets or looking for cover in narrow places provided by big structures or big ships. The system of fighting is the same as in the previous versions: lock on and shoot.

Did I tell you that you can choose from some four options of playing the game? This is a very smart thing, because it offers some good replay value. It has the storymode with three levels of difficulty, and freemode (without actually having to experience the story) as a merchant (you start with some credits, a transporter and a starbase), as a fighter (you play as a pirate) or as an adventurer in search of new worlds. Speaking of which, I am a fan of those games that encourage exploring and acting Columbus, but I did not expect to really feel like in the middle-ages in terms of speed. Although the compress time option was implemented, I think it this was done just for getting the first prize in the “What were they thinking?!” Contest. Just move your mouse a little or push a button and you can kiss yourself goodbye from this otherwise extremely useful gismo.

Video
There is nothing to say here besides it is gargantuan in all its aspects (which include the fact that planets are nothing more than some drawings on a curved wall, or the fact that the debris is made of ugly looking sprites). It has it all, just name it: Pixel shaders (not 3.0), bump mapping, alpha blending – speaking of which, this feature is used so excessive that even new generation graphics cards aren't satisfactory. Although I have played Reunion on a Athlon 64 3000+, with 2GB RAM, and fx 6600, in high display modes, I couldn't play the game fluently. In a few words, the game is poorly optimized. Too bad, because the graphics engine does such a good job...

Sound
Some of the X2 tracks are to be found here. And this is a nice thing. It is just lovely to keep these kinds of ties with the past. Keeping the soundtrack, some of the space crafts and the main characters from previous versions of the game make you feel like home. Ships in the game are big, space stations are even bigger, and the sounds they produce not only enrich this sensation of vastness, but also make you wonder: why does sound travel in void? The answer is simple: for you to feel fine playing the game. One strange thing though: you can't hear the sound of your engine while being in your cockpit.

Multiplayer
It has no such option. You can get bored as much as you like in single player. I bet that Egosoft were so confident in their success that they have decided not to implement it.

Conclusion
X3 could have been the ultimate in space simulators, but it will never be. Feeding us some breath taking views and a primitive economic system is far from enough for someone who has already played the other X–es, or the big bad Freelancer and its mods.


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story 9
gameplay 6
concept 10
graphics 9
audio 8
multiplayer 0
final rating 7.5
Editor's review
good
 

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