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You Should Have Played… The X Series

Hello once again everyone here at Calm Down Tom, Shaun Meyers (Kyo Akiara) here to bring you my second article in the long running You Should Have Played article series. This article will cover the epic Space Sim series! “X”.

The X series of games is an action space sim developed by Egosoft and contains large amount of features, spanning 6 games altogether: X: Beyond the Frontier and it’s expansion pack X: Tension, X2 The Threat, X3 Reunion, X3 Terran Conflict and it’s newest expansion pack, Albion Prelude as well as the sequel/reboot X Rebirth, which is currently in development. The X series has an immense amount of things to explore and discover, some examples include purchasing, upgrading and flying of a multitude of ships as well as the building of space stations, mining facilities and various other massive space structures. There is a huge range of ships you are able to fly as well, ranging from small and fast scout craft all the way up to dreadnought sized carriers and destroyers. Another big part of the games is trading: the ability to travel trade routes to various sectors to make money. The games offer you immense freedom on how to pursue your fame, fortune or overall conquest.

The first game in the X series Beyond the Frontier, originally released in 1999 and it’s expansion pack in 2000, is a game that follows the rise and fall of Earth . You play as the character Kyle Brennan, a test pilot flying the X-Shuttle, when he quickly discovers a number of alien races during his journey: the Teladi, Argon, and the Goner. The Teladi are an immensely capitalist and trade-based culture. The Argon are a human like species that originally thought Kyle was nuts when he told them he was from Earth, and the Goners are a Scientific and Scholarly people. The main goal of the game is to unite the universe’s species against a common enemy, the Xenon or Terraformers to destroy their super weapon.

X: Tension is the expansion pack for X: Beyond the Frontier which takes place after the events of Beyond the Frontier. X: Tension picks up the story of Kyle Brennan, but this one is more of an open-ended sandbox game with minor quests to keep you busy. It also allows you to pilot more than one ship, unlike Beyond the Frontier. The graphics for X Tension were also improved adding new effects and scenery as well as removing any seams that were present in the first game.The musical score was extended and the sectors you can explore was increased to 90 altogether with this expansion pack. The expansion pack also allows you to leave your ship and space walk, as well as capture enemy ships that you can then pilot yourself. The interface within the game was expanded by including auto-navigation to easily access any information about visited sectors, and includes a full galaxy map that shows all the places you’ve been. There were a number of ship upgrades including one that could monitor the trade routes and economy of each sector, making trading a lot easier. You were able to adjust factory settings from far away in another sector rather than having to land at the station or factory.

X2: The threat is the award winning next game in the series which brings a number of improvements over the first game and it’s expansion pack. Originally released in 2003, X2: The Threat offers a largely expanded universe offering 130 sectors to explore and 60 different ships to pilot. In this game the player takes the role of Julian Gardna, a space pirate and thief who must battle the Khaak, a hostile alien species that threaten the safety of the X-Universe. Throughout your quest to ultimately defeat them you’re tasked with saving those in need as well. While the game has a story, the game is immensely open-ended and you can take on quests as you please or you can choose not to do them and do things in any order you want.  There is also a larger number of upgrades to purchase for your ship, including new ship computer software that makes use of the games new scripting system. There are also a number of new weapons to purchase like the Mass Driver, and you can also use factories to manufacture weapons which you can then sell to make money. There is a Bulletin Board in each station with new missions, including the protection of transports and people, transporting goods and fighting off pirates and enemies. Your pilot rank also determines which missions and goods you can buy and trade and each rank is split into 3 separate areas: your combat skill, notoriety and mercantile skills. The player can acquire an unlimited number of ships to fly and upgrade, and the game is incredibly market-driven, and you can make immense profits if you capitalize on high demand goods but you can also make poor cargo choices and waste time and money in the process. There is also a larger number of alien races including, Argon, Boron, Paranid, Split, Teladi and Wenendra.

The next game in the X series is X3 Reunion, originally released in 2005. X3 Reunion was originally planned as an expansion pack for X2: The Threat called X2: The Return, but the game quickly outgrew the old X2 engine and thus X3 Reunion was born. Offering a largely improved graphics engine over X2 which utilizes the fully power of Direct X 9, the graphics engine allows the photo realistic rendering of planets and a large number of new improvements including new lighting features, improved shadowing and reflections. The space stations within the game were also reconstructed to be larger, and more detailed. Space stations have no indoor docking bays like in previous games, which isn’t a bad thing as there is no longer any loading screens while docking. Ship sizes were also redesigned in a more logical scale, where flying a scout ship and flying to dock at a station really made you realize how small the ship you were piloting really was. The HUD was also largely redesigned, which removed non functional internal cockpit view giving a much more open view of space (I personally loved the non-functional cockpit view)

There are also new markers over Ships, Stations and large asteroids and each object in the game is selectable with the click of a mouse button. The game uses a new interface designed to be more user friendly and easier to use with a controller or joystick. The games economy was largely redesigned to be more sophisticated, allowing NPC’s to compete with your character economically. New features were added to help players in competitions which includes the ability to link factories together to form complexes. There is also new ship software one can buy to offer more automated options, there are also new scripting tools that allows people to write their own scripts into the game.

The games AI was heavily redesigned and restructured making enemies smarter and their behavior more sophisticated. Pirates within the game now travel in gangs of ships rather than one sole ship, and are often heavily armed. There are also Smugglers within the game are able to stay hidden to avoid freight scans for illegal contraband. There is also a new pirate faction known as the Yaki. The Xenon and Kha’ak are still the primary enemy force, and on occasions mount full scale sector invasions on the universe. Your pilot status and rank has much more meaning within the game than previous games as well; more weapons, shields and various other goods can only be purchased with a certain rank among the many factions. There are now 160 sectors to explore within the game. As with the previous games it is largely open-ended allowing you to go where you want and do what you want whenever you want. Skills are still grouped into Combat, Mercantile and Notoriety, and thus affect how each race in the universe thinks of you. X3 Reunion’s Story is set in 2935 and picks up right where X2 The Threat leaves off, taking control of Julian Gardna once again on his continued quest battling the Kha’ak and attempting to find a way back to earth, thus introducing the Terran (Earth forces) to the X-Series. Once the plot is complete the player is able to continue to play as they see fit.

The fourth game in the series X3: Terran Conflict, originally released in 2008, is a standalone game in the X3 series based on events that occured within X3 Reunion. You play as the Terran forces, or you can play as any of the other races, originally introduced in X3 Reunion. The Terrans are cautious of the other species due to being cut off from the rest of the galaxy for many millenia and were the ones who originally created the terraformers which then attacked Earth and destroyed it’s  jumpgate severing connections with the rest of the galaxy.

Offering the largest universe in all of the X series, the game also saw a host of new features including a redesigned interface as well as a fairly original control scheme allowing for more precise firing of weapons. There are over 100 ships to pilot, upgrade and take control of as well as new ship classes and weapons systems, an even larger number of jobs and non linear missions to acquire than in any previous games and a new group management tool for easy wingman control.

The fifth game and expansion pack to X3 Terran Conflict X3 Albion Prelude is a game that was made as a connection between the old and new X Universe that is being created in X Rebirth. X3 Terran Conflict’s plot is full of war. The universe has become rife with conflict between Terran Forces and the numerous races of the universe and the conflict has escalated to open warfare and Corporations are vying for control of an economy during wartime. The game offers a number of improvements over X3 Terran Conflict, including improved visuals for high-end machines, a newly created Stock Exchange for even more economic immersion, and an improved UI introducing charts to the game to show any economic developments within the game.

Here is the Teaser Trailer for the upcoming X Rebirth which I’m heavily excited about:

Overall I love the X series, and in a world where Space Sims are becoming less prevalent, the X series offers the greatest experience for those seeking an immersive Space Sim and an enormously open-ended gameplay experience. It’s a game series that I highly recommend and will be playing for a very long time.

Thanks for reading everyone and I hope this article has shown some insight on this wonderfully crafted series of games, and as always Happy Gaming everyone.

Shaun Meyers (Kyo Akiara) out!

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