Much of the focus in PC gaming these days is centered around action-oriented games and first-person shooters. While we are very much into these kinds of games, we are always interested in the different kinds of game genres there are out there. Games like Battlefield 2 and F.E.A.R. seem to be the types of games as of late that compel most gamers to upgrade their graphics hardware, but we've been lucky to see some strategy and simulation-type games (i.e. Black and White 2) that also make good use of some of the high end cards available now.

One genre, which gamers tend to either love or hate, is the space simulation. Of course, there are varying degrees of these types of games, with one end being fluffy Star Wars/Star Trek type games and the opposite end being games like EVE Online and Homeworld 2. Games like EVE Online, in particular, are incredibly open-ended and include features like complex in-game market systems and economies as well as industry and combat elements, all in a massively multiplayer online world.

Recent space simulation games tend to rely more heavily on graphics than in the past, and as technology has improved, so has the looks of these games. Arguably one of the best looking space sims out now is the newly released installment of the X series, X3: Reunion. While not an online multiplayer simulation game, it still features open-ended gameplay that has a lot to offer.

X3 Reunion

Egosoft is most known for a series of space simulation games based on the X universe, X: Beyond the Frontier, X2: The Threat, and their most recent X3: Reunion. The storyline in X3 continues where X2 left off, with the threat of an invading alien race in the X universe. Originally, Egosoft was going to offer an expansion pack for X2, but it eventually evolved into a sequel. While there is a storyline, the game has a "sandbox" type feel, in that the game can be played in other ways than just completing missions associated with the storyline.

While there were some technical issues with X3 when it was first released, specifically with massive frame rate drops during the game, the X3 rolling demo runs very smoothly and without any bugs. The demo incorporates the four major aspects of the game (fight, trade, build, think) in order to reflect gameplay accurately. The scenes are very similar in style to X2's demo, with multiple ships of different sizes flying around, orbiting structures, sometimes battling each other. This is all set in front of an impressive space setting with beautifully rendered planets and stars, as well as the realistic-looking explosions from the ship battles. All of these images combine to create a very effective and immersive future-space environment.

Performance Tests


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  • Houdani - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    And while you're at it, fill in the 12x10 graph with the rest of the cards which were omitted, rather than just benching the low end and high end cards (we in the middle would like to see how our cards fare). Much obliged. Reply
  • Lalakai - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    I've been waiting for this game to come out for months, and now learn that during install process, a copy protection system may be installed (rootkit/starforce) on your system. I haven't been able to confirm this, and currently have that question posted to the company. I'm constantly making the kids made because i won't let 'em copy music cd's or games, and i support anti-piracy efforts, but to have a company try to hide software on my system...........regardless of how good the game is, i'll vote with my pocketbook and leave it on the shelf. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    AFAIK only the EU version of X3 employs StarForce.

    As much as I hate and dispise StarForce (it makes testing very difficult), it is not a rootkit. There has been much debate online about possible malicious uses for SF, but (unfortunately) none have been found.

    Why is it unfortunate that no SF is not a rootkit? Because that would be the best and easiest way to fight it. I wish it were as bad a situation as the Sony DRM problem ... but people need to get as upset about having their fair use rights trampled on as they do about opening their system up to hackers if there is going to be anything done about StarForce.

    Obviously our focus here at AT is hardware, but I'll get up on my soap box and yell about how DRM in general is a waste of time and money. Storage, memory, CPU cycles, and other resources are wasted on implimenting hardware and software that doesn't do anything to stop real pirates (those who copy and sell media or games for profit).

    For online games checking cd keys against others online already is an effective means for keeping copying down without getting in the way of people who want to make copies of their media and wasting the resources of system on which the software is installed.

    But that's as far as copy protection should go.

    The answer is education. If companies dumped all the money they are wasting on DRM into educating the public about their own rights and making them feel good about being consumers, a whole lot more would get done.

    Copiers, scanners, typewriters, printers, and pen and paper are every where ... how has the publishing industry survived for so long without copy protection?

    The problem is the industry itself and the attiude of the public.
  • aka1nas - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    Actually ALL versions of X3 currently being published employ starforce. Both the US CD and DVD versions use it as well as the Australian version. Reply
  • Lalakai - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    easiest way to get message across is through market pressure. Gamers are constantly demanding better graphics, sound, and speed; this demand should also be linked to system privacy and individual rights. I have no qualms accepting anti-piracy protections and education. Protection shouldn't extend to installing specific protection software on the system, and if the programers feel this is their best option, then the response should be purchase of games and products that do not incorporate these means. As much as I enjoy X2 and have looked forward to X3, i'll likely let it slide and voice my opinion on every board that i participate in. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    X2 used StarForce as well ...

    And programmers don't usually decide what copy protection the publisher/distributor is going to use.
  • Lalakai - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    lol just had to torment me didn't ya :~(

    guess i'm gonna have to be a little less trusting, and more investigative before using software. might be time to revisit EOC and Freelancer for awhile

    ............ummmm, now i gotta check and see if they also used StarForce.

    thanks though for the info
  • alexhall50 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    StarForce is used to copy protect X3. If you look on the Egosoft forums then you will see that there have been a number of "conversations" on this topic. However the copy protection system used is not determined by the developer, rather it is determined by the Publisher. As such EgoSoft don't have much say on this. (At least that is my understanding).


  • Phiro - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    That I disagree with - that's the same thing as a hooker saying "sorry baby I can't do rodeo style because my pimp won't let me".

    Publishers do not MAKE the development company do anything - the development company signed the fucking contract with their eyes WIDE OPEN.
  • alexhall50 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    X3 does support SLI, however it does not (currently) support multi-monitor gaming (in the way X2 did) or widescreen support (although this will hopefully come in a patch).

    I have a question on this benchmark review...

    X3 has an option to automatically adjust the quality control of the game and some other graphics tweaks that are not explicitly mentioned within the review as to whether they were used.

    So specifically was Auto Quality Control used within X3 for these benchmarks as this would help improve the scores of the less powerful cards?

    I have an AMD64 3500XP+, 2GB RAM and a 7800GT graphics card. While my average framerate is around 30-35 (1280*1024, 4AA, 4AF, all settings high) I do notice extreme slowdown and jerkiness during the rolling demo.



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