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.

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  • Michael - Saturday, January 28, 2006 - link

    Go to Egosoft's website and you'll see the countless reports of the current bugs in the game. The developers seem to be working on them, but I question using the engine for any testing right now when there's no way to know exactly what is broken behind the scenes. I suppose the "rolling demo" is OK because the same code is there for all the benchmarking, but it is not an accurate indication of what the different cards may do in the actual game as the game itself is unstable. X3 should never have been released in the condition it was in. Even the manual was very messed up.

    That said, I did appreciate the range of different CPUs and cards tested.

  • kgrach - Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - link

    X3 gets worse by the day. The game installed a nasty anti-copy protection sceme called starforce. THIS IS THE USA VERSION WHICH IS NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT.
    it has major problems with SCSI and SATA systems.

    Gets better, everybody who has problem with loading the games is told to email starforce the error dump from starforce.

    I took a look at what starforce reports back to the software company in Russia.
    Name address of registered owner
    all hardware
    all drivers
    All errors that have acured
    all software running on the machine currently

    okay i understand that
    All software installed on machine and who it is registered to.
    all users on machine and status admin user
    all network settings
    firewall settings and security levels
    All security software settings

    not good very nervouse about giving that info out but the reall kicker is of the four
    names it pulled out of the hundreds in my favorites and history to put in the error report no they are not the latest or first in my history.

    Two antivirus sites
    My bank
    My mutual fund

    X3 has now gone beyond bad programing right up to serious malware.
    I Now looking on who to contact at the state attorney general.

  • SpareFlair - Friday, January 27, 2006 - link

    For those that think the game looks a bit dry from the rolling demo, the gameplay is actually much different and can't really be explained. The universe is huge, made of hundreds of sectors and there is a thing called artifical life that runs the whole universe and keeps track of every ship in it and everything it does so it's a real working economy...while there's also a war going on between several species.

    There will be a playable demo released soon, which also won't be that indicative of full gameplay but basically it gives you a few ships and you have to defend against waves of enemies while building up your economic empire (to afford forces) in between waves. The real game is nothing at all like this, but it will let you experience combat and some elements of the economy and station/ship building.

    Personally my favorite part about this game is that it's finally a space sim where you can scare the enemy pilots into ejecting. Then you can steal their ship and run over their space-suit...or capture then and sell them into slavery.

    Regarding the Anandtech article, it looks like this will be a good benchmark for both CPU and videocard reviews. Hopefully some more SLI and dual core information will come up.
  • kgrach - Saturday, February 4, 2006 - link

    Don't bother buying this game it has a horrible interface on top of many problems.
    Example in the middle of combat a help box pops up in the middle of the screen to give you a helpful tip to close said box that is now obstructing your view.
    Right click your mouse button to disable ship control. Yes you heard me right, disable ship control in the middle of COMBAT. Then move the mouse pointer to close icon and left click.
    oh did I mention that while you are doing this your ship stops all forward movement. So not only do you have no control of you vessel you are a sitting duck.

    The helpful tip in combat was to tell me not to forget to turn on the rear turret.
    good advice except it failed to mention how to accomplish that feat.

    The game starts with a very complicated screen of which you have no idea what does what since the few tiny pictures in the manual of the icons don't show you much as they take a 1280 X 1280 resolution color screen shrink it to 3/4 inch smeary B&W square of BLACK SPACE and you have to try to figure out what means what by the brief description. You start with a simple mision of going to a warp gate and escorting some newbies around how you are supposed to do that and how do you even know where that stargate is is a mystery that they don't bother to explain to you.

    There was supposed to be some simulations that teach you basic stuff like navigation ship controls,docking and trading. But none of that has made it into the game or the manual yet.

    Also insult upon injury the controls don't match what the manual say's they do.
    So even thought they don't tell you how things works that is made more complicated that they don't even match.

    So you say simply go into the game control screen and remap the buttons which BTW is only accesable during live game play.

    You can pause the game. but the instant you call up the menu for changing the controls it unpauses the game.

    Anybody wants the game just pay for postage you can have my copy on the condition you give it a full review.

    Ohh I forgot to mention the entriging plot. Get this your father while playing with an expiremental ship is blasted to an unknow part of space and while trying to find his way back to earth saves that section of space. while in this unknow section of space he finds you his long lost son. how you got there and the rest of the humans is a question mark since they don't explain that. there is a reference of leading the bad guys away from earth but I thought you didn't know the way home and of course you can't ask dad becuase hes in a coma and your best friend is dead. Oh since your father was rich would make the game way to easy they had all of your factories destroyed by some uknown enemy.

    If you think the plot is bad that is nothing compared to the intro animation.
    It makes me long for my C64 of course. The animations where better on the C64. also on the C64 the music didn't drown out the dialog. Which once the animation played and Iwas in the game proper I could now reset the sound setting so that the music wasn't set at 84 and the dialog set at 80. Now I could replay the awful animation and listen to even worse dialog.


    Has a good idea good graphic engine but I think the game was launched when the code was still pre alpha. The game is not even good enought for beta status yet.

  • phusg - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    Any chance of testing this game with a dual core/CPU setup? I'd be very to see if this CPU bound game is multi-threaded.
  • coldpower27 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    Yes since it was an Athlon FX 55 that was used there should be no penalties for using the Athlon FX 60.
  • VIAN - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    At least the demo sucked, and that's enough for me not to buy the game.
  • boinkle - Thursday, January 26, 2006 - link

    Heh. Looks a bit dry doesn't it... graphics are reasonable though.

    Main problem I have is, I'm severely CPU limited using an Athlon 64/2.35GHz. My x800GTO2 runs this at the same framerate at 10*7/noaa/noaf, and 12*10/*8/*16.

    There must be some insane physics going on behind the scenes...
  • phusg - Saturday, January 28, 2006 - link

    > insane physics

    Hmmm, maybe, but then I wouldn't have thought the physics in a vacuum could get all that complicated (as long as the number of on screen objects is low enough of course). I'd imagine the AI keeping track of all the economies/wars etc is what's hitting the CPU...
  • robg1701 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - link

    Any chance of having scores added for the X1900XT. I realise there arent enough cards to go round but, releasing a benchmark roundup the day after the latest and greatest, you kinda expect it to be included. Especially when it mixes the hardware structure up compared to its peers the way that R580 does with its many pixel shaders.

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