As a writer of science fiction, I’ve naturally been drawn to video games within that storied genre. Games such as Freelancer and the age-old Elite series have always been my go-to recommendations when folks ask me which games I admire the most.
There is just something so compelling about jumping into a spaceship and going out to stake your claim on the universe—usually through a combination of exploration, trading, and combat, within massive sandbox environments.
I checked out some of the games of the X series back in the day, but to me they always seemed a little too hard for me to get into. They sort of reminded me of my first science fiction novel: A highly granular, 460-page epic. A more senior author at the time recommended that I re-edit my book so that is was “a little more easy to get into; newer writers often make the mistake of assuming their readers know what the author knows.”
In this regard, the first X game that I played, X3: Reunion (2005), reminded me of my first novel. Although it had plenty of interesting content to delve into, myself as well as many others felt that it was just a little too hard to get into.
Eight years later, in 2013, Egosoft released X3’s sequel, X Rebirth. If X3 was too complicated, X Rebirth swung the series a little too much into the opposite direction, and many fans of the series complained about it being too streamlined.
Egosoft’s latest iteration, X4: Foundations, seems to have managed to straddle the line between the previous two iterations for the most part. It is both more accessible to newcomers yet still packs in a lot of the complexity that the series is known for.
Although there is still quite a learning curve involved, it shouldn’t take long for gamers to be cutting a swath through their own partially-created universe. I say “partially-created” because in Foundations, every decision that players make create some sort of ripple throughout the game.
There are many tutorials that are presented this time around, which makes Foundations much easier to understand than its predecessors. You’ll learn all of the basic (and later more advanced) functions of your starting spaceship, including basic movement controls, how to dock it at spaceports, how to outmaneuver and destroy enemies, and the like.
Much of the base game involves trying to curry favor with one or more of Foundations’ major factions. In order to do this you must carry out various missions for them—whether that be smuggling, escorting VIPs, performing various combat objectives, or simply helping to build up space stations.
Accomplishing the smaller missions during the outset of the game, will give you access to more dangerous (and thus higher-paying) gigs. This fits in with the primary goal of the game which is to amass as many credits as you can, which in turn allows you to purchase higher tier spaceships as well as better customize their loadouts to fit what your emerging theme will become. Will you be a tough miner or a trading CEO? How about an ace bounty hunter? It’s all up to you in Foundations.
Once you get past the preliminary stages of the game, you’ll want to build up a fleet of spaceships. Eventually (if successful), you’ll end up overseeing a vast network of AI-controlled ships from an overhead star sector map. When you assemble enough materials, you’ll even be able to begin constructing your very own space stations.
Just as with other games in the X series, it must be mentioned that Foundations does come with its share of bugs and graphical glitches. For example, one of the first tutorials involved me docking my starter spaceship on a nearby starport. I thought “this couldn’t be more complicated than Elite: Dangerous.”
Although Foundations’ flight controls aren’t as difficult to comprehend, the tutorial didn’t guide me through the proper steps of how to make a safe landing. I figured it out eventually, but the whole ordeal reminded me of why the X series can still be rather wonky at times.
Although X4: Foundations isn’t perfect, it’s arguably the best entry of the long-running series. Those who are into space trading, exploration, and combat may want to check it out. Just be warned that it is a game meant for those with patience. Personally, I’m really interested in how Egosoft develops this game further since they’re known for supporting their games into the long-term.
X4: Foundations features pretty great graphics that make its space sandbox gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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