There was something I didn’t realize about Captain Kirk until recently. As captain of the fictional Starship Entertprise, he had all the responsibility and basically none of the tactile fun. Oh sure he had tactile fun in the bedroom and he was always quick to grab a phaser and head off on an away mission – but, when it came to the Enterprise, he sat in a chair and gave orders. He didn’t get to fire the torpedoes, he didn’t get to take the evasive maneuvers, it was his job to sit there and tell others what to do. As a television director I can relate to this, though I did rotate into other positions so I did get the shot, press the buttons, slide the sliders. Gaming-wise, though, I think X3: Albion Prelude might have been the first to give me the video game connections to the legendary captain.
War! The X universe is undergoing a period of massive change. What started as a conflict of interest between the Earth and the races of the X Universe has now escalated into a full scale war. Play a part in a war scenario bigger than anything the X Universe has ever seen before!
Corporations Compete for Control of the Future. With the war as a backdrop, corporations are vying for power and are driving the X Universe in a new direction. A technological breakthrough will soon allow massive accelerators, forming highways in space and allowing the economy to expand on an unprecedented scale. Highways, a key feature of X Rebirth, are not yet ready, but you can see them being built and participate in the power struggles around the construction of much larger self sustaining economies.
- A new plot throws you into the power struggle between corporations at a time of war.
- More than 30 new ships and stations
- New Stock Exchange feature allows advanced investment strategies
- Improved graphics quality setting for high end machines
- Improved UI introducing charts to visualize economic developments
- Support for head tracking
Space is huge, big, ginormous, and other such words. Being so vast, there is a whole lot of stuff you can do in it. The developers of the “X” series of games always seemed to get that point and, game after game, they try to improve on it by showing how vast it is and how much here is to do in it. It isn’t just flying around and fighting enemies, it is maintaining empires and border relations, it is building and destroying economies, it is as much about who you shake hands with as who you shoot under the table (Han shot first). X3: Albion Prelude is amazing ambitious in scope trying to be a space battle game while also being a strategy game, sim game, and just about any other real time game you can imagine all in one. To further amazement is how successful it is at doing that.
When I first started playing I didn’t realize what I was in for. I was trying to figure out the controls when I saw a ship that appeared red in my sights. Time for my first kill I thought as I opened fire. An alien face appears in my view screen and says that they were here to talk peace, why was I shooting at him? “You were red in my sights” I said to the screen and swung my ship about to continue firing. “I’m making a run for it” the alien says, I assumed at the time to me and off he goes in a much faster ship than mine. I try to give pursuit only to find a whole fleet of ships intercepting me. Really big ships. My turn to run I think right as I explode. I then get an announcement that three alien species have now declared war on us and we are probably doomed. Time to start over and rethink the game I am playing.
Fast forward into gameplay, I’m a nugget out on patrol, having figured out most of the detailed though not very intuitive controls which require me to use the mouse, keyboard and flightstick all at once and I can’t seem to get past a mission. I fly to the sector coordinates I am assigned for a space station defense but no matter what dog fighting tactic I try, and I know a lot, none of them seem to work. Going into menu upon menu I am able to make it so that after I hop through the jump gate into the sector my auto defenses can be set to attack the nearest enemy. So I pop through the jump and sit back in my chair. Like Kirk. I have told my ship to be in defensive maneuvering and to concentrate on the nearest enemies. In other words I have told my crew what to do and it is time for me to sit back and watch. The ship doesn’t engage the target in front of it, my first move most times and instead goes into immediate evasive. It can tell which ship has already engaged me upon jumping into the sector and doesn’t add to my fight but swings around to take the one on my six. I lean on the arm of my chair, fighting to not grab the stick and disengage the auto defense. I’m learning how this enemy fights, how it’s ships maneuver and how many tend to actively engage a single target in the battle. I will be a better captain for it, and I will be able to use the stick and get my hands-on kills but for now I must sit in the chair and watch.
The battle won I head back towards base, my ship on autopilot steering clear of asteroids and space ports, I am monitoring signals from different worlds. One wishes to hire a ship fit for a Queen, which my little fighter is not, I keep it in mind though, considering what upgrades to my freighter back in dock might need to be good enough for royalty. I could use the cash but upgrades can be so pricey just to oxygenate the storage hold yet alone convert it into nice accommodations. All the time I am thinking in real world days and weeks, maybe months, before I might get to own my own space station and rule the stock market.
That is just a small taste of this game, a beginning taste. It is so deep and diverse I am still in shock of how much there is to it. With each version of the X series games they have added on new possibilities, new additions to the economy, new ways to make the world as real as possible. It suits just about any taste of play and if you have a diverse taste it may suit you more than most games you have ever played.
It has its rough points: The controls are hard to get used to although the game is compatible with the Xbox 360 controller and it has crossed my mind to hook one of them up too to try to make it easier. If you take a day or two off from playing in the first couple weeks of playing you will need a refresher, you will wish you had a manual. I still feel fairly unsure on certain aspects of the game controls, with so much to do you would expect a certain degree of this but there must have been a way to streamline the controls a bit better. Also you have to plan your quit times ahead a bit or be prepared to leave your game on when you walk away, saves happen at certain space ports so if you are in a far section of space and it is time to head out for dinner you may find yourself trying to choose between floating in space or making excuses to your dinner mates on why you couldn’t leave right away.
Last Call (For Now):
I’m not done with this game yet – not by a long shot. Who knows, maybe there will be another update on it in the future or continuing their course of always looking forward the team may come out with an expansion or the next X. Now is the time to buy it on Steam though because for $40 you can own the entire X catalog, an incalculable number of hours of play. The only thing that kept me from giving this game the Seal of Excellence were the controls. X3: Albion Prelude is an terrific game that reaches for the stars and makes it.
[easyreview title=”X3: Albion Prelude Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]
Included in the Steam X: Superbox:
- X:Beyond the Frontier 2.2
- X:tension 2.2
- X2: The Threat 2.5 incl. UPLINK
- X3: Reunion 2.5 incl. “Bala Gi`s Research Missions”
- X3: Terran Conflict 3.0 incl. “Balance of Power”
- Bonus content with installers for Egosoft and fan made add-ons. To access the bonus material, select Library –> Tools –> X-Superbox Bonus Material from your Steam client.
- Encyclopedia about the X universe (PDF)
- X3 Gold Soundtrack (will be installed together with X3: Terran Conflict)