I recently had the opportunity of playing X2 The Threat by EgoSoft. It's a
large scale empire building game set in the far reaches of the universe. I
believe that's a good thing. I think this game should be shipped there. As far
as open-ended space trading games are concerned, this game is certainly part of
the genre. However, as a space opera, it's long on game time, but comes up short
on the story. I have a few words that I would use to describe this game:
stunning, infinite, monotonous, tiresome, and laughable.
Hey, the graphics are stunning. Hands down. The separate sectors have
beautifully rendered effects such as gases, planets, explosions, etc. The ships
are well rendered. The different types of facilities throughout the universe are
also quite nicely designed, from swirling tentacles on some stations to mining
facilities on asteroids.
The only problems that I seemed to run into with the graphics were when my ships
would be in a dogfight or a lot of other ships were close by. It seemed like the
game chugged and chugged and chugged. While mine is not the fastest machine in
the world, it certainly exceeds the required specs on the X2 box.
Tons Of Eye Candy
This game is absolutely huge. There are far reaching sectors to conquer,
plunder, or just plain explore. In this game, I conquered many a sector, and
declared myself the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. Seriously, when you get
enough cash, create enough mining colonies and space stations, and build a bunch
of ships, you can literally take over anything. With my delusions of grandeur,
this was the perfect environment for me to reign supreme. After all, in my
universe I'm only a ruler of pixels and bits.
The economic aspects of this game are expansive. You can buy here, trade there,
mine and develop over here, and wipe out the economy over there. Early in the
game, you have to keep an eye on what you buy and sell, because you could end up
selling something for far less than you bought it for. It happened to me a
couple of times, until I started keeping track of what I was buying and selling
on paper. Used up a whole notebook. I should've pulled out my laptop and kept an
Excel Spreadsheet to show everyone. But I'm lazy, and I don't think anyone cares
Tons Of Stuff To Explore
This game is not for the feint of heart when it comes to menus and controls.
Keeping track of all the keyboard commands for menus is a tough job. Not only
that, the actual in-game control is awkward. I wish that I could reset the keys,
like I can in just about every other game I've played in the last 8 years! But
the menu system is too dependent on the keyboard, so we don't get to change
them. Why we just can't use the mouse to run the menu system, I don't know. It
appears to only be useful for steering the ship. In order to make the ship go,
you have to use the A, Z, and Backspace keys. A is to accelerate, Z is to
decelerate, and Backspace brings you to a stop. Why not make the stop key a
little bit closer to the A and Z? Its controls like these that make the fighting
in the game absolutely worthless, where it otherwise could've been really cool.
But It Looks So Sweet!
The time it takes to fly around before you figure out what the J button
(that's the "Time Compression" button) does is mind-numbing. Before the J
button, I was flying through sectors straight from one warp to the next. Without
the J button, it would take a good 12 minutes to fly across a sector. That
provided me with enough time to get up, get a can of Coke, go to the bathroom,
brush my teeth, and gouge out my eyeballs. But, gee, what happens when you need
to get somewhere that's 4 sectors away? Well, you burn an hour. It seems a
little excessive to have the ships get around this slowly, but it's how
everything is before you figure out Time Compression. With time compression, you
can get across a sector in a transport ship in about 3 minutes. Still time to go
to the bathroom, or get a Coke, and make it back in time to find out that your
ship is under attack by pirates. But hey, at least you don't want to gouge your
eyes out at that point. Later in the game you can get a Jump Drive. It's a nifty
little device that lets you "jump" to other sectors, saving you enormous amounts
of time. Jump Drives should be something that every ship is equipped with from
the beginning; they might save the people who get deterred at the wait times to
fly across sectors.
In The Cockpit
TIRESOME I found the training missions to be full of bugs. After starting a couple of
the missions over two or three times, the instructor would stop telling me the
next step. If it just happened once, I wouldn't have been so annoyed. But it
happed about a half dozen times, and never in the same place. For such a complex
game, those training missions seemed to me to be critical to help me understand
more of the game controls before starting the actual game. As it turns out, the
only way I learned how to access some of the menus, and create my own products,
was to throw myself into the deep end of the pool. I only drowned 3 or 4 times.
Boy, I'm glad that's only an analogy.
With a lot of ships comes a lot of responsibility. There's a lot of: you do
this, you do that, and you, fly over there. It's heaven for a micromanager, but
sometimes I don't have that kind of eye for details. I don't want to tell you
what to do, just go do something. Take as many credits from the coffers as you
want. We've got plenty. Just leave me alone!
Heading Into New Sector
Hey, the game has a plot. It wasn't designed with the plot in mind, but the plot
does exist. It seems like they forgot about it until after the game was fully
coded, and stapled the plot to the outside of the box. I've seen B-movies with
MUCH better plots. It starts off with the main character, you, stealing a ship
with another guy. You get caught. Then this guy named Ban Danna (I actually
laughed at that because it was a joke that I didn't get, and I wanted to fit in)
wants to reward you for doing such a good job stealing a ship by giving you
another one and having you do some work. You're a criminal, and a poor one at
that. Sure, all criminals deserve a second chance!
What's with the camera action on the cut-scenes? The cameras are jumpy and move
around too much. It's a cut-scene! I'm interested in what the person has to say,
not that the cameraman has to use the bathroom so badly he can't stand still. I
would ask that any game publisher in the future not use incontinent cameramen
for the cut-scenes.
What's with people in this game not believing in the existence of the fabled
Earth? I mean, after all, I'm sitting here, on Earth, playing this game about
Space. If I'm an Earthling, and I know about them, shouldn't they know about me?
I mean, the game had to show up on this planet somehow. Unless I'm not what I
think I am, then my entire psyche will be crushed because I have no idea who I
am. The very thread of my existence is being pulled!
Wicked Looking Space Station
CONCLUSION This game is great if all you're looking for is a space trading game. The
graphics are nice when you're not in combat, and the empire building can be
really rewarding if you're into that sort of thing. The only reason I would play
this game over another would be if I had to have a space trading game. You can
get much better game play, and in some cases, graphics, out of other more
open-ended games like Morrowind or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Action gamers will likely find this to be a very boring game.