Sunday, July 26, 2009

X3: Reunion

I was glancing over at the Time Wasters section of the blog and realized it is hopelessly out of date. I need to update it, so it will be in date, I suppose. For example, I no longer play Fallen Sword (it has gone gently into that good night - amazing how addictive a relatively simplistic game can be) and haven't become the Master of Orion in months now. Other Time Wasters took their place, including Hinterlands. I blogged about Hinterlands, and then had to stop playing it, because it was becoming too much of a Time Waster. I'm pretty sure I also mentioned Fallout 3, which was a Time Waster until I beat it and uninstalled it. Good game, really, but by the time I beat it I couldn't wait to get it off my hard drive so I could go on to something else.

So the latest potential Time Waster, emphasis on the word potential, is X3: Reunion. This is a space sim in the tradition of Elite (for those who are steeped in the lore of the good old days of early PCs) or Freelancer (for those who are not). Yes, it's in that tradition, but bigger, much, much bigger. And infinitely more complex. In Elite and Freelancer you can shoot down bad guys, steal their stuff, sell it, become a merchant, do different kind of missions, buy new ships, put on cool new weapons, and so on. In short, you're kind of a space Privateer (I forgot to mention Wing Commander: Privateer, which is also in that tradition). Space Rangers, more recently also has that aspect to it. (I think I play too many games!). But in X3, you can ALSO build up a fleet of trading ships, buy space stations to manufacture goods, set up trade routes, become a bounty hunter, become a smuggler, hunt aliens, hunt pirates, purchase and captain capital class ships, set up your own defense platforms, and on and on and on. You can also design your own campaigns and edit the game with scripts. At least, I think you can do all these awesome things. I wouldn't know because I can't figure the @#$! thing out. The documentation I got was minimal, and even the more extensive documentation in earlier printings of the game could barely scratch the surface of it. The interface is damnably complicated and unintuitive, requiring you to go through many different menus to do things you have to do frequently. As an example, figuring out how to speed the game up when you're on the frequent long hauls across a star system longing to get to the action is not covered in any of the documentation, and when you do figure it out it helps only a little bit. Combat is fun but not fun enough, and the time it takes to get to where you actually have enough resources to even start doing any of the stuff I have outlined above is, well, far more time than I've had so far.

X3 came out a few years ago and I couldn't wait for it to get cheap so I could buy it. I bought it, installed it, booted it up, and then pulled my hair out for hours trying to figure it out. Now let's be clear - I have played a lot of games in my day. A lot. And I've done a fair amount of work on computers in various ways, as a user and a second rate programmer. If I can't figure out a game, something is amiss. So I played it for a few weeks and then retired it. But lately I've had an urge to tackle the learning curve again, to really master this @#!#, because the rewards look so enticing. This is like my dream space sim! It's got everything I want in a space sim! Except for playability and fun.

So, will I stick with it? To be honest it's doubtful. When I was younger and had much more time, and patience, I absolutely would have stayed with it and would have mastered it and I think loved it. But I just don't have the time and interest to do that anymore. Not when Real Life has so much stuff to do, and when there are so many other games sitting on my shelf waiting to be played that won't have a 2 week learning curve before I can start enjoying them. But I'll try it out a few more hours, just to see. If a sudden lightbulb of insight appears over my head, and I start loving it, I'll let you know.

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