There aren’t that many space sim/empire management games around. Space sims are a bit of a niche genre, and coupled with the obsession with stupid cosmetic microtransactions, the niche is that much smaller. But there is still a market for the quiet, contemplative exploration of space and building ships and stations to exploit the virtual universe’s resources. The X universe games is a long-running series dedicated to allowing players to do just that. And its most recent title X4 Foundations could be just the thing to scratch that itch. After the horrible-in-most-ways X Rebirth – which seemed like an alpha-test at best – skeptics had a right to be cynical about X4. But are they right, or is this just what the market was looking for?
Let’s find out.
X4 Foundations – graphics
Having been a big fan of the X Universe games during the X3 Reunion to Albion Prelude era (despite the bugs and idiosyncrasies), hopes were high that Foundations would deliver on more X Universe goodness. One of the basic tenets of modern game design is that graphics shouldn’t matter. But let’s be honest; they do. X4 brings the graphics up a notch in terms of colour, fidelity and just general art style. The aliens look more alien and the ships look chunky.
The stations too bring a certain level of satisfaction when looking at them, from the outside at least. While the vaunted interiors aren’t all that big (as suggested), they are still more alive than in Rebirth. And they are certainly better represented than the static things that you could only dock at on the outside in older games. As for the ships themselves, they look chunky and relatively unique. However, they also have interiors and the largest ships promise to have multiple sections for you to interact with.
Overall, the universe looks nice enough, but the resources of Egosoft are not the same as those of larger studios, so the graphics are more utilitarian pretty than drop dead gorgeous.
X4 Foundations – sound
The music that accompanies the game in fights is exciting but unobtrusive. It’s done in the style of future techno and electronic music, and a lot of the tracks are relatively relaxing. The sounds of your ship, its guns and ambient noises are…uninspiring.
X4 Foundations – gameplay
As with all other X games, Foundations allows you to trade, mine, fight and do various missions. Each thing you do brings you closer to interstellar domination, whether that be starting wars or just being an industrial mogul. The apparent richness of the universe allows players to choose just how they will play the game. The artificial intelligence has apparently been beefed up, but the autopilot is still temperamental especially around the giant stations and asteroid belts.
X4 Foundations – initial thoughts
The game is enjoyable at its base. However as with all the previous releases, it needs work with bug fixes and improvements in scripting, artificial intelligence and other aspects in-game. However, if ever an X Universe game was to live up to its title, then Foundations is that game. It’s a solid base with great potential.