Surprise! A New X3 Expansion Beams In

By Alec Meer on December 7th, 2011 at 4:28 pm.

Albion? Is this a Fable crossover?

The many skywalking fans of the X series of spaceship shooty-tradey epics are waiting impatiently for X: Rebirth, a full-on sequel/reboot due next year, but now we unexpectedly hear another game will startjump into our orbit before 2011 is done and dusted. X3: Albion Prelude is an expandalandalandalone for X3, and plans to tell the tale of how the X universe transitioned into the state it’s in come Rebirth.

So quite plot-heavy by the sound of things, but from a spaceship practicality point of view it sounds pretty healthy too: 30 new ships and stations, a stock exchange, UI tweaks and an updated graphics engine. It does look rather good, as the below trailer demonstrates (when not including unnecessary live action scenes of a girl wearing an awful lot of make-up and silently crying). And it’s out in just eight days’ time. Er, the game. Not the trailer. That’s below already.

Here’s some background lore stuff:

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!

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.

And here what it looks like. Plus a woman.

If you own the X Superbox, the collection of the whole shebang to date, you’ll get this for free, you’ll be glad to hear. If you own previous expandalone X3: Terran Conflict, you get it $9.99. Or you can buy a pack with both this and Terran Conflict for $19.99. Hooray for money!

That’s all out on December 15, apparently via Steam only for now. Far, far, far more details here.

(Oh, ‘Albion’ refers to what will be the key ship in X: Rebirth.)

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120 Comments »

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  1. dontnormally says:

    Space. Space never changes.

  2. Batolemaeus says:

    That, indeed, is a surprise.
    I shall acquire and play this most ferociously.

  3. Blackcompany says:

    I have always wanted to play a space sim. Eve seems a little time intensive and intimidating, though I am considering it. The X series sounds good as well, but I have trouble finding reviews on the series.
    .
    If anyone is familiar with the X series, I would appreciate any information they might offer about this series.
    .
    Thanks in advance.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      It’s a little lacking in atmosphere…

      But worth a shot as the options are few for this kind of freeform space game (Evochron Mercenaries is the only other one I can think of right now that’s still ‘current’).

    • Gnoupi says:

      The X series is really a “space sim”. In that it actually simulates the universe, its economy, factory complexes, armies, pirates, etc.

      As such, it might be a bit overwhelming if all you are looking for is to dogfight. The X series is mostly about running your economy, with your fleet of trader ships, exploring a lot, too.

      You have missions, you have dogfights, but it’s not the main point of the game. To be honest, it’s quite complex, and contemplative at times. It’s a game, in my opinion, for people who enjoy just “being” in space. Exploring systems, going in one direction without knowing what to expect. It might be a bit empty at times, depending on the system you are in (but well, it’s space, after all). You have several main story lines, but it’s all optional. What you have mostly is a big sandbox, with a large mod community.

      It’s also the kind of game for which you really have to read about, outside of it. There is a tutorial, but it’s not perfect. A lot of details you will learn on the way, or in external guides. (For example, don’t pay to repair your ship, it’s crazily expensive. Just eject from the ship, and repair it yourself, in your space suit! Possible side effects, getting lost or rammed into by another ship)

      Here you will find the RPS forum’s thread about it, if you want to read more about it: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?1914-What-do-you-all-think-about-X3-Terran-Conflict

    • Nallen says:

      X3 sits in the corner of my mind, next to EVE, whispering that it could be just like EVE but without the heartache and the embarressment of being terrible in front of your fellow PVPers, and that I should just give it a try, one time, how bad could it be.

      I have promised myself I will wait for Rebirth.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Thanks for the info on this. Very handy stuff. It sounds a lot like a big, expansive, single player EVE. Not that this is a bad thing. Dogfighting in a space sim would be nice, now and then. But I am more into the bigger, expansive games which feature exploration and management.

    • vecordae says:

      @Blackcompany

      I just bought X3: Terran Conflict a few days ago and have been giving it a go. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. It’s a bit like a cross between EVE and Freelancer with the added bonus of you being able to control multiple ships. You can build stations, produce wares, command capital fleets, invade sectors, and all sorts of other things. It’s structured as an open sandbox with a set of loose story lines you can follow or ignore at your whim.

      So, the Pros: Big, open world. Multiple vying factions for you to interact with. Decent economic modelling for those of you who enjoy trading. Combat is fun once you get the hang of it. Gorgeous graphics. Ability to pilot/command everything from tiny scout fighters to trade vessels to heavy warships.

      And the cons: The game can be extremely difficult to wrap one’s head around due to how complex it is and how poorly all of it’s numerous bits are documented. You will almost certainly NEED to check the forums and various user-created guides to make sense of it. Occasionally clunky UI. Information isn’t always presented in the most concise or logical way, which makes it harder to sift through than is strictly neccessary. The AI that controls the NPC ships has a funky collision-avoidance routine which means they will occasionally fly back and forth around a station rather than docking like they are supposed to or slam you into a station. Voice-acting ranging from “perplexingly bad” to “enthusiastically amateurish.” Some of the NPC-generated missions don’t scale well with your combat rank (which determines the power of the enemy ships that spawn), which means you’ll occasionally find yourself trying to protect a relatively fragile ships against waves of very powerful enemies. Combine that with the earlier AI stupidity and you have a recipe for frustration a la mode.

      Also the “Depends on you, mate”: The flight model is mostly arcadey, a-la Wing Commander or X-Wing. There is also a great deal of complexity, some of which you’ll need to master in order to do the “fun stuff”, whether that is trading or piracy. I like the complexity, but some might find it off-putting or unnecessary. Also, in general, it is a slow-paced game. Combat’s fun, but the rest of the game can feel plodding at times.

      My thoughts: Good times. I’d recommend giving it a go if you can snag it for less than twenty quid and can spare a few hours getting the hang of it.

    • Brun says:

      Is it a big Procedural Galaxy/Universe like Frontier or Elite? Or is it static?

    • Mistabashi says:

      It’s not procedurally generated, but it’s not completely static either as the nature of the economy and the “god” system means that un-needed stations will be replaced or destroyed, so there’s always subtle differences between games.

    • Brun says:

      I guess I’m trying to get a sense for the scale of it…how many systems are we talking?

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      AmateurScience: It’s a little lacking in atmosphere…

      Bravo.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I would recommend Freelancer before X3. X3 is much more complex, and the charm of Freelancer is its ease of use.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The scale is the problem. The current game looks good, but it’s built on a very old engine that represents each area as a small 2D checkerboard to fly in. Well, not actually 2D, but everything is arranged very close to one horizontal plane with jump gate exits predictably placed at the edges, in a cramped area. It completely lacks the vast feel of flying and fighting through a planetary system like in the Independence War series (the last truly great cockpit-level space sim, IMO). Because the sectors are small, the speeds are capped at a very low level. I always feel like I’m crawling along, even in the faster fighters.

      Combat isn’t much fun (just my opinion, others may enjoy it). The AI isn’t very good and fights in just one plane. There is no real distinction between flying a big battleship or a small fighter, aside from turn rates. They all fly the same, and you have no crew to command in the larger ships…. they’re effectively just big, slow fighters with massive firepower.

      The “aliens” in the game look like Muppets, and there is little creativity in the writing of missions and plot lines. There are no individual cockpit graphics for the different ships.

      That said, there is a big economic engine underlying the whole thing, and if you enjoy building up a big commercial empire to support large battle fleets, then you might enjoy it. That seems to be the draw, for a lot of people. It’s not enough for me… it just feels too cramped and slow when I’m flying around.

      I need space to feel big, and my ship to feel fast. That’s supposed to be coming (or some version of it) in the coming Rebirth version of the game, where they’re supposedly re-doing the game engine from scratch. I’ll wait for that. This expansion won’t do anything for me if the sectors are still this small.

    • Somerled says:

      Nallen: “I have promised myself I will wait for Rebirth.”

      The X series is so far a half dozen re-releases of the same game. Rebirth is meant to change it from the ground up, for better or worse. So get into X now, not later.

    • vecordae says:

      @Blackcompany

      X3 is what happens when Wing Commander: Privateer (or Freelancer, I guess) and EVE have a good-natured German baby. If you want to command a single smaller ship and engage in fast and/or furious arcade-style combat, I’d go with Freelancer. If you want a huge, sprawling, space economy/combat sim where you control entire fleets and manage industrial/trade empires, I’d go for X3: Terran Conflict.

      X3 is HUGE, though, and super-complex. I’d recommend a joystick and several hours of free time so you can get the hang of controlling your ship. Also, as Zenicetus already pointed out, the voice acting in X3 is enthusiastically amateurish at best.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      [Edit: I pretty much agree with everything Zenicetus said a couple of posts up, but as I enjoy running intergalactic business empires here’s my take on it]

      The sector system, where each system is bounded by North, South, East and West gates, meant that to me it felt as if I was moving a camera around a beautiful space-themed room. You can’t land on planets and there’s a definite sense of which way is ‘up’ too.

      This isn’t really a bad thing as such, unless you’re looking for a completely free, pseudo-Newtonian flight model as per Frontier or Pioneer. It ain’t those.

      Where it does excel, and excel beautifully I think, is in empire building. You can explore in your ship, trade, buy things, get other ships to trade on your behalf, set up solar power plants, factory complexes and so forth.

      The interface makes Skyrim’s look like a triumph of usability, and it really needs a 1000-page strategy guide to get the most out of it (if there were such a thing I’d buy it) but if you want to build a galaxy-spanning empire, and engage in something epic, pretty, spacey and complex, this is the thing for you.

      Oh, and if you just want to shoot things then that’s fine too.

    • Premium User Badge

      _Nocturnal says:

      I’ve played Terran Conflict a bit. Here’s what I found: it isn’t really a game. Rather, it’s a screensaver with a simulated economy. It makes space utterly boring. Playing X3 without massive use of the “speed up time” button is pretty much unthinkable and even then, it’s recommended to make it speed up time even more than it does by default.

      Configuring my gamepad properly took me about 3 hours and I ended up using JoyToKey for some things because the game didn’t let me assign actions to the analogue sticks. Smart ideas like making you memorise and reenter all the keybinds for an action when you want to change just one of them had to do with it.

      The tutorial was completely awful. There was a bit where they had me shoot a box, right? Only, the box was at the other end of the sector. It took me several minutes to reach it. Several long, boring minutes. When I reached the box, all I had to do was click on it once, and start making my way back to the bastard that made me shoot it. That was before I knew I could speed up time, by the way.

      The first few story missions manage to actually be worse than that. All you do is point towards the next stargate or whatever and speed up the time in order to get there faster. Oh, and if you touch something, anything, even just to rotate the camera, time returns to it’s normal speed. As I said, it’s a screensaver.

      Did I mention the specialized recon ship they give you at one time? They expect you to scan an enemy base with it. When you get there, though, several ships launch from the base and demolish you with a few shots. There is no way that I know of to get around those ships and no way to avoid their launch. And the last autosave? At the start of the mission, requiring 10 minutes of travel in order to reach that base again.

      But yeah, it does seem to have a pretty detailed economy, I guess…

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      @ _Nocturnal

      I read all the other comments in this thread, good and bad, but I immediately stopped reading yours at “screensaver”.

    • Mistabashi says:

      @ Nocturnal:

      I suspect you’ve missed the point a bit. It really isn’t supposed to be a space shooter, it’s a giant sandbox with some missions inside if you choose. If you can’t figure out a way to do a mission with your current ships or equipment, go get another one – there’s literally no limit to how many ships you have under your command.

      Although I agree that the game is terrible at communicating this information to you, you pretty much have to read the manual (yes, there is a pdf manual, check your game folder).

    • vecordae says:

      Also: The mission that Nocturnal mentions IS a bit of a pain. Fortunately, the ship you start out in can be upgraded with your starting cash to be faster than anything that will launch out of that base. The base will launch some ships, so run from them and towards one of the big pirate bases nearby. The other pirate base’s laser towers will destroy your pursuers for you. Then you can scan the ship in peace. Note: Don’t screw with the pirates before this mission and they will happily ignore you.

    • minmsjohn says:

      X3 Terran Conflict is one of my most favorite games to play. It’s incredibly slow at first but worth it towards the end. I recently started a new playthrough with some mods installed. (Cmod 4, Improved Races, MARS, an improved carrier interface mod, and a graphics mod that isn’t really necessary for those that are interested). With those mods I’m building up my empire then I will use some of the improved races functions to have the Xenon (X3’s evil sentient AI) start taking over the universe. Then it will be a battlestar galactica style fight for survival.

      The game is also simply beautiful. I have some screenshots posted on my steam profile.
      steam pics
      Those shots are taken from the vanilla game. Don’t mind some of my other game’s weird and awkward screenshots.

      I hope you give X3 a go. It is a lot of fun and if like me you’ve got a wild imagination you can have a lot of fun role playing in the universe.

    • mike2R says:

      Huge fan myself. But I think the important thing to realise is that the negative opinions that people have posted are completely valid. They are wrong in many cases; I could point out specifics of where people are “doing it wrong” or missing the point. But that would be to miss the point myself; the game can be obtuse to the point of impenetrability for the newcomer. There are any number bits of specific knowledge that you _need_ to play this game, and the game is very poor at introducing you to them.

      All I can say is there is a game in there. A huge, freeform, expansive game that you can approach in a hundred different ways. Getting started requires more investment from you than it really should however, and obviously it is not for everyone.

    • cw8 says:

      X series is like Capitalism + a space flight sim(Wing Commander, Freespace, etc). It’s probably as much an economic sandbox builder as a space sim. The universe is huge and there are many sectors to explore although you can’t land on planets. You can earn money through many ways, trading, combat and selling ships you capture, freelance missions, hiring traders to auto-trade for you, and building factories and complexes which manufactures goods for the AI traders to buy. In Capitalism, you setup farms and factories to supply your shopping malls etc, it’s pretty much the same in X, except they’re called Complexes.

      Also there are factions that sell different types of ships each with individual stats, from small fighters to battleships to carriers. And you can pilot every ship in the game. If you suck at dogfighting but are great in economy and money earning, simply retreat for now and bring along 3 capital ships and an escort of fighters and corvettes for vengeance another day. Like they say there is no kill like overkill.

      If you do buy the Superbox, I recommend playing with X2 at least first. If you wanna start off with X3:TC on the fly, at least do play the X2 tutorials first since the tutorials in X3:R and X3:TC are kinda rubbish. In X2, the tutorials teach you the basics of setting up an economy and factories chains which make learning the game alot easier.

    • Gnoupi says:

      @Brun – here is a map of the systems and their connections: http://timwheatley.org/www/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/x3tcmap.jpg

      Depending on the place, systems have sometimes nothing in them (xenon sectors), or they can have giant complexes, with a dozens of stations and factories. (and a good load of asteroids, commercial ships, pirates, depending on the system)

      X3TC can feel a bit empty and obtuse at times, for sure.
      X:Rebirth will attempt to address this by making a “tighter” space. More things in it, and no more travel gates, only some “highways”, and more “lively” complexes.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Ah crap, I am not even done with my first X3: Terran Conflict playtrough. Although I rather liked the 50 hours I put into it already.

    • MonolithicTentacledAbomination says:

      I have about 18 hours on my X3:TC save, and I’m hopelessly lost, can’t seem to accomplish any missions I pick up, can’t find anyone to buy my worthless cargo, and I still can’t bring myself to uninstall or restart the game.

    • Mistabashi says:

      Head over to the X3:TC thread in the forums if you need some not-too-spoilery pointers :)

    • mike2R says:

      Or post some questions in the ongoing thread on the RPS forum. All the help you need to get you hooked on this particular piece of digital crack will be provided :)

  5. rustybroomhandle says:

    I thought Saya Kho was supposed to be Asian. Silly Germans. :) I wonder if they are going to be working FMV into some of their future titles.

    I put so many hours into X2, X3:R and X3:TC that I can only say: THERE GOES MY LIIIIIIIFE!!!!!

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      Nah, she ain’t asian. In the X-Universe, Japan eventually became the hegemonial power on Earth (story thought up in 1999, now it would be China), and thus, Japanese became the most spoken language. As a result, a lot of the names are Japanese.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      @Joshua

      While the rest of what you say is true, you’re wrong when you say that Saya Kho wasn’t Asian. Her character model in the previous games was most certainly Asian (and most certainly not red-headed). Yeah, not sure what they were thinking with that. Either they are retconning the character, or they just weren’t arsed enough to hire an actual Asian woman to play what used to definitely be an Asian character.

      Or perhaps they simply mixed up Saya with the Russian girl Miria Marani from X3 Reunion, since she was a red-headed Caucasian, unlike Saya.

  6. Felixader says:

    Everytime i see a new X-Game coming out, i wanna play it and all it’s predeccessors, really i always want to.

    But then i remember the controls and i prevail. I think this one soft spot that i have for this series in my heart never will life trough fullfillment.

  7. DK says:

    So sad that they’ve pretty much abandoned the X-story as laid out in the novels. That one is so much more compelling, with a cast of characters that grows, rises and falls throughout the decades and new characters being introduced to give new perspectives on the things that change.

    Last big thing was a multi-racial techno-phile faction loosely affiliated with the Yaki Slaver-Pirate Clan getting access to the original Terraformer blueprints and rebuilding a new Terraformer fleet hidden near Mercury. While at the same time Humans managed to get an official ambassador to the League of Ancients, which means they actually have a say in the control of the Gate Network (which is massively more important because unlike the games, Jump Drives do not work for anyone but the now-in-exile Xenon).

  8. sqparadox says:

    @RPS “(Oh, ‘Albion’ refers to what will be the key ship in X: Rebirth.)”

    In this case, ‘Albion’ in the title refers to a system, not the ship that will appear in X Rebirth (though they may have some yet to be revealed connection).

    See question “Q: What’s the Albion in the title?” in X-Universe News Edition 46:
    http://www.egosoft.com/x/xnews/201112_1_44News.html

  9. youthful cynic says:

    I don’t know about anyone else but I thought that was an awful trailer for what is probably going to be an excellent game.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      The not-live-action parts of that trailer were awesome. The live action parts… not so much.

  10. Silver says:

    “The many skywalking fans of the X series”

    more like “skystalking fans”..

    I must admit.. been stalking Ego page for quite a while for any any update … :)

  11. Javier-de-Ass says:

    steam only? come on.

  12. -Norbert- says:

    I hope they give it for free to those who own every game of the X Series, not only to those that bought the super box itself.

    • vecordae says:

      You know, they seem like cool folks. If you asked them nicely and could prove you owned the games (boxes or manuals or CD keys or something) you’d probably have a shot at getting a free steam key for the new expansion.

  13. Prime says:

    Sigh.

    So the great business simulator that just happens to be set in space wants to come back for one last waltz, does she? I’ve wasted so much of my life in this series it’s not even funny. and please don’t mistake that for my having fun – no, it’s a weary recount of the lost weeks I’ve spent pressing the SETA button to speed time up just to achieve anything, even crossing a system. This game is glacially slow, requiring real-time months of dedication to get anywhere. Pretty, yes. Fun at times, yes. But overall, just a long hard boring ceaseless slog that wants you, more than anything, to become a corporate CEO in space, managing all that tedious financial garbage, otherwise the fun times – such as running your own fleets – are plain denied you.

    It’s not a game: it’s a JOB. It’s WORK. It’s exactly as fun as the thing you do in your life to keep you alive and to get you the money to play games that are actually fun, like Skyrim.

    I may buy this, being something of a completist, but in all honesty I’m waiting to see where Rebirth goes, how much of a change they make to the dull-as-dishwater formula they’ve been milking drier and drier since Beyond the Frontier.

    • Premium User Badge

      GibletHead2000 says:

      Wh… why did you play it so much if you find it so dull? Are you trying to atone for something you did in a past life, perhaps?

      Personally, I think this sounds pretty good. I love the X games.

    • Prime says:

      Because for a time it was alright. And it was practically the only space game out there other than EVE; I love space games. To not buy one felt disloyal. And with each iteration of the series I found new things to like, perhaps even love. But looking back…bloody hell that was a lot of time spent waiting for things to happen! I just can’t do it any more. I didn’t even finish Terran Conflict. Nowhere near it.

      I’m tired of the limits on travel. I hate that the ships are so slow. I’m tired of everything costing so much money and taking such an effort to afford (that’s like real life!). I’m sick of the same bloody systems that change every game. I liked X2’s shadows, station interiors, volumetric nebula and stations unique to each race – all gone. Every station is now grey and shiny metal or white terran metal. There’s no flavour to the design any more, just blandness…

      The X games are a soulless, colourless, accountant’s version of what space should be, and after ten years of playing them in the hope they’ll become what I see in my head – and them disappointing me every time – I’m simply worn out on them. Play Pioneer for half an hour, explore some systems, investigate some planets, and you see how horribly cramped and artificial the X games are. I’m hoping Rebirth will change enough to put some of the fun back into it, but I doubt it very much.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Erithtotl says:

    I have played only TC. I am not sure how far down I got through the storyline. I probably put in 30 hours or so (would have to go back and check Steam). I got distracted by other things. It requires a lot of attention and is difficult to understand all the pieces. But honestly I came away with an overall happy feeling and haven’t deleted it from my local Steam folder despite not having touched it for a year. It’s somewhere in between something like Elite, Freelancer and IW, with some of the good and bad points of all three. If you have patience and love the idea of ‘adventuring’ in a great big living space universe, its a good game to try out and suitably cheap at this point.

  15. MythArcana says:

    It’s quite peculiar for them to pump out this kind of product; especially given the sheer amount of time it takes to build up a character in their games. By the time this game would start getting good, the new game will be out leading one to a dilemma. I think I’ll wait for the flagship game next year…

    • Josh W says:

      I have a friend who has sworn off the game, after he put hours of his life into it and built a massive trading empire. I wonder if I can get him to distribute his old save-games…

  16. Yosharian says:

    Interesting, I was just thinking about this game and wondering when it’s next going to be on sale. Although I’m put off the sheer number of sequels, expansion packs, etc. I’m not sure what I need to buy to get the full experience as it were.

  17. ChiefInspectorLee says:

    good think I love women

  18. MrEvind says:

    I like X series, but they are hard to start playing.

  19. cw8 says:

    169 hours in, and I’m not even half done in X3: Reunion, building a Carrier task force is alot of work. 213 hours spent on X2 before I call an end and moved on to X3: R. I don’t wanna imagine X3: TC and this new exppack. hehe.

  20. Ross Angus says:

    Is “X Superbox” what we call the X-Box 360 now? I can’t keep up with these RPS memes.

  21. microcystin says:

    I bought the X3 pack on Amazon last year. I really wanted a full featured space sim but then I tried playing it and never got past the first 3 missions, such a waste.

    The engine looks nice enough, combat is simple, and then you can’t figure out what you’re supposed to do and the whole thing ends in frustration.

    I wanted to play it with a flight stick but they don’t let you map buttons effectively, I tried looking at the forums for help and those were full of obscure and incoherent instructions. I thought surely some one had made a mod that would smooth out some of the rough parts but all I found were lots of references to scripts that I could never get to work.

    In the end I had several hours of fun flying around looking at space stations and ten hours of frustration trying to get anything else to work I felt cheated and just erased the whole mess.