Mega space economy simulator X4: Foundations has released its first major expansion, bringing the alien Split faction back into the series, along with a heap of ships and new areas to explore.
Developers Egosoft have also updated the base game, promising a litany of fixes and improvements, and additions including new ships, weapons, and a fresh storyline, whether you buy the expansion or not.
It’s in keeping with their habit. The X games tend to be wonky on launch but get markedly better over a few years, with the exception of 2013’s disastrous X: Rebirth. They later salvaged some of its good (if poorly executed) ideas, although RPS contributor Nic Reuben still felt lukewarm in his 2018 X4: Foundations review, declaring that “It provides a framework for a good time if you approach it completely dead set on having a good time, but you’re going to have to do much, if not all, of the work yourself”. Not unfair. Its ambitious scope and full 3D space station interiors, complete with seamless transitions from spaceflight to strolling, also meant that several of the series’ established alien civilisations were cut out.
Split Vendetta brings one of them back. The famously narky, fighty Split species will rejoin the dynamic trading and shooting with their new ships, weapons, and a “massive expansion of the universe” according to the blurb. That also means extra story missions, more opportunities to wiggle between factions, and more goods to buy, build, or trade.
For those without the expansion, the 3.0 update brings improvements like new optional tutorials, alternative steering methods “including head tracking systems and X3 retro mode”, and tweaks to the menu screens and interface, which will be welcome to people who struggled with the maps as I did. Graphics and sound improvements are also in there. The full changelist is long and esoteric and visible on the Egosoft forums.
I have a lot of respect for what Egosoft have done with Foundations. For years, the X games were in need of refreshing, to cut away their laborious interfaces and awkward bits, exposing the unparalleled economic complexity and open world freedom beneath. After doing their best to repair Rebirth, they cut their losses, and started again with X4: Foundations. That was a huge improvement, if a little threadbare in parts, and Egosoft have been working on it ever since. It rightly has its share of fans, although it has yet to match the several acres of mods for the less shiny X3.
I used to jaunt in its pretty space over lunch, lurking near hostile incursion grounds and sneaking in to yoink loot from a wrecked ship while everyone was shooting each other. I retain hope that someone would make a comprehensive salvaging mod, exactly how I like it, using magic. It’s great to see it getting more spacetoys and improvements either way.