X4: Foundations, the latest in Egosoft's long-running series of enormous sandbox space sims, is out now. Claiming to be a return to form after the notoriously wonky and limiting X: Rebirth, X4 aims to be more of a systems-driven sandbox, rather than a story-driven space adventure. Players can walk around inside vessels and seamlessly onto stations, pilot almost any ship type, build up fleets and their own corporate empires, trade on a massive scale or just putter around in a fighter doing odd jobs. An info-dense overview trailer is in the ready room below, captain.
While I've never gotten deep into the X games, mostly on account of their inelegant (and oddly Dwarf Fortress-esque) command interfaces, I've always loved the concepts behind them. I had a decent bit of fun building up a small fleet in X3, until I started losing expensive ships to traffic accidents at jump-gates. I reviewed X: Rebirth for another, now-defunct site - an ordeal that had to be delayed thanks to it being effectively unplayable at launch and not much improved for weeks afterwards. Craig Pearson braved the launch-day hell and returned with this damning RPS review.
I've got my fingers crossed that Egosoft have got things back on track for X4. So far, it looks impressive, but so did Rebirth, up until the moment people started playing it. Egosoft are surprisingly candid in the trailer above. The Foundations subtitle seems pretty literal here - this is intended as a fresh start for the series and a platform to be built on. Expansions are already planned, featuring new races to meet and regions of space to explore, but there should be enough empires and baddies to zap (including the ever-hostile robot Xenon) to keep players going for now.
X4: Foundations is out now on Steam, Humble and GOG, and costs £40/€50/$50 for the regular version, and £66/€80/$80 for the collectors edition, which includes a novel, soundtrack and (whenever they're released) the first two expansions. You can find more details on its official page here.