|Publisher: Virtual Programming Genre: Flight Sim|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: Intel @ 1830 MHz RAM: 512 MB Hard Disk: 5500 MB Graphics: 128 MB VRAM|
As you undock from the station in your freighter carrying a load of energy cells to power your station, you hear your warning klaxon. Before you have time to react, your ship is shaken violently and your console blares telling you critical systems were hit. Calmly you shut off the warnings and speak into your comlink. Moments later, another one of your ships, piloted by a computer, arrives and makes short work of the pirate. Seeing your ship is heavily damaged, you eject in your spacesuit and enter your fighter, ordering your freighter to slowly make its way back to the station for repairs.
This is one of the many possibilities you can encounter while playing X3: The Reunion by Virtual Programming. Developed by Egosoft and ported to the Mac by VP using Cider technology, it is the long awaited sequel to X2: The Threat. Improving on many aspects of the game, new and returning players will have something to keep them busy for a very long time. The only game of this type that has kept me glued to my computer is Escape Velocity, a great classic. But this game is not for everyone as it has a very steep learning curve.
GameplayWhere should one begin when the universe is at your disposal? Be anyone from a simple merchant that eventually has a vast fleet of freighters to a lowly pirate that makes a living by capturing and selling ships. One thing that has improved over X2 is the fact that exploration means something now. You canít send your fleet of ships to a sector you have not personally gone to, or even to a station you have not been to even if you've gone to the sector. You can also find abandoned ships in certain sectors hidden away behind asteroids or far from the populated areas. Claim these ships as your own to add to your fleet, and you can order them around while in the comfort of your flagship. If you buy the right equipment for your ships, they can trade on their own, or fight and serve as either wingmen or patrolmen. You'll need patrol ships to protect your space station from marauding pirates and aliens, that is unless you want to rush around the galaxy to protect them yourself.
If you are tired of just being a trader, you can hire pilots to trade for you automatically. They gain experience when trading and can eventually travel across the known universe to trade. They get smarter too, mostly staying away from dangerous sectors, although occasionally you'll have a gung-ho pilot who'll get in way over his head.
If your empire is doing great, with hundreds of ships and space stations that work without much input from you, you can become a police officer and hunt down pirates. You could become a pirate instead, but if all of assets are in an area of space belonging to a certain faction, it is highly recommended to do your pirating in another area of space, or else your repair bills will drain a big chunk of your profits as ships from that faction will attack you.
Flight is controlled with both the mouse and keyboard, although if you have a gamepad or joystick you can use those instead. The mouse works much better in this game than it did in X2, making a feasible way to control your ship. The interface is pretty simple still, with all the options you could need at the touch of a button. This setup is perfect for those trying to issue commands and fly at the same time, although it might take some getting used to.
Each ship comes with a SETA drive, which basically accelerates time so trading and other activities do not get monotonous. This is very useful because to go from sector to sector you canít just jump from wherever you are, at least not initially. You must go through gates. There are usually four gates in each sector but some have less. These gates can be either very easy to find or quite hard, depending on the system. Thankfully once you found a gate, you can always autopilot to it. When you have the funds available, you can buy a jump drive which basically allows you to jump from one sector to another without passing through all the gates. The only inconvenience is that you always need to have energy cells in your cargo hold to power the drive, but it is definitely worth it.