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X: Beyond The Frontier Review
publisher: Southpeak Interactive
developer: Ego Soft
P166, 32MB RAM, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Dec 25, 99 (released)
|» All About X: Beyond The Frontier on ActionTrip|
You know the story about how people always looked up to the skies and wondered if there is anything out there, and so on... You may also know that once the first people reached the moon their appetites grew, yearning for stars. What you may not know, yet, are bound to find out from the intro to this game is that they finally managed to get to distant stars using interstellar gates, which they constructed in the meantime. They also used artificially intelligent terraforming machines to colonize a large number of systems they found. The machines started rebelling and killed a certain (huge) number of people, eventually making them retreat to their (our) home planet, and destroy all the gates. Some 500 years later, the scientists created a prototype spaceship capable of crossing interstellar distances without gates and named it X. You have the honor of being its first test pilot. Naturally, during the first jump things go badly wrong and you end up in a space shithole where they never even heard about Earth.
You start off with a modest amount of 100 credits, leased to you by a race inhabiting the sector where you ended up. You ship has no laser (fortunately, you will not need it in the beginning) and is only equipped with a small cargo bay. If you wish to equip your ship adequately for your voyage (you have to find your way to Earth) you will have to earn money, a lot of money. Older games who played Elite, know what I'm talking about, and as for the younger ones, let us just mention that a weaker laser costs more than a thousand credits, whereas some of the technically more sophisticated details may reach several dozen thousands in price. That all goes to say that you have to start as a trader. You also have an option to become a pirate, but as that would set he local government, cops and bounty hunters on you, it's not much of an option until you get some better weaponry. Once you earn a respectable wealth, you may also buy your own factories and increase your profits that way.
All through the game you will have contacts with six races inhabiting that part of the universe. Each of these controls a specific sector. Some are peace loving, and some are extremely belligerent. You may also trade with pirates, or hunt them down. There is a possibility of purchasing some sort of a bounty hunter license, which earns you a certain sum of money each time you kill a pirate. You may get valuable information during conversation with characters of all six races. If your ship is not big enough to carry the entire load you purchased, you may rent a cargo ship. And as for the prices, they keep changing every minute.
The game does not have a common "mission based" concept. You are absolutely free to do whatever you desire, taking care not to offend any government structures (that might prove to be bad for one's health). As you advance and discover new systems, you will get missions crucial for the story development, pushing you one step closer to your ultimate goal - return to Earth. On your voyage you will have a lot of enemies who will do everything to destroy you. The enemies (and friends which may turn hostile) vary from complete idiots, which you will have absolutely no trouble defeating to very serious and dangerous pilots. Of course, apart from the intelligence, weapons and equipment also play an important role in combat. You can have all the intelligence and skill you want if you manage to fly unprotected into a couple of idiots with powerful lasers that can blast you instantly. Therefore, you should first get a pile of money and buy a lot of weapons before you start fighting. You won't get the most powerful wepons for free like in Freespace or Wing Commander. And as for your ship, you can't change it, so you'll just have to cope with it until you reach Earth.
The graphics are very nice, though not as nice as in say... Freespace 2. On the other hand, the requirements are far below the requirements of Freespace 2, which can also mean a lot to someone not packing an Athlon CPU. The ships, space stations, and other models are nicely done, and have a lot of details, but the authors were not too imaginative. The lasers and explosions are solid, yet typical for this type of game, and there is nothing revolutionary about them. Different systems have different looking planets, and you can notice that the planets are rotating.
The sound quality is standard for this type of game. The music is there to add to the atmosphere, and it's doing a pretty good job. My only objection concerns the speech of some races. The authors threw in some gurgling and hissing sounds to make it more realistic, but it made it also a bit ambiguous.
All I can conclude is that the game fulfilled all my expectations. There was a great void in this genre since the legendary Elite. Some games like Privateer 1 & 2 tried to fill the gap (and failed according to my opinion). Wing Commanders were great, Freespace 1 & 2 were good copies of their predecessors, I loved the X-Wings, but all I ever wanted was to play an enhanced version of Elite. The sequels to the original game always turned out to be crap, and the aforementioned Privateer just did not have enough of gameplay, literally; it was too short. X- Beyond the Frontier truly brings us the spirit of the legend in with contemporary elements, we could not even imagine those 12 or 13 years ago. The game's graphics are certainly below the level of Freespace 2, but it is far more interesting. Once you manage to gather some money, and start exploring the universe freely, you will see what I mean. I must also say that you cannot expect to finish this game in a matter of hours; it will probably take you weks. Of course, you might download all the trainers and maps from the net, and finish it quickly, but where is the fun in that? Play it patiently, explore, fight and enjoy... It just might do the trick before the heavy hitters like Starlancer and Freelancer arrive...
8.1 Very Good
Open-ended nature of the game, Elite nostalgia;
Graphics are sub-par for today's standards, some irritating alien sounds.
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