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X3: Reunion - for gamers who think Eve online is too casual.

Tim (Van Hemlock) has been playing a bit of X3 Terran Conflict which reminded me that I have an unplayed copy of X3 Reunion on my shelf since way back in 2005. This game is hard. There is no tutorial and the manual seems intended to intimidate rather than inform aspiring players. I could complain about the dreadfully unintuitive user interface except that I have a strong suspicion it is deliberately made that way to frighten off those who are not hard enough. The carrot for those who persevere, I am told, is a universe of unparalleled depth where the dedicated can carve out an empire.

First hour in game:Hmmm, there doesn't seem to be a tutorial. In fact I am being asked to teach some rookie pilots the ropes. Thankfully I have played enough space games to know that you don't aim at the enemy ship you aim at the little lead indicator which tells you where they will be by the time your bullets get to them. I manage to shoot down a few bad guys and we survive.

Second hour in the game: I have spent most of my time in game to date getting hopelessly lost. You can ask passing ships for directions but the most common answer is to go through the North (or South, East or West) jump gate. Where the heck are the gates? And What does North mean in Space anyway? How can a space faring race not know how to make a map?

Third hour in the game I have gotten through the first couple of missions. Mission three is kicking my butt big time. I am supposed to capture a baddie in a big lumbering ship.  Unfortunately he spawns waves of fighters and then jumps to hyperspace. If I stop to deal with the fighters he gets away. If I ignore the fighters and go after him I get killed while my own jump drive charges up. I think I need to earn some money to upgrade my ship before trying again.

"I started in a fighter so perhaps bounties are the way to make cash.Except you need a police license to collect bounties and I can't afford one yet. It seems that I shall have to do some trading to earn the cash for a license. "

5 hours in: Wandering aimlessly through the galaxy I have managed to work my seed capital of 5,000 credits up to a staggering 5,200. Trading is hard when you lack the software to check prices without docking at a station (I can't afford it yet) and dynamically adjusting prices mean that a route that is profitable the first time may be lossmaking the next.

8 hours in: I finally found a way to make some money by using my meagre cargo hold to haul illicit alcohol. I manage to amass 40,000 credits before the police catch up with me. Given that every credit I have is invested in my cargo hold there is no way I was going to comply with their request to dump it over the side. I run for it and manage to make it to the temporary safety of a station. Unfortunately I now appear to be a hunted criminal.

9 hours in: The police were surprisingly reasonable (gullible?) when I hailed one of them to explain that it was all a big mistake and that the alcohol was purely for medicinal purposes. The agreed to forget the matter and  I can fly around again without fear of arrest. I am getting bored of smuggling moonshine. Let's buy that police license so I get earn some dosh  by shooting pirates. Oh no! It seems my standing with the police is not good enough to be a bounty hunter. There is that little matter of my resisting arrest

On the bright side I notice that after 9 hours of wandering around the galaxy I have ended back in my home system. This just happens to be the most populated system I have come across yet  and there appears to be plenty of opportunities for a rookie to make money from trading or doing jobs that the citizens have posted on message boards. No doubt if I hadn't tried to do a few missions and ended half way across the galaxy I would have had a quicker start just staying put.


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