Sometimes, you wonder why they didn’t just make a HD, improved version of this, instead of X Rebirth

I sometimes criticise annualised games for incremental improvements and minute changes, tinkering around the edges of what came before. But sometimes, that’s really what you need, rather than an unnecessary reinvention. One of the best examples of this is Master of Orion 3, which made spreadsheets the game. Unless you’re an accountant, I doubt that’s exciting. Unfortunately, a much loved franchise was wrecked in a massive refurbishment, called X Rebirth.

So, I decided to go back and play the last iteration of the old X franchise, Terran Conflict, and its standalone expansion, Albion Prelude. What a revelation (again) the game is. While the game attempts to simplify the controls slightly, the main thrust of the game remains deep, complex and rewarding.

As time has gone on since the original X3 Reunion, lots and lots of new content has been added, torpedo bombers, personal headquarter stations and so on in Terran Conflict. So many of these things are then supplemented by excellent mods, to enhance the game. Albion Prelude includes proper factional warfare and stock exchanges.

Compared to the newer X Rebirth, its immediate predecessors are smarter, more expansive, more engrossing and prettier. Sure, Rebirth has some pretty graphics, but the atmosphere just isn’t there, and neither is the replayability. Hell, I don’t even know how to get a station to be built properly in Rebirth after 100 hours of the game. In Albion Prelude, it’s a little finicky, but immensely intuitive.

This going back to the future business with computer games makes me wish that sometimes, an iteration is enough, that whiz bang features can be added over time. Look at EVE Online‘s update schedule. The richness of the X Universe felt like an intimately told personal story, one where you could spend countless hours adding to its chronology in any way you wished.

In any case, playing the X3 series of games again showed just how awesome they were, full stop. There is a steep learning curve, and some things are undoubtedly obscure. But so what? Life isn’t easy either, but it’s one hell of an adventure, just like Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude. Now, I just need to buy one more freighter

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