X4 Foundations - Review

  • Two months ago X4 Foundations was released by Egosoft and the first detail to mention is its name.

    X4... it is not a XRebirth sequel... it is meant to be the long overdue sequel to the well received X3.

    But is it any good?

    Yes, it actually is.

    In my eyes it is the best X game released so far and that despite all its problems.

    X4 Foundations is based on the same game engine used for XRebirth.

    The render pipeline got a new shader system but the core mechanics and visuals from XRebirth remained. The graphics of course can not be compared with a StarCitizen or an Elite Dangerous but overall the results are still very respectable for a game produced by such a small game developer.

    Main difference between X4 and XRebirth however is that the game is no longer limited to a relative small territory which once belonged to the Argon Federation. X4 made a step back to its roots and allows players to visit old Argon systems again such as Argon Prime, Antigone Memorial but also allows players to travel to the systems of some of the other races. The Teladi systems are not far from your starting location and both Paranid factions (a result of a civil war) have their systems in the southern and eastern area of the map. Mutliple small splinter factions aswell as the hostile Xenon and Khaak complete the environment in which you can play.

    Missing are the Borons and Split, which most certainly can be explained in the very hostile relations between these 2 factions. It is very likely that their systems were cut off from the other races by the Ancients (a superior race which controls the gate network) in order to prevent the possible extinction of one these races as result of war.

    Split and Borons are not completely absent from X4 as one Boron is part of a storyline while some Split NPCs can be found and hired on stations.

    There is some info that future content will contain Split territory.

    Terrans are also not to be found in X4 (at least not yet).

    Local factions such as companies no longer exist. Everything just has been scaled up a bit so there is no place for small factions anymore. That is absolutely ok. It prevents that the game gets too complicated.

    What makes this game good?

    It starts with an overhaul of the entire interface. The interface always was bad (I mean really bad) in the X games. It was not well structured, complicated and often very buggy. Menus with submenus which contain even more submenus which eventually lead back to the main menus. It was a mess.

    My first impression about the new new interface was "wtf is this?" because I felt somewhat lost at the beginning. There is almost no instruction about how to use stuff except for a few tutorials which rush through so fast with so little information that at the end you still dont know how it works.

    But once I understood the basics (which actually did not take that long) the interface turned into one of the most effective tools I have seen in a game.

    Most of the old menus and submenus have been integrated directly into the game map which allows easy access to almost everything. Context menus dynamically react and change based on the objects you want to interact with and filters allow you to focus on the stuff that is important to you.

    The interface at first looks much more complicated than it actually is and it works very well in every situation.

    This alone was a positive surprise. The ease of use makes X4 superior to all previous games.

    Unlike XRebirth this new game allows you to fly all the ships that are in the game (with the exception for Xenon and Khaak ships). Every ship has its unique cockpit and the larger ships have hangar bays you can visit and park your small craft in.

    Overall the game is very immersive. You might be in the hangar area of a battleship and above your head you can see the gunfire and explosions of an ongoing battle. Ships start and launch while NPCs run around in the hangar.

    X4 is a giant sandbox and you can observe everything that happens in it.

    That is something great, you feel like being part of that universe. You can jump into your fighter and start killing enemies or you can hire other captains and give them orders. Standing on a larger ship bridge you can see how NPCs work on the consoles, move to other consoles and even give commands to other NPCs.

    You can visit all the stations and walk around on them. Unlike in XRebirth the scale was massively increased. Hangar bays are huge. However, I wish there was a bigger variety in design between the different factions. Afterall the interiors of the lizard Teladi or the three-eyes Paranids should in my eyes have a different style. I guess it is hard for Egosoft to create that many assets. But still it is at least great to see at least 3 variations of the different dock sizes (old rusty, normal and luxury).

    One big strength of the game is the station building part.

    It is very intuitive, with a competely new building menu in 3d. You simply purchase the license for a building area from a local faction and start placing your station modules. You gain access to more modules buy scanning other stations or by buying blueprints from the factions. Then you hire a construction ship (if you dont have one under your command) and deliver the resources manually or provide money to buy these resources from other factions.

    Station building is very intuitive but might take its time if you want to build larger stations. It is costly but when done correctly provides a reliable income.

    Another way to earn money in the game is trading.

    Of course you start trading with your small ship once you start the game but soon you should be able to get access to medium size trading ships... and later large trading ships.

    You can decide to take control over such a trader and do the trading part manually... or hire captains. You can tell captains to do specific trading jobs manually or if that captain has enough experience it can automatically accept trading jobs.

    My personal approach here at the beginning of the game was to manually give orders to a hand full of medium traders and earn money this way. I invested that money in more and more of these medium traders until I eventually had 37 medium trading ships that I can set to auto-trade. One ship for every commodity in the game.

    At that point I had a stead income without being forced to micromanage these traders. But I was still able to give them individual trading jobs once I did see lucrative offers.

    Trading only works if your traders know which stations have offers. You get access to that information if you (or your other ships) visit these stations to update the offers. That info is only valid for a few ingame hours.

    So you need a solution to get as much information as possible from as many stations as possible to allow your traders to do their job.

    Visiting every station in the game (there are hundreds) every few hours certainly is nothing you really want to do.

    So you start filling your ship with satellites and deploy them close to stations. Now every station within 30k of a normal satellite (or 75k of much more expensive satelite version) will automatically sent trade info to you.

    Problem solved... but deploying hundreds of satellites takes time.

    I eventually captured a few pirate ships, hired new pilots and let them do that job.

    Later when you really have much money you can buy trading licenses from the factions which provide trade info for all stations of that faction so you actually dont need the satellites anymore (but the license is extremely expensive).

    The economy of the game is dynamic and great. It evolves the longer you play and you really can increase your influence on it the longer you play.

    I mentioned capturing ships.


    Pilots of small enemy ships might decide to give up before their job gets destroyed. All you need to do is to take control over that ship by sending a marine (if you have on on your own ship) or by jumping into your spacesuit and flying over.

    Your spacesuit is an important tool as it allows you scan stations, capture ships, repair your own ships or explore secret data vaults.

    You also can capture medium and large ships.

    But here different mechanics kick in.

    The captains of such ships never give up, so you have to take control by force.

    You need a large amount of marines (so you probably need a larger ship to transport these marines) and you need to make sure that these marines can board the ship you want to capture.

    Your first task is to make sure that the ship you want to capture can not escape, so you destroy its engines. Most certainly it will deploy repair and defence drones at that point (not a bad idea to take them down). Of course you dont want that the turrets of that ship destroy the capsules of your marines... so you have to take out the turrets on that ship. And finally its time to take care of the shields, because a shielded ship can not be boarded.

    Once that is done your marines start flying over.

    You can help them by damaging the hull. That makes it easier for them to break the hull (which is the 2nd phase of boarding a ship). Once they are inside the fighting start and if your marines are experienced enough and dont get outnumbered by the defending crew you eventually get control over the ship.

    All you have to do now is to promote one of your surviving marines to become the captain and repair at least the engines of that ship so you can fly to the next spacedock.

    Piracy and capturing ships is a very lucrative business in X4. You can sell ships for millions if you want... or add them to your own fleet.

    But it is also risky because you might mess up your reputation.

    It is really a stupid idea trying to capture a freighter of one of the main factions in sensor range of a station. Every ship module that you destroy while capturing the ship reduces your reputation with that faction.

    But lets also take a look at the weak points this game has.

    Combat is not as fast paced as in other games. I can imagine that not all players like it that way.

    Personally it does not bother me that much with the exception that in many situations I would have loved access to powerful thrusters that can boost my ship out of dangerous situations.

    The thrusters in X4 (aswell as in previous X games) is powered not by fuel but by your ships energy. Or more specific thruster and shields get their energy from the same source (weapons have different energy sources).

    That means when your ship is under attack and the enemy gunfire drains your shields that shield energy is no longer available to power your thruster. That also means using your thruster is draining your shields at the same time.

    You might be in the situation that your shield fail and at the same time your thrust energy is gone aswell.

    No chance to escape or do a miracle maneuver to get behind your enemy.

    This limits combat.

    I believe this mechanic actually is done to allow the ship capturing process to happen but at the cost of a fast paced combat system.

    I am not sure if this is in any way related but the AI is not the best. You can outmaneuver many enemy types without a problem. The only time you get into troubles is if you fight larger groups of enemies.

    Bugs, there are many of them. Most of them are at least not game breaking but they can be frustrating when you encounter them.

    Ships get stuck in asteroids and stations. They do that by design. In order to simulate such a large universe and all the ships in it the game deactivates collision detection sometimes so ships dont get stuck... that means once a NPC collides with a ship and keeps doing that over and over again the collission detection gets disabled and allows the ship to fly through such solid objects. This keeps the universe running... but i consider it a bit immersion breaking when it happens in the same sector you are in.

    I also encounted a problem when my guild missions all of a sudden disappeared only to reappear half an hour later in a different sector. Many, many small bugs which hopefull get fixed soon.

    But at least there was nothing game breaking.

    Another disappointing factor is that the game mainly is supposed to be a big sandbox... but not a story driven experience. There are guild missions you can play but their benefits are minimal and can not really be considered story content.

    And there is a main story questline... which is very short.

    Your only goal in there is to do a few relative simple tasks which in the end rewards you with your own player HQ.

    And thats it.

    No special goal in this game. You play for the sake of playing the game.

    The player HQ you get looks nice... is great to have but... serves almost no purpose. Its funtionality is limited to server as a potential building area (free building area) for one of your stations and it contains a research facility in which you can research new tech.

    I personally would have loved this station to have more unique interiors and also more functionality to make it more useful than it is atm.

    Maybe upgrade options for the HQ which increase the productivity of all connected factories or something like that.

    If you need a story to have fun and a goal in a game then X4 might not be a game for you. If you are up for building a large empire, giant fleets and start an all out war in the galaxy... yeah... X4 is your best chance to do it.

    I actually wanted to record a vid showing my fleets consisting of a few hundred ships and my giant space station but for some reason I have some problems creating vids that are longer than a few seconds. Im not sure whats wrong.

    As soon I figured it out i will upload some gameplay footage.

    Until then this has to be sufficient.



    Only dead fish swim with the stream.
    Don't discuss with idiots. They only drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience there.

    This is ten percent luck,
    Twenty percent skill,
    Fifteen percent concentrated power of will,
    Five percent pleasure,
    Fifty percent pain,
    And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!