I love this game series... it has everything I want in a game...
Except for functional AI.
The game is supposed to allow you to form fleets and use those fleets to go into battle. Awesome right?
Nope. It's not awesome, it sucks.
Why does it suck?
Because the AI of your wingmen/fleet ships sucks. They circle around you constantly rather than following in a rigid formation. This causes them to do all sorts of really stupid stuff like crash into you or crash into anything around you or just generally crash. And when they crash into you, you die and they die, or something dies.
So, you can't use wingmen effectively - which defeats like 50% of the purpose of the game.
Anyway, you can't just make something like this so lazily - but the company did make something like this so lazily. One of the most important features in the game is absolutely broken and they never bothered to fix it.
Honestly, I could crap better pathing algorithms than this game has and I'm not even a professional programmer. At least I know I wouldn't ship a game with pathing problems like that. Why is it so hard to get the ships to track rigid formation targets instead of swarm around your ship like flies? Well... it's not.
Want cool big ships? Totally awesome right? Well, forget about flying with wingmen because they'll crash into you left and right unless you are ordering them around through half a million menus. Sure, you'd think there'd be a key for "order wing to attack X target" - there is, it works sometimes. But, sadly, you can't have that wing flying with you because they'll crash into you left and right. Which means the only TWO KEYS that you have to control any fleet in the same system as you are off limits unless you're flying... and it must be precisely this: an M6 or M7 with no more than ten M4/5s. Forget trying to have a fleet if you want to fly a capital ship. Of course capital ships are useless without a fleet.... But, alas, they hired halfwitted monkeys to code the GUI.
Like playing with a mouse? Find Joysticks too large and cumbersome? Well, you can't use autoaim then, AT ALL... That means on your giant ship where the turrets are positioned like a kilometer apart, your shots are going to be aimed at that enemy ship a KILOMETER APART because your turrets are just going to shoot straight instead of interpolating what enemy you're attacking and forcing both wing's turrets to collide at that point in three space.
Why can't you use autoaim with the mouse but you can with a joystick?
I have no clue whatsoever, but I imagine it's just to show you how much you were shafted by a company that apparently spent its entire budget on skybox reflection shaders.
Maybe it's because the maths for screen to point were too hard for the halfwitted monkey GUI programmers.
One of the cool things about this game is you get to build factories. Sounds fun right? You get to position them in space and build giant complexes out of them! Well, thankfully they've made it easy by allowing you to visually see the factory in 3 space before you place it - you can even rotate it around with the number pad and position it and the like. This would be great if it weren't for the fact that they force you to have a semi-transparent (emphasis on the "semi" more than the transparent) map covering the ENTIRE SCREEN while you place the factory. It's ok though, you can just press "ALT-H" to hide the hud like in regular mode? Oh? It doesn't work? Well, why should a simple toggle exist to temporarily hide the GUI overlay? Sure it would come in handy while placing a factory, I mean they did bother to give you a representation of the factory in 3 space before you place it - but why should we let 5th grade programming prevail when we can half halfwitted monkey programming?
But in all seriousness - this is the kind of game I want to play - but there are so many things that make it so inordinantly and unintuitive to play that I have to give it a thumbs down. They want you to play it like a text game with a graphical componant rather than a graphical game with a textual RTS component. I'm cool with micromanaging fleets and factories and spending three hours in space just setting up trade routes and supply lines - but damnit I want there to be a purpose to it! When I want to go dogfight I don't want stupid half-♥♥♥♥♥ GUI programming to get in the way and that's what you end up fighting against in X3: the GUI.
The enemies in X3 aren't the enemies you're fighting when you want a little space combat, it's the programmers who seem to lack absolutely any intuition whatsoever when it comes to a user interface/real time combat mechanics.