(Note: this is a joint review of both the Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude variants of X3; thus, I'll post the same text to both.)
I **really** wanted to like this game. I *really* did. Let me explain why.
I'm a veteran video game space cadet. I played the original Elite and Wing Commander on Commodore 64, and lots like them, since. I've played EVE Online off-and-on since Trinity (~ 2007). I ***LOVE, LOVE, LOVE*** spaceflight games that are "sandbox-y" for almost as long as I've been playing video games, and that's been too long a period of time (I'm now 41).
The Egosoft team was obviously ambitious. And, in some core ways, they succeeded. But the whole thing ultimately feels rushed.
In the end... At minimum, there are five things keep me from recommending this game.
(01) - There's no clearly-evident, gradual-slope difficulty ramp, and what you see is not always what you get. One minute, you're doing something that you percieve is very easy, is in fact very easy, and you are succeeding quite well... And the next minute, you're doing something that you percieve to be (very) easy, is in fact very difficult, and ends up being effectively suicidal as a consequence. One ends up having to revert to game saves frequently before gaining a good feel for that the *real* difficulty of various things are, as trial-and-error appears to be the only logical path towards mapping out a successful long-term course of action for oneself.
(02) - The accelerated time mechanism... Isn't accellerated enough. 600% of real-time is the max; in fact, it should be variable, with max *at least* %1,000, given the distance between various objects of interest, and the max velocities of the majority of craft in the game (esp. in the early game). Expect to spend LOTS of time simply staring at your screen whilst you travel from place to place. For me... It got *really* old after a while. Asteroid mining in EVE Online came to mind - a great "second screen" experience whilst your primary focus is on something else (work-related?)... But boring-as-hell if you have nothing else to do at that time. Or, at least, it *would* be a great second-screen experience, if the next line-item wasn't true.
(03) - The auto-pilot is borderline suicidal. It's certainly borderline schitzophrenic. At minimum, it's not consistently reliable for what one would expect to rely upon an autopilot for: performing the mundane, common tasks associated with piloting a craft, without harming the vehicle or its contents. Simply put... It's difficult, if not impossible, to "trust" the autopilot within confined, or crowded, space... Which means its use is circumstantial... Which erodes the value of such. (IMO, anyway.) It results in lots of time "babysitting" the craft when (IMO) one shouldn't have to. If this one thing were fixed... I would borderline-recommend this game for use as at least a "second screen" experience (as described above). But, as it presently stands, I would distrated too often by my "babysitting duties". :-(
(04) - The tutorial sub-system is *far* from complete. I appreciate the fact that Egosoft respects their customer base enough to deliberately avoid "hand-holding them" through everything... And I actually *like* the idea, in concept, of forcing the player to learn the majority of the game through actual experience. But there are better ways to do the latter - EVE Online provides some excellent examples. For a game this complex... Just teaching them how to move around, and them leaving them to their own devices, with one having to traverse the majority of their local solar system in order to learn enough subsequent basics to gain an idea as to what their options are (much less decide upon a course of action in the direction they wish) is a bit ridiculous, IMO. It's as if the game's creators expected anyone buying the game to have prior experience with a variety of similar-genre games in the past, such that they would "just know" what their options are, thus lessening the tutorial/ training burden. It's pretty lame, in this respect.
(05) There's no context-sensitive help to speak of (that I could see), beyond short descriptions of various items/ entities. I could forgive (04) if there was strong (05) present... But there isn't. I shouldn't feel obligated to alt-tab to/from my web browser to search the web for basic how-tos, as I play along, to make up for the lack of available in-game documentation.
In short... This game feels like it was the work of a small, highly-ambitious, highly-skilled development team... Who hit a budgetary/ deadline wall before this could be fully baked... And, like many rushed programming projects... The documentation is the first to be sacrificed at the altar of timelines and budget constraints.
Again... I would *really* like to recommend this game... But, as I've played it over the last few days... I just can't. And that makes me sad. :-(