X3: Terran Conflict is a massive game, which works both for and against it. If you invest enough time into this game you can create sprawling industrial complexes and an armada of warships. Unfortunately, after playing the game for a relatively brief amount of time I grew unable to care less about having an empire in the X3 universe. If I had to describe this game in a few words those words would be: monotonous, insipid, and glitchy.
As soon as I started playing the game my first mission was to go on patrol. I believe I had to patrol four or five times within the first five hours of the game. Patrolling missions mostly consist of floating around aimlessly and possibly blowing a few enemies up. There were also some combat missions, but I found those to be equally boring. To fight enemies you simply fly within their proximity and hold the right mouse button while aiming over a reticle. Combat could have benefitted immensely from flanking bonuses as well as bonuses for strategically targeting different ship components.
There are several other types of missions as well but they all primarily consisted of going from point A to point B and accomplishing eerily similar tasks. These shortcomings in mission and combat design could have been mitigated by the presence of interesting characters and an engaging story. Instead these shortcomings are amplified by a cast of annoying characters that spew forth inane drivel and a story that moves at a snail’s pace. The dialogue isn’t necessarily bad (or interesting) but the voiceover work is unbelievably annoying. Every character I encountered spoke as if they were poorly reading from a script, exhibiting inexplicable tonal shifts and awkward pauses.
Despite all of the aforementioned flaws I still intended to continue playing this game. After getting a more complete sense of the games mechanics and contents this changed. To start doing anything really profitable in this game, such as starting a factory, a number of exceedingly expensive components are required. This wouldn’t really be a problem if acquiring credits were fun or enjoyable, but this is not the case.
Every aspect of this game demands that you waste your time to accomplish anything. Travel times are ridiculously high even when you use a time accelerator. Missions that award you anything more than a pittance are incredibly hard to find and are frequently completed by some other spacefarer before you even get half way to your destination. Additionally, as stated before, most missions just involve going from point A to point B and are typically monotonous.
To make things worse, the time accelerator is actually a ship component that needs to be bought. The ship you begin the game with will always have an accelerator, but several of the ships I acquired didn’t have that functionality immediately. Another thing I found to be quite annoying was the implementation of this time acceleration mechanic. Initializing time acceleration literally makes the game process two to ten times faster. This would probably be fine if the AI could handle it, but apparently it can’t. One of my AI ships smashed into a wall and exploded when I activated time acceleration, and many of the other ships in the area started acting nonsensically as well.
There are many other issues that I could address in more detail, but the critical flaw of this game for me is relatively simple. X3: Terran Conflict just isn’t fun to play. I really wanted to like X3: TC but I found that I was just forcing myself to play in the otiose hope that I might actually have fun playing this game. I’m sure someone would really enjoy this game and its wealth of content but that someone isn’t me. I simply can’t recommend X3: Terran Conflict to anyone based on my experience with it.
Edit: I removed a rather hyperbolic statement from the last paragraph. I never said anything about the interesting ship, space station and alien designs either. The game has a unique aesthetic and the overall design of ships, infrastructure and organisms are pretty nice. That's also pretty much the only nice thing I have to say about this game though.