Here I am after a couple of days trying out X4: Foundations… Beyond does not really sum things up. I’m caught in a mealstrom of thoughts and concerns. This game is overwhelming in the first instance and I’m not sure when the second instance will kick in! Let’s see if I can put that into words…

My initial thought that this space game sits somewhere between Elite and EVE Online is largely correct. However, it seems to lean much more towards the EVE side of the fence. I think in the long term game I will be spending more time manageing my ships and stations than I will be flying myself. But in the beginning, when there’s just me, I will have to fly my ship and do some work to make the money to kick off whatever get-rich-quick plan I think I have in mind. And that’s the issue – this game relies heavily on very detailed menues. Until I have mastered them, I won’t really know what my long term goal is.

I’ve spent the first 3 days since I bought the game in the Steam sale, trying out flying the ship and learning some basic ways of making money. There are missions and there’s one that is intended to play a part in expanding your knowledge of the surrounding area and the way to do things like hiring crew and buying ships. But, you may need to keep accessing the encyclopedia and help videos from experienced players to understand what is going on because it’s not really clear in the game itself. Elite is a much easier game to understand at the beginning – choose a cargo, ship it to where you can make a profit, and try not to get killed along the way. I can still remember my first couple of battles in Elite and the feeling of fear that was finally replaced with jubilation as the attacker ran away or was destroyed. I can’t say that I’ve had that in X4. I have been killed by someone who came at me out of nowhere when I was trying out that first mission. Unlike in Elite where I’d have known what I needed to do to survive, X4 is not so intuitive when it comes to combat – note to self: try the tutorial and see if that helps!

So, back to making some money outside of doing missions. I’ve been wandering around the local area trying out the long range scanner and finding other stations that are not visible to start with. Then I’ve found some asteroid fields. If you go and look on YouTube for beginners guides, you’ll find that asteroids sometimes have crystals and they can be very valuable. I’ve proved to myself that this is correct. I’ve found lockboxes – a sort of easter egg in space – but I’m wary of those as I understand that they may be injurious to my ship’s health and the goods inside may be illegal anyway! It has been a slow process of getting to know the ship that you’re given to start with and to test out it’s capabilities. Yesterday I spent a while mooching around a couple of the stations in the sector where the game starts me off. I was looking to see what other missions would pop up. But, perhaps the most important thing to happen on my patrol was the opportunity to take on some criminal vessels. These pay a small Cr500 reward but they often drop valuable items that you can collect. By the end of an hour or so, I was feeling a lot happier with my flying skills. I had 2 killed criminals and I’d been able to pick up the loot that they dropped. The first had an illegal cargo, so I ditched that (no point in getting a criminal record myself). The second had some ship parts that I made Cr30k on when I sold them. So, I can kill small ships but I will definitely need to get better at it or find out how to run in this menu driven game.

Ultimately, the beginner videos make it clear that you should be prepared to lose ships and crew. Possibly even stations if you get around to building those. This is going to be a very long-haul game and I’m not sure if I’ve made a pact with the devil on this one ๐Ÿ˜œ If this post seems less positive than my gaming posts usually are, it’s down to the uncertainty of how best to proceed. Like Elite, there is no right path to follow and no one holds your hand. However, I think I’m just about ready to start the game proper this week ๐Ÿ‘โ€

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With the beginner mini-series of Trucking Digest posts completed, I have to decide where my gaming posts should venture next. Posting about the Visual Novel game Winds of Change is a no-no. It would quickly hit the issue of spoilers and I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who does decide to give the game a go. I can post about The Hunter – Call of the Wild. Although there are story missions in each of the reserves, it’s much more likely that I would be talking about the hunting on a particular map and sharing some nice screenshots. So that’s one possibility and such posts would see a return of the Birdshot series. Hold that thought and I’ll share a screen shot from a reserve I’m currently hunting on…

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…Another possibility is a return to FS22 – I started a story but changing out my gaming pc rather messed that up. I know at least one of my readers likes the farm tales, so I will restart that series although I may need to rewrite the first post to adjust it for a different crop as the chances are that there will be something other than Sunflowers in Field 17 when I buy it. I should be able to replicate the basic farm buildings and layout ok though ๐Ÿ˜Ž Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to be as lucky as I was in that play through – you never got to see the second-hand harvester that Monsieur Armand had secured for me…

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There is a part of me that is itching to go back into space. Sadly, I think my Elite days are in the past – Introducing RNG mechanics into the performance of ships was a step beyond what I’m happy with, especially when you have to travel one of a few very select locations to roll those dice and hope that you might get a performance improvement. If it could be done on any station I might have been less disenchanted with the idea. But I still feel that Elite is very much a Space Trucking Simulation and simulations shouldn’t have random elements in the core mechanics of vehicles. Imagine if, in Truck Simulator, visiting the truck dealer in Berlin allowed me to tune my 460HP engine and get an increase in power that gave a random result somewhere between 500HP and 1000HP. That would be unrealistic. On the other hand, if I could buy a chip kit that boosted the power by a specific amount from any maintenance facility, then that would be realistic as such kits exist in the real world. I’ve used Euro Truck Simulator as an illustration and I hope you get the picture of why I have lost my mojo when it comes to Elite.

There are other space games on the market. Ignoring games involving the Star Wars and Star Trek universe, along with those that are really first person shooters like Destiny and Warframe, I’m really looking for something a little like Elite but perhaps with a little more company and fleet management style of play. There are a few of these around. Perhaps the most well known is EVE Online. It looks stunning and has a lot of possibilities in variety of play. There is one limiting factor – the cost. If you want to progress to the better ships then you have to pay a monthly subscription either through real cash or though a form of in-game currency that is equivalent to cash. Now you can buy a Training Boost Bundle and I understand that the long term players are not happy about it – EVE was always very ‘Pay to Win’ but that has really set the seal on it and, frankly, I want no part of it.

I’m currently looking very seriously at X4: Foundations. This game seems to sit somewhere between EVE and Elite in terms of gameplay It has the possibility for building and operating fleets – which is not a part of Elite gameplay. You can sit in and pilot your ship which is not something you actually do in EVE. One major difference between X4 and the other games is that it doesn’t have a Player v Player element. That doesn’t bother me too much. Both EVE and Elite have their share of gankers – players that hang out in groups where new players spawn and kill them for fun. I know that in Elite, some vigilante groups came into being to hunt down gankers and kill them in an effort to discourage the practise. There were other groups that would fly to the rescue of anyone out of fuel and stranded in the galaxy. PVP often brings out the worst in gamers but sometimes it can also bring out the best! In my time in Elite I always played in the PVP world. I was never killed by another player but I did get to make a couple of good friends along the way ๐Ÿ˜Ž

I do have one ‘Space’ game that I have already re-started, Hardspace: Shipbreaker, so I will probably post some screenshots from that one soon. But it’s a very claustrophobic space – imprisoned in a dockyard area, dismantling old ships. There are no grand vistas here ๐Ÿ˜“

So that’s where I’m at – hurrying through the Winds of Change story, driving my trucks, preparing to do some farming, cutting up some old vessels and looking seriously at another space game – Variety, as they say, is the spice of life ๐Ÿ˜‚

Back in June when I moved over to Truck Simulator my intention was to return to Elite after a short break. That I needed a break was clear. I had reached a sort of crossroads and could not decide what I should do next. Then I broke a couple of buttons om my joystick whilst driving a truck – critical buttons for ship management so going back to Elite with that piece of hardware was out of the question. On the horizon was a new Joystick and Throttle combination from Thrustmaster which was going to be designed to work with Elite. That was originally due for September – so I thought “I’ll wait for that to come out” and in the interim I continued driving my trucks and bought the steering wheel and pedals that I wrote a review of.

Time passes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself and sometimes there are delays to release dates in computing hardware/software. The new Thrustmaster T.16000M Hotas FCS finally came out close to Christmas. By that time I was heavily into SCS’s ‘Help Santa’ challenge and discovering the newly released roads of France. The American Rescale was released mid December too with all the wonderful new vistas to see there. Small wonder that I wasn’t back playing Elite!

I finally bought the new joystick 2 weeks ago and fired up Elite for the first time in 8 months! My first task has been to get used to the ship handling again, so I spent the first couple of hours playing the tutorials. I was surprised how slow the sidewinder seems compared with a Peterbilt 389! But thinking about it, that’s all a question of scale and relative proximity to other objects.

Once back in the actual game I had to take the ship I had last flown back to HR783 from SPOCS-103. My memory proved to be correct when I found it was Nyati – my Lakon T6 freighter. I was lucky enough to get a well-paying mission part of the way to Gliese 9073 and I was on my way. I think the main lift for the take-off was provided by the butterflies in my stomach! I needn’t have worried as I didn’t see a single soul on the trip – human or ai – until I was in the no-fire zone of Gresley Orbital. Huge sigh of relief – the T6 is not a combat vessel so I’ve configured her for defence. The home run from there to HR783 and Roth Hub was similarly quiet and I quickly got back in the swing of dropping into systems and punching out again efficiently.

At Roth Hub I swapped ships to the Imperial Courier – God Speed. The Courier is a responsive ship to fly and I felt a good one for some general handling within my home system. Whilst dropping into Stiles Ring to practise landing on an outpost station I was hailed by another ship – my friend Bertrand had flown over to see me and say Hi! He was in his Eagle – an excellent fighter that he has upgraded significantly. We rubbed shields in greeting and chatted about the changes in the game. Bertrand warned me that the ai has significantly improved and I should be very wary of the higher ranked ones! Message received and understood – I shall be operating in ‘chicken’ mode until I can get to visit engineers to upgrade my vessels ๐Ÿ˜‰

After some general handling it was time to get back in the business of making money. I did a few missions in God Speed and then swapped back to Nyati to make as much money as possible with her larger load capacity. Apart from one mission when I had an assassin sent against me it has been relatively peaceful. Fortunately the assassin struck in Tlapana which is a High Security system. I was able to evade and stay in one piece long enough for the Security forces to engage them and then make my escape with 34% damage to the ship. Although Nyati’s weapons are defensive, she can get the occasional kill. Last night in HIP 10818 I was interdicted and submitted with the intention of running. Only the attacker took a while to appear on my scanner so I concluded that this ‘ai’ wasn’t a hot-shot. Sure enough he turned out to be in an Eagle with missiles and multi-cannons – not strong enough to get through my shields quickly. So I targeted him and then began running away whilst lobbing mines back at him. One of them hit and took out his shields and probably did some damage to his hull at which point security turned up and completed the kill – I got 14670cr’s as a bounty for assisting in terminating a criminal ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that’s Nyati’s third kill!

Face-off - Friendly meeting with Bertrand du Guesclin.
Face-off – Friendly meeting with Bertrand du Guesclin.

Nyati sets out on another mission.
Nyati sets out on another mission.

I will be back in Truck Sim sometime tomorrow and I shall be swapping between Elite and Truck Simulator every Sunday so you can expect posts from both!