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By WES PLATT
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2000
X: Beyond the Frontier
X: Beyond the Frontier, a nostalgic tribute to space trade and combat games of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Elite and Privateer 2, outmatches its predecessors in economic modeling and graphics, but falls short in the more important areas of fun and replayability.
The story within the game is simple: You're the pilot of mankind's experimental faster-than-light prototype ship, taking it for a test flight when -- surprise! -- something goes wrong and you're hurtled across the galaxy, into a realm where you must fend for yourself against conniving and cutthroat aliens.
But once there, it's all about making money and buying weapons. Privateer 2, one of the games to which X seems to pay homage, did a much better job of mixing the spacer's life of trading and survival with side plots to spice up the story and keep players engaged.
The opening training sequence is a foreshadowing of the tedium to come: Yet another exercise in flying through hoops (remember the X-Wing fighter simulation games?) and testing controls to get a feel for the interface. If it didn't take so long, it might not be so annoying. But it does, so it is.
Certainly, the graphics do much to recommend the game. It is no doubt one of the most attractive space trade simulators on the market. Sure, it's appealing that the game allows you to import graphic files to serve as your sim company's logo.
But flying back and forth selling goods doesn't do much to hold attention; it's akin to commuting home from work to simulate commuting back and forth to a simulated job.
If you really, really, really enjoyed Elite and played nothing since, X: Beyond the Frontier might appear a masterpiece.
However, if you've played many games since, you'll find there's not much new here, even under these alien suns.
-- PLATFORM: Windows 95/98
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