That X3 is a beautiful, beautiful game there can be no doubt. But what hasn't really been touched on very much is the more human (or alien) aspect of the game. Luckily, we were able to sit down with Andrew Walsh, the script writer and story director employed by Egosoft to fix the only real problem everyone had with X2 - the plot.
So how is character and story being handled this time round? "When we create characters, there are several questions we need to ask," he explains. "The protagonist, Julian, is there to tell the story, so sometimes he's really interesting like Indy, and sometimes he's not quite as deep, like Luke Skywalker.
"When you watch Star Wars, although it's about Luke, you actually learn less and care less about him than you do about Han Solo, Chewbacca and so on. The other characters are more rounded because essentially, they're not telling the plot."
So it's all about the interaction in X3. About filling the universe with characters that help carry Julian's story - to fi nd his father and his home. And his love interest.
"Miria is a new character," says Walsh. "Saya is the established female lead who has helped Julian in X2. Miria appears here and creates a triangle of interest between the three characters. When writing a script, you need to throw in aspects of comedy, tragedy and romance, so there's a bit of sexual tension as the game progresses. Miria definitely knows what she wants out of life and she tells you straight away - she's not one to hide her thoughts."
But how much say in this triangle of love does the player have? "Well, it's not a role-playing game. With X3, we had to decide what type of game it is: there are role-playing elements in there, but essentially it's a space game. You won't find a Hot Coffee scene in X3; you won't be able to zoom in on the spaceship and see Miria and Julian shagging."
You will be able to explore a universe that feels alive though. Walsh continues:
"The background is massive. We've got a whole universe under attack and there are millions who've died. One of the challenges was trying to give you the idea there's a lot going on. How could we make people identify with our story?
"We've all seen a war film where a soldier takes out a photograph of his sweetheart and you know he's going to die. It's a cliché, but one that's necessary to convey the horror of war. If you just see people getting shot, well that could be horrific, but it's when you get to know that person before they die that it affects you. You've got to feel that there's more at stake in X3 than just numbers, and when you meet the people who are in danger, it adds emotional depth." We'll find out if he pulls it off in next issue's exclusive review.