X3: Terran Conflict

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X3: Terran Conflict is widely regarded as one of the last great space combat simulators of the 2000s. Developed by Egosoft, the game was set in a galaxy being rebuild after a horrific war. With Jumpgate technology only just having been rediscovered, the Terrans, Argon race and Xenon are slowly moving to reclaim all that was lost in the terrible conflict. The player is given the role of a low-level pilot from one species, and is tasked with fighting or trading to make their living.

Like so many games of its genre, X3: Terran Conflict benefitted from widespread freedom of choice. The roles of sprint trader, bounty hunter and things besides were available to them from the very beginning. This allowed players to have a great deal of power over their future, despite following a story with few branching options. Then again, that was the point of the game. The story was there to build lore, offer guidance and keep you focused on something. Your real job was to hunt around the systems available to you, and use side-quests to make a living among the stars.

X3 made a point of not simply setting you up with a few ships, it built a universe. You had to work your way up from the bottom in a rusting crate of a vessel. You needed to keep it fuelled, running and keep an eye on where the best deals were. More importantly, you had to be certain which laws governed which planet, and who to bribe if you needed to get out of a scrape. Through these methods, X3 built up a space combat simulator few games would ever match.