X4: Foundations, the sprawling, open-ended 'universe sim,' is now available

I really liked X2: The Threat, Egosoft's 2003 open-world space sim. I never made much headway in it, because it's such a huge, sprawling game (and generally speaking, when left to my own devices I will screw around endlessly), but it was beautiful and serene, and the soundtrack was magnificent. The sequel didn't do much for me, though—most of what it added, I wasn't interested in—and X: Rebirth, which arrived in 2013, was a straight-up disaster—enough to earn it a spot in our "Worst Launches in PC Gaming History" list. 

But Egosoft didn't give up, and today it's trying again with the release of X4: Foundations, its "most sophisticated universe simulation ever." Like previous games in the series, it enables players to fly everything from single-seat fighters to massive freighters and capital ships, engage in piracy, build bases and trade empires, command fleets, and take part in small and large-scale battles.   

"In X4, you can start your journey from a number of different gamestarts and as a number of different characters, each with their own role, set of relationships and different ships and technologies to start with," Egosoft said. "No matter how you start, you are always free to develop in any other direction. Focus on exploration, make money with illegal trading and theft, command large battle fleets or become the greatest entrepreneur ever. It's all up to you to decide." 

Is it less of a mess than its predecessor? I haven't played it yet so I can't speak from personal experience, but it's got "mixed" user reviews on Steam—67 percent positive—and while that's not the sort of thing you usually see plastered across the back of the box in bold letters, it's a hell of a lot better than X: Rebirth. That's a start. 

X4: Foundations is available on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.