It has been over four years since X4: Foundations was released. With the new fourth DLC Kingdom End, Egosoft has now brought the last of the original races back into the game, namely the peaceful and scientifically highly motivated Borons.
So, what does the new DLC Kingdom End offer?
Firstly, there is, of course, the new storyline about the Borons, who were separated from the other sectors at the beginning of the game. As players, our task is to not only restore the connection with the Borons but also help them reintegrate into the community of other factions.
For those who are not familiar with the Borons: they are peaceful aquatic creatures primarily interested in science and harmony, and they prioritize violence and economy less.
In addition to the long-awaited reunion with the Borons, the new DLC also expands the existing sector network. The Borons add 11 new sectors, divided into two regions, to the game. Furthermore, there are, of course, the Borons themselves and all their ships and stations.
Economically, there is also a requirement for a specific resource that is different from many other races – the Borons require water to build their ships and stations, a resource that has not been used for building ships and stations in X4 so far.
Accordingly, the Boron ship design is a little different from that of the other races. The Boron ships are overall more streamlined, have a deep blue color, pulsating lights, and all appear somewhat delicate. Additionally, all ships have names of aquatic creatures, which, I believe, are almost all fish names.
As for ship selection, many of the ships are designed primarily for good defense and speed. For example, there is the Hydra, which has an enormously strong shield performance, or the cannon ship Tresher, which is also heavily armored.
However, there are no battleships or frigates for the Borons. Nevertheless, the Borons have two carrier ships, one in size L and one in XL. These carriers can then be equipped with a light fighter, the Mako, or its heavy counterpart, the Barracuda. Additionally, there are various civilian ships of the Borons, such as scouts, miners, transporters, and so on.
Similar to previous DLCs, Kingdom End also has two new game starts that begin at different points in the game, but ultimately lead to the same sandbox-like universe that many X4 players know and love. This means that we can still enjoy all the gameplay freedoms while also immersing ourselves in the Boron storyline.
Of course, I would rather not spoil the story, but I can say that it is well done. One sector that will immediately catch your attention during the early missions of the new game start is the Sanctuary of Darkness.
This sector is not only dangerous because some aliens fly around there, but also because there is a kind of space storm raging through it which one has to fight their way. This gave me quite a headache, as I think I died about seven or eight times trying to get through this sector. Nevertheless, I think this sector is overall a nice addition because it adds exciting elements to the story as well as to the gameplay.
Nonetheless, Sanctuary of Darkness can be quite frustrating, especially for beginners, and I have to confess that after the seventh or eighth try, I simply consulted Reddit to find my way through the sector.
A nice element of at least one of these launches is that we get the research station/player HQ shortly after the beginning of that launch – and without any work at all. We only have to dock there once and then we can chat a little with the first Boron we meet in the storyline and he then simply gives us the station.
The expansion also comes with its own set of achievements that can only be unlocked with this DLC.
Alongside the paid DLC, Egosoft also released the free 6.0 update. This update offers a new physics engine, improved lighting effects, and parallax occlusion mapping, which has made significant changes to the game's underlying systems.
However, personally, I don't think I saw much of a difference. Although I had already set my graphics settings to high and still found the game relatively attractive, there were some performance drops in certain areas. While I mostly had around 60 FPS, there were moments – especially in stations – where the FPS dropped to around 18 or 20.
Unfortunately, X4 is still an incredibly demanding game even with the new DLC and update, not just in terms of graphics but also in terms of CPU and RAM usage on your PC. It's hardly surprising, given that the game simulates a vast universe with around 100 sectors.
In addition to some new models for the construction ships of all races and the option for fleets led by a single carrier to defend multiple positions, the 6.0 update naturally offers a whole host of smaller bug fixes and changes, which I cannot mention all here. But please follow this link if you want to know more.
However, one feature I particularly liked in the 6.0 update was the live-stream feature. By pressing F6, we can now select a new camera perspective that presents a ship or station from the outside – optionally with some basic information and cinematic black bars. This is great for a long journey in space, and I was delighted that Egosoft added it.
Did I like X4 Kingdom End and the update?
To put it briefly, overall yes.
However, I must admit that X4 is not a game that you can just play on the side. Even though I had already spent around 150 hours in X4 before the DLC, I actually had to relearn the ship controls and figure out where all the hotkeys were in the first hour of the new DLC.
The other reason why X4 is not a game for "just playing for a moment" is that, after four years and with the new DLC and update, it is a real monster. The game is not only incredibly large, with around 100 sectors, but also incredibly complex. And it just takes time to make progress in certain areas.
You have to build your reputation, earn money, and buy or steal your fleet together – and that takes a little time. However, that's also the beauty of X4. So if you have the time and patience to get into X4, you'll definitely have a lot of fun, especially now with the new DLC and the newly added Borons.
However, while playing, I also noticed some things that I didn't find quite polished. For example, when I received my Mako fighter as a gift from the Borons, I didn't know how to get into the damn thing. Here, a very simple tutorial hint would have been nice to show newcomers an easy way into their ship.
Since X4 is still a very complex and large game, some minor bugs are to be expected. The autopilot, for example, still tends to crash into things if you rely on it too much. Other than that, there are a few minor bugs here and there, but nothing really dramatic.
In terms of game design, I found the mission where you have to set the navigation beacons in Sanctuary of Darkness – don't worry, it's not a particularly late mission, so I won't spoil too much – not easy at all. This is mainly because there are hardly any visual clues as to where it is safest to pass through this sector.
While you're told to stick to the asteroids and look for areas where nothing is destroyed, there aren't many asteroids in this sector, and the path isn't very clear. After about seven or eight attempts, I ended up consulting Reddit because it was getting too frustrating – and I found that a bit disappointing. When I had to pass through the sector again later, I have to admit that I wasn't looking forward to it.
Nevertheless, I would say that X4 Kingdom End is definitely worth the purchase, especially for fans of the series. However, I think most of you have already bought the DLC by now.
Not only does it add the last remaining race in the X4 universe to the game, but there are also 11 new sectors and two new regions. By the way, these two regions are very different economically. While the sectors of the Provinces Adrift are initially quite starved economically, the sectors of the royal Borons are economically well-positioned. Both parties are thirsty for expanding their economic influence across the entire X-universe – and that offers some gameplay options.
Finally, there is the music. I can only emphazise that Alexei Zakharov did an excellent job. The music of the game was the element that captivated me already in the trailer and provided me with some beautiful moments in the game. Sitting in front of the screen and watching the new sectors and ships in live-view while enjoying the atmospheric music created some special moments.
So if you've played X4 in the past and have €14.99 / $14.99 / £12.49 to spare, I highly recommend giving the DLC a chance. I think the new DLC is a real improvement, as is the new update.
However, I hope that X4 will continue to work on the story and especially the performance in future updates, as it is still an issue. Nevertheless, X4 is and remains a unique game in its own right, and I am very pleased that it is still being developed and hope that it will continue to receive new updates.
If you've never played X4 before, I can definitely recommend the game, but with the small warning that the game not only requires at least a decent PC, but also a lot of time. But the game is certainly beautiful. There are few single-player space simulations that are as comprehensive and offer as much freedom as X4.