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4X done exceptionally well
The X series did not invent the space exploration game combined with trading, with management with politics and with conquering. That goes back as early as Elite's days but certainly the recipe had still a lot of space to cover to get to the modern age presentation it did. So, within this envelope X: Beyond the Frontier is a really well produced game, one that really puts a lot of effort in the graphical presentation, which is a really nice 3D one, as well as in creating an animated universe, with lots of things happening at all times. The game is therefore an absolutely amazing experience to go for if you love 4X. The polish here is really hard to compare to any other games than, say, Sword of the Stars levels or better. I'd argue X: Beyond the Frontier was the first genuinely modern 4X games out there, in 3D, modern and incisive on all levels. Surely, some might get scared of its huge size and amount of directions you can take, but that can be freeing as well, as you can set your own goals, as you see fit.
I have to agree with Xenon - this game is still fun to play after all these years. Yes, it is slow to start. But after just an hour or so you should be able to buy a SETA system to speed up play and an also expansion of your cargo bay. Another hour or two should see you making enough profit to buy your own energy cell fab. Then you will start getting in to the game, buying better shields, buying weapons, having your engine repeatedly tuned to improve the speed and maybe doing some bounty hunting. Plus don't forget to mine those asteroids and explore the systems. X: Beyond the Frontier is not a game for people who simply like to fly and shoot. But it is a winner for those willing to spend the time on playing it the way it was meant to be.
Find time to play it
Although old, X: Beyond the Frontier is still a very enjoyable game. Instead of comparing it to something else, judge it on its own merits. The XBTF universe is huge and one can spend many days on this game. The weapons trading system was designed for a reason - to make things harder. Just get used to it. Even though I have had XBTF for years, I still get it out some times and play it. That tells you all you need to know. If there is any fault, it is in the lack of guidance, which leaves you struggling at the beginning. But once you have figured that out, play takes off and gives you a genuine challenge.