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Frak the Hard Six! A Battlestar Galactica Online Review

Posted Fri, Mar 11, 2011 by jeffprime

An epic struggle between good and evil, man and machine, faith and despair…all of this was portrayed in the epic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. The saga of the human colonists seeking to survive against the Cylon machines that they had created struck a chord with millions of fans, and now those fans can join the fight online as either a human or a Cylon. To see how the game measures up, Ten Ton Hammer climbed into a cockpit and joined the fray.

Battlestar Galactica Online, developed by Bigpoint, is a free-to-play browser-based MMOG. The game is currently in open beta, and takes place after the Cylon resurrection ship was destroyed in the TV series. What came next, for game purposes, was that the human and Cylon fleets were engaged in a titanic battle. When the humans tried to jump out and escape, something happened, and both fleets were dragged through hyperspace to a distant quadrant of space that neither side had explored. Both fleets are severely damaged and are looking for any resources that they can lay their hands on. So, as you might surmise, BSGO is a space-combat game with a heavy emphasis on resource gathering.

battlestar galactica online
Heading towards a fight!

Once you create an account and log in, you must choose between the human and Cylon faction. Once you make your choice, you’re allowed to customize your avatar a bit. This part is low traction; you’ll never see another player walking around in the game, and you’ll be spending 95+% of your time in the cockpit of your spaceship.

You’ll begin the game at your respective side’s main base of operations – either a basestar or a battlestar., where you’ll receive your daily missions and the occasional special mission. I chose to play a Cylon so I could destroy the whiny human colonists. I…have…a…plan.

Cautions

None, besides the usual “your online experience may change.” Since BSGO isn’t likely to see retail shelf space, we’re not likely to see a formal ESRB rating for it.

Gameplay

65AverageThe gameplay in BSGO boils down to two components: resource gathering and space combat. One component is done amazingly well, while the other…not so much. You will spend the vast majority of your time within the confines of your ship’s cockpit. When you dock with a base, you’ll be in a solo instance to buy equipment, repair systems, and get missions. There is no crafting, intricate storylines, grand exploration, or any other aspects of normal MMOGs. Here, you mine resources and fight against the opposing faction.

The core of your BSGO experience is your ship. There are three classes of ships in the game - light, medium, and heavy - and each faction has 3 ships in each weight class. You start with a light class ship, and gain access to the other two types at levels 10 and 20. The bigger the class, the more weapons, hull, engines, and other components you can squeeze into it. The higher class of ship weapons does better damage than a lower class, but it is feasible for smaller ships to destroy a larger one using swarm tactics. In addition, the ships are customizable, so if you have a preference for one type of weapon or engine over another, you can exercise that option. Each ship has a fixed number of mounts for weapons, engine, hull, and computer. You can have more than one ship; you just choose which ship you want to command at the present time.

Space combat is a blast. Going toe-to-toe with enemy ships is exciting and actually fun. I didn’t even get worked up when some Colonist ships popped out of hyperspace right next to me and lit me up - I almost felt I was playing Wing Commander again. There are constant fleet actions going on as both sides battle for supremacy over the various systems and gather the needed resources. The game makes it easy for you to keep track of the fighting with constant updates scrolling across the bottom of the screen and also occasionally flashing on your screen. It takes very little time to get to a system where there’s some action going on.

battlestar galactica online
I think that my ship is out-classed.

On the negative side, there is no real PvE. You get a number of daily missions from your main base, and the occasional special mission. The daily missions entail you to scan a number of asteroids, gather a specific amount of resources, destroy a number of non-NPC enemy ships, fly a patrol mission through enemy space, and so on. These missions are time consuming and are, basically, a time-sink and forced resource-gathering. If you’re looking for epic quests, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The thrust of the game is to gather resources and use those resources to buy bigger ships and weapons.

To gather resources, you have to individually scan asteroids and planetoids. If there are some valuable resources within the scanned item, then you have to blow it up (if it’s an asteroid) or call in a mining ship (if it’s a planetoid) to gather the resources. Gathering resources is extremely tedious. One extra annoying factor is that once you scan an asteroid, no indication of its’ scanned status appears. You only know that it has been scanned after manually clicking on it and attempting to scan. If it has been scanned, then your ship won’t scan it. However, when you’re looking at a screen filled with asteroids, it gets very easy to lose track of which asteroids have been scanned and which haven’t.

Basically, you’ll look for areas to mine for resources and look for fights against the opposing faction. While there are NPC ships from time to time, you’ll do the vast majority (90+%) of your fighting against other players. There are no scenarios, just open PvP spread throughout the various systems.

Overall, the space combat is superb and I couldn’t get enough of it. However, the lack of any interesting missions or PvE hurts the gameplay. I found the daily missions to be as much fun as dumpster diving for soda cans to turn in for pocket money. However, money talks….which we’ll discuss in the Value section.

Graphics

95OutstandingThe graphics are breathtaking, or at least the space graphics are. The base graphics are kind of bland, but as that you’ll spend very little of your time away from your ship. You’ll only be on a base to get your daily missions, repair, or buy items. Outside of the bases, the graphics are a complete reversal. The various star systems are quite beautiful to travel through, with asteroid belts strung across the stars. Coming out from behind a planetoid and having the glaring light of a sun suddenly light up your screen really took my breath away. No other game showcases the power of Unity quite like BSGO in space.

battlestar galactica online
If I wasn't a toaster, I would find this beautiful.

The various ships are also extremely detailed, and from a fanboy perspective, look damn cool. Flying inside a fleet of ships makes for some amazing eye candy as you’ll swivel the camera around to gawp at the other ships. Once combat is joined, you’ll see every shot and missile coming at you. I particularly like seeing the weapons on a larger enemy ship swiveling to shoot at me as I flew by. (I liked the look, but not the damage I was taking!) Ship explosions are extremely bright and very satisfying, especially if you’re the cause of it. Plus, you can see explosions from a pretty good distance. I’ve zeroed in on a fight many times that were out of my radar range just because I suddenly saw a explosion in the distance.

Sound

87Very GoodThe sounds of BSGO are fairly spartan, but what’s there is extremely well done. From the sounds of your weapons firing, to hearing the pings of your ship getting tagged, all while listening to the soundtrack from the tv series really gets you in the mood. The combat music is especially evocative, with the higher intensity making your blood race that much faster as you’re closing in for the kill. All in all, the sound and music do help to draw you into the game, without becoming distracting.

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