Feb 16, 2011
QUASI-REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica Online
If you know me at all, I am a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica. I was late to the party on the series and started watching (from the beginning) just as the series was nearing it’s finale. I wish I had watched the show when it was originally on, I don’t know how I missed out on so long. It really is one of the best television series of all-time, and one of the best sci-fi series as well. The video-game counterparts of BSG haven’t been good. In 2003, there was a game for Xbox that was based on the original 1978 series. Then in 2007, there was an XBLA game that was based on the re-imagined series but did not sell or review well. Now, Bigpoint Games aims to please the Battlestar fans with their browser-based MMO: Battlestar Galactica Online which takes place in the back half of Season 2 of the series.
Once you’re signed up, you’re given the choice of being a Cylon (robot) or a Colonial Pilot (human). There’s not a finite choice here, as you are able to switch freely and have one character from each race. A VERY mild character creation system is here. Don’t go expecting World of Warcraft, Champions Online, or any regular MMO paid or otherwise type of customization. You’re rarely ever on your feet walking around a ship to see yourself, so it’s not a surprise that it’s lacking in this department. Both sides start off in the same spot, just on opposing sides. You’re both rookies, on a training mission with your superior (Starbuck for Colonials, Six for Cylons). You encounter each other and begin learning the mechanics of the game. When the story event completes, you are transported to inside the “home” ship of each race and are able to freely roam about (the limited rooms) or talk to your Commanding Officer to begin receiving missions. From there you’re free to do what you will.
There’s a full level system, skill tree, and upgrade path here. Completing quests, tasks, and kills nets you XP and once you level up, can spend attribute points into various talents and skills. You start out as a simple pilot, but as you continue levelling and completing quests, begin getting access to bigger and better ships at your disposal with more powerful weaponry in which you can customize their locations. There is nothing “new” here as far as types of weaponry. The game does support micro-transactions to help boost your character, which is nothing new or surprising and there isn’t a point where you’ll need to break down and buy something. It’s all optional and doesn’t feel out of balance. Everything is true to the show so there’s nothing out of place to break the continuity.
[Well, there’s only ONE continuity error I noticed, and that fans would pick apart as well. Not a spoiler, this is something found out in an early Season 1 episode. The Cylon Centurions that you walk around on the Basestar with are not the pilots of the Raiders you fly in space. They are actually two different kinds of robots. So for the game’s sake, a concession was made to mirror the Colonial side.]
The sound design is well done, but all sampled sounds and music from the show. A lot of the memorable music by Bear McCreary (from the series) is present here giving you the vibe from the show. It’s quiet and somber when flying solo, but when the action kicks up, “Black Market” comes on and gives you the adrenaline boost. There isn’t much to say here as if you know the sounds of the show, you’ll find it in-game. The only caveat to this is, there are no voice overs for the characters that appear: Adama, Tigh, Starbuck, Number One, Number Two, or Number Six. Disappointing yes, but for a browser game this is completely understandable.
The graphics are powered by the Unity engine, seen in a lot of browser games and even desktop and iPhone games. Which, looks pretty amazing if I must say (see screenshots taken in 1920×1080). With Google Chrome, the game requires no plug-in as Unity is built-in. If you use any other browser, it will require you to install the plug-in before getting to play. It’s not a very large file, so you’ll be up and running sooner than you think.
I have high hopes and high praise for this game to continue and prosper. With the upcoming BSG: Blood & Chome 2-hour pilot coming out sometime this year, Battlestar Galactica is in for a resurgence and this type of game should do well for Syfy and Bigpoint Games. Verdict after gallery.