Back in March, 2010 NBC Universal and Bigpoint announced Battlestar Galactica Online, a browser-based MMOG inspired by Syfy's Battlestar Galactica television series. Battlestar Galactica Online is a free-to-play title which makes use of Unity 3D, a game engine that can serve up slick graphics in a browser environment.
Two years have passed since the initial Battlestar Galactica Online announcement, and Bigpoint now boasts close to 10 million registered users. This might be a good time to mention that registering to play BSGO is so easy that you can practically do it by accident with one-click Facebook connect. Does this mean that 10 million people registered accidentally? Not likely, but those that decided to take a pass on the game are probably the real winners.
It has been 40 years since the first war between the Colonial and Cylon fleets. The Cylons return to take out the Twelve Colonies, but the Battlestar Galactica manages to escape and goes in search of the planet Earth. The Cylon forces pursue, things get messy, and then things get messy again. As the Colonial fleet attempts to “jump”, the faster than light (FTL) drives of both the Colonials and the Cylons are overloaded by an energy pulse which throws both sides far off course. Stranded in unexplored space, both fleets must race to repair, rearm and take control of the system.
Players choose to join either the Humans or the cybernetic Cylons (AKA Toasters). The human side is always more popular, so when joining BSGO you will likely be offered the opportunity to even the playing field by joining the Cylons, where you will receive a temporary XP boost. Go ahead and take it. The learning curve is pretty steep, so you'll be itching to score some XP and level up by the time you've got things figured out. Although there is a lot to learn in BSGO, the biggest hurdle is learning to fly your ship effectively. Controls at your disposal are limited to WASD and mouse. For some strange reason, there is no joystick support in the game.
Gameplay in BSGO is mission-based, and the core objectives are to mine for resources, destroy enemy ships, and take over enemy space. All of the action is seen from a ship perspective. Although players can dock at stations and walk around inside, the purpose is solely to buy, sell, upgrade, repair and get new missions.
In BSGO players may own more than one ship. Your snazzy space ride is made up of slots in which you can install weapons, computers, engines and hull upgrades. Ship parts can be repaired, upgraded and replaced as needed. Skill training will improve your ability to pilot a ship, thus improving the effectiveness of the ship in general. For example, training Gunnery to level 1 will improve your cannon range by 1% and open the door to train other skills.
Mining asteroids is something that players spend a lot of time working at. The act of shooting at a rock is tedious at best. This is why it’s important to fit your ship with a resource scanner as soon as possible. Blindly looking for resources typically ends in disappointment if you have to shoot up every rock in a belt for a few bits 'n bobs.
Universal, Bigpoint and developer Artplant have done a fine job of bringing the MMO masses a flight combat game that can be played for free in a browser. However, there is nothing truly innovative about Battlestar Galactica Online. BSGO seems even less spectacular when you consider that Gamigo's excellent space combat MMO, Black Prophecy, is also free-to-play.
On the visuals front, Battlestar Galactica Online looks very good for a browser game. In fact, if you pop it into full screen mode, it can pass for a client-based game. Effects such as flying debris, weapon spray, missiles and explosions are nice to look at.
If you want to see BSGO look truly gorgeous then give it a fly-through with NVIDIA 3D Vision (or whatever 3D hardware you might happen to have). The game looks amazing in 3D, especially the ships. Sadly there are some glitches that make it unplayable in 3D, such as poor targeting.
Despite being easy on the eyes, there are no guts behind the glory. For example, when playing a traditional MMORPG a player can “feel” the power behind their weapons of choice and the speed of the mount that they ride. In BSGO there is no sense of being there, and no feeling of power behind the ship that you pilot.
Socially speaking, BSGO has all of the chat features that one would expect to see in a MMO. Players are friendly, and group invites are plentiful.
Battlestar Galactica Online will likely be around for a long time, as it's one of the few decent looking flight combat MMOs out there. While the game will always attract new players, your average individual will quickly find that the game lacks the depth needed to keep a player hooked for the long-term. For those that do stick with it, a couple of perks include regular developer updates and server events.
BSGO is probably about as polished as it's going to get. Bug fixes and bits of new content are released on a fairly regular basis, but as with most MMOs, BSGO is not without its ongoing problems. One of the biggest issues involves poor pilot controls. The answer is not to put a new system in place, rather it is to play enough that you just get used to how bad it is.
As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If you want the full game experience then you'll be paying through the nose.
Battlestar Galactica Online has a couple of different currencies, one of them being “Cubits”. Cubits are the most sought after form of currency in the game, and can be purchased for real-world money. A small amount of Cubits can be had by completing missions, killing and mining. This currency is also one of the most controversial aspects of Battlestar Galactica Online.
Cubits are pretty expensive to purchase. Recently 30,500 Cubits could be purchased for $12.99 USD. At the moment there is a sale going on, so you get 78,000 Cubits for $12.99 USD. The problem is that any way you do the math, that's not a whole lot of Cubits in the grand scheme of things. Cubits will buy you the best ships and upgrades, as well as a range of game-changing Boosters. A level 1 player can use Cubits to purchase experience points, skill training time reductions and a lot more. In theory, the fattest wallets win.
At current market prices you can purchase 25,000 instant XP for 35,000 Cubits. If you pick up a few Cubits at level 20 you can snag a sweet little ride for a mere $40 USD; or $80 USD if the Cubits are no longer on sale. If you want to purchase the same ship without plunking down real coin then you're looking at some serious hard labor to make it happen.
Battlestar Galactica Online isn't without its thrills, but they are few and far between. Getting your finances in order is the ultimate grind. If you make some friends in the game then you can have a pretty good time on the combat front. But if your new-found chums decide to use real-world money to level up or buy uber gear, then you may get left floating alone in the debris. Toss in the wonky controls and Battlestar Galactica Online is a bit of a crying shame.
| Group combat is the high point
It's free to try
Runs well on low-end systems
| Lack of in-game documentation
Mining is time-consuming
No joystick support