Battlestar Galactica Online is a mix of great space combat and bland everything else
I typically don’t concern myself much with browser-based free to play MMO’s. Right or wrong, I just don’t expect much from them. So even when the basis of the game is something I absolutely adore (like Battlestar Galatica), I tend to just gloss over it and move on. Well, luckily after all this time I went back for an actual look. As it turns out, my expectations about these games was WAY off.
Battlestar Galatica Online takes place during the plotline of the show, shortly after the Cylon resurrection ship is destroyed. The humans and toasters (cylons for you un-initiated out there) are forever locked into an escalating battle of brinkmanship. As you can probably surmise, this is the perfect setup for an MMO. Step 1: pick a side, Step 2: fight. No one ever wins, but that’s sort of the point.
Whether you pick Cylon or Human, each have their own ships and look and feel, both in an out of spaceflight. There’s a progression course that’s pretty much the same on both sides, moving through light, medium and heavy class ships. You’ll be able to outfit them however you like with different weapons and engines, and there is a pretty good variety of choices. All those options are nice, since you’ll spend a great chunk of the game in the cockpit.
There are times when it’s easy to forget the game is running inside your browser. You exit the Battlestar (or Basestar), jump in your ship and start zooming through space – and the whole thing turns into a full-on 3D space battle simulator. You’re not just pointing and clicking around a map, watching things happen. You’re fully in control of your ship, not clicking but piloting it, with full controls in every direction. The battles remind me of a fully featured retail product, to be perfectly honest, so much so that part of me can’t believe this isn’t available on a shelf somewhere.
The combat itself really is a great time, but unfortunately the rest of the game doesn’t hold up. You’ll spend your time outside the cockpit in a non-MMO single player mode where you can wander around your ship to grab daily quests which almost always revolve around you gathering resources that you’ll need to pilot and arm your ship. This seems like a huge wasted opportunity to do some story telling. Everyone wants to feel epic in their games sometimes, but searching asteroids and planets over and over just doesn’t cut it.
It’s doubly disappointing because the space combat is just so much fun. There are always people around getting into skirmishes, and there’s a seemingly constant stream of news ticking across your screen about where you need to go next. It sort of makes you get sad when you know you have to trudge though some boring clicking around so you can play along with that.
If you’re a fan of the show, you’d know there was always way more story and intrigue than there was flat out action. And while I don’t expect that to be the case in a video game, I feel like it really would’ve been a better service to the fans of the series to try and insert some of the character action into some tangible quest lines that players could sink their teeth into. There’s so many great personalities on that show that I’d bet if the designers tried, they could’ve put out some really excellent stuff.
I think in a way it’d be way easier to forgive if the game as a whole were just ho-hum average. But with space combat that’s compelling and dynamic (not to mention visually fantastic), it just makes the shortcomings in the other parts of the game that much more glaring. It’d be great if they just ripped out the resource gathering altogether and just let us fight it out to control the stars. I didn’t hate Battlestar Galatica Online by any stretch, but oh man it could’ve been so much better. Come for the space combat and try to ignore the rest of it.