When I pulled up Battlestar Galactic Online, I was expecting an RPG or adventure game which would explore and deepen the mythology of the Battlestar Galactica universe. I was understandably disappointed to find a dogfighting game which is not really worth the cost of admission.
The game is clearly Battlestar Galactics. They got the visual style and the music, and everything down well, and it’s certainly better that the 2D asteroids-style multi-player shooter they released a few years ago, but it’s still not really Battlestar Galactica.
The player begins their tutorial in a fleet of fighters, in combat with the enemy base ship. During the fighting, something goes wrong, and both fleets are teleported into a gigantic space anomaly, which disables their jump drives.
The fleets, which includes the Galactica are now permanently stranded in this anomaly, and must spend the rest of eternity battling back and forth across a vast expanse of planetary systems, fighting for control of the many mines, and other recourses around the sector (so obviously not a canon story).
The base ships (Galactica for the Humans, and Basestar for the Cylons) serve as the center of operations for your side, and buying, repairing, and upgrading ships takes place here. Why they bothered making this happen with an over-the-shoulder avatar is a mystery, since it’s basically a glorified menu system.
The real gameplay all takes place in space while controlling your character’s ship, and consists almost entirely of Player v. Player combat, which, while well done, is tedious, and becomes boring rather quickly.
In fact, that’s a good way of describing most of the elements of the game: It’s deftly crafted, especially for an in-browser game. I’m really impressed with the graphical fidelity, the intuitive controls, the customization options, everything that one expects from a high-quality video game, yet it runs in a browser window.
That beauty and craftsmanship, while impressive, is all the game has going for it, all of the actual gameplay elements are repetitive and dreary, even the ability to upgrade the ship is mostly the same thing over and over, with basically the same items in a dozen different forms apiece, and none of them visually striking or immediately perceptible.
Of course, if you’re not in the mood for grinding, you can always just pay your way through the game’s development.
This is really the most disappointing thing about the design.
Micropayment MMOs are not a brand new idea, but it’s been established by other games, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online that the most effective, player pleasing way to do this is to allow players to pay only for cosmetic and convenience items.
In BGO, players can pay real money for anything in the game from ship upgrades to experience points, and while all of these things can be earned, very slowly in-game, the most well-developed players are always going to be those players who are willing to drop dollar upon dollar on the upgrades.
You could join today, drop some cash, and be a bad-ass level 20 player with the best ship in the system in 20 minutes, if you really want to.
This over-saturation of available cash upgrades cheapens the experience for the players who might actually enjoy this sort of grind-fest, meaning that they’ve really managed to make a game which is appropriate for a very small, but high-paying audience only, pushing out both players who are intimately interested in the lore of the game, and players who actually want to play it, opting instead for a game of “push the button” for gamers with lots of extra cash burning a hole in their pockets.