Available: PC, Mac
I have always been a fan of Battlestar Galactica. I grew up watching the original series and enjoyed the newer version and loved the idea of playing a game in that world. I had heard of Battlestar Online a while back but my poor laptop had a few hassles. After cleaning it up and sorting it out on of the first things I did was to jump onto Battlestar Online and give it a go. I thought this would be perfect to write about as it is my first my first MMO. I’ve never been interested in getting involved with games like World Of Warcraft etc with monthly subscriptions and the idea of a free to play game in a genre I like appealed to me.
Battlestar Online is a free to play game, that is its free to play this game BUT if you want to get ahead or get the better things available then you can and are encouraged to spend money to buy equipment, ships etc. I decided that I was going to play this as a purely free to play game to see what it was like. That was the plan anyway. I began by registering and choosing my faction (Colonial or Cylon). I chose Colonial as I had a huge love of the Viper and couldn’t wait to get in the cockpit and shoot down the launch tubes into some huge firelight. The initial options for ships for the colonials are the MK2 Viper and the Raptor. The Viper is the lightweight fast attack type of craft while the Raptor is slightly more heavy and stronger. After playing both craft there isn’t really too much different between them apart from turning circles and overall speed but not a large difference.
At the beginning of the game you start off in a Viper with Starbuck going through some basic manoeuvres and once those are completed you come aboard the Galactica and can chat to Admiral Adama. There is no speech in the game and the interaction is done via canned choices but it works fine and while playing this I reminded myself that I had not paid anything to play this so how much was I really expecting. While chatting to Adama you get the choice to go on a couple of training missions. These help give you a feel for the ships and how you interact with your surroundings and what is on screen. At any point you can ignore these training missions and disappear off to do your own thing but they are worth finishing if for no other reason than to build up your credits and resources.
Once you are into the game fully you can jump from system to system to gain resources, complete assignments which help out with experience and credits or fight the Cylon enemy. There are a mix of AI controlled enemy and player enemies and these can be seen by the names of the enemy craft above the health meters. A word of advice, avoid getting into fire fights with player enemies for as long as you can as they seem to be faster and more well equipped then AI craft and can catch you out quickly and easily especially if you go against players of a higher rank than you. At the bottom of the screen is your experience bar and this is raised by completing assignments, finding resources in asteroids or taking down enemies. Building this up leads towards getting the option to get bigger and better ships.
If you are anything like me you will spend the majority of your time flying from system to system scanning random asteroids in the hope of resources and catching lone Cylon raiders as they patrol the area. While doing this you can learn new skills, these take 15 mins for the first level and the time to learn increases depending on the skill level to be learnt. Levelling up skill levels opens up the ability to go faster, mine resources faster, shoot from better ranges etc. Every time you complete training for one of these skills just pick a new one to learn and carry on.
One thing to look out for is getting caught by larger Cylon raiding parties or battle groups. These battle groups are formed for taking on raids and controlling systems and can happen at any time. Many a time I have been floating around happily scanning away when all of a sudden a huge battle group of enemy ships way beyond my ability to attack have jumped right on top of me and my only means of escape was to jump away. I recommend that you build up your experience and kit out your ship as well as possible with cannons as you will be involved in a lot of running battles as you go.
The game plays nicely and smoothly and is easy to get into. The graphics look smooth and represent pretty accurately what they are meant to. The colours are bright and you can easily see everything on screen. Your display never feels too overcrowded and you can quickly tell what’s about and what’s happening and more importantly just where that last salvo across you bow came from.
You can customise your keyboard layouts to suit your play style which is nice but for me one big letdown was the lack of joystick compatibility. I was looking forward to using a much neglected joystick I have and unfortunately you cannot use any with this game. This would be one improvement I would like to see rectified as soon as possible. If they wanted to subsidise this game then a custom battle star peripheral would be one way to go, I can think of a few people who would love a insignia laden Battlestar Galactica joystick to use with this game and as a collector’s item to go next to the DVD collections.
Someone put £3000 into the game!!
While playing I was watching a couple of people talking about how much real money they had put into this game. Most were saying £30 – £60, a couple had put more than £100 in but a couple were saying amounts that I had trouble believing, one person mentioned £3000 which caught my eye. Now admittedly this could and possibly is false but £3000 on a free to play game! Surely at some point you would realise that pouring money into a game of this type is not going to bring any extra rewards after a certain point. Could anyone realistically through that much money into a game and consider it worthwhile? I can see certain types of players throwing money into the game from the offset to have bigger and better ships and weapons to be considered better from the start, I even considered putting more money in to just get the ship and weapons I wanted quicker but I realised that at by doing that all I would be doing is putting myself a perceived level up and then I would just end up looking at the ships and weapons available for even more money and it becomes an evil cycle of money after money. If there are people out there happy to put hundreds and hundreds of pounds or dollars into this or any other kind of game then I say good for them but are you really making yourself a better gamer or enjoying the game any more than someone that has played it purely as a free to play game? The designers and the game companies are always going to encourage you to put some more of your hard earned money into their titles and I can’t blame them, it’s their business and that’s what they are there to do.
Making that payment for a free game
One thing I hadn’t planned on doing was putting money into this game, after all it is a ‘free to play’ game. That said as I was playing, I found myself thinking that if I bought extra credits (known as cubits in the game) I could get this and that a bit quicker and it would bring me deeper into the game. I was becoming a little fed up of destroying the enemy AI but as soon as a larger ship or another online player I was getting destroyed far too easily. I decided to make an in game transaction and looked at what I could get for my money. At first it sounded ok, it seemed that you got a reasonable amount of credits for your money and you got more depending on how much you put in. Making the payment was easy, quick form to add your details and card number and you’re done.
In retrospect for me personally I don’t think I’ll do it again. In order to buy the larger ships and weaponry needed to be competitive at the higher levels you need to put in larger and larger amounts. £70 worth of cubits will get you a fair bit in the game but it’s that age old saying of people never being happy and always wanting more. I personally feel that paying amounts like that and beyond is a bit much for a game. One of the main reasons I never got into MMO`s is the idea of paying time and again to play the same game.
Battlestar Galactica Online is a great game, very playable and addictive. You could happily play it without needing to pay for the privilege but I think that the temptation to do so grows the more you play. Any fans of the TV series both old and new will enjoy this game as well as people looking for a space adventure game. You are able to fly your own way and choose what to do. You can grind away to make your way towards bigger and better ships or just go out and have fun.