While Battlestar Galactica Online (“BSGO”) is currently in Beta and is not a traditional “large scale” MMOG, it is a fun PvP focused game for those who are looking to join a lively world in which they can fly around, acquire ships, blow things up, harvest resources and protect their mining claims all while flying with friends and yelling either “Take that ya frackin’ toaster!” or “Die nuggethead!”
I’ve been an avid fan of space-based games for awhile now, ranging from EVE Online to Sins of a Solar Empire and going all the way back to Elite on the Commodore 64. When somebody recommended I look at Battlestar, I was hesitant at first, however as I began to play thorough the game and see what it was all about, I found myself enjoying the universe the developers at Bigpoint have created.
BSGO has the feel of a small development team with a specific focus – fun and uncomplicated space-based combat with a back-end support system of character skill growth which is both experience point and time-based and a method of updating all of the components on your ship over a period of time. Add this to the fact it’s a browser-based game which can be played anywhere, the Unity 3D engine more than shines with this product.
While the game does not have the refining feel many AAA products have, once you get into it and experience it for what it was designed to be, you won’t be disappointed; that is if you like space-based dog-fighting style combat. In addition, there is much more to this game that meets the eye, but that doesn’t become apparent until one has played it for a few days and really given it a chance. This can be a bit of a negative factor as a new player may not be willing to give the game a chance long enough to upgrade to a new ship, for example, to see how the gameplay experience can completely change.
As it is a PvP focused game, players get ganked. Regularly. However, it hasn’t really diminished the game experience or made me “not want to play”. There is a strange balance to the game which is impressive and fun. As a level 12 Colonial in my Viper, I was able to take out a level 22 because of the dynamics of my ship vs. theirs. Then again, when the Level 73 “wallet warrior” swoops in out of nowhere, it only takes a few seconds before your ship explodes. However unlike EVE, you don’t “lose” the ship, you simply respawn at the closest controlled system base with a bit of a durability hit and with a simple click you’re back in space doing your thing, often able to seek revenge on those who got you or stole your precious water mine.
One very interesting aspect of BSGO is there is no trading between players. While there is a market where you can buy with real money and NPC/PvP items drop, you have to earn everything yourself and instead of acquiring items to sell to the highest bidder, you always gain materials to grow your character, thus focusing on empowering players to support each other to grow together instead of exchanging goods or currency, or even worse – bickering over drops, etc. This “economy” actually works very well and other games should pay attention to what Bigpoint has built here.
For those of you who remember the TV series (the new, not the old), if you recall there were occasions where the colonials would be looking up and around trying to find the enemy in the vast of space and a small black dot would be seen next to a star and next thing they knew, they were under attack by a Cylon swooping out of nowhere. This exists within the game and was excellently done. I can’t count the times I was out mining or doing my daily assignments and I catch a slight movement above me on the corner of the screen, I turn to focus and before I know it, a Cylon ship comes out of nowhere, guns blazing. It’s also fun to be the one in the viper who swoops down out of nowhere on a distracted Cylon as well.
It is also impressive to enter a system and see off in the distance a huge Cylon “line ship” (the largest) slowly lumbering through an asteroid field with explosions going on around it, obvious signs of a battle. The game has captured this experience wonderfully and in many regards better than any I’ve seen from an “ambient” perspective (including EVE Online and Star Trek Online).
I’m going to review the different systems of BSGO and touch on every core feature the game has to offer. Feel free to comment and provide any additional feedback that you have regarding what you read here or experienced yourself. I hope this review provides helpful information for those who are interested in space-based MMOGs.
Release Date: Currently in Public BETA – Release Date Unknown
Custom Features: System control shifting, Planetoid Mining, Ship Equipment Customization, Hybrid character skill progression
Strengths: Smooth 3D space combat, Fun, Easy to play, Slower character level progression, Ship equipment leveling
Weaknesses: Poor user interface, Bugs, Repetitive Gameplay, limited sized world and limited number of enemies
Notes: Browser based, can play from anywhere
Billing Style: Free to Play with a real-money “cubit” Market
Economy, Level & Skills, Movement, Travel, Harvesting, Marketplace, Achievements, Reputation, Death, Repair, and Custom.
The Economy in BSGO revolves around Tylium, a form of currency that is also used for fuel. You can harvest either Tylium, Titanium (which is for repairs) or Water (which sells for cubits) from asteroids or planetoids (through mines). Cubits are also acquired and the form of currency which you can buy with real money (and acquire in very small amounts by selling water or killing NPCs). New ships, equipment for ships, modifiers and ammunition come in a variety of ranges with the most basic only costing Tylium and the most “advanced” costing either a combination of Cubits or Tylium. In essence, Bigpoint has created a system where they entice people to spend real money to purchase cubits, but those patient enough to acquire the cubits through gameplay can do just fine. For example, it took me roughly six days to acquire the Tylium necessary to buy my Scythe and then just one more day to reach the 45,000 cubits necessary to purchase the Advanced Scythe, worth every bit of efforts and not a penny out of my pocket. The Economy does seem fairly solid though as fuel and ammunition costs raise dramatically as you get in larger ships, requiring the player to manage their funds, spend a balanced time mining, and plan their savings for upgrading their ships and/or equipment.
There are three methods of core progression in the game. The first is by character level, which is based on experience acquired through PvP, PvE, Mining and Assignments. The second is by skills, which are trained over time based on spending the experience you acquired by leveling up. And finally through “leveling” your ship’s equipment (which is covered later). There are a number of skills ranging from Gunnery to Computer Hacking. Each point raises a particular “core modifier” by 1%, so for example, Gunnery has 2 children skills one of which affects your chance to score a critical hit. As you may guess, having 15% vs. 0% is a huge difference as it applies to every single shot, and with the rapid-firing cannons, the damage adds up very quickly.
The Marketplace is simple, purchase cubits with real money. As you can purchase experience and skill training boosters, a player could technically spend a bunch of real-world cash, power level up, and be flying around in a very advanced ship in no time flat; however it doesn’t mean they’ll know what they are doing ! People who are thought to have “purchased their way to the top” are known as “wallet warriors” in-game.
Movement is done through the keyboard and mouse, although I’ve found the mouse to be the best way to fly the ship in 3D space while using the keyboard to control ship speed, weapons and modifiers (you can use AWDS to fly if you want though).
Traveling is pretty simple; you jump from system to system, and based on your ship and skills, the distance which you can cover with each jump is different. Jumping (or using the FTL drive) costs Tylium. If you try to jump while in combat it can take well over a minute while a strike fighter can jump in 10 seconds out of combat.
The game does have an underlying achievement system called “duties” where you achieve certain ranks and can reference them to your name, such as “Wraith Hunter, Level 3″. Leader Boards show your overall reputation/place in the universe relative to things such as Victories, Defeats, Damage, Mining, Progression, Outposts and Industrial Mining.
Death is pretty simple. When your ships goes boom, you explode and are presented with a choice of respawning in two of the closest systems with a base.
A ship and equipment mounted on a ship has a Durability which results in the need for repair after battle. Titanium is used to conduct repairs, and the larger the ship, the most costly the repairs. This is a standard durability money sink that most MMOGs have.
As there really isn’t another game quite like BSGO save a mild comparison to Star Trek Online, one could say the custom features are the system-based space combat and traveling mechanics. Many other space-based games have system jumping (e.g. EVE Online) but BSGO presents it in a much better fashion IMO. The game creates more of an overall “personal” experience when you jump into a system, unlike EVE which is so large it can take a minute just to jump from one end of a system to another. In BSGO when you enter a system, you can essentially see across the system; all the planetoids and asteroids, and often you will see explosions off in the distance, making you wonder exactly what’s going on. You can also see ships from a very far away, and it is impressive to see the huge “line” ships off in the distance battling it out.
There’s also the occasional surprise jump into a fleet of the opposing side, sometimes right in your vicinity, sometimes making its way across the system toward your outpost. This can create a very memorable experience as you’re warning your allies in fleet chat that something very bad is about to happen.
Large-scale space-based combat is well done, too. It’s quite a sight to see dozens (or more) of ships on each side decking it out, shooting missiles, cannons, flak, and working together to “punch a hole” in the opposing side’s line.
Character, Ships, Customization, Lore and Story, Quests, NPCs, World, Ambiance, Enemies, Equipment and Inventory, Tutorial.
The Character creation for BSGO is pretty limited and not very impressive. The result of my creation experience was an always angry-looking Colonial pilot with a mullet. However, this is a ship-based space combat game, so what your character looks like isn’t that big of a deal even though you do walk around on stations to handle your assignments, buy and sell and upgrade.
There are three different “categories” of Ships in BSGO: Strike ships, which are the quick fighters, Escort ships, which are the medium sized ships, and Line ships which are the big boys. Each category has a number of ships with different functions ranging from combat to electronic warfare to tanking, and you can upgrade each ship to the more “advanced” model which gives more slots and enhanced abilities which makes a big difference.
Customization of your ship is offered by allowing a custom insignia and name, but not much else.
While the game is based on the Lore and Story of Battlestar Galactica, it’s really not the focus of the game. Granted you get your missions from Apollo and Starbuck and can visit Adama on the bridge, when you’re flying around and doing your dailies, you do have a sense of dedication to your “side” but beyond that, there’s not much.
The Quests in BSGO are called “assignments” and are a daily set of quests including the destruction of NPCs, Platforms (bases), mining, and PvP. They always give you something to do and often force you to venture into enemy territory which can be quite interesting. The devs also added a card game which can be played once a day or for 200 cubits a pop where you can win prizes of all types. One friend of mine won a dozen or so nukes by spending 4,000 cubits and proceeded to hunt down high level (70+) Cylon liners and take them out in a single run. It was quite a sight to see. The card game (Triad for Colonial and Prophecies for Cylon) also gives “Fragmented FTL Coordinates”. When a player collects 100 of these, they can be turned in to begin the newly added convoy raid mission, which has multiple phases and is designed for a group.
The NPCs are either enemy ships or “neutral” ships (in the form of drones or platforms), all of which will attack you. One interesting point is the systems are inhabited by NPCs from both sides and will fight each other. This allows for some interesting strategies allowing players to flee to other NPC ships from “their side” or even use those ships to take down platforms. So when you venture deep into enemy space, you will often find allied AI ships which can strategically be used to help protect you just in case one of the many opposing side ships on the other side of the system decide to come pay you a visit.
The World is a collection of solar systems which can dynamically be taken over and controlled by each side, so when you log in for the first time each day, it’s often good to see what the balance is as the system your side has controlled for a week may now be enemy territory. When a system is taken over, an outpost is established. This allows for a respawn point and also a store/repair shop once docked. The outpost can also act is a solid defense when you’re overwhelmed and need some defensive aid.
The Ambiance of the game is impressive. Systems are represented by a backdrop planet with numerous planetoids and asteroids, each with a slightly different theme and colorization. It is immersive, and for a web-based game, quite beautiful.
The Enemies aren’t very diverse. They come in the flavor of opposing faction ships, platforms, drones, and of course other players, but fighting them is rather fun because of the different roles of the ships. For example, you can be in an asteroid belt flying a escort and attacking another escort (with ease) and suddenly two strike craft (NPCs) can jump in and completely change the dynamic of the fight as you try to fly your ship in a way which positions the opposing ships so they can’t lay total fire on your ship all while leveraging your weapons and their firing angles. Bring multi-targeting into the mix and before you know it, you’re shooting missiles out of the air while attacking multiple ships and each missile shot down could mean life or death.
The Equipment in BSGO revolves around NPC item drops which are sold for Tylium. You then use Tylium (and cubits) to purchase equipment for outfitting your ship. You can also buy resources, boosters, and ammunition. The four different types of ship “equipment slots” are: Weapons, Computer, Hull, and Engine. The number of slots depends on the ship you are flying, and you can easily switch between ships. One very cool feature of BSGO is you can level up every single piece of equipment you slot to your ship, and believe me, it’s a huge investment and takes a LOT of time to get to the “highest level” (which is 15). That is unless one wants to spend a few hundred dollars and become a “wallet warrior”.
Inventory is managed with a “hold” which doesn’t seem to have a limit. You can sell items in the hold, and when you buy items, unless you drag them directly to your ship to install, they go to your hold. This is where you store ammunition you want the ship to use, anti-missile decoys, charges for equipment, etc. There is also a “locker” which is similar to a bank. This is where you put items you want any ship to access.
The Tutorial is fairly basic yet enough to get the player going. When you log in, you are directed through flight of the ship, basic combat, mining, acquiring assignments, flying around and jumping between destinations.
Guild, Grouping, Events, Social Network, Population, and Spam
As this is a Free to play game there are always griefers and problem people, but I have to say most of the folks I have run into have been quite pleasant to talk with and are friendly. I’ve even seen communications between Colonials and Cylons which are friendly, respectful and overall pleasant. BSGO doesn’t seem to generate a level of “anger” that many other MMOGs do when you get killed by the opposing side, although some people do get frustrated and upset, the community as a whole is a different breed from say people who play WoW/RIFT or Star Trek Online.
The Guild system is called a “wing”. Unfortunately the Wing system is very weak and it’s only really a collection of people with a name.
The Grouping system is basic and much like any other MMOG where you form squads and share in the experience and loot of kills. There are a few bugs with this though, one which prevents squad members from sharing in kills of platforms, a common daily assignment task, and another which prevents squad members added after a mine has been established, from gaining the mining benefits.
The only real events within the game relate to System Control. This feature directly affects the community because when a system owned by one side comes under attack by another, a message is broadcast to every player and this often results in a sizeable fleet which pops in the contested system, often resulting in a large-scale battle. This mechanism brings people together and is quite fun.
BSGO doesn’t really have a real Social Network system, but they do have Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The Population of the servers seems very good as there are always people around and the balance/level of the systems seems to properly distribute the players.
As there is no player trading of items or currency, there is no spam.
Combat, Strategy, PvP, PvE, Progression, Learning Curve, Replayability and End Game
The Combat of BSGO is fun, action packed and smooth. I have yet to lose connection, see skipping or run into technical issues that have affected the 3-dimensional dog-fighting of the game. One can also exercise a high degree of strategy by utilizing multi-targeting guns, controlling speed, positioning the ships and using modifiers and switching between ammunition types. Of course the most powerful ammunition in the game costs cubits and cannot be purchased with Tylium.
PvP is what the game is all about and it’s very well done. Pilot skill mixed with character skills, level and the way a ship is not only outfitted but what upgrades it has, makes all the difference. More than once, just making the wrong turn resulting in a bad angle or missing a missile before it strikes can quickly change a win into a loss. Players acquire Merits when doing PvP, and when a player acquires enough Merits, they can purchase the advanced version of some very cool ships or spend 10,000 merits to command the Pegasus in battle for an Hour (or until it’s destroyed).
PvE is fun as well as it can be mixed in with PvP and vice versa as I’ve pulled PvPers into NPCs resulting in their destruction. You have to be careful when just doing PvE as well given ships can jump in on top or around you with little to no warning. While you’re on a juicy level 20 liner to get some valuable loot, just one or two strike craft coming into range can change everything, especially if you can’t shoot down the missiles or manage the attack vectors and damage of the ships.
There is definite Strategy in BSGO as it relates to weapon type, optimal range, angles of attack, ammunition types and more. Highly skilled pilots will be able to manage their optimal distance to target while maintaining the best angle of attack, thus inflicting more damage. Defensive maneuvers can also be made as strike pilots can (and yes this is what they say in-game) “park in the butt” of the large liners and hide from their big guns. This is why liner pilots are concerned about high level strike pilots. I personally witnessed a single Cylon strike pilot (Chiggy, you know who you are) take out two fully armed Liners who were guarding a mine. He did this by using his speed, angle of attack, ammunition, and the weakness of the liners (slow turn speed, etc) against them. It was quite a sight to watch. But the fact the game supports dynamic strategies such as this is impressive, even if Chiggy came right after me when he was done with them.
Character Progression is very slow. Rumor has it the max character level is 255 and so far the most hardcore players have only hit the 80′s, so there’s always progress to be made and it takes a LONG time. I believe this to be a good thing as one of the things which made Mordor and Demise such fun replayable games was the max level cap of 999 which very few players ever achieved. I personally prefer a game which takes a long time to reach the ceiling rather than one which allows the ceiling to be reached in a short period of time and then focuses on “end game content”. A solid game IMO has no “end game content”, just content which a player constantly experiences and utilizes to continually grow.
The Learning Curve is mixed. Ships, equipment and skills are not well introduced or explained, but the game throws you right in the cockpit and before you know it, you’re blowing things up. The UI is terrible though and not intuitive, but then again the learning curve of BSGO is much easier than the learning curve of EVE Online.
When it comes to replayability the game has a certain aspect of repetitiveness, however it’s fun and the unknown max character level makes progression and growth a continual process. There is no real “end game” as the content is all about doing daily assignments, securing mines, taking systems and taking out either humans or toasters all while leveling up and improving your equipment.
Operation, Interface, Graphics, Sound, and Account
The operation of the game is solid. I never had so much as a hiccup with the server during gameplay and only “crashed” once, and it was hard to tell if it was a Chrome or Unity issue. I did, however, have to clear out my cache once because the game wouldn’t start, but once cleared, I never had another issue. The game doesn’t allow you to see what your ping is, but I can say I never encountered any lag or latency at all. This reflects a solid network and back-end infrastructure.
The Interface is poor and unintuitive, but once you get accustomed to it, the UI “works”.
The Graphics are very well done. This includes the ship models, explosions, combat graphics for guns, missiles, flak and other visual effects. It is very cool to see the “jump” flash from a long distance (letting you know something has either jumped in or out) along with explosions in a nearby asteroid field, drawing you to investigate exactly what’s going on. However, one thing I do recommend is turning off Star Fog in the game options. This “feature” is more of a visual hindrance than anything else.
The Sound FX and Music are well done, taken from the new TV series. The sound of each bullet hitting your hull is quite invigorating as you’re attempting to evade a Cylon raider in your MKI strike craft.
Account management is very simplistic and there’s really not much to it.
Help, CSGM (“Customer Service Game Master”), Online Support, Wiki Player Support, and Forums
There isn’t any CSGM feature built into the game, which is disappointing – so if you have a problem, you’ll need to go to the forums and ask there. The level of interaction in the forums seems fairly standard. The Wiki support is very weak as very little is documented regarding ships, stats, equipment, skills, etc.
Battlestar Galactica Online is a very fun game once you get into it. Defending your mine with others, hunting down stragglers, NPCs and platforms, fighting to take over systems, buying new ships, upgrading your equipment and leveling up your skills all within an active living breathing 3-dimensional space-based dog-fighting experience played through your browser, but of such quality you cannot tell it is a browser-based game; easy to sign up for and “jump in the cockpit”, it’s definitely worth trying out for anyone who likes to fly around, shoot guns and missiles, and blow things up in space. Plus you’re constantly building your character and improving your ship’s equipment.
However keep in mind this game is still in BETA. There are numerous bugs, but most of them relate to the User Interface. There are a few other annoyances such as loot sharing and combat kill sharing bugs, but I’m sure they will iron these problems out as the game evolves.
Overall I think the designers and developers at Bigpoint have done a great job and BSGO will be around for quite some time. I look forward to further refinement of the game paired with the official launch. Bigpoint has made an official statement that BETA accounts will not be wiped when the game goes live. This gives additional enticement to players who are considering trying it out now rather than waiting.
If you’re looking for a free, fun space-based shoot’em up MMOG, Battlestar Galactica Online delivers.