Browser games tend to leave a lot to the player's imagination. Graphics barely make it pass the minimum level requirement, sounds are ignored, and anything related to some sort of story is just suggested. Battlestar Galactica, the new Browser MMORPG developed by Bigpoint and Artplant, redefines this rule and anything related to this media. The game is currently in its closed beta stage and we took this opportunity to try out first hand many of its surprisingly complex features.
Battlestar Galactica is a Sci-Fi MMORPG combining an arcade flight simulator with some 3rd person RPG elements. With the spotlight being on the first most of the time you will be controlling a ship and not its pilot. At the start of the game you will have to choose between two factions: the Cylons and the Humans. With the player base thus fragmented and with the artificial conflict in place, the premises for PVP are set. While opting for one faction or the other will certainly impact a lot of visual elements, it will not influence your gameplay (as long as the two sides are perfectly balanced of course). The next choice you will have to make is deciding which of the two available ships you wish to control and start the game with. Again: not actually a choice as the differences between them are insignificant. One on them is focused on superior firepower, speed and maneuverability, while the other's traits are superior in fields such as electronic warfare and mining. However, both allow you to perform all available actions at almost equal efficiency. With that in mind and with the fact that as you level up you will gain access to more powerful and more specialized vessels, choosing the starting ship is reduced to a matter of visual appearance and player taste.
All this initial preparation is not enough to protect you against the shock you are going to experience once you actually start playing. Not only the game looks like a DVD pc game, also sounds like it and behaves like it. First I thought that maybe something was installed on my hard drive without me knowing it, but no, that was not the case. The game runs fully within the browser, but if you remove the browser toolbars and switch to full screen (F11 in both IE and Firefox) there is absolutely no indication left that you are playing a browser game. I am amazed of what can be done with the new Unity engine and as a gamer I can only hope more developers will look into the possibilities made available by it.
Battlestar Galactica's story doesn't shine from any point of view and for those that took no interest in the TV shows, lack of plot deepness and story intricacies might prove detrimental to the overall gameplay experience. When you dock with a battleship or with a space station you start controlling the pilot character you created and with it you can interact with some of the NPCs present on location. But they aren't helping much with story development either, as most provide you with maintenance or upgrade options for your ship, repeatable quests and an interface for a general store. So if are looking for a story driven experience, BSG doesn't seem to have enough for you. But if player driven content is sufficient in your book, then your experience will be completely different.
Exposure to PVP is not restricted or limited in any way. From the very beginning you can initialize your FTL (faster than light) drive, work your way to a contested or enemy sector and start looking for opponents. However keep in mind that the further you go from the starting area the higher the chances are you will encounter aggressive NPCs that you will not be able to defeat. As apparently any sector apart from the initial starting area can be claimed by either faction at any time, there will always be enough reasons for some ass-whipping. Those focused more on PVE however, are bound to be disappointed or get bored at some point or another. The repeatable quests are simply not enough, no matter how you look at things and especially for players looking for a string of meaningful activities. I found nothing to resemble dungeons or public quests, no action house or player generated economy, no crafting system, no PVE events and in general no PVE activity with any kind of depth or meaning attached to it. Due to this lack of meaning and of a general sentiment of progression, the game might feel grindish and even boring at times.
Character development is similar to that of EVE online and to be completely honest many of BSG's elements are borrowed or inspired from the popular and widely known Sci-Fi MMORPG. As you perform in-game actions such as mining, killing enemies, you will gain experience points and levels.
Depending on the experience points accumulated you will also gain training points. The skills you can then access are split into primary skills and secondary skills, and each of them will enhance a certain ability or stat by a percentage for each level of training. While primary skills can be trained up to any level with no restrictions apart from the pool of training points available, secondary ones can never be trained above the level of the primary ones related to them. Training any skill will take time, time which will grow with each skill level and will start at values around fifteen minutes and will end up reaching values such as hours. This system of character progression leaves room to a lot customization and also makes PVP more challenging. In any encounter you can learn some things from the very beginning from the class of the opposing player's ship, but you can't tell anything about his or her skills or ship equipment until you engage that player in combat.
Accessing new ships is limited by two requirements: level and resources. I said resources and not money as BSG seems delighted to mix the two terms randomly. The main currency is Cubits. They are hard to come by in the game and everyone will try to avoid spending them randomly because if you want to access the best the game has to offer in terms of equipment you will need cubits. Then there is tylium which is both a resource as it is used for things such as FTL travel and also a currency which you can use in store, alone or coupled with cubits. And then there are two more resources: water and titanium. It's understandable the need to have your main currency protected by in-game inflation, especially if the game is an F2P micro-transaction based MMORPG from which the developers hope to profit by selling in-game money to the players. What I can't possibly understand is how one can expect the game to work and be popular in the long run when all the best items in the game are available for purchase only with enormous sums of cubits. This is no longer a free to play system, but a pay to win system, and I personally resent its implications.
If we are to compare Battlestar Galactica with other PC MMORPG Games then the game looks a bit shallow, but by adding to the equation the fact that it runs fully in the browser, Battlestar Galactica becomes a trendsetter and an important time stamp in gaming history. It’s better to keep that in mind when analyzing its features as it makes a world of difference. So, for a browser game, the game’s graphics are simply amazing, its complexity astonishing, and its gameplay addictive. With an closed beta version almost bug free I believe that by the time it’s released the game will have no glitches or stability issues at all, and that’s more than can be said about any other MMO currently available on the market. If you are a fan of the MMO Sci-Fi genre then Battlestar Galactica is a game you most certainly should look into. And if you are not, then do yourself a favor and at least try the game. Your time will be well spent.
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