The space-fighter simulation game Battlestar Galactica Online is a massively multiplayer 3D experience that mimics the Syfy Channel Original television series of the same name, the 2004 reboot of the original Battlestar Galactica series from the 1980s (starting in 1978.) It’s a technically beautiful, workable browser-based free-to-play Flash game developed by Bigpoint and Artplant and published by Bigpoint.

It makes liberal use of the rebooted Syfy Battlestar Galactica universe, characters, looks, and technology. For anyone who has watched the series, it’s very much tight with everything that happened in the series.

You’ll get to talk to characters such as Admiral Adama, Starbuck, Apollo, Six, and Boomer (among others) when you walk around battlestars and basestars—depending on which faction’s flag you choose to fly.

The work on the graphics, sound, and engine do not disappoint and there’s a growing player base to jump in with. So there’s a lot to look forward to in this game, especially for fans.

Sound and Graphics: Space, it’s full of Syfy Original music!

The renderer feels pretty strong and high polygon, the computer I run on is a generation out but still pretty powerful. The footprint is probably not as small as other Flash based games, but it looks like it’ll run alright on most systems bought within the past five years.

You’ll be tempted with music from the television series on more than one occasion. It’s fairly decent and understated; but it swells and crescendos during combat. The firing of guns and explosions in space fit the sound effects that you expect from a space fighter. The guns chatter, the missiles screech from their cradles leaving plumes of smoke, and enemy fire spangs against your hull like rain on a tin roof. (And generally then you explode.) Ship movement produces a satisfying engine hum and docking produces the deep, throaty metallic rumble of clamps connecting and hauling you into the hangar.

I describe the hangars and lobbies below where you get to walk your human form (outside of your ship) but most of this game takes place out in space. Huge vistas of black filtered through with apparent space dust, nebulae, and stars twinkling in the background. Most of space will be this limitless nothing that you stare at while waiting to come into range of a grey blob that your targeting reticule tells you is an enemy battlestar, basestar, or fighter.

The HUD is so intrinsic to the game, you’ll get used to its sound and motion as you play, clicking to and fro as you guide your ship into firing range.

Gameplay: Welcome to space, Nugget, grab the stick and shoot someone!

Part of the game is played in a lobby where you have a character that walks around a space—if you’re a Cylon it’s a basestar, if you’re a Colonial you get to walk around a battlestar. In each scenario there are various NPCs hanging around who will offer you missions, give you briefings, sell you stuff, and fix your ship. The internals of the places are fairly reasonably rendered. For example, the fighter bay in the Cylon basestar has the illusion of a huge hangar (even though you can only traverse a small section of it) the renderer focuses you on the NPCs you need to interact with and guides the eye away from the space doors and other regions you cannot walk to.

I suspect the space is so vast to allow for all the different types of space fighter that the player can obtain throughout the game. There are sections of the floor obviously set out for them to park on.

No other players are visible in the lobby.

Of course, as a Cylon you play a cylon centurion and not one of the human-form cylons.

Customization is minimal for the Cylon faction, you get to paint your centurion, swap between a few “damaged” textures, and that’s about it. A similarly modest selection is available for Colonials. The real effort of this game has been put into the ships and ship-combat simulation than into the characters themselves. Syfy probably had the lobby area created specifically to add a humanizing concept and allow them to introduce characters from the TV series into the property more than anything else.

The bulk of the game is flown in space in a sort of ship-simulation rendered in the browser. Most of the controls are straightforward and directly tied to the mouse and WASD controls, throttle at the mousewheel. Almost everything is accessible via the HUD, which provides a tactical display and point-and-click control over combat. The guns are fairly much automatic and will start firing (if you’ve activated them) when they’re in range and depending on how sophisticated your guns, they’ll generally wipe out lesser foes.

In PvE, most of the time I found myself practicing coming up on and holding an enemy drone or fighter in my reticule while trying not to outrun them (or let them outrun me.)  In PvP, everything seemed like a foolhardy gamble where it was kill-or-be-killed and that got decided in one or two passes where it was my buddies who splashed someone or three people ganged up on me at once.

Both sides have basically the same series of ship configurations to work with: strike craft x3, escorts x3, and ships-of-the-line x3 (these are the big guns.) Each configuration fills a different combat role based on their class and loadout. The names of ships of the line pretty much will remind anyone familiar with Norsk mythology of the various heroes and gods such as the Fenrir, Hel, Jormung, Aesir, Vanir, etc. All three classes have three configurations: rapid attack (interceptor,) tanking (assault), and command (electronic warfare midway speed/armor.) Strike craft are small fighters that rely on being maneuverable and capable of weaving in and out of combat; escorts are used to defend heavy ships like ships-of-the-line, often laden with missiles and armor for extended loiter time; line ships are the command-and-control combat platforms designed to provide heavy artillery and firepower for region supremacy but they’re vulnerable to smaller craft due to their slow turn rate.

The game plays out over an entire sector where both sides take and hold territory or colonies. As the game progresses the two factions battle over regions of space for control and form fleets out of whomever will come fly with them. While players can run missions they can receive from NPCs in battlestars and basestars; they will quickly be sucked into the PvP aspect by fellow players calling out for assistance. The battles seem intense and run in a sort of rock-paper-scissors fashion (where particular ships are ideal for pummeling apart other types of ships) but often the dogfights are short, disorganized and pointless for beginners.

Conclusion: It’s a solid in-browser game with a powerful Flash rendering engine.

The game is more-or-less a themepark game designed to hearken back to the Syfy Channel Original series for Battlestar Galactica. It does a pretty good job of that by supplying characters, environments, ships, and technical jargon that fits directly into the world of that series. There’s also a noticeable community in there vying in the PvP and attempting to take over the game universe.

In fact, the game has received such popular acclaim that they surpassed two million active players by the end of May. It won’t be difficult to find someone to chill with or shoot at in the highly active combat system; and for those not into PvP, there’s a plethora of logistics and armament missions that involve PvE and/or running supplies to various colonies to help turn the tide of the PvP battles.

If you liked the Syfy Channel Original Series this might be a good way to vicariously experience it again in the company of people who are also fans.

The pace is a little slow but it’s difficult to argue with results, a powerful rendering engine, and a huge player base.

4 COMMENTS

    • Hah, I see you’ve written your own review of the game there (linked). But to answer your question, I haven’t gone back to the game since I jumped in to get an impression of how it played. One thing that I really found compelling was that there were so many people in the game actively trying to lasso in other players to help them defend or take locations. The massive and active community really made me think the game was worth putting an article up about.

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