F2P Of The Day: Battlestar Galactica Online Has A Plan

F2P of the Day is a recurring feature in which we select and sample a game that you can play without spending a dime.

Probably the most depressing thing about the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, aside from the highly controversial last 15 minutes of the series finale, is that unlike some other franchises we could mention, it’s never going to get the truly massive video game treatment it deserves. We won’t complain about games that get the tone and spirit of the show right, not at all, but it would be nice if just once, a BSG action-RPG could be slipped into the world in between KOTOR, Mass Effect or whatever the latest Star Trek game happens to be.

Alas, it’s not to be, at least not unless BSG manages to get a successful spin-off that proves the show has wider appeal than the (small, but awesome) group of dedicated fans who failed to make Caprica a hit. Until then, BSG shares a room with Babylon 5, and that means fans have to make due with what they can get. And what they can get is Battlestar Galactica Online, a F2P ship-focused MMO set just after the events of the late third season of the TV series.

Quick summary: Taking place immediately after the human fleet destroyed the Cylon resurrection ship1, the Cylons have attacked the human fleet and, due to some kind of hyperspace wedgie, both the human and Cylon fleets have been transported to an uncharted region of the galaxy. Heavily damaged, they now must busy themselves with repairing their ships enough to return to known space, while at the same time fighting each other (presumably) to the death. That means lots of resource gathering and ship to ship combat. Think Homeworld meets, well, Battlestar Galactica and you get the idea.

A few note about basic play – BSG Online is browser-based, which means Macshirts and PC gamers can set aside their differences the way Humans and Cylons should have done, and enjoy the game. It also means you won’t have to drop your bank account for a new computer; just make sure your browser is compatible, and tip top. All good news. So head over, create and account and pick a side – players can choose to be Human (colonial), or Cylon, thus determining your resource goals, missions and Gaius Baltar’s favorability ratings. Easy! I chose to stand with Humanity because as much as I love Caprica 6, Admiral Adama is my homie 4 life.

A you’d expect, there isn’t much of a narrative. There are general missions that pretty much work the same for everyone, and the occasional special mission that have more oomph, plot-wise. Typically, you’ll do one of two things: 1) search deep space for resources which you’ll be able to mine via shooting at them, take them back to the fleet for repairs and collect HP and the in-game currency; 2) Receive instructions for attacking and killing. Pretty simple, right?

People expecting deep immersion into the BSG universe might be somewhat disappointed. While you will create an avatar, it won’t really matter since you don’t really interact with other players. You do, however, interact with members of the Galactica crew; for instance, your training mission is with Starbuck, and that’s just cool. The controls are super simple – almost everything is handled via mouse – and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Better still, the graphics are off the chain. BSG Online uses the unity 3D engine which is as good as they’re claiming. The blackness of space is deep, dark and rich. The ships have incredible detail. And the camera, always centered behind the player, works surprisingly well at making you feel viscerally involved in combat.

Flaws include the in-game currency system which includes the option to purchase said currency with real money. Since in-game currency is used to purchase upgrades for your ship and unlock new items, it means people who are willing to blow real money are going to get a leg up. That makes for some unbalanced play, as I found out. Sigh. Still, overall it’s a beautiful, true-to-source fun good-time diversion, provided you like flying ships in space, hearing evocative music and seeing awesome mccoolpants, AKA Edward James Olmos, in digital form.

Verdict? It’s free; it doesn’t feel like a total rip off; it feels like it belongs in the BSG universe. Give it a try over at the official site.

1) Dammit, they never did anything with Kara Thrace being the agent of our destruction. WTF, guys?

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