By Adam Shaftoe from pageofreviews.com
Upon its February 8th release, I spent a good nine hours with Battlestar Galactica Online. Despite the best graphics I have ever seen in a browser based game, I find myself so far from impressed that it almost defies explanation. After going through a rather simple character creation system, I was thrown into the cockpit of my Viper. There, a badly drawn rendering of Katee Sackhoff tossed a few text bubble insults my way before, surprise surprise, the Cylons interrupted my training mission. One close encounter with a (sigh) alien McGuffin later and both the Cylon and Colonial fleets are FTL'd beyond the redline and into parts unknown.
The real travesty is that Battlestar Galactica Online lets players buy experience points with Cubits. What the frak is the point of having a levelling system if some dork, armed with his mom's credit card, can buy a few million Cubits, level up over night and then use the leftover money to buy a ship that can shoot a hole in space-time? Said power player could even get around the time delayed skill development tree by buying buffs that speed up the wait time on learning new abilities. It is as if NBC Universal, Bigpoint and Art Plant are saying, "If you want a fair gaming experience, go play one of those subscription games like Star Trek Online or EVE. We're the game you want to play if you have an addictive personality, three major credit cards and enjoy being a douche while lording your wealth over those poorer than yourself." Who makes a game that is so disgustingly overt about its unfairness? I don't know if it is the inherent injustice that makes me angry, or the fact that they are taking the second best space opera of the last twenty years and using it to push a shitty product.
On a side note, players can't upgrade the Mark II Viper to the oh-so-sexy Mark VII, even with premium content. As a Viper pilot I upgrade to a Raptor or some ugly non-canon ships. How the hell is the fraking school bus an upgrade from a Viper? It's like trading Mad Max's V8 Interceptor for a Ford Windstar.
Much as I've enjoyed tearing this game to shreds, it really does pain me to do so. I wanted so much for this to be a fun game. Even as I write these words, I want to jump back into the cockpit of my Viper and blow up some Cylons. But the joke of free and egalitarian gaming ruins any potential for long term fun. I'm not opposed to paying for a product, but doing so shouldn't prejudice the game in favour of the big spenders. My philosophy is that you charge everybody the same and give everybody the same chance for success. MMOs work because they are libertarian spaces; players have equal chances for success so long as they keep their wits about them. When intelligence fails, there is always a marathon grinding session. Compulsive as they may be, you have to respect the dedication of a person who gives up all other forms of social contact to grind in an MMO. With its venal trade system Battlestar Galactica Online is so much like our world that it makes me long for the lesser injustices of office politics
I will say this for the game, group based NPC hunting is a lot more satisfying than group based mining. Watching four Vipers open up their guns on an unsuspecting Cylon is nothing short of awesome. It's those occasional moments of greatness amid the time spent treading the depths of tedium, boredom and downright frustration that makes this game such a tragedy. While it might never have the depth of Eve, Battlestar Galactica Online is just a few tweaks from being a decent game. With a little tweaking after that, this could be an answer to the question of whatever happened to Wing Commander Online?
Absent the aforementioned changes, I can't see what is going to keep people coming back to this game. Good old fashion addiction only gets you so far in online niche gaming. No amount of ship-to-ship combat could be good enough to mask the tedium of grinding while others potentially buy their way to the top. In short, Bigpoint needs to do more than bank on gamers' dedication to the franchise if they want to keep this ship afloat.
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