Summary Judgement:  I still really want to like this game, honestly, I do.  But even when I try to be a team player the fun factor has a half-life of about 15 minutes.

Developed by: Bigpoint

I caught a bit of flak on the forums for my first review of Battlestar Galactica Online, despite the fact that it is now the most viewed page on the Page of Reviews (so thanks for reading, everybody). Inspired by the SyFy series of the same name, BSG Online is a “free to play” MMORPG set in the post-Pegasus era of the television series’ second season.  In an attempt to respond to some of my detractors, I decided to give up a few more hours of my life to this time sucker of a space sim.

First and foremost, I stand behind my initial review; there are some things that BSG Online does wonderfully.  The space combat, for instance, is remarkably addictive and a technical wonder considering that this is a browser game.  In an age where space sims get none of the respect that they deserve, BSG Online’s combat mechanics are rock solid.  Unfortunately the game’s bad aspects far outweigh the good.  Most notably therein, the ability to buy experience points creates a systemically flawed environment wherein power purchasers can skip over everything that defines the MMO genre.  I don’t know that I’ve seen that exploit in action but much like American Idol, Canadian Idol and every other televised karaoke contest, the potential shortcut to the top irks me.  I also don’t enjoy that the game does nothing to dress up its obligatory material farming and level grinding.

But Shaftoe, the game is oriented toward group play and PvP, if you’re just flying about on your own, then you’re not going to get the whole experience.

Fair point.  I may have joined a few impromptu squadrons before writing my first review but perhaps I didn’t spent enough time grouped up.  Having amassed a tidy pile of Tylium, I bought myself a Raptor and kitted it out for mining.  Summoning my courage, I typed three letters into the chat window.  The three letters that gamers love to hate: LFG – looking for group: a desperate plea into the digital abyss. Within about thirty seconds of sending out my LFG request I got the following reply:

““Hey Adam, I thought you hated this game.”

To say that I basked in a moment of recognition is an understatement.

At any rate, I managed to team up with two other players, both of whom were flying Vipers.  My Raptor was armed with two mining cannons and a few energy buffs, so it seemed like the ideal group until we actually started mining.  Although we all had mineral scanners attached to our ships, there was no way to know who had scanned what asteroid.  The game might colour code useful rocks upon being scanned, but there’s no way for people in a group to see what the others have inspected.  Nor does the game offer a way to flag asteroids devoid of useful minerals.  To avoid scan overlap we had to spread out our formation.  We managed in that way for some time.  Yet, other than the occasional piece of chat banter, it still felt lonely and counter-productive. Without a way to effectively combine our efforts, why mine as a group?  While there may not be a way to make mining an exciting experience, is it too much to hope for a patch that makes the process a bit less asinine?

After a few not so satisfying hours of mining/getting my Raptor blown up, I decided to give squadron based combat a serious examination.  I switched back to my Viper and kitted its three weapon bays with cannons.  Missiles, in my estimation, are extra-strength useless as most dogfights turn into a brawl inside a missile’s minimum range.

But Shaftoe, missiles are useful for bombarding escorts and capital ships from a distance.

Yeah well I’m still noob enough that if I see anything bigger than a fighter I’m already dead so what’s the point?  Besides, why should I spend cubits on a nuke if it’s just going to get shot out of the sky?  Hey look at that, another way Bigpoint tries to get you to spend some premium currency.

This particular LFG request got me in a squadron with three other Viper pilots.  After about forty minutes of blowing up Cylon NPCs, a few of which did out class our motley little group, I noticed that one of our pilots had gone AWOL.  He was still in the group but nobody could find his ship.  Our wingman had deserted us.  Subsequent exploration and research revealed that during his idle time he was still collecting a share of the loot.  How the hell does that work?  Shouldn’t you have to be in the vicinity of the fight to collect loot? Is this Battlestar Galactica or Battlestar Welfare State?  When solo NPC hunts in safer sectors net me an average of 15,000 Tylium per hour (my escort class ship costs 300,000 Tylium) why should I bother to split experience points and loot with other players?  If things keep going this way, I’m fucking well going to vote for Gaius Baltar.

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, BSG 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.

Overall Score: Remains a -3.  Here’s the breakdown:

+3 for game play

+1 for the killer soundtrack

-3 for the stupid XP store

-2 for a shallow questing system

-1 for pain in the ass mining mechanics

-1 for stupid loot division