When I first heard there was going to be a Battlestar Galactica game I was fairly excited about the possibilities. Thoughts of a sci-fi RPG or a cool Wing Commander like space shooter bandied about in my head. Then I found out that the game was going to be an arcade shooter on Xbox Live and the PC and my heart sank. Really? We're going to take one of the best sci-fi properties on the market and use it to build a game that has nothing to do with the show? Seriously? It was bad enough that EA whored the Wing Commander property for something similar earlier this year and now Ron Moore's baby was going to get the same treatment.
It was with a bit of trepidation that I fired up the PC preview build of the game. Originally going to pass this off to Ben to preview at but I figured I'd give it a shot before handing it off. What I found surprised me a bit as the folks at Auran have done a decent job of delivering a solid game that has a lot of the flavor of the licensed property it's based on.
This flavor of the series really comes through the campaign mode in the single player side of the game where you get to play select missions from the TV series. The final game will feature ten missions from the three seasons of the show. Of the ones included in the preview build I did enjoy the mission based around the episode for "33", "Scar", and "Exodus". The "33" mission has you defending Galactica while she tries to escape the Cylon invasion, preventing the Cylons for launching nukes at Galactica. "Scar" has you trying to take out a Cylon ace pilot, and "Exodus" has you defending ships as they escape from New Caprica. These missions do correspond to some of my favorite episodes of the series so your mileage may vary (I still think Exodus part 2 has one of the best sci-fi moments ever shown on TV).
The real problem with the campaign mode is that the missions skip around a bit and there's no overriding narrative to tie the missions together. This doesn’t matter if you know the series really well but those who haven’t caught the show are going to get lost. This is due to the fact that the source material really isn't based around space combat. This probably isn’t that big of a deal as the main focus of the game is the mutliplayer component part of the game (something I didn't check out since the game isn't in production yet).
Graphically the game isn't a looker but it's not a game that you'd kick out of bed. The models for the ships (four Cylon and four human) are pretty solid but some of the backgrounds you fly against are a bit on the weak side. I'm not sure if this will be fixed in the final version but playing the game at 1680X1050 made the Galactica and Basestar models look a little blocky and while this isn't a deal breaker it was a bit of a let down. There are a lot of nice touches like the jump to lightspeed animations that really make it feel like the folks at Auran are fans of the series.
Controlling the fighters took a bit of getting used to as I had to tweak the controls a bit. The game utilizes realistic space physics so flying your Viper/Raider/Cyclon raider is all about managing momentum. You have options for increasing/decreasing speed, rolling left/right, as well as an afterburner and brake. As a WASD guy I found that mapping the speed buttons to W and S and rolling to A and D worked best with Q and E mapped to the afterburner and brake. To steer the ship I used the mouse with mouse button one firing the guns and button 2 firing missiles. The two final buttons are the flip turn (Z) and the special weapons button (space bar). Once I finally got the keys through my thick skull I was able to take out enemies with aplomb. I'm not sure how the controls will map on the 360 version of the game but the PC controls are rock solid and very tight.
The really frustrating part of the game for me was the angle of the screen. It's very hard to find enemies on the screen because of how high the view angle is. You get a great look at things to the left and right of your ship but I always felt like I was trying to look up through the top the top of the monitor to find enemies as they came on screen. I eventually got used to it but it would have been nice to be able to make the angle a little bit lower.
If you liked the Wing Commander game that EA released earlier this year than you'll dig Battlestar Galactica. Shooter fans might also dig the game but I'm not sure that hardcore Battlestar fans are really going to get a lot out of the game though. Sure you get to play through missions based on the best moments of the first three seasons of the series but the game doesn't really broaden or deepen the mythos of the franchise.
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