For that reason alone, we were given the impression that the folks at Warthog, responsible for developing the game, were developing it out of a passion for the original material rather than to cash in on a licensing deal (although it’s probably no coincidence that the Sci-Fi Channel’s update of BSG is quite close to its premiere) – and it doesn’t hurt that our experience with Warthog’s past space-combat sims have mostly been orgiastic. With enough substance in the game design to keep gamers (particularly to whom the well-crafted nostalgia doesn’t apply) interested, Battlestar Galactica is a solid bit of space-simulation with a few glaring flaws.
Gameplay – The basic gameplay structure is, while nothing hugely innovative, one of the more solid accomplishments in this genre for some time. The basis is a well-intentioned system of energy management that is responsible for things like your missile system and automatic hull-repair, as well as some special moves your ship is able to perform. With mission design that offers some variation in objective but usually resorts to a kill-‘em-all sort in practice, this forces gamers to do something other than hold down on the fire button constantly, allowing for at least a bit of tactical play in the heat of these dogfights. Although here, it does help that the length of time in which you press down the button varies the power of your laser or missile – this also affects quantity in the case of the latter. It may sound a bit more complicated then it is, and although the lack of a formal tutorial may leave you a bit confused at times, it’s all mostly quite intuitive.
This intuitiveness is extremely important, as it serves as the key balance to an often-frustrating automatic targeting system. Instead of picking the next target by importance, the game selects your next target randomly, which can tie you up for time as you cycle through all available targets. And it can be extremely frustrating to lose as much as 25 minutes of gameplay because you were unable to destroy that key target that kept you from fulfilling a mission objective. This could’ve been corrected by not forcing gamers to restart the mission entirely upon the failure of one objective, or simply by polishing the aforementioned targeting problem and a few other hodge-podge flaws about the game design – but either way, these artificially explode the game’s difficulty.
The A.I. is all around quite good – enemy A.I. is challenging but balanced (although in the face of the aforesaid flaws, that balance often ceases to exist.) The A.I. of your squad is generally pretty efficient – there are moments in which there is no more appropriate course of action then to curse the code that brought them into existence, but in general they are able to hold their own around the battlefield. Your performance, evaluated after missions, can unlock wingmen over which you have direct control – these suffer from the same basic flaws as the rest of your squad, but their presence is quite valuable nonetheless.
The core game design here is quite a good one, and if the game weren’t so damned frustrating at points, it would be much easier to enjoy. But it’ll take a bit of extra motivation on the part of the gamer to, in light of all this, see it through to the end.
Graphics – While not in any way mind-blowing or revolutionary, the graphics are still quite easy on the eyes. The ships, which are all either exact replicas or slight modifications on the original show’s designs, are all quite apt – we do wish that there might have been some cumulative model-changes as battles went on, but it’s no huge cause for complaint. Of special note is space itself – Warthog’s rendition of the various shimmering and glowing things whose scientific names have too many syllables for me to even consider remembering is often pristinely beautiful, even (or especially) in the midst of epic, enormously-scaled battles. Various other details get the same amount of attention, such as the weapon effects, and you’ll appreciate that the camera is a bit more active than it often is in any kind of simulation.
Sound – Although the inclusion of some members of the original show’s cast in the game’s voice cast is a clear attempt to play to nostalgia, the overall voice acting is a bit lacking. Gamers will probably notice a stereotyped delivery of most of the lines, and while there are a few exceptions here and there, there is a surprising amount of slack here for such a story driven game. The sound and music effects are quite good, however.
Bottom Line - Despite a solid structure, the key appeal (and focus) of the game’s presentation is to the gamer looking to re-immerse themselves again in the mythos surrounding Battlestar Galactica, and without that sense of nostalgia, it becomes a lot harder to forgive some of the game’s more glaring flaws, especially with a number of pound-for-pound better space sims available on both consoles and PC. With that said, Battlestar Galactica does have a good bit to offer – just not enough that a purchase is warranted.