The universe of Battlestar Galactica is known for its space battles and here you have plenty of them. From the small corvettes, Raiders, Vipers and Raptors through to Basestars and the Galactica herself, you have a full fleet at your command. Equally turned based and real time, it challenges you to think in three dimensions. To track and manage formations and angles of fire.
The first thing to really say here is that this game is a hybrid of real time and turned based. In each ‘turn’ you get the chance to set the actions, commands for your ship. These range from its upcoming movement, to weapons fire, launching and recover smaller craft like your Vipers. As well here you can change the stance its operating in, how offensive or defensive the ship is. Once all of that is set and ready, you then push the button to end your turn. The next ten, fifteen seconds is your commands being executed. Just like the TV shows of the same name, you can watch these battles unfold in a cinematic, which I’ll cover in a bit.
At the core of this game is your fleet. Both the skirmish mode and the campaign have you in command of a fleet in an engagement. Here there’s plenty of ships to choose from. The Manticore is a corvette, fast, nimble and capable of extreme damage if you’re smart and cautious. However, it’s main weapon is only in the front arc, unlike the Adamant frigate, the first of the vessels you can get that carry Vipers. You have obvious cruisers in the brawler, the Minotaur gunship, a missile boat in the Ranger or Janus. You also have the mighty battlestars themselves, Artemis and Jupiter class.
It’s not just Vipers and Raptors you have access to. Additionally, some ships i.e. the Ranger, Janus, Adamant, Manticore, can carry other munitions. Guided missiles, torpedoes, mines and perhaps most importantly, destructive, are the nuclear munitions you can carry. Some of these have large magazines, like the Guided Missiles, which the Nuclear missile does not have that at all. It’s a single shot weapon requiring care and timing to make the best use of.
Just as you have these munitions you can use, you must also defend against them. Vipers have the ability to defend friendly capital ships, shooting down incoming weapons. An ability currently limited to the Battlestars is Flak. This puts up a cloud of fire that destroys anything smaller than a capital ship, friend or foe. Raiders and Vipers suffer equally when in the cloud. Nor can you fire your own missiles through the cloud as well.
One ability that the Colonial Fleet lacks is the ability to hack enemy ships. These first must bypass a fire wall, before they start to impact the ability of the ship to fight. From reduced accuracy, weakening its ability to manoeuvre, there’s plenty to be said for being a Cylon and doing everything you can to hack your Colonial opponent’s heavy hitters. What the Colonial fleet has to counter is the Raptor, one of its main uses in the ECM, boosting the firewalls of friendly capital ships. Also, they can make great heavy bombers.
The campaign is only fourteen missions long, yet it can still take a good while to complete. Here you must manage the colonies as much as your fleets. You need the supplies to build your fleets, which inevitably are going to be tied up hunting enemy fleets down. Not just to destroy them, but to keep your colonies loyal and on side. Many smaller, secondary missions can appear too. Some of them require you to protect a transport, freight or diplomatic, from Cylon attack. Others are hunting wolf packs of raiders, enemy vessels, that have been causing problems. These give you the resource points you need to unlock more and better ship classes. Simply burning through to get your Artemis, Jupiter Battlestars is not a viable strategy.
Audio and Visuals
There’s something I enjoy about this game and it almost puts all of the flaws to shame. That for each encounter, battle, you can view a cinematic reply of it, generated by the game itself. I have countless time watched Cylons decimated in this view, especially when there’s a battlestar opening up with its primary and secondary weapon arrays. It’s a stream of fire lancing through the enemy. This makes the most of the ship models in the game, seeing the turret move, Vipers and Raiders dancing through it. Where this also shines is in the campaign mode, where you have an operations room at your disposal. Here you can explore more of your home, the shipyards. While minimal, it’s a nice touch and tells you how your current campaign is going, if you’re on the verge of victory or defeat. Where it does get let down is in the officers themselves. The portraits are decidedly average at best, if not an actual let down. I also felt more work could have been put in for the rank and logos of their skills. Something more to set them apart.
Going back to these player directed cinematics, it definitely has the sound of Battlestar Galactica. That is unmistakeable. Watching the destruction without that matching sound wouldn’t have worked and been a true let down, a failure to properly channel the spirit of the universe. Where it does work quite well is in the voice acting. While it’s minimal, you don’t need much for the ships, the few characters you have definite accents, tones. The snide remarks of Sinon are delivered with precision, the arrogance of Admiral Lucinda Cain, the cold reasoning of Clothis. I like the fact I could with so little introduction to these characters, so quickly tell them apart without it being a cliche, ham-fisted.
There’s no multiplayer mode present here, which actually I think is something of a shame. A hot seat mode or online play would have stepped this up massively.
It’s a hard game to like at first, yet if you like the universe takes place in or the nature of the combat it very rapidly grows on you. Having two clearly distinct game modes, it can keep you busy for a while. Skirmish is where you can test out your dream teams, against all comers. The campaign is a challenge, longer running game, managing the colonies as much as your fleets. Letting your officers develop and promoting them. It is a shame that for such a core feature, the faces, the lack of animations they are given seem so luckluster next to the ships. Seeing the mighty Galactica herself in such pristine condition was a joy. One I wish lasted that bit longer.
This is also available on the PS4 and the Xbox One.