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Preview: Battlestar Galactica Online

When it was first announced we were less than enthused about the Battlestar Galactica series being developed into a free-to-play browser-based MMO. Although we're still scratching our heads at the direction the license-holder's decided to go in, what we saw of the "still in development" title has calmed our nerves. Slightly.

Gallery: Battlestar Galactica Online | 12 Photos

Using the voodoo magic that has powered its other online game worlds, Bigpoint has been able to craft an impressive look to the browser-based MMO. Our demo was extremely limited, only showing us a standard Cylon Raider and human Viper. Although the final game will have out-of-ship interactions, the entirety of the game's combat will take place in space. Sadly, this is another aspect that may be another difficult pill to swallow for fans of the re-imagined Ron Moore series. While space battles certainly played a part in the series, it was the drama and politics that drew in viewers regularly.

Taking place during season two of the television series, Battlestar Galactica Online won't attempt to reshape any of the story you're aware of but "strives" to add new context and detail to it. Unfortunately, Bigpoint isn't ready to divulge any information about how this promise will come to fruition; instead fell back on assurances that the show's creators are heavily involved. "Ronald Moore touches everything," I was told.

In its current iteration, combat in the Battlestar Galactica MMO is both automatic and player-controlled. Primary weapons, such as the lasers as a Cylon Raider, automatically fire when enemy ships come into range. More powerful weapons, such as missiles, are player-controlled. The experience, we're told, can be completely customized. (During the demo there were nine available slots for secondary weapons.)

The out of ship experience can also be fully customizable, according to Bigpoint; however, they wouldn't detail features they were not showing at E3. In terms of how players can access customization options: Users will be able to purchase upgrades and cosmetic items with real earth dollars or, for those who would rather experience it all first-hand, all of the content that is available for sale can be unlocked through the game's normal progression. As was described to us, the players who decide to play the game and do not spend a cent of real money will end up being the best players online through the process of unlocking the content manually. According to Bigpoint, the game will be limited to a level cap of 20 during the initial stages of the game's availability.

During out demo, a Bigpoint rep revealed more information on the game, including the actors involved would be revealed at Comic Con later this year.

As mentioned previously, the game's visuals are rather impressive. It's difficult to say how well the game will maintain its quality when 1500 users -- the current planned max for each of the game's servers -- are connected at once. Also in question is how the game will balance user selection between playing as humans and Cylons. A Bigpoint rep says the company has solutions in mind, but would not share them. As was previously announced, Battlestar Galactica Online will be made available exclusively on the SyFy website. The game's Unity engine allows players to use any available web browser on both the PC and Mac.

Although Battlestar Galactica Online isn't the game we'd wish for the franchise, the title shows promise. At the end of the day you can either play it or forget it exists and your bank account won't notice the difference. For fans of the television series, however, it will be difficult to ignore the game if it makes a mess of the re-imagined franchise's mythology.

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