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volume 1, issue 27

Today in loonygames:

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Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

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Serious Brass Ones: Jason "loonyboi" Bergman sits down with Derek Smart, the man behind Battlecruiser 3000 AD.

History: Derek Smart's definitive history of Battlecruiser 3000 AD. Re-edited, and with a new introduction by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman.

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Off the Shelf:
Battlecruiser 3000 AD

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Title: Battlecruiser 3000 AD
Publisher: Interplay
Developer: 3000 AD

Average Price: $20

 

here has been a great deal written about the story behind Battlecruiser 3000 AD's development, so I'll just skip that and get right to the meat here. Besides, this is a review of the game here, and not a history of its creation.

So let's talk about the game, because there's a great deal here that deserves discussion. The concept for Battlecruiser 3000 AD is a fairly intriguing one. Chances are that you've seen a space sim before…you know the type…any of the Wing Commander games, Descent: Freespace, I-War, or anything like them. Battlecruiser 3000 AD is not in the same genre as these games, although your initial impressions might suggest otherwise. If you've ever seen screenshots from the game, chances are you're thinking that it's a space sim (it's okay to admit…I did at first). But in fact, while Battlecruiser 3000 AD has some things that are similar to that particular style of game, they only make up a miniscule part of the whole experience (and can even be left out entirely if that's your thing).

So okay…I've established what the game isn't, but what about what it actually is? There's the problem I ran into here…there's really no easy way to describe the game, which probably accounts for its "cult" status. I suppose figuring out what the game is can be such a challenge, that it's sort of an initiation ritual of sorts. :)

Here's what I've come to accept it as: it's a Picard simulator. If you're not a trekkie, that might make no sense to you whatsoever…but to geeks like me that's the perfect way to describe it. You play the captain of a giant spaceship (hence the "battlecruiser" in its title) and you control everything that happens on your ship. And when I say everything, I mean everything. The game can be extremely intimidating (more so than even Falcon 4.0!) because of this.

So you're a captain, on this big ol' spaceship. You've got 150 (!!) officers waiting to take your orders, an engineering room, a full communication system, interceptors that you can send out to kick some hostile ass, probes to survey alien areas, you've even got the ability to land on planets, if that's your schitck (although be warned…it's a bitch). But wait…there's more. See, you're not alone in this universe. There are 25 habitable systems, 75 planets, and over 140 moons, and each one of those is populated and controlled by somebody. And each of those somebodies has their own desires, motivations, and intentions. Some are nice guys, and some are not.

Now, you're a Galactic Command (Galcom) officer in this huge universe. There are two main modes of play to choose from (leaving "Xtreme Carnage" aside…I'll come back to that). Choosing "Free Flight" mode sounds easier, but I quickly discovered that it was much harder (at least for me). In "Free Flight" mode, you are stuck on a ship and thrown into the universe. Call this the true, Star Trek mode of play. You set off on your own, and wait to run into stuff. It can be really weird if this is your first time playing it…I wouldn't recommend starting the game with this mode. In the "Advanced Campaign" mode you're given specific instructions from Galcom, and you have to carry them out. It's no piece of cake, but it sure is less intimidating, that's for damn sure. Not sure if this says anything about me, but I definitely needed some direction. In the "Free Flight" mode, I found myself getting lost very quickly.

Whichever mode of play you choose, you'll be dropped into the ship to do your thing. Here's where the game gets hard core, and where most people will probably stop playing if they're not up to the challenge. You see, because you've got so much stuff at your disposal (believe me…I haven't even scratched the surface of the options at your fingertips) the game is just a major information overload. So is Falcon 4.0 at first, but where that game has a giant hardbound binder to help you along Battlecruiser 3000 AD has a 26 page manual that gets you started and leaves you hanging. Now in BC3K's defense, it should be pointed out that the game does in fact come with a full (and quite comprehensive) manual…but it's in PDF format. So while you can certainly read up on the game (and believe me, you'll have to if you want to actually play the thing) you're going to have to do it on a computer screen. And since the game's MSDOS based, multitasking can be a mistake…it has a tendency to crash when switching back and forth between the manual and game. The BC3K webpage offers a printed version for sale, but while I appreciate that, I wish it were part of the actual package. Besides, the manual costs as much as the game itself! So anyway, be prepared to read the manual without actually playing the game at the same time. It's a bitch…but hey…that's life.

You've chosen your mode of play, and you've read the manual…so you think you're ready to kick some alien booty, right? Wrong, buddy. Now you've got to actually learn to play. And jeeeez…is there ever a learning curve involved. Because there are so many options at your fingertips, it all comes screaming at you at once. And nope…there's no tutorial. You're pretty much on your own here. What really doesn't help matters, is the fact that the game is massively complex, and has a really clunky interface. Back in my review of Railroad Tycoon II I wrote that I thought that game had a complex interface…BC3K trounces it and keeps on running. A good deal of the commands are available by clicking your mouse to open up a menu. From here you can assign orders to your officers, check on various subsystems, and other things…depending on where on the screen you click. A fundamental problem with the game's interface lies in the fact that it's never really abundantly clear where on the screen you want to click to bring up a particular menu. Like all things in BC3K you'll learn it eventually, but the game doesn't make it especially easy for you.

 

(Continued on next page)

Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Bargain Bin is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and like, in poor taste, dude.