By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
I chose the "Advanced Campaign" mode of play initially, so let me tell you what it's like. You're given your assignment from Galcom while docked at the base. You then can go and spend some cash on upgrades to your ship, or just hop right into the game. You can also survey each and every part of your ship, assign various crewmembers to different craft, and a boatload of other stuff. When you're ready, you launch. Now your first mission is pretty much to escort a diplomat from one sector to another. So you patrol the area, making sure there's no bad guys about until the diplomat's ready for you. Once he is, you start with the escortin'. You set your course in the Navitron computer, and head on out.
After a few minutes, some bad guys are inevitably going to show up. When this happens (and you should probably be ready for it) you'll launch some interceptors and well…intercept them. Here's where the game gets weird. You can tell the interceptors to just plain attack the bad guys, or you can actually go down into the ship and do it yourself. If you choose to do it manually, you'll notice that the game looks a lot more like the space sims you're acquainted with all of a sudden. And it pretty much is. It's pretty cool, because you can see your own ship off in the distance, and any other interceptors you assigned to engage the enemy will hop in there with you. Neat stuff. So you fight off the bad guys, escort the dude, and collect your cash. Head back to base, and you can upgrade your ship, or most likely, you'll need to repair yourself between missions.
That's the really, really, really simple version of a mission in BC3K. There's a billion and one steps along the way that I either didn't mention at all, or gave the Reader's Digest version of. It makes it very difficult to get into at first, to repeat myself yet again.
If all of this sounds way too complex, you can just try out the "Xtreme Carnage" mode. This is much like your standard space shooter. In this mode, you're dropped into an interceptor in the middle of a spacefight. It seems like a waste of all the stuff that's in the game, but it is a nice distraction, and if nothing else, it's good interceptor practice.
Now the game's had a rough ride in coming out, no question. There's a freeware version of the game available on the BC3K website, and your first inclination will be to download that and try it out. I'd certainly recommend it (in fact, the original version of this review was of that version) but understand that the version that comes on the CD is much more stable, and all in all is a much more "full" game. The CD version comes with two "Advanced Campaign Mode" campaigns for a total of 50 missions, and the mission builder, so you can make your own missions (if you're really hard core about this). The stability of the CD version is enough to warrant purchase, to be honest. The freeware version is definitely worth checking out (assuming you don't mind the 50 meg download, of course) but expect to have quite a few problems running it. While the CD version isn't 100% bug-free, the most recent patches make it pretty solid. The occaisional problem aside, running in software mode was near flawless.
As for the 3D acceleration, while it does make the game prettier, no question about it, I turned it off entirely after a few crashes. I think it's very cool that it's offered, considering how hardware has changed since the game's inception, but the game really isn't about 3D acceleration, it's about the in-depth gameplay. If you have problems running the 3DFX version (and I did…oy, I did) don't bother. It doesn't make that much of a difference in the end.
The question a lot of people have when they first look at Battlecruiser 3000 AD is, "is it worth it?" And the answer to that is well…yes, and no. If you're the type who's looking for an action packed thrill ride of a game, go play Descent: Freespace. If you're looking for something more…cerebral, then by all means, check out BC3K. Because when the game opens itself up to you (or really…when you open yourself up to the game) it becomes one of the most immersing games around. When you get used to your crew, you'll find yourself learning their names…and actually caring when they die. (Hey, I'm not the best commander in the world, you know.) It's very strange in that regard, and there definitely isn't anything else like it. I've done things in BC3K that I didn't know were possible when I first started playing it…like the first time I actually drove across a planet's surface. What other game out there actually lets you control a giant battleship in space, dogfight in an attack ship, and then…drive a lander across a planet? Nothing, plain and simple.
The game desperately needs two things: a new, more intuitive interface, and a serious tutorial system. Badly. Very badly. Take a look at Alpha Centauri as an example of a great interface/tutorial setup. In that game you've got almost as many commands at your disposal (okay…it's not even close. But it's closer than most games at least) and while that game can be intimidating at first, it's got a very nice tutorial that takes you through the ropes. If BC3K could just get these two things there's a lot of people who would be probably enjoy it.
The real story with Battlecruiser 3000 AD is this: you get what you put into it. If you want to play a simple space shooter, you can do that. If you want to take the simplest method possible to solve each assigned task in the Advanced Campaign Mode, knock yourself out. But if you take this stuff really seriously, and I mean really seriously, then you're going to want to take the game by the horns and study it. If you can master the game's interface (and again, it's no piece of cake to do) and you want in-depth gameplay, there's no better bargain than Battlecruiser 3000 AD.
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames. He likes beer.
|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.|