Battlestar Galactica Online
I wanted to start with my best Colonel Tigh "frakkin' Cylons!" impression, but Cylons get bonus XP in Battlestar Galactica Online, so I joined the Toasters. If that sentence didn't make sense to you...don't worry. If you like blowing stuff up in space, you don't need to know much about the TV show's complex and often contradictory lore.
Quick Battlestar Galactica summary: Cylons are sentient robots who rebelled against their human masters; the surviving humans are fleeing through space; both sides shoot at each other a lot. This game sets aside the series' complex interpersonal dramas, philosophical and moral debates, and ruminations on the soul to focus on things going kablooey.
The first mission sets up the premise for BSG Online. A large chunk of the Cylon and Colonial fleets is sucked into an unstable sector of space, where they must establish bases, mine for ore and fuel, and blow each other up. It's a decent way to wedge the necessities of an MMORPG into the show's storyline. Other tutorial missions show you the basics of targeting, combat, and mining. Well, sort of. The tutorials could use another pass at polish; I usually figured out what I was supposed to do, but much of that was by hovering over buttons until I got a popup. Other parts of the game, such as the purchase and upgrade system, I just stumbled into.
Purchase? Oh, yes. You need to buy advanced weapons, armor, and other systems, as well as better ships, which offer different combat options (speed, firepower, survivability). You buy your upgrades and new ships with currency you earn during missions, such as tylium ore. It's a necessary game mechanic, and getting new gear is always a drive in persistent world games.
Battlestar Galactica Online's skill system which owes more than a little to EVE Online, in that you improve skills solely by expending time--click a skill book, and wait several minutes, and, ding! You're better at shooting guns, even if all you did was wander around the hangar bay. It is not necessary to pay real cash simply to advance your character, though that is an available shortcut.
You can take on missions from various characters, or you can just jump into space, bring up the map, and jump to a nearby system. BSG Online players can mine asteroids, establish bases, and otherwise seek to expand their side's territory at the expense of the other. You can also upgrade beyond fighters, to escorts and even larger vessels, all explained via the game's backstory of finding "unknown" ships in this sector of space.
Battlestar Galatica Online has some rough edges. Some item names are bugged, so you see something like "Weapon_Object_Ranged_5" instead of "Kill-O-Zap Blaster." Humanoid animations are basic. There's no voiceover from the series characters (at least not so far).
Battlestar Galactica Online offers a rich experience, especially for a browser-based game, but it will need to add content quickly to avoid becoming stale and repetitive. Space is a dull environment, no matter how many glowing clouds you add to the screen. EVE Online thrives due to its cutthroat PVP and deep economic and crafting models. BSG Online is probably not trying to clone EVE, but it needs to add similar depth.
Battlestar Galactica Online is free, though, so there's no risk in playing it until you get bored. There is a cash store, and while I did not play long enough to need to use it, cash stores and PVP are a dangerous mix, as they can allow victory to go to the deepest pockets, not the fastest guns. This, too, is something to watch. In the meanwhile, hop into your Raider or Viper and go blow someone up.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can use this browser-based software.