reviews\ May 22, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Battlecruiser Millennium Gold - PC - Review

Let me start this whole review off by making a single statement. Whether you like or dislike a game or developer, there is definitely some credit that needs to be given for doing something this immense for a PC game. When I say immense, it doesn’t mean Everquest immense. I mean bigger than that even … to a scope where it’s almost insane. Well, in comes BattleCruiser Millennium : Gold Edition, which takes the gigantic BCM game (which is included) that came out previously and adds even more to it with 50 new missions and zones, 10 additional star stations and bases, and 20 new instant action scenarios to jump in and play specific short campaigns. 


For those of you who have not played Battlecruiser : Millennium yet, here’s the basic concept of the game … do whatever you want covering the entire scope of the galaxy. No joke, there are over 200 planets and moons to travel to within 100 different stellar regions, and everything can be explored 100%. There are missions that you can select and do which give specific reasons to play if you choose to do that, but you can also select a free roaming mode to just do whatever you want to do. Parts of the game will play out in FPS mode, some in a flight sim mode, and there is an award and leveling up sort of RPG based system in here as well to combine a few styles together.


When you start off in the single player mode, you select what and who you want to be from over 13 different careers and races. Choose your name, sex, etc., then select from jobs ranging from a commander of your own ship to a marine grunt stationed in one of the umpteen different planetary locations. You can also select from things like a paramedic or an assassin, and many jobs will cause different NPC reactions. Paramedics will be less likely to be bothered as they go about their business, but a more aggressive or attacking class and play style will usually get you into some problems with local hostiles that you encounter. Similar to games like BF1942, you can also utilize and interact with all sorts of ground and air vehicles ranging from drop ships and warships to APC’s, ATV’s, and mobile rocket launchers.


The whole idea here is really neat, and I was pretty amazed at how detailed this game is. You can be on a spaceport trading goods one minute, then in your ship and heading for a wormhole or transport to another system the next. You can go outside your ship and do some exploration or fighting on your own, and you can even observe planets and possible structures … then get into a shuttle and head down to the planet surface for further exploration or combat. You really can do just about anything you want here, and the galaxy is so big you probably won’t see everything that there is. Once I was getting the hang of all the things I could do, I found myself sitting and playing for hours on end as time whooshed by without me even noticing.


Another cool thing that I thought was here in the game was the auto pilot and weapons features. There are a lot of personal and vehicular weapons that can be used, and range from things like SAMs (Surface to air missiles) and even OTG (orbit to ground) weapons as well. Certain ships will also be outfitted with cool features like tractor beams and cloaking devices that can add to attack or defense strategies in certain situations. The auto pilot comes in really handy for doing things like vertical take offs or landings, and you can actually program the computer to target a specific area of a planet or base and sit back while you enter the atmosphere and descend through the clouds to the surface below.


Now, the whole concept behind Battlecruiser : Millennium Gold can be a big plus for you big galactic explorers, but can unfortunately be the biggest downfall of the game as well. I have never sat down to play a game that was this difficult to figure out and learn. I’ve finally got it to where I can move around, explore, check incoming messages, and get into fights … but this was one heck of an uphill battle for me personally. There are 140+ different keyboard commands to utilize during the game, and I spent a lot more time looking over the command list card that was included than I did actually playing for the first two days.


Another issue that I encountered while I played BCM:G was a video error in the opening movie from 3000AD. This isn’t 3000AD’s fault though since it was an issue between the game, and Microsoft’s removal of a needed codec from Windows XP … nor did it interfere with the game itself. It did however cause me to think that there were other problems in the game that caused me to uninstall and reinstall the game 4 times, then have to talk to Derek Smart himself (who was very helpful and patient, by the way). I was getting a pitch-black picture on the screen with three boxes at the bottom, and it was explained to me that it was also 2:00 AM on Mars and it was supposed to be that way. OK, real time day and night effect … that’s a good thing and was impressive. Unfortunately, my ATV was not equipped with lighting, so I got off and found a Darklight Image Enhancer option in my command card. I flipped that on to see better, but then learned I could not use it and move at the same time. Basically, things like night vision or a sniping rifle that could be really helpful caused more confusion or issues since you had to be standing still to utilize them. If you have a few hours before daylight … it could be a long, cold evening for you.


Another thing that might cause you to dislike BCM:G is the fact that it’s not as action based as other similar titles in the FPS or sim market. There is action, including fights in orbit over planets or attacking and defending ground bases, but the game overall actually seems to move in a real life kind of aspect. Basically, you never see the U.S. military deployed every day to go and fight, and a lot of times you won’t see battles or combat frequently here either. You can choose to play a little more aggressively to speed it up or make it more combat in a more frequent basis, but then the whole conflict really comes into play. Trigger-happy FPS or fighting nuts want speed and killing, not 200 commands to learn or go back and check constantly while trying to engage in battle. Also, some of the ground areas that I went to seemed like deserted ghost towns, and I was almost excited to see a SAM launcher moving around in the distance just to let me know that there was life out there somewhere.


Graphically, the game isn’t too bad, especially considering the sheer size and magnitude of what was created here. You can move seamlessly from planet surfaces to space and vice versa, and there are some nifty lighting effects and star / space dust movement found in space. Things on the planet looked a little blocky, outdated, and pixelled though, but there were impressive additions like unstable cloud effects on Saturn and moving storm fronts that would come in periodically to add some real time weather effects were a nice touch. The explosions and destruction effects left a lot to be desired though; since you got a reddish yellow cloud effect … then the item you destroyed would just vanish.


The sound for BCM:G was pretty good, with comlink chatter between your ship crew would go on and you could audibly hear shuttles or defensive fighters being launched off the ship. There is also a handy computer that will alert you of incoming threats or the results of scans, and it was a cool addition to the overall atmosphere. The music score was a unique little series of planetarium style softer dance tracks and piano style music, and you could flip tracks with the press of a key to the more relaxing or exciting ones if you wanted to.


Overall, I have to say that I liked the game, but it took me a lot of hours (even when I thought some parts of it did not work and played the other stuff anyway) to learn how to fly, warp, move, fight, transport, dock, and just about everything else you can imagine that you can do. After it was all said and done though, I found myself sitting and exploring for hours on end. My final recommendation here is going to be for you Star Trek fans or slower paced kind of FPS or flight gamers out there, since you can literally spend month after month (probably) doing tons of exploration, battles, and just seeing if there really is intelligent life out there. If you prefer a much more high speed and action based RPG, FPS, or simulator game though, you might want to check and see if you can find it used or see if there is a demo still floating around to download and try out before buying it.    


Gameplay: 6.9
While I was absolutely amazed at how much depth, size, and detail that there was in this game, it also created a lot of issues from a learning curve and gameplay perspective since there is so much to do and see and a ton of commands to mess with and learn. Once I spent a lot of time getting the hang of the basics to where I could play it and do simple things, it turned out to be fun and kind of sucked me in. I actually found myself saying things like “Cool! Saturn … I always wanted to see what the surface looked like”. There were also some things that seemed to be left out, like night vision while moving and areas where it seemed like it was devoid of any and all life anywhere, which made for some long and somewhat dull playing times. The ability to interact and use any vehicle or exit them, even in space, was a neat addition. 


Graphics: 7.0
I’m going to hit around average here since the space graphics, surroundings and effects were pretty neat looking and while not superior, were done well. The planets were a little more outdated looking though, and even with some nifty day / night effects and moving and shifting weather patterns, it still looked more like an older game from the late 90’s.


Sound: 7.5
The music was especially neat, since it had a unique feel to it. While there were only a few tracks to select from, there was a decent mix of more relaxing tunes to more exciting style ones that you could flip around to depending on the situation. The sounds of the voices from the comlinks and the vehicles, thrusters, etc. sounded good as well.


Difficulty: Hard
As you have probably read already, that can be kind of an understatement due to the sheer size and scope of things to learn and do while you are playing. There is a tutorial or training mode, but it’s really more of a “there are no hostiles … so have fun!” kind of thing, so you’re still on your own trying to figure out what to do. With all of the commands and whatnot, I know that a tutorial covering everything could last for hours and hours on end, but a walkthrough of the basics would have been helpful.


Concept: 7.8
If nothing else, 3000 A.D. and Derek himself deserve some major props for doing something this immense in size. The whole idea of being able to go into space and literally do whatever you want is a good one, and it was represented well. Unfortunately, not everyone will find enjoyment in this kind of miniscule detail, and giving players the opportunity of a free roaming interstellar game with more basic controls would have worked out a lot better.


Multiplayer: N/A

Honestly, this is where I can see the real enjoyment of BCM:G coming into play, since the idea of patrolling the galaxy alongside friends or thousands of people from other parts of the world is a really interesting one that could cause you to spend multiple hours each day doing it. There will be a multiplayer mode coming out, but there was none at the time that this review was done.


Overall: 7.0
Overall, I enjoy BCM:G after spending the first couple of days figuring out what to do. I finally got the opportunity to imitate shows like Star Trek in fully commanding and operating my own starship and doing whatever I wanted to do, which I have yet to see anywhere else. Overall, I have to say that this game will definitely be for you gamers who have a lot of time to spend in front of the computer, so make sure that you can devote attention to this one. If you are looking for something a little faster paced or more action oriented without all of the learning and constantly looking over the command card, you’ll want to check out a demo or used copy before taking the big plunge.


On a quick side note, I wanted to drop a quick “Thank You” to Derek Smart for spending some time with me on the phone going over some aspects of the game and being patient while I was asking questions, and to Jeff and Kathy (my higher ups) at GZ for helping me get this thing up and going.


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