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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [09.18.02]
Category: Space Simulation
Developer: 3000AD
Publisher: 3000AD

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In Roam mode, that's pretty much all you do, is roam around, and hope to run across something interesting to do. The game explicitly states that the player is supposed to role-play at this point. There are two other missions available, but only to the Terran Military Commander, and the Terran Insurgent Commander jobs. A mission is pictured below, but the text boils down to the same as the "Roam Mode Mission" text, also pictured below. So where's the mission-based campaign? I didn't see any evidence of it, no matter where I looked, though I did see a couple of snatches about some ambassadors docking. But I wasn't assigned a mission, that I noticed. Do these governments in the future just let their military run freelance as they choose? Do most military organizations give out orders that amount to "go forth and do good things" and leave it at that? These missions strike me as just being in there to take up space, and to fulfill the "requirement" of having missions...the facility and interface is there for missions, but the missions themselves aren't. Instead we have this "role-play" and "ship and mission are your responsibility" filler stuff, and that is NOT a good thing at all. In my experience, role-players generally don't need a massive game engine on the PC in order to assist their imaginations. And gamers don't expect to have to make up a story in their heads as they go along. And admirals and generals don't let their lower echelons just run around doing as they please.

Free Form Mission: "Use your imagination"

An actual mission: "Go forth and do good things"

Now, roaming around a completely open universe actually does hold some appeal to me theoretically, but only to some degree. If I'm going to go somewhere, it's either going to be to do something specific, or to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations, and boldly go, et cetera, et cetera. But here's the deal, I go to the strange new world in this game, look at it, and say "Hey, it's a strange new world!" and that's it. There's no communications or anything...maybe I can fly down there and get out, but then do what? There might be a civilization on it, sure, but I can't seek out new life and new civilizations, only strange new worlds. So there goes the fun of exploration. Scotty, beam me up. (Actually, yes, there are transporters in this game).

Now, I've gone to 3000AD's site, and I've read about all of the work the developers have put into making this massive, living, breathing universe engine for this game, and I want more than anything to be drawn into it and experience it. Find out what's going on, and maybe participate in it. But it's just not possible, because it's completely hidden from the user.

The complete lack of depth in the plot area tells me that maybe the developers got a little intimidated by this area, or maybe they just got lazy. Or possibly this is just an engine intended for something else that isn't finished, and was released for some quick bucks by slapping a couple of empty missions into it. A lot of work went into the rest of this game, and it looks like it paid the price with the lack of a plot. Nothing exists here to draw a player into the universe, make them a part of it, and allow them to participate and alter the events. And if they can, they'll never find out about it. And since this isn't one of these game genres that can get away with not having a plot (like a sports game) zero plot equals zero score.

Score: 0/10


Now, right off the top here, I would like to quote Derek Smart, the founder of 3000AD, on their website:

"Sure my engines can handle shadows, volumetric fog, 2048x2048 textures, as many light sources as DX8 will allow etc. But it was not my intention to sacrifice gameplay over glitz. When you start upping graphics processing, you then have to keep track of on screen characters. Why would I limit the game to 2-3 ship engagements, when the BC series has always been famous for its MASSIVE fleet battles? Some usually involving no less than 20-30 ships (and space marines) on screen at any one time? Even with visibility culling, you still have AI processing to do. And since BCM runs on top of a highly sophisticated suite of AI engines, coupled with a neural net hybrid, trust me, graphics power was the last thing on my mind. The graphics engine in BCM does what it was supposed to do and does it well. If you want to be gawking at the scenery and not immersed in a game world that challenges all of your senses, then BCM is not the game you should be playing. Period. Even today, BC3K v2.0x, a DOS game, can bring a PIII 600 with 64MB to its knees. That was a 1998 title.

If I wanted to develop a game which puts 50% of my install base out of the picture, I'd have done it and made a PIII 600, 256MB machine the minimum requirement. Even now, on a high-end 1Ghz rig, as fast and as optimized as the code is, you can barely pull 40fps at 1024x768 in 32Bit mode and with every graphics option on."

Side note here: How are you supposed to find these massive fleet battles without orders, a plot, and a mission? Do you just fly up and say "Hey, I have been ordered to go forth and do good things. Can I join your fleet?" Oh...that's right. There doesn't seem to be any communications either.

Anyway, now we know how the esteemed Mr. Smart feels about the whole graphics versus gameplay argument, and where he put his focus. So now we'll have a look at the results of his efforts; namely, the graphics in Battlecruiser Millennium.

I don't understand why he's so defensive about the graphics. While they aren't as advanced as in many other games, they seem fairly decently done. Space is as it should be...pretty much empty except for planets, stars, nebulae and the occasional starship or several. Most game developers don't realize this, and feel that they have to liven up space flight sims with flashy clouds and little green alien bugs and other eye candy. And not like in Conquest: Frontier Wars, where said eye candy actually had a purpose in the game. Here, in Battlecruiser Millennium, eye candy serves no purpose in space, so it therefore does not exist. Wormholes do, however, and they DO look pretty flashy, for black holes. I'd say the space graphics are an excellent job here.

Unfortunately, that starkness seems to carry over where it doesn't belong...planetary environments are also very spare. There don't seem to be many commerce moving back and forth, or up to orbit and back. And no satellites in orbit either, other than a main space station. I realize it would be draining to implement these things for real, but just implementing the APPEARANCE of these items would increase the immersion factor. This is supposed to be a living universe, but the point is, it doesn't even LOOK living.

Score: 17/20

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