Battlecruiser Millennium Review
If you had to describe Battlecruiser Millennium in a single word, the first one that would come to mind would be 'ambitious'. It is a game of epic proportions that allows players to select from a variety of careers which range from a starship commander to a lowly grunt of a space marine, and provides an expansive universe in which to pursue those careers. The game provides a high degree of freedom to players, providing them with missions to accomplish, but also giving them the option of ignoring these missions and pursuing their own goals. The autonomy afforded to players extends beyond just mission selection; they are free to move around the Battlecruiser Millennium universe with a high degree of freedom. For example, the player can direct a starship battle in space, hop on board a shuttlecraft, land on a planet, and then exit the shuttle and attack enemy soldiers on foot. This potential for wide-open play makes Battlecruiser Millennium more than just another space sim, it incorporates gameplay elements usually reserved for RPGs and first-person shooters as well.
After starting the game, players will be given the option of playing an "Instant Action" scenario, an advanced campaign, or a roam campaign. The scenarios are self-contained missions that range from battles between starships to ground-based assaults. They are a good way for players to try out the various aspects of the game without first creating an in-game persona. The campaign games are the heart of Battlecruiser Millennium. Players select from 12 different races, 13 castes (these are akin to character classes from RPGs and include such roles as explorers, scientists, and mercenaries), and six careers. The career choice affects the player's primary duties, be it to command starships, fly fighters, or fight it out as a foot soldier. Your choices at this stage will have an impact on how the residents of the game's universe treat you. Play a paramedic and you can pretty much go where you want without any trouble. Play as an assassin, though, and don't expect to see a welcome map at every starbase. The roam campaign allows the player to do pretty much anything, from staying at home defending a base to going into the universe looking for trouble. The advanced campaign will actually provide a series of missions to the player. The player can choose to pursue these missions and be awarded with experience upon their completion, or to ignore them and pursue other interests. Should the player pass on a mission, it will continue to resolve itself, so players are not forced to complete a mission in order to be presented with a new one.
All of the freedom of choice and diversity of gameplay in Battlecruiser Millennium comes at the cost of complexity. This is not one of those games that you can jump right in and begin playing. Starship management is very complex, with a dizzying array of controls and readouts available to players. Players will need to learn the meaning of, and become familiar with, a plethora of system acronyms from ASD to WHI. The great majority of these acronyms are specific to the game, so a solid background in sim game play will not be much help in understanding the game's many systems. The game's learning curve is made even steeper by the lack of a good in-game tutorial. The game provides training scenarios, but these just dump the player into enemy free environments without any guidance or instruction on anything. An HTML file is included which provides some guidance to a few of the instant action missions, but the help is pretty basic and not always easy to follow. The game does come with a thick manual, but it is almost written as a reference for someone who is already familiar with the game, contains only two screen illustrations, and is missing an index. Casual gamers will quickly become frustrated with Battlecruiser Millennium and will not likely want to spend the several hours it takes just to get up and going in the game.
Battlecruiser Millennium's scope also makes it suffer a bit from the "jack of all trades, master of none" syndrome. The individual components of the game would not stand too well on their own. For one thing, space combat just doesn't seem as exciting in Battlecruiser Millennium as it does in other space combat sims, perhaps because the player often has to spend much of the time changing settings on a multitude of cascading menus. Also, no doubt in order to keep the game's complexity from getting completely out of control, every ship has the same displays and control layouts. The only real difference between them lies in whether a certain weapon is resent or not. Thus, despite the availability of a number of them, the ships classes do not have much of their own individual character.
The first person shooter aspect of the game is also a bit flat. Unimpressive weapons, poor control, and lackluster enemy AI will probably have most players avoiding this aspect of the game when they can. While it might be asking too much of the game to expect it to compete with the first-person shooters available today, this component of the game could definitely use some more work. As it stands, it feels more tacked on than an integral part of the game.