One of the most controversial?if not THE most controversial?games of all time, epic space simulation Battlecruiser 3000 AD is the ultimate testament to the importance of public relations and commercial considerations to sales of a computer game. It is also a great example of how a patch (or in this case, dozens of patches) can turn a Real Dog into Top Dog material. When it was first released by Take 2 Interactive in 1996, the game was so bug-ridden and unplayable that it got a sound beating from critics and gamers alike. Of course, the game may have been doomed to failure even before it hit store shelves, thanks to the floods of blatantly self-aggrandizing posts on Usenet newsgroups by Derek Smart himself that hyped the game beyond belief. Provocative full-page ads featuring scantily-clad female striding the game box and the slogan ?the last thing you?ll ever desire? didn?t help matter much, either. |
Shortly after the game?s release, designer Derek Smart and his team revealed what was painfully obvious: the game was never completed. What surprised most gamers, however, was the revelation that the game was shipped by Take 2 without consent from Smart and his team, in order to meet a Christmas deadline. (Read all the details at the official product history page). A bitter legal battle then ensued for over a year, at the end of which saw Smart finally regaining rights to his creation. As an unprecedented (and highly appreciated) display of goodwill and not a little egotism that he was by now famous for, Derek Smart released the final, patched version of the game (version 1.01) to the public fo free. The gaming public finally saw the true gem that bears little resemblance to the bug-ridden first release, and Smart went on to release version 2.0 as an official sequel, published by Interplay in 1998. The game went on to attract a loyal following and considerable success in the market.
So what is Battlecruiser 3000AD exactly, and why should you care? Smart?s hyperboles and often exaggerated claims aside, the game is an outstanding free-form space simulation in the true spirit of Elite. I?d like to quote part of Tim Chown?s excellent review of this version to illustrate how immensely fun the game is:
?The most obvious thing that hits you about the game is its immense scope. In attempting to create what might be an "ultimate" game, Smart has gone feature-crazy. The heart of the game is the concept of a living galaxy - an arena populated by 12 races over 75 planets and a host of moons, and one in which battles and events constantly unfold independently of the player's actions. It's not unusual to arrive at a starbase in the middle of someone else's war, and you can get involved or just watch the protagonists slug it out. If you can imagine the original concept of the BBC Elite game, then BC3K has the same feeling of freedom but with an order of magnitude more detail. Where Frontier failed, BC3K picks up ...
Gameplay is centered around the command of a battlecruiser, a ship with a default crew of 170, four interceptor craft, four shuttles and four ATVs for venturing onto planet surfaces. You have a number of officers, each with various ratings, who assist in certain areas like navigation, prepping flights, damage control, the medical bay, and so on. Alternatively you can carry out all tasks yourself if you wish. Every member of the crew is tracked (though only textually) so if you assign four people to a shuttle expedition they have to move through the ship to get to the shuttle before you can launch it. The level of detail is impressive, the question of course is whether that detail helps the gameplay or whether it's unnecessary baggage.
The game itself plays in two modes - Advanced Campaign Mode (ACM) or Free Flight. The latter allows you to roam the galaxy doing as you please, and is the best way to get used to the game interface (which despite the manual is still quite complex - a tutorial would be useful too!). The ACM mode spews missions at you, giving you more direction, though still allowing free-form play if you wish.?
Overall, in spite of all the hype, misinformation, and considerable blame that centered around its flamboyant designer and Take 2 Interactive, Battlecruiser 3000AD is one hell of a ride. If you are Elite or Privateer fans, you definitely must try this game. It may look outdated compared to recent 3D-accelerated games (hey, it was in development for 10 years), and it may not fulfill even half of what Smart promised?but it?s pretty darn good.
Reviewed by: Underdogs