Christopher "Pwyff" Tom has the opportunity to check explore the not so deep space in Galaxy Online.
Before I get started, allow me to state that I'm actually a massive fan of three things: sprite based games, cool spaceships, and low-memory 'miniature' games. While the first two criteria are pretty much self-explanatory, what I mean by low-memory 'miniature' game is the video game that I can toggle in and out of while writing articles or - in some odd cases - when I'm playing other games. Examples of 'miniature' games are things like Tetris, which I occasionally play when I die in DotA, or Solitaire, which I play when my raid wipes because nobody was paying attention (maybe they were playing Solitaire). Either way, when IGG offered us the chance to try out their newest 'mini' MMO, Galaxy Online, which touted itself to be "a fantastic strategy game developed by IGG, set in the vast and endless universe, where players can develop their own galaxy, form fleets to invade other planets and much more." I experienced a plethora of different emotions; some good, some bad, and some downright confusing.
You see, even though most people have negative views of mindlessly grinding MMOs with cutesy sprite graphics, I'll have to admit that I glean a depressing amount of pleasure from these puddle-shallow games. It's probably not a good thing to admit it while in the position that I'm in. We live in an industry that's desperately trying to escape the grind, and a guy who fondly reminisces about killing things for 0.01% of his bar is probably detrimental to the critical review force. I missed my nostalgic grindy video games, and here was the opportunity to try it again - with space ships!
Unfortunately, Galaxy Online was neither a nostalgic trip back to cheesy sprite games with funny hats, and, even more sadly, it didn't even work as a fun distraction in between my arena matches in Atlantica Online.
Galaxy Online is pretty much the epitome of the Asian F2P MMO market; they take an idea (in this case, several) that has 'proven' itself to have worked, and then they mush them together in the hope that people will perk up and drop by for a play. The problem with Galaxy Online is that they've chosen some of the weirdest game play mechanics and meshed them into one very frustrating game.
First, the developers seem to pride themselves on the 20MB size of the game client. The problem is, in today's market, 20MB is not 'small,' it's pretty much non-existent. It's one thing to be small in comparison to the 5GB-10GB behemoths that define pretty much every other MMO out there (F2P or not), but it's really another thing to be so small that it feels like you were just being lazy.
Upon entering Galaxy Online, I'll admit that it was kind of refreshing to find a recently developed game that I could easily run amidst my other memory-intensive programs (Adobe Photoshop, my Zune Player and Atlantica Online). Load times were ridiculously fast, and the login screen was admittedly sparse, but I really wasn't here for the graphics.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the development team wasn't here for the graphics either. I noted that I adore sprite-based games, and I continue to stand by that belief (almost stubbornly, you might say), but the graphics that faced me confirmed beyond a doubt that I was playing a 20MB game. Movements consisted of, literally, rotating a static image and then "floating" it to the target, ship design consisted of MS Paint mastery, and the concept of a 'map' was an everlasting background of stars with little planets pasted on and some kind of 'space rock' square encapsulating it all. Galaxies are an intricate web of three different icons, copied and pasted on our ever-faithful starry background, and then connected by white lines.
"OK," I told myself, "You wanted frugal graphics and you got frugal graphics. Look to the gameplay!"
So I did.
Well, I tried to look to the game play. You see, the problem was, I couldn't engage in any of this 'incredible' game play. After spending a few minutes locating my home planet, I realized very quickly that I had no ships. OK, fine, so I decided that, instead of trying to do things 'my' way, I would follow the conveniently labelled wormhole called "Quest." Assuming this, like any other MMORPG, was the start of the tutorial, I eagerly devoured any information they could offer me.
"Build three of X, three of Z, three of Y."
I clicked my home planet and clicked "build," but discovered that I could only 'queue' up three buildings to build. Think of the system as an odd sort of Starcraft knockoff, where you could only 'queue' up six Probes per Nexus, and then you constantly went back to check the progress of those six Probes so that you could queue up a few more. In this case, however, each building took five minutes. I had to build nine. It took me 45 minutes to complete the first quest, and it basically consisted of alt tabbing in to the game to 'queue' up a building every five minutes.
The chain of building random things would continue a few more times; each time this odd little wormhole would request that I build a science center, or three supply depots, but never really telling me what they were for, or why I was building them. Soon, however, I approached what I felt was an appropriate time for the tutorial to demand that I go engage in combat. Please note that I don't say that the tutorial would teach me how to engage in combat, because up to now, I was basically following instructions on how to build things. If you asked me why I was doing what I was doing, I would have broken down and admitted that I really knew nothing. I do know that the factories I was building were slowly pushing my resources up. I'm assuming these resources would then go on to produce Zealots or something.
Either way, as I eagerly prodded my very unhelpful wormhole, hoping for some kind of combat-oriented demand, you can imagine the sadness I felt when it quite simply told me that it was "Complete."
That was it. I was on my own.
Another little wormhole above my planet was notifying me that pirates were nearby, but all I had was a bizarre little ship that floated around my personal galaxy-block. The problem was, I couldn't leave my galaxy because I had no supplies. I had no supplies because I had no idea how to get supplies onto my ship, and my Quest wormhole was not really helping when it told me that I was "Complete." After a while, I finally figured out a proper method of getting my ship into what I assumed to be the combat wormhole. The following ensued:
My ship entered another 'block' of galaxy. It moved forward to another ship that sat in the upper corner. The words "Round 1" began to count up as I moved closer to the ship, and they ultimately became "Round 5" as I got close.
An odd Megaman Network style grid popped up. Apparently I had two ships and the pirates had one.
My ship went over and blew up the other ship. I got some experience and ended up back at my home galaxy block.
I hadn't touched anything since I clicked the Wormhole, and I had apparently experienced some very intense and strategic combat.
Flustered by this unexpected turn of events, I ultimately decided that my last course of action to find anything interesting in this game was to invade another Galaxy. Thus, I clicked my two-ships-in-one icon, clicked the "Super Stargate" traveling route, and promptly lost my ship.
It had disappeared into the Super Stargate.
Apparently when ships travel, it's basically impossible to track them in real time, or even locate them other than the cryptic message "Traveling to Stronghold 1." So I waited and discussed the game with other players.
After about an hour, I took a break. My ship had still not arrived.
Two hours later, I came back and discovered that I had arrived at "Stronghold 1," but it was apparently a stronghold that was held by my own empire. I had traveled to my capital to invade myself. Fine. I decided that perhaps the outlying galaxies would be more interesting, so I toggled out to the large map of the 'Universe' (the miniature icons connected by white lines) and decided to travel to the galaxy that was adjacent to "Stronghold 1." The game promptly told me it would take an hour and forty five minutes. I quit.
All in all, I'm really baffled by the several hours I spent trying to engage in this game. Critics may argue that I didn't try to take on everything the game had to offer, but when it feels like the developers simply don't want you to play, I really had no other choice. Galaxy Online is an awkward mash up of different game styles, but it fails to implement any of them properly. If you want to experience true resource management and quick decision making, then go play Starcraft. If you want a more sedate pace, but still desire the thrill of mining resources and managing solar systems, I'd highly suggest Sins of a Solar Empire. If all you're looking for is a game that rewards you for staying on, then Galaxy Online may be to your liking. But really, why not just read a book? It will feel far more rewarding.
The editorial you've just read contains views that are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of Allakhazam.com
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom