After a run of over five years, Battlestar Galactica finished over the weekend, and there's a hole in my heart. Probably one in yours, too. One that needs filling.
I mean, you've got to fill it with something. It's not like the show will magically continue next week. It's over. Well, aside from an epilogue TV movie and a spin-off/prequel series. But aside from those? It's over. Meaning that you're going to have to get your Galactica fix from somewhere else, and while board games or, uh, fan fiction might appeal to you, you're more likely to be interested in some games. Games like these ones.
Ones To Play
A total conversion of classic space shooter FreeSpace 2, BTRL was given a "Mod of the Year Award" in early 2008 from scene juggernauts Mod DB. It's pretty great. At least, the demo is pretty great; as with most mods, finishing the job seems to be a lot harder than starting one, and the full "game" is yet to be released.
But you'll enjoy what there is. The demo lets you fly a Viper in three singleplayer missions, as well as engage in a spot of multiplayer (though opponents may be thin on the ground so far away from release), and for a mod built atop such an old game, it looks fantastic.
BTRL is for the PC. It's free, you don't need a joystick to play, and you don't need a copy of FreeSpace 2, either, as this is a standalone title.
If being a Viper jockey isn't your thing, you may want to investigate Fleet Commander, a mod for Relic's brilliant space-based real-time strategy title, Homeworld 2. Unlike BTRL, there's a lot of gameplay on offer here, from short campaigns to multiplayer to skirmish battles. There are even four factions available, with both sides from both the original series and the 2003 re-imagining present.
A word of caution, though: that extra content comes at a price. I've found Fleet Commander to be more than a little shaky, with frequent crashes to the desktop and sound issues. Still, that's just me: your mileage may vary.
Fleet Commander is also free (it's a mod, after all), but unlike BTRL, you'll need a copy of Homeworld 2 to play this one.
Ones To Look Out For
Along with those two playable mods above, there are two more worth keeping an eye out for. This one's called Diaspora. Seems there was a bit of a falling-out amongst the developers of BTRL, with the result that a few of them broke off and started work on this baby, yet another Galactica mod of FreeSpace 2. At this stage it's not playable - and with a demo not planned, it may well never reach that stage - but you can find out more info by clicking on the game title above.
I have serious doubts whether this will ever come out, such is the ambition on show, but in the interests of optimism, I'll give it a shout out. The same people behind Fleet Commander have begun work on this, a Battlestar Galactica game based on Crytek's CryEngine 2. Yes, the Crysis engine.
Not only are they aiming to replicate Viper and Raptor combat, but they're looking to replicate it both on planetary surfaces and in space. Oh, and there'll also be FPS combat sequences as well. Oh, and some strategy elements. Oh, and some RPG stuff as well.
Sounds like they're biting off more than they can chew.
Ones To Avoid
Funny. I've just recommended two free mods you can play, two free mods to keep an eye on, and not a single official product. Even though there have been two recent games released to tie into the franchise.
One is a game released by Sierra in 2003, for the PS2 & Xbox (clip to the left). Based on the 1978 series, it was...OK, for the time, but as far as space combat games go it's pretty basic. You'll get far more enjoyment out of BTRL.
The other is an Xbox Live Arcade game, released in 2007. It's a top-down arcade shooter, and is as awful as it is pointless. Avoid at all costs.