Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review: Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander

Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander
Developer/Publisher: Massive Damage, Inc.

Back in the 90's there was this little show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  It was a heavily narrative driven show about a space station and the many alien denizens and factions that the commanding officer Sisko had to deal with.(Also Sisko was the most bad ass commander, ever but that's another article) See where I am going with this? Halcyon 6 takes that formula and does it justice in a dynamic and fun pixeled RPG way. You are the commander of Halcyon 6,  a strange alien space station that the Terran Federation(coughStarfleetcough) are excavating.

The game starts with a distress call and everything going to hell in about 60 seconds. I don't wanna spoil anything for you but things go bad, REAL bad. Suddenly you are thrust into command of the station and must battle for survival and make key decisions as to how to deal with different species, factions, construction, exploration, recruitment, and the over all looming threat of annihilation. Needless to say there is quite a bit of customization for how you craft your fleet, its officers, and starbase itself. The over all UI and interaction of the game is very reminiscent to XCOM in style. That isn't to say that this is EXACTLY like XCOM as many seem quick to point at.

After choosing your starting commander (and naming him Sisko), you are shown an assortment of abilities that are split between space and ground combat. Yes there are away missions baby! Every officer has a set of random skills depending on their proficiency, science, tactical, and engineering. All of which can be upgraded as your officers progress.

Guy on the top is SO dead.

To simplify: its DPS(Tactical/Red), Support (Science/Blue), Tank(Engineering/Yellow) and this reflects in the ground/space combat as well. Enemies have their own proficiency but you can expect more or less the same idea.

Now I could go into the nitty gritty of all the game mechanics and tell you my thoughts on them but Halcyon 6 has quite a few in-depth systems. There is a research tree, ship construction, base construction,  resource management, and much more that I could write forever about. All of them are very well crafted and pretty easy to figure out.
One issue I did have is the games tutorial is very bare bones, only teaching you the very, very basics of what to do and how things work. Another thing I did notice where the UI fails is letting you access all of the games research rooms. You have to manually enter your Starbase and seek the room out by clicking around. Some of the rooms are similar looking and this becomes a little bit of a nuance.


Halcyon 6 primarily wants you to do things at your own pace, that is if you can handle constant invading attacks. There is a huge starmap that does change between campaigns and displays your missions and other factions. Now where I feel the game is extremely different from XCOM is in its sense of  urgency and obviously combat. XCOM made you feel like time was running out and you needed to make quick decisions. Halcyon doesn't really have that feeling, there are events that happen over time, but for the most part the game gives you the time you need to get your crap together. In comparison, I felt XCOM just threw me in the deep end of the pool and I struggled to float. Losing a high level officer was devastating, where in Halcyon, it just kinda sucks, but oh well.

Sir, we've have detected a floating turd.

The combat is the standard turn based RPG style combat, where buffs and debuffs are the primary way to achieve victory in combat.  Every ability has a affect and an exploitation, your torpedos might cause a hull breach and exploits crew panic, where lasers might cause crew panic and exploit a hull breach. Exploitation usually increase damage by 100% of base damage.
It's this buff/debuff system that gives you the statistical advantage with the combination of your officers abilities and how well they work together. Combat itself does look rather pleasing as ships blast each apart and the ships appearance begins to degrade as damage occurs. Ground combat is more or less the same idea, but I found these situations very rare and mostly on Starbase exploration. I wish away missions were more in-depth and unique as it almost kinda feels tacked on and not fully thought out. Overall though combat works well and is easy to understand, it becomes very underwhelming as battles become a rinse and repeat situation of using the same abilities in combination to win. This doesn't make them boring, just repetitive.

One area that the game does shine is its length. I played the game for about 8 hours and felt like there was still more to unlock, and more to see. Your campaign to save the Terrans is going to be a long one, so you're going to get that bang for your buck even if you play it once. If you play it twice, even more, as the game does feature many levels of difficulty. The game is full of charm with its dialogue, alien species, and even a light bit of decision making. I wish this area was more expanded upon with more in game politics but thats just my personal opinion. The graphics are pixeled but abilities and ship combat does have nice animations that have some oomph to them.

Halcyon 6 is very unique, I wish there were more games like this in general, so for that alone I would highly recommend the title to anyone who enjoys strategy games or RPG's in general. The game lets you live out your sci-fi fantasy of running a space station and kicking some alien booty. Now if only the game would let me punch John De Lancie in the face.

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