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Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander Review

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Halcyon 6, created by Massive Damage, Inc. , is a game that has been in Early Access for quite some time now is finally having a full release. At the time of the review being posted, it will be coming out tomorrow, September 9th.

 

I must confess, I had never heard of Halcyon 6 before being given the opportunity to review this game, and in this case it is quite a good thing. It’s been under development for more than a year, and the first act of the story was available for supporters, but that was all. A scenario like that would drive me insane, I tend to either play completed games or games that are very close to being finished. I don’t like playing a game that only has one half available. So I’m fairly happy that I was able to review the game in full release state.

As a disclaimer, the review key was provided free of charge.

 

Alright, on to the game. Halcyon 6 is a turned based, story driven strategy game set in space. You are the last survivor of the Federation, and you’re in charge of the previously named Halcyon 6 Starbase. Not only are you the last survivor, you are also the highest ranking survivor and as such you are in command of every single federation fleet, base, colony, and outpost.

A simple enough premise, and one that I can’t really elaborate more on without ruining some very important plot points. I’ll just say this, I was very happy.

When I play a game, first and foremost what I look for is story. Does it rely on cliches? Is the story good enough to carry an entire game even if the mechanics aren’t?  Is the plot a rehash of some other game or property? And last but not least; Is there humor in the story?

I’m happy to say that the plot of Halcyon 6 meets my criteria. It’s original enough that it can stand on its own merits, but it does borrow heavily from other influences; Star Trek is a very obvious one. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that this was originally intended to be a Star Trek game but the developers couldn’t get the licence so it needed to be changed, which is a shame, because it would most likely be the best Star Trek game in existence if that were the case. That’s just my opinion however.

The art assets in this game are amazing, everything is beautifully animated and drawn. Pretty much all of the assets are either hand drawn or pixel art, but it blends together very seamlessly. Sometimes I needed to actually take a closer look to see where the CG ended and the hand-drawn assets began.

I have the same opinion of the soundtrack and sound assets. Very, very well done. The music fits perfectly and does not get stale and quite honestly if they released a soundtrack for this game I would buy it instantly.

One thing I have to say about everything in this game, is how well everything just fits together. I don’t even think I was ever jarred out of the moment by something that did not fit with the art, sound or the premise. Everything in this game flows together so beautifully that I would swear this game wasn’t coming from an Indie company.

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Now on to the actual game and mechanics thereof.

The base itself is a massive building, with only a few rooms explored and built to begin with. It’s up to you to explore, clear and build up those rooms in order to get different units/ ships/ technologies. It’s a very simple base management system, but one I like. Every building you create uses power, and some buildings give you power. You can research other technologies to gain access to new buildings and power generators as well as extra units and abilities for your units. There isn’t a lot of depth to this system, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s simple and effective, and only serves to make the meat of the game easier to jump into.

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You need to recruit officers to send out fleets to go explore sectors and planets, as well as engage in diplomacy. You can only assign one officer to a ship, and can have a maximum of three ships per fleet. These officers will level up in a variety of ways. Either by getting in combat, exploring rooms, or story events. Speaking of story events, the developers claim that no two plays will be the same and that every story event can be modified based on your actions. Whether or not one of your officers has a certain rank in a skill, whether or not you research a certain tech or if you build a specific building. I cannot confirm or deny this because that would need an insane amount of runs in order to make sure that it does. That being said, it seems like it is. I had to restart a few times because I backed myself into a corner and I did get some of the same events and some different ones. So that does seem to have happened.

One of the most accurate and simplest ways I can describe this game is simply by saying this. “It’s 8-bit X-com”. Or is it 16? I’m never quite sure on those fronts.

There are 6 different alien species and all of them interact with your own human federation in very different ways. All of them are incredibly unique and it shows that the developers put a lot of time and thought into make them all different. It’s a small thing, but something that I really appreciate.

The meat of the game will be spent sending fleets to planets, gathering resources and getting into combat. As your fleet flies around, time passes. When your fleet is stopped, so is time. The days only pass when something is actually happening in the game. Whether it be research or because you’re just waiting for more resources to build one more ship and need to let the days fly by.

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Combat though, is intense. Combat happens both in space and on the ground, with up to three ships or three units. In space you can only use actual ships, whether the proper ones you built or shuttles, while ground combat is led by an officer, and if you don’t have enough, cadets. Cadets are pretty much just cannon fodder, there to soak up some bullets from enemies while your main guy survives.

However, both types of combat are essentially identical. Enemies have weaknesses and resistances, you exploit the weaknesses and they take more damage, hit them with something they’re resistant to and they take less. Pretty simple. So far.

It took me awhile to understand but almost every single attack has an effect it causes on an enemy and an effect it can exploit. For example, hitting a ship with a harpoon will inflict a hull breach on it, but if it had a specific status effect on it, would deal double damage. These status effects are essential to making sure you can beat these fights. Sure you might be able to get through a few of them without paying attention, but that doesn’t last for long. Unlike other games where you might use a status effect to make sure you can catch the monster easier, you actually need these to even get through the fights.

Some status effects will make the enemies lose HP every turn, some will disable them and make them unable to act for a few turns, some will lower accuracy, engines, etc. There are a lot of different status effects and I’m not even sure I’ve seen all of them.

That’s not all though, your own ships will be faced with these effects, and the computer is much better at exploiting them than you are. All in all, the combat is fun, and difficult, without being unfair.

Also, the combat effects are some of the most satisfying things to use in a game. The animations, sounds and effects just blow my mind every time I use them and you feel like they actually have an impact. They are, for lack of a better word, weighty.

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I’m sure I could find a hundred more things to talk about in this game, but I think I’ve said everything I need to appeal to the people who will love this game, if I haven’t then this isn’t the game for you.

All I know is that I’ll be playing this game for a good long while, and loving every minute of it.

For everyone else, you can find Halcyon 6 on Steam for $21.99 CAD or your regional equivalent.

 

Yves Hacault is a content writer and a rocketman. His opinions are his own.

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