Indie Game Spotlight – Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander

After finishing the lengthy Planescape: Torment earlier this week, I felt that I could use a change of pace. I decided to look for a turn-based strategy game and stumbled across an indie title called Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander. The art style was attractive and the game was inexpensive, so I decided to give it a shot. Halcyon 6 truly sets itself apart from competitors by combining base building, exploration, crew management, tactical combat, RPG elements, and story events together to create a unique Starbase management simulation.


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Systems: PC, Mac

Developer: Massive Damage, Inc.

Publisher: Massive Damage, Inc.

Release Date: Sep 9, 2016

Price: $19.99 (on Steam)


The Gameplay:

The game begins by explaining that humanity has nearly been destroyed by fleshy alien ship-creatures. The first task on the list is choosing a commanding officer to take command of Halcyon 6 – a giant space station left behind by an ancient precursor race – which happens to be humanity’s last hope for survival. Each potential captain has their own backstories, traits, and abilities. You instantly get an idea of Massive Damage’s sense of humor while reading each biography. It’s a bit silly at times but I appreciate the less serious approach to the space simulation genre. After choosing a captain of your preference, you assume control of Halcyon 6.

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When you first arrive on Halcyon 6, it’s a hot mess. Having been mostly destroyed long ago, the space station only has a few sections left intact. As you explore the galaxy, you will collect various materials and resources from nearby colonies which can be used to renovate the destroyed sections of the Halcyon 6.

Before building or making any new renovations , you must clear the debris and kill off any alien scum that may have taken up residence in each destroyed area. Once all hostiles are eliminated, you are able to choose from a list of rooms to build. These rooms will allow you to upgrade you ships, generate more power and fuel, train new recruits, and much more.

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Outside of Halcyon 6 lies the rest of the galaxy, waiting to be explored. Each new game generates a new galaxy and randomly chooses alien races as your new neighbors. Thus, each new game is a unique experience.

Throughout the galaxy there are different settlements set up that can be contacted. Once you’ve made contact with the colonies, they will generate resources for you in exchange for protection. Occasionally, fleshy alien adversaries will spawn using portals in your territory and attack the colonies or Halcyon 6. If you fail to rescue the colonies, they will be lost and no resources can be collected until they are rebuilt. Neighboring alien races are generally neutral and will often visit Halcyon 6 to plead for help. If you decide to aid your neighbors, they will become more friendly over time and offer you rewards for your service.

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The commanding officer won’t be alone when entering the fray of battle. Aside from the first officer you choose to command Halcyon 6, you must recruit more officers to join the fight and also to maintain the starbase as the war rages on. Officers come in three different classes: engineering specialists, science specialists, and tactical specialists. Engineers have a wide assortment of skills and generally fulfill the tank role. Science specialists are similar to mages and specialize in healing skills and crowd control abilities. Last but not least, the tactical specialist is similar to a rogue and serves as heavy damage-dealing glass-cannon. I would recommend having one of each class in your squad to ensure you have the ability to deal with any situation you might encounter.

 Not all battles take place in space, however. Occasionally you will be forced to take the battle to the surface. Fighting on the ground is similar to space combat, except it is fought with blaster pistols, knives, and grenades. I really enjoyed the two different modes of combat and both were equally challenging.

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The pace of Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is surprisingly fast. If you’re not prepared before the waves of enemies increase in amount and difficulty, Halcyon 6 and it’s crew will be decimated. Upgrading to larger class ships is an important goal to achieve as soon as possible.

 It is very easy to be overwhelmed during the beginning of the game. Attacks within your territory are common enough that you may decided to create additional fleets to cover more ground or to have a backup force to defend the base while the rest are out exploring. Attacks within the base also occur quite frequently as the game progresses, so make sure to have an officer or two around the base in case of emergency.

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Combat in Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is easy to learn, but complex enough that it requires some practice to master and use effectively. Space and ground combat are very similar. I enjoyed the amount of status effects that could be applied on enemies and allies. This offered a lot of different opportunities to strategize. Certain moves inflict blindness, while other moves are made to exploit those negative effects. There are also buffs that can increase the firepower and morale of your allies in battle. Once I figured out what each status effect could do, it was easy to set up devastating combos.

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When entering ground combat, the game will fill in any open spots on your team with rookie recruits. These rookies must be upgraded as well to keep up with the increasing difficulty, but they are expendable and will automatically be replaced. When higher-ranking officers are killed in battle, their deaths have a much larger impact. Luckily, there is cloning technology that can be researched. This enables you to clone fallen comrades with all of their gained experience and skills intact. Other technologies that can be researched include larger ship designs, better power generation, alien technology, and many other things that will give you an edge in battle or strengthen Halcyon 6.

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I was very impressed by the charming pixel graphics and goofy sense of humor throughout the game. The attack animations are varied and look great. The humor really shines when interacting with alien civilizations. Each species has their own personality and motives. Over time they will approach Halcyon 6 to request aid, or offer information. Each alien race also has unique ships and physical appearances. I only finished the game once and had encountered at least three or four different civilizations, but the  developers claim that there are six different races that change during subsequent playthrough along with the layout of the galaxy. This adds a good deal of replay value and makes each new game a bit different, which is huge bonus.

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Final Judgment: 80%

Having been an indie-developed game, Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is a very well crafted and enjoyable experience. I finished the game within 24 hours and I’m contemplating anything playthrough to see how different it can be from my first try. The difficulty can be quite high, even on lower levels, so it’s easy to fall behind and become overwhelmed. I thought the pace was a bit too fast, but it did add to the urgency of the situation and forced me to make tough decisions. I also enjoyed building relationships with the other space-faring races, but I felt that the few interactions left a bit to be desired. Another thing that bothered me a little was that the game seemed somewhat lacking in instructions on what do to at certain times. Overall, Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander was an excellent indie game and I hope there is more to come from Massive Damage, Inc.

 

Pros:

  • Charming pixel graphics
  • Funny sense of humor
  • Challenging combat
  • Base-building
  • Great character progression
  • Cool enemies and ship designs
  • Exploration
  • Decent amount of replay value

Cons:

  • Small game world
  • Very fast paced/ easy to end up underpowered
  • Wonky ship movement at times
  • Too few alien races
  • Lacking in explanation of certain events

 

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