The price of history.
The Precursor race – an alien lifeform that existed long before the time of man; a lifeform so advanced in technology, that the present day science cannot explain. Vanishing, the Precursor race left behind only pieces of its inexplicable history. One such relic is the Halcyon 6 base, a space station currently inhabited by the human Federation. Under the command of one of the most well-decorated admirals of the Federation, Halcyon 6 is more of a research center than a starbase. When the admiral is sent an S.O.S. beacon, he and a few other officers depart Halcyon 6. Unfortunately, the beacon was a trap, and the admiral’s fleet is seemingly destroyed.
As the curtain falls on the prologue of Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander, with the player freshly baptized in the game mechanics tutorials, one officer is left in charge of the starbase: You. As such, it is your mission to continue to research and develop the Halcyon 6 starbase, as well as defend and attack various alien lifeforms and pirates or rescue civilians and mine materials. With a myriad options available to explore, Halcyon 6 is packed with content for the player to peruse and enjoy.
Halcyon 6 is separated into a number of facets. A mix between X-Com command center building and researching, turn based space and soldier battling, and the exploring of the space around the star base (for both materials, civilians to rescue, pirates to slay, and more), the player is given a broad means of exploring, each with its own strengths and importance. Players must explore the starbase to excavate blocks of area for research and construction. While exploring, players may confront creatures in need of extermination, and a foot-soldier battle will ensue. Each officer that you recruit will have starship and personal abilities utilized in both space and melee combat; the choice of which officer you’d like to enlist is up to you, so you can strategize your own play style the way you desire.
Outside of exploring and expanding the starbase, the player can send fleets out to explore the space around Halcyon 6. From the opening of the game, pirates assault your command, and you’re given an opportunity to ally with or destroy many. The choice is yours. In traveling outside of the station, you can rescue other abandoned Federation civilians and workers, also incurring more resources in the process. The map is pretty expansive, and it’s a real pleasure to explore its possibilities. Space battles, which occur often, are also turned based – like a traditional RPG. On each side of the screen, your fleet and the enemy’s line up, and a turn gauge is positioned on the bottom of the screen. Each ship and officer owns a different set of abilities and hit points (especially depending on the type of officer you chose), so each battle and fleet could be quite different from the next.
The visuals in Halcyon 6 enjoy a retro, 8-bit throwback that really works. Honestly, I had loads of fun watching the 8-bit ships catapult attacks at each other and choosing the attacks (each of which had different visual accompaniments). On foot, the characters appear a bit bland, but the creatures you battle with (and the vast array of characters you chat with) look great. The monsters are vicious, and the effects of damage and death are actually pretty brutal. What Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander does visually is combine retro with modern aesthetic ideas, creating a sort of Doom-esque violence. Of course, the game isn’t centered around the violence aspect, but it is certainly noticeable. Sound, too, is well crafted. It ditches the retro concept for more of a Mass Effect feel, which is great. The sci-fi soundtrack is well crafted and sublime, allowing the player to submerse him/herself into the atmosphere and world of the game.
In considering Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander, I have to account for the flaws in the otherwise great game. My biggest concern is that the first update disallowed me from loading my save data, and I lost all of my progress. With the second update, I didn’t experience this issue, so I’m hoping it was a pre-launch bug. Second, the game does little to explain much of what you’re capable of doing; the tutorial only scratches the surface of Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander, and, while that’s not a completely negative thing, it does hinder the overall experience. I began to question whether I misunderstood the tutorial or if I could do some of the things I felt I needed to be able to. I never found answers to some of the questions that arose. There are zero tutorials after the opening tutorial, and there really isn’t a help menu to answer any impending questions, either.
The biggest concerns with Halcyon 6 involve two of the game’s biggest aspects: combat and resource mining. As I stated earlier, I enjoyed the combat within Halcyon 6; for the average gamer or someone who dislikes turn-based RPGs, the combat could grow stale rather quickly. Likewise, resources must be manually mined and obtained, so there is no quick way to re-supply. In other words, you must spend time outside of the narrative or combat in order to refuel, repair, build, rebuild, or research – progress can be slowed significantly by the need for resources. This is, however, all in the eye of the beholder – you’ll most likely either love it or hate it.
But when I look back at my overall experience with Halcyon 6 Starbase Commader, I can’t help but nod at the enjoyment I had with the game. Its elements weren’t all original, particularly with the blatant X-Com base set up, but the game’s character helped set it apart. With enjoyable gameplay split between space and ground, battling your foes in Halcyon 6 is engrossing and loads of fun. The retro visuals and sci-fi soundtrack, while seemingly heavily influenced by Mass Effect, work well together, creating an immersive universe to become lost within. The $19.99 price tag for the game may seem pricy, but the content within is expansive. Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander is a game well worth the risk, particularly for fans of the X-Com base building, Mass Effect exploration and soundtrack, and classic, turn-based RPGs.