Welcome to a little series I’d like to kick off called “Oddball Game of the Month”, where I briefly share an odd little game I’ve enjoyed with you.
October’s title is a pretty little indie ditty called Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander.
This game caught my eye despite a 40ish game backlog that I currently hold (Steam sales – a gift, and yet a curse). Thematically, it appears to be a cross between Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Mass Effect.
You are the commander of an inherited, mysterious space station at the edge of known space as your faction (in this case, the Terran Federation) is invaded apocalypse style by giant space squids. It is your job to rebuild and defend your empire as best you can.
The game uses a pixel art style, which has sadly been overdone on Steam in recent memory…but this game pulls it off quite well. The 2D animations and style seem appropriate and interesting. The soundtrack is quite fantastic in my opinion, as it uses an interesting combination of classic 8-bit and orchestral.
Gameplay wise, there are a few different components. The first is starbase management, which is done in a section by section style similar to many modern mobile games…except without the mobile shenanigans that try to get you to pay to speed them up, making it exponentially better by default. You recruit and level up officers, build ships, send officers to explore and clear out areas in your starbase, and build new modules in cleared areas. And so on, and so forth.
The second component is ship combat. You can send your ships out from your starbase to explore planets, answer distress calls of surviving Terran colonies or facilities, and inevitably battle the dark denizens of deep space. The battle system is a turn-based ability system reminiscent of a light JRPG style. Each of your ships and officers have a set of abilities that can play off each other by exploiting different status effects.
The third component is the ground combat. In true Star Trek fashion, you will sometimes need to send your officers on ground missions, where they have a separate set of abilities to use in the same turn based combat system. I found this component to be a little under-utilized, which meant I focused most of my level up points on ship combat. However, this in turn made ground combat more difficult.
Overall, I enjoyed the combat, but it did start to get rather repetitive a ways into the game. Once you’ve built up your starbase and fleet, there’s a lot of grinding to defend your colonies and build up enough resources to upgrade. The game drags on a little in the later hours, perhaps overstaying its welcome a bit.
The fourth component is diplomacy, which I feel like is the first major misstep of this game. The game has several very interesting races that are parodies of popular sci-fi races. The interactions were amusing, but sadly very light in terms of options or effect. They also seemed to have very little impact on the overall game, which is really a missed opportunity.
Speaking of missed opportunities, your ships and starbase will occasionally run into Oregon Trail-esque random events, such as an officer falling into your warp core or strange creatures appearing in your fuel plants. These events had such potential, as they are a staple of classic sci-fi shows such as Star Trek. Unfortunately, they involve limited and mostly meaningless decisions, and seem to have very little impact on the game as a whole.
That said, it’s a nice little game worth its $22 Canadian asking price…in my personal opinion, of course.