Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is a tactical turn-based strategy game that made its way to Steam back in December 2016. Developed and published by Massive Damage, the title was received favorably on the platform, and currently sports a 7/10 rating.
Fast-forward 11 months, and an upgraded version of Starbase Commander is being released, dubbed Lightspeed Edition. Read on for our full review and impressions of the game!
According to the description available on Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition's Steam page, the title's required specifications are quite modest, and are as follows:
- OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Graphics: 128MB
- Storage: 500MB available space
- OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10
- Processor: 2GHz
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Graphics: 512MB
- Storage: 500MB available space
For the purpose of this review, I played the game on Dell Inspiron 15-5558 laptop, featuring the following specifications:
- Display: 15.6" non-touch, 1366x768 resolution
- OS: Windows 10, 64-bit
- RAM: 8GB
- Processor: Intel Core i5-5200U CPU, ~2.20 GHz
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500, NVIDIA GeForce 920M (2GB VRAM)
Needless to say, given the low requirements of the game, I utilized the integrated Intel HD graphics card instead of the dedicated one, and the game ran at a smooth 60fps.
Halcyon 6 is a simulation-based strategy game that places emphasis on turn-based combat, base building and diplomatic decisions. You are charged with taking command of the neglected Halcyon Starbase, and transform it into the last line of defense against alien species charging towards Earth.
I'll be completely honest here: I'm generally not a fan of turn-based strategy simulation games. The only titles that I enjoyed in this particular genre were the Pokémon games on the Gameboy Advance, which offered me hours of enjoyment in childhood.
However, as you may have noticed me mention in reviews, I'm a fan of retro 16-bit art in games like The Escapists: The Walking Dead and Sheltered. Hence, it was only natural that I would be attracted towards a game like Halcyon 6, which not only offers an art style that entices me, but also turn-based combat mechanics, and the ability to make decisions which could potentially branch the main story into different territories.
When I started playing Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition, I was under the impression that being an indie game, maybe the title's description was exaggerating its features and capabilities, because there was no way that an independently-developed game with limited resources could offer this amount of depth and gameplay value.
However, after only a couple of hours, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Halcyon 6's Steam description is more or less true, and that it did contain a lot of content that would keep me busy for way more than the promised 12 hours of the campaign, which is exactly what happened.
Depending on your play style, you could complete Halcyon 6 in less than 12 hours, but if you really want to explore the game - which is what you should do - it'll take you a lot longer to complete it.
Although the story is decent at first, I found myself losing track of it after a couple of sittings. Keeping in view the length of the game, there's no way that you will be able to digest everything that's happened, and that's one of its biggest flaws. You'll enjoy it a lot when you're playing it for short periods of time, but during the gaps, you will forget what the primary aim of your mission is, and just resort to completing the objectives listed in the notifications bar in the bottom right corner of the screen. I believe a sort of "Previously on Halcyon 6...", even in textual form, can solve this problem.
However, one rather interesting feature is limited-time events that pop up from time-to-time. These can be treated as side-quests, and although you are not obligated to tackle them, your decision to do so will impact your diplomatic relations with alien factions, which may also affect your main quest.
There are a lot of things to do in Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition. In a nutshell, the entire gameplay is quite heavily inspired from the XCOM titles, which isn't a bad thing at all, given the exceptional gameplay value it offers.
You can train officers from various classes and subclasses and task them with a variety of objectives, ranging from contruction of ships, to monitoring facilities, and to commanding battleships, among other things.
The AI is quite well-balanced and challenging, and at later stages of the game, almost every battle - in the air or on the ground - I fought went down to the wire. It is important to note that when a ship is destroyed in battle, you lose the officer commandeering the ship as well, which means that you have to strategically use your resources, which can also be used to repair your ships. Although the officers can be "revived" via cloning, this uses a considerable amount of resources, so you have to figure out a balance when making this particular decision.
Similar to XCOM, Halcyon 6 offers a diverse skill tree, which can be used to improve your resource production and the skills of your crew. It is essential to utilize this regularly or you'll find yourself being outmatched by your enemies - which is what happened to me at first.
Various types of battleships can be constructed, each with their own weapon systems and capabilities. This places further emphasis on resource management and strategy, which form the core part of Halcyon 6.
Bearing even more unmistakable similarities with XCOM is the "Hive" view, which can be used to see everything that you have constructed in your starship. Needless to say, it's an extremely useful mechanic and allows for quick navigation between various parts of Halcyon, which saves a lot of time.
Although diplomatic conversations do not result in major deviations in the story, the quirky and humorous dialog does well in maintaining the light atmosphere of the game, which makes it suitable and enjoyable for all audiences.
Presentation and design is where Halcyon 6 truly shines. The 16-bit art is phenomenal and quite detailed, and it will attract a lot of players enticed by retro visual styles. A good variety of colors is used to represent the pixelated map and battles, and it's easy to see what is happening without being overwhelmed by the presented detail.
Another big plus point is the fact that battles with other factions are fully animated. You don't just have to select an attack and wait for the opponent's health to decrease with "Critical hit!" or something of the sort written next to them. You will actually be able to see your different aggressive and passive moves being played out on the screen, with each attack featuring movement and corresponding explosions.
The soundtrack of Halcyon 6 is quite decent as well. It didn't get stale during my playtime, and in fact, added to the excitement in battles and when exploring the vastness of space. It's fitting to the title and doesn't feel unnecessary.
That said, I did notice a design flaw during my playthrough of Halcyon 6. However, I do have to point out that this is a minor UI issue. When you have enough notifications that they take up most of the height of the right side of the screen, it begins to overlap with the text present on the top of the screen. Although not game-breaking, it can be an annoyance at times.
I believe that the star map (pictured above) should be improved a bit as well. Although satisfactory for the offered purpose - which is traveling to different corners of space when required - I think it should feature some animations apart from starships moving along a horizontal dotted line as well. Some cosmic explosions or factions fighting amongst themselves would do very well, and add to the overall realism of the game.
Despite some minor design flaws, Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition is an excellent title, that not only offers lots of replay and gameplay value, but also provides an enjoyable and in-depth experience.
Although I haven't played the original Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander, according to the store description, the LightSpeed Edition upgrade offers a lot of enhancements - including streamlined campaign and progression systems, improved combat, and new loadouts - which truly makes it a title worth considering for fans of the genre.
Although the game may not appeal to everyone, particularly given the depth it offers and the attention to detail and resource management that it requires, I would have no hesitation recommending it to fans of the genre.
All in all, if you're a fan of turn-based strategy titles, excel in resource management, adore space-based games, and reminisce 16-bit retro visuals in games, Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition is a game that you absolutely shouldn't miss out on.
You can purchase Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition for $14.99 on Steam, starting from August 10. This is slightly lower than the $19.99 price tag of Starbase Commander. What's even better is that the developer is offering free copies of Lightspeed Edition to people who already own Starbase Commander. That said, it is important to note that the classic edition is being dicontinued, and will no longer get updates, as the development team transitions focus to Lightspeed Edition.
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Update: Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition can now be downloaded from Steam. It also features a 10% launch discount, which knocks the price down to $13.49 until August 16.
This review of Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition was conducted via a review copy provided by the developer.