As someone who loves Faster Than Light, X-COM, and grew up with the Final Fantasy series, I didn’t ever expect to find them all combined into a single game. But Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is the game I didn’t know I wanted and had no idea even existed until I found it in Steam’s top sellers list last week. I’ve already plonked down something like 10 hours into the game and I can’t get enough.
Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is strategy RPG by indie dev Massive Damage. Fair warning, the game does feature a retro pixel art aesthetic, so if you’re not into that or tired of all the pixel art games, you can probably check out now. For everyone else, Halcyon 6 offers an excellent combination of Final Fantasy style turn-based combat, along with X-COM like base and crew management, all stitched together by an overarching quest line, side quests, and FTL style dialogue based events.
In Halcyon 6, you’re a member of the Terran Republic and you’ve taken command of a derelict starbase abandoned by an enigmatic alien race. Aliens are coming to take out earth and the responsibility falls onto you to rebuild the base as humanity’s best last hope. This is where the X-COM elements come in. Halcyon 6’s base building is nearly identical to the ant farm style base building featured in the X-COM games. You’ll research new technology unlocking additional rooms, ships and more, clear out sections of the base to build on, and build out the base over time. Everything in Halcyon 6 takes time to do, just like in X-COM, and the game moves forward as time passes, forcing you to keep up with events and other developments while simultaneously managing the development of your base, fleet, and crew.
You can develop multiple fleets and send them out across the galaxy to gather resources such as material, dark matter, and fuel. You’ll also send your fleet out to tackle a variety of quests, some of them timed (again a’la X-COM). So far, I’ve found it best to assemble a single combat fleet, while maintaining a second fleet to go around and pick up resources from liberated colonies.
Combat is primarily ship-to-ship but the game also features ground combat. Functionally, it’s the same thing, though. It’s a turn-based Final Fantasy style (3 vs. 3) affair where each character (or ship) brings with it a suite of abilities to use in combat. These abilities are defined by the ship type you field, with additional abilities made available through individual officer progression. There are three types of officers: science (support), engineering (tank), and tactical (DPS). Officers gain experience and level up, giving you points to spend upgrading their talents.
The combat is fun, but also a bit repetitive. Enemies have a variety of resistances and susceptibilities and you can exploit those susceptibilities by fielding ships with the appropriate abilities. The problem is that once you find a good configuration of ships (or crew) that can optimally afflict and exploit certain conditions, combat tends to become sort of routine. I should caution that I don’t feel I am incredibly far in the game at this point, so things may change later on.
For example, many ships early in the game are vulnerable to having their engines damaged. A Rogue (Tactical) ship comes equipped with the ability, Crippling Shot, which afflicts enemies with the Engine Down debuff. This shot will do extra damage to ships with this particular susceptibility, but also synergizes well with other ships in your fleet that can exploit the Engine Down condition, such as the engineering officer’s Battering Ram ability.
Even with my concerns over the game’s combat, the total package of gameplay elements makes for a compelling experience. It’s possible Halcyon 6 may fall short in other areas as I continue forward through the game, but at its current price of $16.99 on Steam, I feel like I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.