Synopsis:

You are the the commander of Halcyon 6, a derelict starbase that has suddenly became the only bastion left to protect Earth after a sudden alien invasion that devastated most of the Terran Federation fleet. Halcyon 6: Base Commander is a retro style space strategy RPG that features base building, exploration, crew management, turn-based combat and emergent story telling.


Objective:

This first impression is targeted at the latest released build, v0.2.0.0 (officers Unleashed) and expects readers to have a basic level of insight of the original release.

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Performance:

Frame per Second (FPS): Unfortunately I do not remember what it’s like during the previous build, but it is currently locked at 30 FPS and much more noticeable than before. While normally unimportant in a game with turn-based combat, it gameplay experience can be improved if it is made more fluid at 60 FPS.

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Option Menus / UI:

1) Options are threadbare as usual, and the tech tree design for me is still on the fence.

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2) The permanent display of hull / health bar values now is absolutely awesome.

3) Scrolling is still pitifully slow.


Difficulty / Pacing:

The two elements are intricately tied in Halcyon 6. The pacing is far less frantic than before, where the alien wormhole will spawn enemies before you even finished clearing the 3 independent pirates. There is also a much stronger sense of coherence on how the story and battles flow out (Independent Pirates -> 3 Pirate Captains - > Admirax - > Aliens) whereas previously, the pacing is ridiculously frantic in which your officers quite literally did not have even a second to rest, saving stations and exploring and murdering aliens and pirates and even more aliens. That difficulty spike when fighting Admirax still catches me off guard, but it may be a good thing.

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Now instead of purely reacting / planning the immediate best move against what’s happening on the board, you actually have time to plot several.


Graphics:

This ain’t pixelated, and so far everything in game are.

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No noticeable changes. However, correct me if I’m mistaken - does the pictures posted on the store page not match what is in game? Concept art perhaps?


Music:

The pirate captains now have their own unique theme OST, and it’s great!


Combat Animations:

1) Revamped, so that even the weakest ‘Spray and Pray’ attack has some ‘oomph’ in them.

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2) Ship death animations still take a long time though, so much that you can feel the contrast between it and the new attack animations.


Gameplay:

1) There are balances to certain skills, such as ships gain +75% Disabled resistance after recovering from Disabled status. It forces the player to be more inventive with their ships, sure, but considering the final boss of Act 1 (I have not reached it yet at this point of time) has been BUFFED to have resistance towards Disable, brr. What a nightmare.

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I beat them. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

2) Critical Condition. Player’s ships and Officers are no longer automatically destroyed / killed when Health reaches 0 - instead, they enter a Critical Condition state where any additional damage may kill them. The amount of damage done determines the % chance of being destroyed.

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This is similar to Darkest Dungeon’s Death’s Door mechanic where your ship would not be killed immediately despite having its health zeroed, and you have a chance of killing the enemy first or healing the ship back to life. My feelings are mixed on this because although this means that your ships and officers won’t die nearly as easily as before, this gives the devs an excuse to crank up enemy difficulty even further, like that final boss buff that was already an absolute nightmare to begin with. I sure hope that isn’t the case.

3) Autosave, or rather the lack thereof is still an issue. That is not to say the game doesn’t have an autosave system, or rather it doesn’t autosave enough. It is very easy to be on a work flow where you systematically destroyed every enemy during a patrol, but land on that one enemy (like the Admirax, like New Terra, like the final boss) that happened to be a massive difficulty spike, die, and realize that you’ve just lost a whole lot of progress. While the game boasts that losing a ship or an Officer is a common thing that should be gotten used to, the fact is the game’s challenging enough even with a perfect run, and often you die by losing 2/3 if not all of your fleet. By the time you rebuilt your army you would have lost a good chunk of advantage and incur a significant amount of game time.

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Cleaner.

4) Tech Research tree revamp. It still looks pretty much the same, but less cluttered since a portion of it (Ship Upgrades) has been moved under Terran Starship Hanger.

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5) Officer Academy. Now you can unlock the 3rd Officer really fast, and train up a 4th in just 7 in-game days. In the previous build, unless you’re honing every bit of resource into getting your 3rd Officer, the task could easily be delayed for 30 to 40 days, if not even 60 for beginners. The funny part is that the Tutorial screws you over by using your resource to build a Reactor, and due to low income gains you will practically take forever before you can complete your fleet. Runs have been restarted precisely because of this, and I’m glad they changed it.

What does it do?

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6) Officer Traits. Some example are, ‘Cocky’, ‘Reckless’ and ‘Nasty Scar’. While these look great on paper, since you can rely on them to unlock additional options in the new mini story events, but the problem is that you have no idea whether the new interaction will result in a net gain or cost. In fact, you have no idea what they even do, even though it is said that it will affect an Officer’s stats. Pretty important, don’t you think?

As for Trait-related events. Let me provide an example: In Darkest Dungeon, the Traits are clearly defined between Positive and Negative, where the good ones give you bonus stats or resistance and the bad ones debuffs etc. Here, you know nothing because while being Reckless in space combat might be bad, it might actually cheer up your crew in a mini speech event. It all depends on whether you want to click it and pray hard. Worse, some of the events (Such as the Multiplying Bryan, in which you choose whether to save, to leave, or to multiply a crew with the Multiplication Reactor) have randomized results, and if this is the case with Traits too then it literally renders Trait-related choices meaningless.

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At the very least, I would like to see exactly what stats Traits provide, and a % Chance of Success in mini choice events.

7) Officer rerolls. This is very good. Probably an illusion of choice, but still better to have than leave it completely to chance if you’ll get a god or a dud.

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8) Officers now have skill tree that you can unlock as you level up. I’m honestly hesitant to call it adding ‘depth’ to the game, because it is almost exactly the same set of skills (especially the ones ship-related) as the previous build, just that you can’t max level them all because of the level 15 cap. I guess it’s a good thing? Maybe?

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Bugs:

1) When I was talking to Willa the Pirate Captain after killing Khut the other Pirate Captain, she mentions that she’ll reward me on the condition that I kill him. Which I already did.

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No line breaks.
With line breaks

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2) When choosing your SECOND Officer, the Bio have line breaks in them. But during your FIRST choice of Officer or reading the Bio in Officer Quarters, there is no line breaks.


Conclusion:

Overall, the game has improved significantly as compared to the previous build. I’m still hoping to see a more fleshed out storyline (something like Chroma Squad’s, since this seems to have a funnier vibe. What if the commander screws up his first speech about the Federation fleet’s demise? etc), and a larger star map (the current one is small, no doubt about it). Diplomacy is non-existent and pointless at the moment. But Halcyon 6 is slowly developing to a great game, and their full release date is predicted to be late August or September 2016. Pretty good if you ask me.

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Halcyon 6: Base Commander is an Early Access game, and is available on Steam for $19.99. Price may vary as it updates or when it exits Early Access.

You may contact me on craxuan@gmail.com