Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the pixel art computer game; but not really, wink. 

How’s this for a piss-poor first day at work? You finally get that swanky promotion to base commander, only to witness the destruction of your beloved Federation. Those pesky uncommunicative murderous space aliens, always with the random acts of mass slaughter on your happy day. Anyway, I guess you’re the last line of defence, again. So… protect your space station and rebuild the Federation. No problem.

Hey, not the worst set up, is it? I had no idea the game was funded through Kickstarter or created in front of a baying early access crowd. It’s good to be patient.

I’m pleased to report they dodged the “cease and desist” letter from Paramount.

Have you ever loved a game before becoming tired of the repetitive game loop, weeping as you watch its design crumble around you. Recoiling in abject horror as the death-loop spiral lovingly grabs you by the hand; oh yes, you will require to restart, but only after you’ve thrown hours of your life away. By comparison you didn’t mind losing in FTL because the game was short and sweet, designed with failure in mind. Contingencies were made. It wasn’t a prolonged entrenched battle, sapping your willpower, as you eye the Witcher 3 icon on your desktop… Man, I never got round to upgrading that Ursine armour.

Wait… where was I. Oh yes, Halcyon 6.

Halcyon 6 - Starbase Commander

Pile of Stats

You take charge and note the local star system around your base. You acquire a top notch officer, in my case, William T Riker. Oh yeah, you can rename everything. You hire more Captains, build neat little spaceships and throw them into away missions. This is excellent. You conduct incredibly simple diplomacy with alien species, who mostly take great delight in mocking the destruction of your empire. You can help or hinder them. So far so good. You deal with local pirates, you find survivors on nearby stations, who in turn, can supply your base with much needed materials. This is all most excellent. You use those materials to upgrade and build, you explore the base and research new technologies. I’m absolutely loving this game. The alien menace is mysterious. The pixel art is great, it has real character. The turn based battles are cute and short. Who doesn’t like “Ramming speed” as an option? Nice.

You win a fair few battles, you reload when you lose brave Cpt. Riker in his precious ship with top-notch crew-members. You do this because you can’t waste those materials on none-bearded Captains in obsolete rust-buckets. You need to upgrade your fleet.

Eventually the diplomacy slows down. You automate the collection of supplies from the local stations, which is great because going around collecting resources becomes a tremendous pain. The alien menace never stops evolving. Portals appear spewing forth enemy combatants. The portals themselves are guarded by incredibly tough defence fleets. Wait, is this on normal difficulty? You scramble to defend the stations, how much is it to upgrade the ships? The enemy is barely overcome.

Halcyon 6 - Starbase Commander

Pile of Ships

Your reward?

More battles. 

You don’t feel like you’ve organically worked things out, you’re following a specific design document.

You may find a few more tricks to use in your battles, but the very same tactics used at the beginning of your adventure still ring true at higher levels. The only real obstacle to the entire game is upgrading to the next level of spaceship. You dispatch your ragtag fleets to defend your source of income. More portals open. Your eyes glaze over as you automatically go through the motions of battles. You barely have enough time to command your Officers to work in base.

Halcyon 6 becomes a tower defence game. This is shit. I thought the Federation was about exploration, not John Woo alien relations. Knowing this might temper your expectations after such a promising beginning.

We are long past sitting on Uncle Fun’s lap. The cute turn based battles stopped entertaining some time ago. You lick your lips and look at the Witcher 3 box lovingly. Why am I persevering? Maybe it will get good again? Maybe after these battles, you might get to enjoy a breather? You resolve to overcome the odds, after all, you got this far.

Halcyon 6 - Starbase Commander

Pile of Space Stations

I guess you could abandon the tower defence game by evacuating the stations, to concentrate on defending your lone space station. I’m not sure you’ll acquire enough resources to stave off the next wave of murderous aliens. I’ve spent hours protecting these bastards, protecting that income… It’s not worth the risk. Halcyon 6 lures you into thinking you have grand choice, with open ended tactics, but you don’t. Remember, don’t deviate from the design document.

The game declares a mighty enemy is due to arrive within 30 days, you best prepare. You note that you cannot defend against it in your current state. It’s clear you must upgrade to the next tier of super-ship, again. It’s a tedious loop. I couldn’t face losing the whole game to restart, rebuilding the team, the fleet, re-living the same short lines of dialogue. I can barely face the turn-based battles now. I can’t start again. I just about scrape through with risky hit and run tactics until new ships are brought into production. I’m keenly aware I haven’t had any fun in some time. Of course, I can thank Captain Reload with his intimate knowledge of the time-space continuum for my steady progress. Halcyon 6 should parallel the very best Star Trek episodes where you overcome grim odds, maybe reconfigure the shield arrays, teleport a photon torpedo into the kitchen or lick the port nacelles.

It doesn’t.

Halcyon 6 - Starbase Commander


You can’t roll with the punches, not even with officer cloning chambers, as replacement ships require real investment. The early access model reveals disjointed design as you finish the first act and the game opens up even further. Another tier of ships reveal themselves for research and I’m out. I’m not doing that all over again. I wanted to stop ages ago, but I was invested. I wanted to see if the game returned to that cute sense of adventure I admired at the beginning. Where did the fun go?

I absolutely loved Halcyon 6 before the repetitive game loop battered my poor tired eyes, weeping as the games design crumbles all around. Recoiling in abject horror as the death-loop spiral lovingly grabs you by the hand. Slap that hand away and scream “no!”. Don’t throw hours of your life away unless you know what you’re getting into.

6You could easily love this game.  It might be the game for you. You might keenly restart the game with renewed purpose. Prepare properly. Overcome the enemy. Take on the challenge. 

I couldn’t be arsed. I couldn’t imagine living through those battles again. Nope, it’s not for me.