Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is a retro space RPG for the Nintendo Switch focused around turn-based combat reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon, resource and base management, and exploration. It has a well-done pixelated graphical style as well. While the game is generally good overall, it does have some problems that take it from being a great game to a simply okay one.
The story here is no Mass Effect, meaning that it’s anything but complex or deep. It’s very simplistic and serves as more of a backdrop to the gameplay rather than a narrative that connects the player to the characters inhabiting the world. That’s not to say that the Officers you’ll be leveling up throughout the game mean nothing. As they gain more abilities they’ll naturally become more valuable in battle, and you’ll develop an attachment to them. It’s similar to how you begin to value your soldiers in XCOM or Fire Emblem.
It was cool and entertaining to experiment with different officers with different abilities to see how they would affect the gameplay. There are three primary Officer categories: Science, Tactical, and Engineering. My main focus was on Science officers, such as Physicists, who are based around healing and support. The game does a great job at allowing you to fight your own way, and having those other classes adds considerable replay value as well.
Also sprinkled throughout are multiple different choices you can make as the Commander that can positively or negatively affect your base. For example, an enemy faction assaulted one of our space facilities, and instead of fighting them I chose to hold back and work out a truce through dialogue. I love when games add elements of player choice like this. It gave me even more agency in the state of the world and its characters.
The main enjoyment of the game for me came from the space battles. Knowing when to retreat or when to pull out the big guns is an essential part of victory here. Similarly to in Darkest Dungeon, if you rush forward with everything you’ve got in the very beginning of a battle, you’ll likely be disadvantaged later. The enemy and tactical variety is great and is Halcyon 6‘s greatest highlight. Unfortunately, beyond that, the micromanagement and confusing UI in between left me cold.
To its credit, Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander does give you a comprehensive tutorial at the beginning. And it was convenient to have the multiple systems explained to me. But it reached a point later on where it just felt like too much to handle. Managing your Starbase includes things such as building rooms, researching a variety of topics, choosing skills for your officers while also recruiting new ones, searching for resources, etc. There are even stats for the ships such as speed, evasion, aim, and critical. While the game isn’t a total puzzle box to solve, I would have liked some more explanation than what we got. In the end, the in-between times were just boring for me. Having to fast forward through days for research to complete, or a base to be built — I get why it’s necessary, but it’s still annoying. One thing’s for sure: If you’re into games like Fallout Shelter or other micromanagement titles such as This War of Mine, you’ll more than likely enjoy this part of the experience.
Ultimately Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander is a game that’s fun in short bursts with considerable levels of potential that shine through in its combat, but the sheer level of busywork in-between sometimes felt unnecessary and too time-consuming for my liking. While it is a great deal for $19.99, whether you will fully enjoy your time in the galaxy is based on your tolerance for micromanagement gameplay.
A review code was provided by the publisher.