Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander for the Nintendo Switch Review: Strategy Opera

Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander for the Nintendo Switch

Growing up, I watched my father watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The idea of living in a comfortable space station on the edge of explored space captured my imagination. As a video game nerd as well, I’ve spent years finding a game that recaptures that magic. Enter Halcyon 6. While no means perfect, Halcyon 6 is worth your time. It didn’t capture all my Star Trek dreams, but it did get really close.

Take the concept of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and instead of comfortable space station living, imagine that the space station was abandoned, with only your officers and a tiny crew. After the space aliens the Chruul wipe out your fleet, pirates start attacking your base. You now must figure out the mysteries of the Halcyon station, and survive.

With a menu interface, a galaxy map, and JRPG style space and ground combat, Halcyon 6 mixes multiple genres into one and for the most part succeeds. You’ll be checking the map often for events in the galaxy. You’ll fight some pirates, aliens, or maybe make friends with another sector. You’ll upgrade the Halcyon station often to take advantage of new perks. There’s always something to do, until it becomes a grind.

There is a way to keep Halcyon 6 from becoming a grind too soon. You’ll know the game becomes a grind once you’re doing the same tasks over and over again. Before I played the game, I read to set the game one difficulty level above what you would normally put. This makes the threshold of “wash, rinse, repeat” appear later in your playthrough. 

Then, there’s leveling and upgrading screens. Basically, there’s a lot of menus in Halcyon 6. These are pretty self explanatory. Level up your station, ships, and captains here. The last main mechanic in the game is the JRPG combat. We’ve got spaceship combat and ground combat. They don’t differ too much but that requires you to heal and level up two different types of characters.

There are a few main parts of Halcyon 6. One is space travel. There are multiple sectors around the Halcyon station to investigate. Perhaps you’ll find a colony, perhaps you’ll find new resources. Next is managing the Halcyon station.  The more you unlock, and the more you clear out Halcyon 6, there will be more room for new perks and resources!

The game is in real time, until you pause it. When you travel across this galaxy, events occur, pirates attack you, and your resources increase and deplete. With the pause option you can plan your next move, so make sure it’s good.

There are different alien species to contact. There’s robots, pirates, aliens, and more! You choose how you interact with them. Want to fight everything in your path? Hopefully you’re either super efficient at your strategy game or you’re on the easiest difficulty. Form alliances? Yeah, that works too. But don’t expect to be friends with the Chruul. They’re just evil!

Characters die forever in Halcyon 6. Luckily you just learn not to become attached to your officers! Same with space ships, except you can always rebuild those. This makes Halcyon 6 almost a roguelike! In fact, there is a roguelike mode that’ll make it so you can’t go back saves.

Music in Halcyon 6 is awesome, it really sounds like a Star Trek episode with the epic orchestrations! Combine that with the appealing visuals and we’ve got a winner in the presentation category. The menus are nicely done, so the menus don’t detract from the presentation.

I think a definite improvement that could be made for Halcyon 6 is console friendly controls. For PC a cursor is perfectly fine, but on console? It’s really weird and awkward. Some parts of the game are optimized for console, and others are not. Either a better cursor or no cursor would improve the game, I believe.

Also, the game would freeze up for a couple of seconds at a time. They aren’t super frequent, but frequent enough to make the game feel less cohesive.

I really enjoyed Halcyon 6, but it never achieved “must play title” for me. If it’s on sale for $15 or less, pick it up for sure! I believe there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in it at full price, too. It feels like a Star Trek game, it plays well. It’s a game I’ll keep revisiting, plus it’s got me excited for the studio’s next adventure. I recommend Halcyon 6.

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Reviewed by Jack Bankhead on the Nintendo Switch, game provided by Smiling Buddha Games.