Halcyon 6 and Darkest Dungeon: Canada’s indie game pride
I’ve only played 10 hours of Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition, and I’m already in love. Massive Damage’s tactical RPG, which was re-released in August 2017, is an absolute blast to experience. But playing through the space-faring indie game got me thinking, particularly when I saw that it was subsidized by the Ontario provincial government. Canadian indie developers such as Massive Damage and Red Hook deserve a lot of love. So, here are a few reasons you should care about their flagship titles, Halcyon-6 and Darkest Dungeon.
Attack of the tentacle aliens
Halcyon 6 centres around the destruction of humanity’s military presence in the galaxy; and your sudden promotion as commander of the human race. Using a little-understood alien artifact as a base of operations, the player trains new recruits, eliminates space pirates and ultimately tries to understand the reasons behind the hostile galactic takeover.
Yet, aside from its storyline, Halcyon 6 also represents a step into the limelight for independent game makers in Canada. The game has garnered very positive reviews online and builds on a recent trend in video-games: Pixel art. The style is a purposeful choice in game development; it allows for a beautiful aesthetic but doesn’t rely on engine power to draw the players interest. Halcyon 6 is a perfect example of this mentality. Its gameplay is addictive, simple, and rewarding. The player experiences a mix of base commander gameplay, similar to a simplified XCOM formula, while also engaging in space warfare. Combat, which is guided by class-based interactions very similar to JRPG’s, is also well fleshed out. The various status effects which your vehicles can impose on the enemies lead into combos from another ship’s attacks. It’s a fast-paced system that nonetheless requires some attention to enemy resistances.
Above all, it’s clear that Halcyon 6 is crafted with care and commitment to a light-hearted yet engrossing story. Massive Damage’s re-release of the game, which fixed many initial balancing and content issues, is a testament to this commitment.
Dungeons & Despair
Indeed, Massive Damage’s game got me thinking back to a game released two years ago: Darkest Dungeon.
Red Hook’s gothic, dungeon-crawling RPG scratched an itch many gamers ignored ever existed. It was unforgiving, drenched in style, and based on a grind which the players either loved or hated. I remember clearly having read about Red Hook’s justification for these mechanics. The Vancouver-based company had based the game on the general assumption that dungeon exploration must carry a mental toll. This seemingly evident concept had tragically been underemployed in the history of gaming. Red Hook decided to make it central to Darkest Dungeon’s formula. Every enemy critical hit, every horror witnessed translated to additional stress on the player’s party. Once they hit a certain threshold, this character’s would either “break” or stand firm against the darkness. Needless to say, Red Hook’s vision was an appealing one to hardcore game fans.
Both of these games serve as only two examples of what indie game development looks like in Canada. Although their stories and gameplay mechanics are wildly different, they both represent studio commitment to a way of telling stories and a focus on player enjoyment. While Halcyon 6’s gameplay loop is relatively simple, it borrows just enough from XCOM, 4X strategy games and JRPG’s to be both innovative and addictive. Darkest Dungeon only recently added an easier difficulty to their game, and this was in response to player feedback and demand.
Both of these game put design, vision and a fair price over problematic AAA ambitions. The result in both cases is a compelling gaming experience for the fans of these genres. It never hurts to tell these studios how much these games are appreciated; particularly when they put the actual player experience over an intended one.
Indie game development should be celebrated, these two games are only two of those which should make Canada proud.