Checks Out Halfway

Robotality was good enough to provide me with a copy of Halfway, its sci-fi strategy RPG, and so I have undertaken the task of playing it for a while and formulating an impression. You can witness this, as ever, below:

My thoughts?

It isn’t Halfway bad! I quite enjoy the combat system, which calls to mind Firaxis’s 2012 XCOM game with its extensive use of cover. The two-stage action point system works well here, and I like having the option to put both action points into an aimed shot. This sort of system could prove very interesting indeed once the player gets a larger and more diverse assortment of characters under his or her control.

The stim packs are an unusual choice, and seem to make for a flexible (if unstructured) character advancement system. I admit, I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about them yet. I like having my character advancement tied directly to my choices in-game; the stim packs, by contrast, call to mind a Metroidvania / Zelda-alike style of progression, where you improve only when you happen across certain uncommon items.

One thing I do unambiguously like: the fact that the map can branch, offering access to optional missions. I could see this becoming a strong feature of the game, assuming Halfway continues to make use of it further on.

And of course, the pixel art is gorgeous, with beautiful effects and a level of UI polish that I am very much not used to seeing in indie titles. Halfway also benefited from some effective sound design and music. Simply put, Halfway is all-the-way full of audiovisual polish.

Even with all of this going for Halfway, however, it’s not perfect. The to-hit percentages on various shots often seem arbitrary, as do the effects of cover. But thus far, it’s only ever been enough to prove annoying, not fatal to the experience.

If I had to fault Halfway on one aspect of its presentation, it would be in the writing. Though it may take place in space, the story is not exactly stellar. We already have the borg, the Many, chrysalids, and the xenomorphs of Aliens fame; this plot premise is just too well-trodden to carry my interest on its own. There needs to be more there. Perhaps Halfway’s storyline picks up with some needed twists on the formula later on, past the first hour?

Admittedly, the writing isn’t helped by reliance on a cast of fairly bland and stereotypical characters. The hard-bitten Morten Lannis calming down the hysterical, emotional female healer Linda Carter with his patented Male Rationality comes to mind as a cringe-worthy example.

All in all, I’d recommend Halfway to anyone looking for a lo-fi, XCOM-style experience. The game’s mechanics are solid, and its graphics and atmosphere are certainly worth experiencing even if they do end up wasted on a generic story. Halfway is available for $12.99, which seems to me a quite reasonable asking price. More info on how to pick it up here.

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