Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who doesn’t answer back. Well, I guess unless it’s an emergency and you need help. In deep space. On a derelict ship. With a bunch of your former crewmates wanting to tear you limb from limb, for some reason.
This is the very scenario presented by Robotality in its latest game Halfway. Aptly named, this title has an aesthetic halfway between System Shock 2 and XCOM; it plays halfway between a turn-based strategy game and an RPG; its charm stems halfway between its pixelated visuals reminiscent of old 90s arcade games and its modern take on combat depth and mechanics. Terrible puns aside, Halfway is a pretty interesting game that keeps you on your toes.
Waking up from cryosleep on a colonial freighter sent adrift in space sometime in the 25th century, you’re tasked with figuring out what the heck’s going on. As you trek through the bowels of the Goliath (the name of said freighter), you stumble upon other survivors as you wade through waves of crewmates and colonists gone insane.
From its visuals (the overall art style, the softness of the lighting effects, the disintegration of enemies) to the little immersive nuances like the ejection and clang of shell casings after each shot, or the sparks emitted from missed bullets glancing off metallic surfaces, Halfway is a very technically sound game. Throughout my entire playthrough, I had not found a single bug and the controls were rather intuitive and responsive.
That being said, however, where the game shines in technical execution, it loses sight in creative design. Visual representation aside, I found that the game was lacking a lot of core RPG elements, such as level progression, looting enemies, and offering perks or bonuses to your characters as they advance in experience.
Though bits of these elements do exist, they are very minimal: instead of leveling up with skill points, the closest thing ot leveling is injecting your characters with rare stims that permanent increase one or more of four attributes.
That being said, although the game’s combat is fun and addictive, it too seems to be lacking weight. With so few attributes and available weapons and equipment, along with a lack of varying enemy types and behaviors, the missions become a grind that challenge the player’s ability to replicate tried-and-true strategies rather than adapting to new situations.
What I was most surprised by is that despite being available on Steam since last July, there have been no mods created on the Steam Workshop. Granted, I had not investigated this in-depth, so I cannot tell you for certain the reason why, but a lot of the gripes above could be addressed by the modding community.
I will say, as a developer that frequents Ludum Dare competitions, Halfway is thoroughly impressive in its own right. Much like running, once a team trains for either speed or distance, it’s difficult to switch gears without re-conditioning. That principle seems to be evident here as well: though Halfway is well-made, it still feels like it needs more to it; where Ludum Dare expects a lot in a little amount of time, Robotality seems to feel like even outside of those competitions, it needs to rush to the finish line.
Although that’s my worst criticism of the game, it’s by no means a bad one. I personally just don’t like when a developer gets me to really enjoy and feel immersed in a game, only for that immersion to be broken because I just want more.
At USD $12.99 on Steam, Halfway is definitely worth the cost if you’re looking for a fun turn-based scifi game. With its nostalgia-inducing graphics with contemporary flare and the fast-paced tactical combat, you’ll lose yourself to the cold vacuum of space pretty quickly. However if you’re looking for something with in-depth RPG elements, you’ll be left scratching your head. If Robotality gave gameplay and story half as much love as they give the game’s visuals and engine, they’ll have something even more addictive and immersive.