A turn-based strategy RPG, with survival mechanics, all set within the confines of a ship in deep space. Not an everyday occurrence, even if the core gameplay is a mixture of X-Com and Jagged Alliance. Robotality’s Halfway sees you aboard the colonial starship Goliath, in the middle of a strange invasion by an unknown hostile force. You’ll have to put together what’s left of the crew in order to fight for survival and solve the mystery of why your ship is under attack.
Visually, the game is gorgeous. Its pixel art is reminiscent of old 16-bit classics, with highly stylised character models running around a detailed, industrial ship that wouldn’t look out-of-place in a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie. The atmosphere aboard the ship is tense and the levels are well designed, although tipped often in the favour of the enemy.
And combat is where this game’s meat and veg lies. Once you’ve stumbled upon a combat situation (or one has stumbled upon you) the action turns straight into X-Com: Enemy Unknown. The exact same mechanics apply here: cover represented by a shield or half-shield, depending on how much cover is available; a menu offers the likes of Retaliation (wherein the character will strike back if fired upon), reloading, grenade use, medikit use and special abilities; and accuracy percentages that inform you how likely your shots are to connect, even down to the horribly inaccurate results that plagued X-Com.
You’ll almost always find the odds stacked against you here, however. Halfway ironically doesn’t go by half measures when it comes to the difficulty curve, with the norm usually consisting of long battles against enemy numbers that at least triple those of your squad. This is also where inventory management becomes key, as you have limited ammunition and medikits, and these cost action points to use in the midst of a fight. You aren’t completely stuck if you run out, as you can scrounge for extra items in storage containers dotted around each level – the catch being that you aren’t guaranteed to reach them.
All this would make for a wonderfully tense series of fights, if they weren’t so harshly stacked in the enemy’s favour. Shot accuracy is horrifically unbalanced, with the CPU being able to hit from almost any distance, but leaving you with a maximum of about 50% accuracy if you’re lucky. When your sniper seems to have an average accuracy of 38% and can’t hit a foe that’s 20 feet away, but can be hit from twice that distance by regular enemies, you know something is wrong.
Don’t expect cover to be of much use, either. It does reduce the damage done by attacks but it doesn’t seem to hinder the accuracy of your attackers in any way. If your character is behind a full-sized wall, it’s difficult to stomach when the CPU still hits from behind said wall, especially from a sizeable distance.
That said, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is a genuinely interesting story at the heart of Halfway, and the music goes a long way to bring you into the atmosphere of the setting, with a score that brings to mind Mass Effect, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and even Blade Runner. Between missions, you genuinely feel a sense of relaxation after each battle as you get to know your crew and prepare for the next outing. In this safe zone you can buy new equipment, free up inventory space by storing unused items/weapons and generally ready your team for its next trial. The more team members you accrue, the more this management aspect comes into play, adding an extra dimension to an already layered gameplay experience. You can even send your team on side-missions to restock your medical supplies and ammo, or to look for potential survivors to grow your squad.
There is a fantastic game on offer here, one that the hardcore gamers of old will love, but one which regular gamers will find a struggle. The fans it gains may stick around too, with a campaign that lasts at least 10-15 hours, on top of the recently released modding tools – including a complex level editor and the ability to share creations via Steam’s Workshop, offering players a near infinite number of levels to play.
Overall, despite its many flaws and balancing issues, Halfway does have a certain charm and offers an incredible amount of content for such a small price. It’s just a shame that those flaws overshadow what could have been a classic game.
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