REVIEW: HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea

REVIEW: HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea

HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea is an interesting combination of the base building Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre and Tower Defense (TD) genre. While it isn’t true to form for either genre, it brings them together into a fairly unique package.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Strategy
Developer: ActaLogic
Publisher: ActaLogic
Release Date: 6 Sep, 2017

My Genre Background

I’ve been a long-time fan of the base building RTS genre dating back to War/StarCraft, Command & Conquer, Dawn of War, Dune 2000 and various others that I have played over the years. Unfortunately, at some point the genre took a bit of a wrong turn in my opinion when it lost the whole base building element. Rather than having to be strategic in your attacks against your enemies and defending yourself from the enemy doing the same, the RTS genre started focusing on just squad-based gameplay where the units are either just given to you or magically warp in from somewhere else (but not constructed from your personally laid out base!) While Playing Warcraft 3’s custom map modes I was introduced to the Tower Defense genre by a custom game called Wintermaul. From there I naturally migrated to the greats like Bloons TD5, GemCraft and various other browser clicker games. HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea takes the base building I previously loved but eliminates the individual unit construction element, replacing it with stationary towers to defend yourself with, much akin to that of a Tower Defense game.

Gameplay Trailer

About the game

Let’s talk about the gameplay basics in more detail. Your world is doomed; a hypernova is about to occur that will obliterate your planet along with the rest of your solar system. Due to the over-industrialized nature of the alien species, they have strip mined their home planet of all the natural resources that could have been used to save their doomed species. Luckily, their inhospitable moon has the resources needed to rescue at least some of the otherwise soon to be extinct race. The key word in that last sentence was inhospitable. The entire moon is covered in a miasma of purple death gas. That doesn’t stop the gallantly Jamaican sounding captain (who totally loves to hear himself talk) from blasting off to the moon to try to facilitate their Escape from Hadea before the Hypernova occurs!

The first thing you have to do is find yourself a place to land. Luckily your mothership’s engines can temporarily burn away the purple fog as you scout for a suitable landing site. This actually poses the first challenge of the game, trying to figure out where you want to start. You really need to ensure there are some red and yellow crystals nearby to get your economy started. Bonus points if there are also some green crystals nearby because you will need those shortly as well! The thing is, once you land your mothership, there is no changing your mind, once it is down, it is down for the count! You now need to start building your base. Your mothership is what other games usually call the construction yard because it is basically the heart of your base. Without it you are lost. It generates the power needed to run your buildings as well as constructs almost all your buildings earlier on. Unlike most games of the genre, there is no way to build additional power plants, only power relays that take power from the mothership and transmits it to where you need it. This fact actually was the source of my first loss in the game, but more on that later. You can’t just run into the purple fog willy-nilly. It will quickly destroy any buildings you place there unless you build a powered purifier in there to disperse the toxic fog. Luckily power is transmitted wirelessly so long as there is a power relay within range, your purifier will clear away the purple fog before it is damaged by it. That’s the basics of base expansion, now let’s talk about resource collection.

There are a number of resources in this game you need to manage. Besides clearing away the purple fog and ensuring power is being sent to your buildings, you need to worry about harvesting the three main types of minerals. Two of them are primarily needed for constructing additional buildings while the third one is mainly needed for research and propulsion to relocate your existing buildings. Each node you mined can have one driller harvester attached to it in order to harvest the limited resource. Once it is empty, you will either need to move to another node or wait long enough for it to replenish so you can begin harvesting again. There are also the four rarer/unique elements you need to harvest to construct the gateway to allow your people to escape to a new world. These require a special harvesting tool that you need to tech up to before being able to commence their collection. The last resource you need to manage is your population. You need a sufficient population to rescue to ensure your species will survive on their new world. You must build them temporary homes to live in, supply them food and water and various other amenities to ensure they survive and thrive on the otherwise deadly moon. Resource collection is a bit of a pain to manage properly due to the fact that you need to find each node by scanning around the map for it and trying to spot it through the purple fog, then extending power and purifiers out until you can drop your driller on it. Then you need to defend the micro-base and all nodes leading up to it or you will risk disaster.

Research is used to tech up your base. When you first land, you have only a basic handful of buildings at your disposal. They are good enough to get you going, but they are insufficient to sustain you for long. Once you have the ability to research items, you need to figure out what you want to spend your time and resources developing first. As you develop things in the tech tree, new research items become available. To prevent you from teching up too fast, some higher-level research is limited by your current population. This is likely in place for two reasons. First and foremost, to serve as the research limiter I suggested, but secondly, it is to ensure you actually build your base out to support the colony you need in order to do the research. Without that limitation, you could keep your base small and very easy to defend versus the expansive and widespread base you will need to fulfill the requirements to unlock the research. Let’s talk more about that expansive base now shall we?

Each building you have has a circle of influence and footprint size. Some buildings take up more room, some have longer effectiveness ranges. Getting to know your buildings is how you will be able to build an efficient base. While you can’t directly upgrade your residential structures, building certain other structures near them will increase their effectiveness. Even with the boosts, you will need a lot of residential structures in order to grow your population to a sufficient level. Due to the torn up and rugged landscape, you are not really able to build freely without limits and are not even able to limit yourself to just building in one small defensible area. This leads to a spread out base that will sprawl over quite a large area before you are ultimately finished with the game. Surrounding you are various hostile species and also potentially naturally disastrous events that will devastate your base and slow your progress. This is really a good time to talk about the first mistake I made that basically completely ruined my chances in my first game. Save often! That’s important! But watching your power supply lines is likely equally as important. In my ever-expanding need for resources, I found myself daisy chaining power relays out around my base, avoiding hostile nests that the game, fortunately, marks with an angry face if you go to build too close to one. Since I was short on resources and nearing my power cap while still trying to expand my population up, I couldn’t afford a lot of turrets. I had overextended myself. Due to the fact that one branch of my lines seemed to avoid the enemy nests quite well and also was quite resource-rich without any natural elements to hinder my progress, I focused on branching out that line. Then tragedy struck, a surprise attack near my main base occurred with some of the enemies attacking my secondary supply line. I moved my few turrets I had over to that line and defended it; meanwhile, the enemies went around my base and attacked my main supply line, destroying a single power relay before I could get some turrets up. Without that relay, I lost power to my entire main line, and my buildings started taking damage. I quickly used the last of my resources to build a new relay and landed it where the old one had been… but it couldn’t get power, the purple fog was blocking the power transmission to the relay and the purifier for the area had been powered by that specific relay. By the time I managed to build and move buildings enough to restore power to my line, I was under attack again, in multiple places without any hope of saving myself this time. Lesson learned! On my second playthrough I decided “No more Mister Nice Alien” and I actively destroyed every enemy hive I encountered with my roving attack turrets. I also made cross-links between my power relay lines akin to that of a spider web to ensure if any nodes fell under attack, there would be a backup line to keep the power flowing to the rest of the line. It did make it more peaceful, but it never did stop the relentless waves of attacks against me. So long as your buildings are not damaged too much, you can also have them take off and retreat from a hopeless battle rather than letting them be destroyed.

The plot of the game is mostly the exposition at the start of the game where the captain tells you about what is going on. The game injects humour whenever it can, such as when it is telling you about the relics you just found are from an ancient civilization and that you should smash them for resources because the world is about to explode and that would destroy them anyway. Other than that, the game is just you trying survive and expand you base. It’s a bit of a race though because after all the hypernova is coming eventually so you need to be quick about it, how quick is a bit of mystery, but still there isn’t really time to doddle too much. The longer you last in the game, the more things will happen such as the asteroid storms and other elements that are there to make your life miserable… I mean to add to the challenge and fun!

Graphically the game is vibrantly colored and has sufficient details on everything to make them look interesting. It can be hard, at times, to spot where the enemies are attacking you from on the mini-map or even the regular map because they are so tiny but it isn’t really that much of a problem. It can also be a bit annoying to explore the dense purple fog areas because it is sometimes hard to see where your power relay ring ends under the thick fog as well as finding suitable landing sites for the purifier. Sometimes areas will look like they are suitable but the game outlines the area as unbuildable, which means that the fraction of a fraction of an inch will prevent my building from fitting in otherwise ideal position. It’s not really that big of a deal, but sometimes it prevents my expansion from going where I wanted it to just because I had to build around an area that I had previously thought I could build at.

The sound in the game is pretty standard for the genres. I really enjoyed the opening with the captain speaking in his alien language before the translator kicked in. The captain also speaks periodically to let you know that you are under attack. He may happily tell you that your buildings are taking damage, such as when a purifier is destroyed, by making a joke about the area now having unbreathable air. The humor element to the game really makes it more enjoyable. As you scroll the map you will hear your buildings operating as well as random wildlife making noises. As your buildings take off and land you can hear their thrusters kick in. All sound elements considered, it makes the game have a wonderful science fiction ambiance and makes the moon seem more alive.

The controls in the game are smooth and responsive. The menu system is clear and easy to navigate. The only real issue I had was trying to get the radial window open in time to redirect a building before it landed when I decided I wanted it to go elsewhere. It wasn’t that big of a deal as it doesn’t cost a lot to move a building anyway. I didn’t attempt to use my gamepad because the base building RTS and also tower defense games are ideally played with the keyboard and mouse, or at least, that is how I have always played them.

In terms of replayability, your starting location can make a difference to how your game will unfold and there are three difficulty settings for you to choose from to change up the game a little bit as well. There are also plenty of items scattered around the map for you to find, with achievements to unlock to reward you for seeking them out. That should give you a reason to keep playing even if you have already beaten the game once. There is only the one single race to play as so unlike most RTS games, you are limited to just one sides point of view for the story. There is only the one true mission as well so you are playing an all or nothing game. You might spend hours fleshing out your base just to find it come undone due to a careless mistake or unexpected event. Saving often can help mitigate that issue as it can help you reinforce areas of your base that fell previously. That may or may not be sufficient to keep your current game going without the need to start over from scratch.

So, should you get HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea? If you are fan of the base building RTS game or are looking for a more complicated Tower Defense game, then I would say yes, you should enjoy HYPERNOVA: Escape from Hadea. It lacks any kind of mobile unit other than the ability to relocate almost all buildings so if you are looking for a true to form base builder, you might be a little disappointed, but at least it has the base building! Overall, it is one I will continue to play for at least a little while longer. I have enjoyed it enough that I want to see the ending even if I have to start over a few more times to get there!

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September 2017

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