In a world where RTS (real time strategy) games are becoming less and less focused on, Halo Wars 2 is a breath of fresh air. Halo Wars 2 suffers from some limited gameplay mechanics, and a few issues here and there, but it still makes for a great RTS game that will keep fans of the genre busy for a long time.
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Platforms: Xbox One | Windows 10
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Developer: 343 Industries | Creative Assembly
Publisher: Microsoft Games
Distributor: Prima Interactive
Release Date: 21 February 2017
Halo Wars 2 is set in the same universe as the other Halo games, and takes place three decades after the original Halo Wars game, after the events of Halo 5: Guardians. It is a RTS Halo game, that expands the genre to the Halo lore pretty well. Although many of its mechanics feel like a watered-down version of a standard RTS game, it manages to stay true to the series, and still cater fro RTS fans at the same time. Halo War 2 is easy enough to play if you have never played an RTS game before, and at the same time Halo fans will love how explosive the game can be at times.
Rather than facing off against the Covenant like we have been since the original Halo game, Halo Wars 2 introduces the Banished – a faction of Brutes that have been preparing for war for years. After the Spirit of Fire walk into a trap that alerts the Banished to their presence, they have no other option but to use all their resources available in order to take down the Banished and their massive army of Brutes.
Halo War 2 features some stunning CG cinematics, of which lay the foundations t0 the game’s story, and expand on it throughout the 12-mission story campaign. The story lacks the impact felt in the main Halo games, but fans who follow the Halo universe will love how much attention to detail can be found in Halo War 2.
During the campaign we went through a range of very different missions that had us doing very different things throughout. From building a base, and forming an army of eighty troops, then heading out to capture zones around the map like a Domination game mode, to starting off with nothing, and trying to survive waves of enemies with the very little support we had. The campaign did a great job by re-introducing us into the Halo Wars 2 series, and at the same time polished up our RTS skills, and let us touch on the different ways to play the game. Building a base is quick and easy, and navigating around our troops felt smooth.
Building troops does have its limits though, as the game runs on a system of eighty troops. A soldier for example takes three of those slots, so filling up our base with an army to match the troops of Sauron was not possible, and at times we just wanted more fire power and a bigger team to do so. The limitations do get in the way, and we started to feel that the kick we went into a battle with, could have been bigger, if we had an extra thirty or so slots for battle.
Halo War 2 does get more explosive, as the campaign progresses. New troops are heavily relied on like the Cyclops and Hellbringers, but when you do not have the choice to create them, just after a mission where you did, it feels like a step back. Then again it all depends on the enemies you face in the mission. Air drones will give you the upper hand, but not last when you come across anti-air cannons that are ridden all over the enemy’s base. Halo Wars 2 shines the brightest here, when all the little tactical approaches come together so well, and the more we played it, the more fluent we became with all the different troops and powers at our disposal.
While the review process was focused on the single player campaign mainly, due to the lack of a proper online community to play against in the multiplayer, we did manage to find a match or two,. Luckily we spent so much time in the single player before we did, as it helped us grasp mechanics in the PvP mode. Domination, which we first experienced in the single player mode, saw us fight against another player as we tried to fight over three points on the map. We were constantly building troops, sending them to fight for a point, and the more we held these points, the more score we got. It is just like a classic Halo multiplayer game, but in RTS mode, and it was awesome to experience it from a different point of view. Another great feat was the streamline controller experience that managed to bring out the best of the game’s core mechanics, without feeling that we did not have enough buttons for it. The Xbox One controller worked great throughout the game, and it had the best control scheme to maximize the gameplay.
Halo Wars 2 feels like a great addition to the Halo series, and successfully makes all the battles feel believable and relatable at the same time. Sometimes the unit restrictions might feel a bit on the low side, but the game’s core mechanics, work around this successfully. With Skirmish and Blits modes included, as well as various difficulties to choose from to replay the campaign, it will keep you busy for ages. It also support the Play Anywhere feature, so you will own it on both Xbox One and Windows 10.