Welcome back commander, here is your update, the Spirit of Fire was declared Lost in Space by the UNSC, we are now at the Ark – A Forerunner facility that was responsible for building the Halo Rings. 28 years have passed since the events of the original Halo Wars, and we need you again commander, Unaware of the war between the covenant and UNSC is over, you send a group of marines to the Ark, and here you meet the new enemy the Banished, a group that have broken away from the covenant. Led by the Warlord Atriox, who rose to ultimate power through the covenant demise.
Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game developed with the Creative Assembly of Total War fame with assistance with the current Halo developers: 343 Industries. The player has access to the two factions which consist of the UNSC and the new faction called the Banished which split off from the covenant during the war and gave them a run for their money. Each faction has their own set of 3 leaders each with different unique units and powers. The campaign can be played solo or with a friend (CO-OP) alongside the standard RTS versus mode and the experimental Blitz mode which we’ll get into later.
But first, back to basics
Halo wars was originally released on the Xbox 360 and at the time was frowned upon by most fans of the Halo series because it was an RTS which was put onto a console and they tried to map an entire keyboard of commands onto a 10-button controller but it just worked. They managed to get a fun RTS onto a console and it may have been niche but the people who played it including myself fell in love with that game. When they announced the sequel at E3, myself and a couple of my friends lost our minds.
The second game in the series plays as you would expect for an RTS, Base building, researching upgrades for your units and trying to hold out long enough for you to build a huge force of super weapons and then steam roll the enemy base. Starcraft players will know where I’m coming from when I say that but Halo Wars 2 has taken the standard RTS formula and streamlined it to work on a console. RTS games are very rare on a console and rarely do the genre justice but the first game did it very well and the second game has had the time to learn from its predecessor and expand on that so you are able to enjoy that fast-based base building and unit rushing from the comfort of the sofa. If you are a PC gamer however then the controls are fairly simple but you are still able to do things like specific movement style attack moves without too much issue but it will involve doing some key remapping which might take a while.
Oh man the FMV’s in this game rock! The motion capture is done so well and I will say that it’s some of the best I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s like a good animated movie and the quality was able to pull me into the story to the point where I got excited as I knew there was a cut scene coming up. It reminds me of the Halo: Legends series of short films done by different animation houses and Starcraft. Expect that reference to come up a lot. Any comparison to Starcraft is not a bad thing at all. It is one of the best RTS games of all time and having a streamlined version of it on a console and having it work well is a huge achievement.
The multi-player portion of the game is split into two. You’ve got standard RTS where the base building comes into play so if you’ve played any RTS, you’ll be right at home. The other part is called Blitz which needs a bit of explaining. Normal multiplayer consists of:
- Skirmish – This is a platform to learn how to play the multi-player game, to improve your skills with other players or with AI.
- Stronghold – Is a fast-paced multi-player game, you have 15min to dominate the map, claim bases, increase your population and own the battlefield
- Domination – Own the field again, build up your armies, build your bases, capture specific points, deplete the enemies’ tickets to Zero and win
- Deathmatch – Classic and still awesome – build and destroy, be the last person standing.
Then we have blitz which is quite simple to explain but hard to master. Blitz brings a collectible card game and blends it together with standard Halo Wars. Each leader has a deck of cards, each with unique cards alongside faction specific cards. Each card will do something like summon a unit or use an effect, players will be playing the cards to create a force and then play domination. Cards will have costs and how your deck is laid out is key. If anyone is familiar with Hearthstone or Clash Royale on mobile will understand as the mode plays similarly to both of those games.
The faster pace to a game does add a level of skill as you need to know when to play the correct cards at the right time. Do you summon your big units now and then walk into the fight or do you play around your opponent with effect cards and super units? It’s down to how you play your deck and how you build. You’ll get more cards from card packs which are gained from just playing the game. You can buy them from the store as well.
One reason I brought up Clash Royale is that both Clash Royale and Halo Wars 2 have a similar way of dealing with duplicate cards. If you get a duplicate card from a pack, then that adds experience to the base version of the card and can level it up to be stronger in game which is nice because duplicates don’t become an annoyance but are kind of necessary. The actual modes of blitz include:
- Firefight – AKA Horde mode- fight alone or co-op and defeat wave after wave of enemies, while also capturing zones, this gets harder and harder as the game will spawn even harder and harder enemies, in the end it becomes and AHHHH, hair pulling out type genre.
- Versus – 1v1 or 2v2, control 3 points of interest, use your decks and spawn your troops, collect power and build your score up and own the battlefield.
It’s also nice to know that if you pick it up then if you have a PC and an Xbox One then you only need to get the one copy because of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. Thanks to that you can go from playing on your PC to your Xbox without losing save data and you can become an armchair commander in no time
Halo Wars 2 is one of those games which you really don’t know what to expect. The first look at it would for some be along the lines of “An RTS on console?” and there would be an air of uncertainty but that should be reason enough to pull you in. You take it home or download it and start getting into the intuitive controls, the fantastic cut scenes and the streamlined RTS gameplay and fall in love. Regardless of platform you’re going to be able to steam-roll your opponents with large forces in no time and have a big smile on your face when you’re doing it. Plus, if you get the ultimate edition you get Halo Wars 1 remastered which is only £65 so you should do that.
Halo Wars 2 was reviewed on Xbox Play Anywhere