“I think we’re just getting started”
That’s right Master Chief, we are just getting started. Years after the initial release of Halo Wars, Microsoft has decided to give us another round of RTS gaming in the Halo universe. HW2 (as it shall now be referred) was a big hit at E3, and the fans have been waiting for the release with excitement. And now that it’s here we can dive into the second installation and see if the game was worth the wait.
Right off the bat I will say that I don’t have a lot of experience with the Halo Wars series. I played a bit of it on Xbox 360 and gave it a go with the re-released Definitive Edition on PC. Halo aside though, I do have quite a lot of experience with RTS games. Every Warcraft (yes, there were RTS games before WoW ever existed), every Command & Conquer, every Star Craft, every Age of Empires, Star Wars RTS titles Force Commander and Empire at War, and even some lesser known titles such as Dark Reign and Total Annihilation. So yeah, while I’m not overly familiar with the Halo Wars series, I do know my RTS games and how to play them.
That said, let me tell you how good this game is! I actually didn’t expect to like it that much, but it really did turn out well and has me hooked to finish the story. Don’t worry I won’t give away any spoilers. Hmmm, that’s hard to do while telling about the story. Ok, so we’ll skip talking about the story, other than to say its pretty good and definitely kept me wanting to know what happened next, drawing me in to play one mission after the other. It’s not ground breaking or going to sit in history as the best game story, but it will hold your attention and fits well in the Halo universe. I’m actually itching to get back to the game right now.
Having played many RTS games before, this wasn’t a challenge to learn. It was all very familiar…except the lack of ESC key (PC version) bringing me back to the main menu. Instead that was given to the F10 key. Odd, but at least the key bindings can be changed. In this case the ESC key just cancels a task or unselects any units you had selected. Makes sense and easy to get used to. For the Xbox version, its business as usual, with the start/menu button bringing up your menu as you would expect.
A controller just doesnt offer the same speed a mouse and keyboard can give, but it does work well enough to still be playable.
Personally I prefer RTS games to be played on the PC, but I did give this one a go on the Xbox as well. A controller just doesnt offer the same speed a mouse and keyboard can give, but it does work well enough to still be playable. Blitz seems to work ok on the Xbox given the simpler play style, but story mode and multiplayer are definitely best on a PC. If you have one available for gaming, that’s the platform I would use.
Graphics & Sound
Let’s talk sight and sound. Definitely a great looking game on both platforms. PC versions will get a boost from higher powered setups, but it still looks great on the Xbox as well. And both run smoothly too, transitioning from gameplay to cinematics and back without a hitch. The visuals go well with the world of Halo we are used to, and leave you feeling right at home in another Halo story. The units and vehicles yell out battle-ready phrases that you’d expect to hear, sometimes amusing and other times belted out to inspire victory at all costs. I enjoyed sitting and listening to the music and ambience of the maps, as they were well composed and crafted. Both 343 and Creative Assembly did their homework with HW2. Well done guys!
Multiplayer & Blitz
So I did make the mistake of going into multiplayer thinking my previous RTS knowledge would help. Nope, wrong. Take my advice now and do some tutorials or play against the AI on easy so you can learn the units, tech building, etc. as there is quite a bit more in this than the solo campaign shows you. I survive a decent length of time, but was eventually shown the door by the AI. Yes I lost to AI, but to my defense it wasn’t set on easy and I was the only person for them to attack.
Halo Wars 2 is a good game. Not an amazing game, to be honest- there’s still some work that needs to be done before I can say it’s awesome, but that seems true of everything nowadays.
For what it does, it does well. Gameplay is simple but smooth, works well on a controller, but is just better on PC. Blitz seems like the ‘new world’ version of an RTS, and the standard gameplay is pretty great on it’s own.
Overall, I enjoyed it, and I can see if becoming a stable here on the site as far as videos. HW2 is a solid entry into both the Halo and Halo Wars franchises, and has be hopeful for the future.
Ok yeah, I just sucked. This game mode is otherwise very familiar to other RTS titles, mostly reminding me of the C&C series. You have a main base that you have to place first, and then build power and supply stations to gain resources. One difference in this game is that the power station isn’t required to keep your buildings functioning, but instead just another form of resource required to build some units. I am going to have to practice a bunch before going up against real players.
So after that I gave Blitz a run. I did not try this during the beta, so this was all new to me. I did quite well actually, which I attribute to it being a simpler game style. Your unit choices are based on the four cards presented to you on the screen. Some can be played right away, some have requirements that need to be met first. After you play a card, it is replaced by another until you use up all of the cards in your deck. This is where deck building is important, so plan your decks properly. I suggest building a few different setups and getting comfortable with how they work. In the end I kind of like Blitz, which is surprising since I don’t generally like card building games.
Overall I enjoyed this game. It definitely hit the mark. I went in a little leery of whether it would keep my attention or enjoy it enough to play through, and I was surprised that it did on both points. If you enjoyed the original Halo Wars, or you enjoy the Halo series and RTS games, you should definitely pick up this one.