Halo Wars 2 is a real time strategy (“RTS”) video game developed by Creative Assembly, the creators of the Total War series, in partnership with 343 industries, and published by Microsoft Studios for both Windows PC and the Xbox One console.
Set in 2559 in the Halo Universe, a new alien faction, known as the Banished, is introduced and a war ensues between the alien faction and the crew aboard the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) warship, Spirit of Fire. This war takes place on the Ark, a Forerunner (a long lost species) environment.
The game involves both a story based campaign and multiplayer mode, and can be played alone or cooperatively. Players command their faction of choice on the battlefield and play from a bird’s eye view. The story campaign is solid and consists of 12 missions, each taking approximately 20 – 40 minutes, with its main objectives being to capture points, defend bases and survive the horde of enemies. There are also a number of side objectives involved to allow for more diverse gameplay, such as, keeping a unit alive throughout a mission or ensuring bases are destroyed within the required time frame.
The multiplayer mode can be played online with up to six others. Skirmish allows players to play against AI enemies either solo or with other players, while Deathmatch involves eliminating the enemy’s army. There are also the Stronghold and Domination modes which are more territorial and are centered around controlling bases on the map. Whilst relatively standard, Halo Wars 2 also includes the new Blitz mode, which combines elements of card games with RTS gameplay to create a card and deck mechanic for deploying units, as opposed to the traditional base building and managing resources.
Halo Wars 2 deserves to be applauded for its Halo-centric content, which it pulls off reasonably well. The game is filled with background lore, shown via cut-scenes and hinted at through dialogue. For those new to the franchise, the game provides you with sufficient information to give you an understanding of the game, which is beneficial in preparing you for battle. Fans of the franchise will no doubt be thrilled at the content involved.
As a beginner, delving into an RTS game such as this can be incredibly daunting, especially in terms of working out the right controls on a gamepad, which can seem to be difficult when comparing to the standard keyboard. Thankfully the controls are mapped out well on the gamepad, which includes easily swapping between bases and navigating the map quickly. With a tutorial in place to assist with getting used to the controls, all it takes is some practice to master gameplay on the gamepad. Of course, it took me a lot longer to get used to the controls than most, having never played an RTS game before. Nevertheless, the developers of Halo Wars 2 certainly stepped up to bring such a genre to the Xbox One console, paving the way for more console playable RTS games.
The multiplayer modes can be a little difficult to master when first starting out, which is why a great single player campaign is something I often look out for in all my games. Spending time playing the story campaign and learning more about the Halo lore is the ideal way to get started. What makes this all the more interesting is the opportunity to truly appreciate the game’s epic soundtrack. More so than its visuals, it is the game’s soundtrack that truly gripped me.
Whilst RTS games aren’t really my cup of tea (that is, until I get a better hang of them), I can see why many gamers enjoy the game as Halo Wars 2 was rather intriguing, even for a total beginner like myself, and would certainly be a fun game to play for fans of the genre both on Windows PC and on Xbox One.