Microsoft's popular first-person shooter series has seen a few spin-offs over the years. Here we have the sequel to 2009's real-time strategy game Halo Wars so wake up from your cryosleep and let's smash some Atriox.
I'll be honest with you; I haven't played the original Halo Wars. Although I plan on reviewing that soon, I decided to try out the sequel first. I must say, I'm impressed with my experience with Halo Wars 2. For starters, it does a fantastic job of gradually guiding you along to teach you the ropes. Once you dive into battle and start building your own bases, commanding troops, and kicking Atriox ass; it becomes apparent just how intuitive and streamlined the gameplay is. Therefore, genre newbies and veterans alike will be able to dive in and enjoy battles at their own pace. The amount of customizability with plenty of difficulty settings helps with this, too. Watching your armies grow as they battle seemingly insurmountable foes makes it a very addictive gameplay dynamic. The fact that it takes place in the familiar Halo universe is just the icing on the cake.
All of that being said, this probably isn't a worthwhile game if you consider yourself a real-time strategy fanatic. The simplistic gameplay will make genre enthusiasts thirst for something more complex. On top of this, the campaign is extremely easy because in most missions, you can basically build up your defences as much as you want before taking on enemy forces. More often than not, I had crazy amounts of resources saved up and I didn't even have to worry about them after five minutes into almost every stage. In other words, if you're looking for the next challenging RTS to test your abilities as a commander then Halo Wars 2 will likely disappoint.
One aspect of Halo Wars 2 that blew me away is its immersive presentation. The story sequences help establish the dire science fiction setting while the voice acting is spot-on to create an almost constant sense of urgency. Even the loading screens (which can be a bit too long) feature dialogue that helps flesh out the story. The ability to zoom in on the action and see the amount of detail in the units, vehicles, and bases is quite the feast for the eyes, too. It's almost as if you're watching every battle unfold through the lens of an overhead drone. Overall, Halo Wars 2 does a phenomenal job of pulling you into its world.
On the other hand, there are plenty of glitches and annoying events that will frequently take you out of the experience. The most perplexing one occurred during a mission where I clearly accomplished the goal yet I couldn't progress no matter how hard I tried. After researching this, I found that a few others had this problem yet they're still looking for a solution. For now, you have to restart the mission and hope for the best. Another major problem is that soldiers sometimes seem to not understand how to reach certain points. A few times, they took a long way around and ran into unexpected enemies which made me scratch my head. Other times, they'll head in the opposite direction. To fix this, you basically have to guide them inch-by-inch which feels more like babysitting than war.
Halo Wars 2's campaign merely consists of a dozen missions which is rather short. On the plus side, every mission has a distinct feel to it. One mission is modeled to behave like a tower defence while another one puts you in the shoes of a hero who eventually amasses an army composed of rescued prisoners of war. By the end of it all, you'll think fondly back at what you've accomplished. It's fantastic to see this much variety contained within the campaign but like I said, it's over much sooner than you'd hope it to be.
Of course, Halo Wars 2 features a multiplayer component. Thankfully, it contains loads of configurations that allow you to compete and cooperate with players from all over the world. The basic multiplayer modes include Domination where you capture towers, Strongholds where you race to build bases, and Deathmatch where you try and destroy each other's bases. The card-based Blitz mode is definitely the most interesting as it provides a much more immediate and fast-paced gameplay dynamic than the core setup. I found taking on enemy hordes either solo or cooperatively in Blitz Firefight mode to be an absolute blast.
Halo Wars 2 is an ambitious game that delivers easily understandable RTS gameplay in an immersive way. Genre enthusiasts may be disappointed but there's no denying the amount of fun to be had strategically taking on Atriox forces.
- + Easy to learn yet addictive real-time strategy gameplay set in the Halo universe
- + Highly immersive presentation
- + Lots of multiplayer content
- - Hardcore genre fans will find the gameplay to be too basic and unchallenging
- - Many annoying glitches occur
- - The campaign is quite short