There are a lot of good for things for me to write about in the Halo Wars 2 Review. Whether it’s the engaging campaign, the smooth controls or the myriad multiplayer options, Halo Wars 2 services all that I could personally want from a console RTS (real-time strategy game).
It shines despite the few performance issues affecting the current build. Some of these may be something they address in the future, but right now it’s still a very enjoyable experience overall.
My thoughts on this game are detailed below so check them out along with a few videos along the way. And don’t forget to drop me a comment at the end of this review. Will you be getting this game? Have you got it already? Let me know what you think on it gamers and enjoy the detail below.
Look and Feel
Halo Wars 2 nails the aesthetic of Halo from a top-down point of view. I may not be a huge Halo fan, but its style is undeniable and its presence unmistakable. A style that is prevalent throughout this game. That clean, future-tech look amidst natural environments. Advanced tech-holes embedded within lush, green landscapes and dirt-covered wastelands. The units, bases and attack animations are all of a high quality and distinct based on whatever faction you’re controlling. I simply love the look of this game.
It should be noted that Blur’s cut-scene work is masterful. A large part of my Halo Wars 2 campaign motivation came from wanting to see the next story beat in that true, cinematic style.
As for the feel, the game controls very well. It’s easy to grasp for beginners and there are tutorials for those looking to make an impact on higher difficulties or to be competitive online. Custom-making up to four unit groups alongside the standard selection options is great to have and the speed of battlefield navigation via game-pad short-cuts makes the most of the Xbox One controller in my opinion. Controls are always a concern when an RTS hits console, but Halo Wars 2 has done an great job.
As much as I like Halo Wars 2, it’s not without faults in its performance at this moment in time. In many of the aforementioned cut-scenes, there’s a distinct staggering of the frames leading in to them. Sometimes throughout. I also experienced one hard-crash on a tough mission as well as what felt like a few near misses. Take note that this is during the early access window and these issues will hopefully be addressed.
The story of Halo Wars 2 is a somewhat-typical story of an underdog team up against an overwhelming force. Captain Cutter’s crew turns up at a mysterious location: The Ark. Upon investigation, they find a slaughtered settlement and an abandoned A.I: Isabel. After being utterly defeated by the enemy leader; Atriox, Spartans Jerome, Alice and Douglas go cloak-and-dagger to undermine Atriox’s operations and take control of The Ark under Cutter’s orders.
The character performances are well done. Voice acting is top notch and the early speeches by Cutter are built to inspire, even if they are cliche. There’s such conviction in his delivery that it invested me in the story.
Unfortunately, after the twelve campaign missions, the game comes to something of an abrupt end with a major cliff-hanger. I imagine those more well-versed in Halo lore (and it wouldn’t be too difficult to be) could interpret it better than I, but I felt a little deflated. I’d enjoyed the ride so much that being suddenly told to get off the roller-coaster hit harder than I thought it would. That said, it doesn’t detract from the positives too much.
It’s worth stating that as a person largely indifferent to Halo as a franchise, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story despite its abrupt end. I imagine those more familiar with Halo will be pleased with the results. Or maybe you’ll hate it because you have a treasure trove of knowledge to speak against it with. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was good while it lasted. The ViDoc posted above sheds some valuable light for newcomers.
For those that don’t know; Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game. Perhaps it’d be more helpful to say Command & Conquer: Halo Edition. That’s being reductive, but it helps to have a familiar brand to refer to. Where Halo Wars excels is in its console control schemes. Rather than trying imitate a mouse, Halo Wars opts for intuitive button combinations that allow for speedy access to units, bases and whatever else might need. I still feel that keyboard and mouse is king for these kinds of games, but Halo Wars 2 is no slouch as a console experience.
Moment-to-Moment in Halo Wars 2
A majority of your time in Halo Wars will be spent building a base, picking what buildings to place in the adjoining segments to said base and upgrading your choices as you see fit. You can see exactly how Halo Wars 2 plays in our Let’s Play above. My favourite decision in Halo Wars 2 is to have resources gathered off-screen. There’s no chance that you won’t be able to gather more supplies or power (the two main resources) unless the enemy destroys your base.
Having a good mix of counter units and balanced units is key to winning and splitting your numbers up (as there’s a cap to maximum unit number) is often necessary. Unlike some RTS games, it’s rarely as simple as churning out units and steam-rolling the enemies. Not to say some missions don’t involve that exact thing, but there’s many a reason to utilise a unit’s special abilities. Especially at the higher difficulties or in multiplayer.
Blitz doesn’t involve base building, but we’ll get to that later.
The experience is divided in to three core modes: Campaign, Multiplayer and Blitz.
Campaign: Go it Alone or Buddy-Up.
All twelve campaign missions can be played alone or online. In the campaign you’ll play through the story of Halo Wars 2 in a series of missions with main objectives as well as optional objectives. There’s a rating system based on bronze, silver and gold medals as well as Skulls to unlock that can be activated for actual gameplay modifications. There are also Skulls that add some cosmetic changes for a bit of extra fun.
Each campaign mission lasted somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour, and one in particular was difficult enough for me to have to retry several times. It felt like just the right amount of time I’d want to spend in an RTS campaign. A sweet-spot, some might say.
Unfortunately I can’t attest to the quality of the co-op campaign experience. It requires a friend to have the game and be online also. As it stands, none of mine do.
Multiplayer: One-v-One Me Bro! ….Or Two…. Okay, Three. Sure. Three’s Cool.
Don’t take that title seriously. More importantly, Halo Wars 2 multiplayer is easily accessible, customisable if you choose and of the high-performing standards we’ve come to expect from a game over Xbox Live.
There are currently eight maps. Two of which allow one-vs-one and two-vs-two matches. The other six allow for up to three-vs-three. Each map allows you to choose between one of three match types: Domination, Strongholds or Deathmatch. Domination involves controlling points, specially three towers on the field. The more points held, the more points you get, up to the point of a set cap for victory. Other sets of rules can be made for starting resources amongst other things.
Strongholds is about taking base points on the map and protecting them from the enemy. It features unlimited resources for all players, so it’s mostly about picking your units wisely and moving them to the most advantageous positions. Strongholds might be my favourite game type.
Deathmatch is exactly what it sounds like: eliminate your opponent(s). Again, custom rules can be applied.
You can also fill slots with A.I opponents for an extra unpredictable element or to practice your own tactics.
The standard Multiplayer is fun enough. Personally, I’m here for the campaign, but the multiplayer has legs. Choosing between the leader characters with their own special abilities adds a host of unique powers to unleash on enemies and to help your partners.
Blitz: Oh Hey There Wallets! Here’s Where You’ll Spend Your Money
Blitz is Halo Wars 2 multiplayer with a card-based offence instead of base building. It’s one-vs-one and on the Domination game type. Before the match, you’ll assign cards to a deck under a Leader unit. Certain cards can only be utilised by specific leaders, so that choice becomes important and I’m sure people will find the picks that work for them. It’s simple to engage with.
In the match, players have a gradually-building Power resource that can be increased via random drops on the map (indicated by an alert just before). That power is then used to play the cards in your hand. The more powerful the card, the more power it requires. It’s a game of balance between the units you need and the powers you want to use at certain times. The player that reaches the points cap from control points first wins.
Cards can be earned by leveling up your profile, clearing main missions and completing daily and weekly challenges listed on the main menu.
Adapting to the fast-paced action of Blitz as opposed to the rest of Halo Wars 2, which gives you more time to consider your moves, can be jarring. At least for me as a casual RTS player. I imagine it’ll get more rewarding as you settle in to the rhythm of it. I don’t see myself spending any of the clearly mobile-inspired micro-transactions for card packs though. Admittedly, I never felt forced to either. It’s hard to tell in the early days of its release whether or not buying card packs to (hopefully) level up your unit cards will become necessary or just a nice bonus to have.
Halo Wars 2 features a great control scheme, a host of interesting game modes and engaging moment-to-moment gameplay. The rock-paper-scissors element of the battlefield units is well-balanced and the cut-scenes are incredible, as is often the way with Blur.
There’s plenty of reason to replay the game’s campaign, alone or with a friend, and its multiplayer options are as easy to jump straight in to as they are to customise to your liking. Aside from a rare crash and some frame-rate stuttering at points, Halo Wars 2 is a worthy addition to your Xbox One library. Blitz is a smart addition too, even if I’m not very good at it.
About This Halo Wars 2 Review:
Game: Halo Wars 2 – Digital Edition Provided by Publisher
Review Format: Xbox One
Developers & Publishers: 343 Industries, Creative Assembly, Microsoft Studios
Gaming Platform: PC Games, Xbox One
Halo Wars 2 Review
Look and Feel - 8/10
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 8.5/10