REVIEW: Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 is the newest edition in the massively successful Halo franchise but not part of the core FPS series of games, this is a spin off that sees the player controlling multiple units in a top down strategic format. This has always been difficult for producers of games to make work on home consoles such as the Xbox so how did the guys over at 343 Industries and Creative Assembly get on, after nearly more than 40 hours of playing it, I think I have a good idea.
18 years after the original Halo Wars was set, we follow the story of Captain James Cutter and his crew aboard The Spirit of Fire. They come up against an enemy called The Banished who are led by a “have no mercy” kind of leader in the form of Atriox, a once member of the covenant Brutes, who has gone renegade and aims to take over the Halo universe.
All this adds to what many think is already one of the best stories in gaming and it’s here where Halo Wars 2 benefits. The characters and vehicles are all based on pre-existing ones in the series such as Spartans and Warthogs along with enemy types and locations. Throw in what are some pretty epic cut-scenes and you can find yourself playing through missions just so you find out more from the story.
Now down to the bones of the matter, has Halo Wars 2 broken the taboo that is RTS games on console being hard to play? For me, I think they have because the control system is very dynamic and it can be tailored in to how you like to use it. It’s not perfect though as I found myself fumbling through options, tabs and short keys occasionally just to get control of my units, all this while my home base was getting attacked and I was over the other side of the map exploring.
The difference between the control options of a mouse and keyboard which are traditionally used to play RTS games compared to that of an Xbox One controller are all too evident. Unless you have the privilege of owning an Elite Xbox controller that allows for extra button mapping, it’s a struggle. The overall feel of the gameplay is smooth however and, despite the drawbacks, when you’re in full flow and effortlessly controlling your units, it definitely is enjoyable and the action and battles can have you glued to the screen for hours without noticing.
In a game type where there can be obstacles in the way of making a truly beautiful looking scene, Halo Wars manages to actually look pretty decent. There is a good amount of detail in the environments and all the units up close look more than just a vague resemblance of what they look like in the main franchise.
The best looking parts of this game are the near movie quality cut-scenes. As I mentioned before, they alone are worth playing through the campaign. I would happily sit down and watch a feature length version of the cut-scenes, they’re that good.
For its second instalment of Halo Wars, Creative Assembly have but a major effort into its multiplayer options. These range from Domination where players fight for control points to Stronghold where each player starts with a ready-made base and loads of resources to build an army before trying to raid each others bases.
They have also introduced a whole new game mode called Blitz, a combination of a card game along with RTS. This sees the player draw units from a deck of cards and then trying to have them collect energy from supply drops to make more units and ultimately beat your opponent. Blitz can be crazy fast in its pace and games usually only last about 10 minutes so this may put off those who don’t want to commit the long hours into perfecting your deck and learning the best tactics. Halo Wars 2 has a solid multiplayer mode with a lot of appeal although I can’t see myself playing it in a few months unlike I would with other games.
All in all, Halo Wars 2 is a very good game with a good campaign, mission design and multiplayer. It is definitely a good stop gap for those who are fans of the Halo series and don’t mind the RTS game style but I wouldn’t say it is a must play for any casual gamers out there.
Halo Wars 2 was reviewed by TheEffect.Net contributor Mark Reilly with a review code of the game supplied by Microsoft Ireland