Halo Wars 2 returns with another attempt to challenge the ideology that RTS games aren’t meant to be on consoles, but do they succeed?
The RTS genre is not one that has seen a lot of success on the consoles for a multitude of reasons. This isn’t to say that they are bad, but pale in comparison to their PC counter-parts. Microsoft attempts to challenge this ideology by releasing a sequel to their hit RTS game on the Xbox 360 “Halo Wars” with the latest Halo Wars 2. While it is quite a challenge to surmount, Halo Wars 2 gives it all on delivering a stellar experience, and to a degree succeeds.
Set almost 30 years after the events of the original Halo Wars, Halo Wars 2 follows Captain James Cutter and the rest of the Spirit of Fire’s crew upon resuming operations following their drift through space for 28 years. Soon after continuation of operations, the Spirit of Fire is transported to another galaxy through a rip in space. Upon exiting the new galaxy, the Spirt of Fire hovers over a massive alien megastructure which we’ve come to know as the Ark. Captain Cutter sends down troops to investigate the megastructure only to find the Banished there as well trying to take control of the Ark. Captain Cutter must stop the Banished from taking control of the Ark, while trying to finding a way to reach out to the rest of the UNSC.
For a console based RTS, Halo Wars 2 provides a pretty enjoyable experience when it comes to gameplay. Halo Wars 2 offers a campaign, multiplayer mode, and the new Blitz game mode. The game’s campaign runs over 12 missions, each with a different objective to keep the missions fresh. One mission may have you storming a beach with giant cyclops bots, while the next may have you saving imprisoned squad members from the Banished. This is a nice touch to keep the missions from feeling the same throughout the campaign. One of problems I faced when playing these missions was the massive difficulty changes throughout certain missions. As I progressed through one mission with relative ease, towards the end of the mission my full squad of 80+ units ended up getting slaughtered by one enemy. While I can accept that the enemy was one of the bosses, the addition of various enemy units spawning out of nowhere while the boss can almost one shot half of your army seems a tad too much. Then starting the next mission, I went through without losing any units.
One problem that Halo Wars 2 has deals with the lack of true control over units. Unlike the PC RTS games, Halo Wars 2 didn’t seem to offer a way to easily pick and choose which units to control. Instead you must move the troops away from the rest of the group, and then use the cursor to mass select your armies. This isn’t a massive problem, but with this being an RTS you need to easily be able to select troops to set up tactics like flanking to succeed. With it sometimes taking a few minutes just to separate the squads, you end up getting swarmed by the enemy before you can even finish.
While Halo Wars 2 does have some flaws in a few areas of gameplay, it does get the core mechanics of what an RTS should have. As you would expect from an RTS, base building is vital towards your success in Halo Wars 2. The more solid the base you create, the higher chance you have at success against your enemy. Building bases allow you to create a larger variety of troops including ground troops, giants robots, air troops, and Spartan soldiers (you get to spawn Master Chief like soldiers, and they kick ass!) to help overcome the various enemies and obstacles you’ll encounter.
The one element that Halo Wars 2 put most emphasis on is the new Blitz mode which deals with a lot of card management. Blitz mode is a faced pace mix of card based action, RTS gameplay, and a hint of MOBA because everyone wants MOBA. Players can earn cards through completing challenges, and secondary objective through the campaign to build a more powerful deck; and of course you can buy your way to victory if that’s your style. Players must create, and manage their decks to create a deck that will be suitable to collect resources and hold bases. These Blitz matches, that usually last no longer than 20 minutes, challenge players to fight for control of different points on the map for the most time. The person that obtains the marked amount of points wins. This tasks players with mining resources to allow you to play more cards, and create more units to hold more points. The idea is interesting, and is quite fun to play, but with the pay-2-win concept in play I can see this mode becoming a barren wasteland (my opinion on the microtransactions will not change my love for the gamemode, nor the game’s review score).
Halo Wars 2 provides a stellar experience for a console RTS, but still doesn’t surpass the limitations that RTS titles have when it comes to consoles. While Blitz mode add a new style of gameplay, Halo Wars 2 doesn’t really do anything to stand out. Halo Wars 2 still provides a fun experience, but if you’re looking for a true RTS experience you may be let down. If you’re looking for a fan Halo experience though, you’ll be thoroughly satisfied.
- Fun continuation to the Halo Universe
- Blitz Mode is an interesting idea that provides quite a bit fun
- Halo Wars 2 presentation is top-notch, down to the animations of the units up close.
- The campaign doesn’t do much to feel impactful, but instead feels like a long tutorial
- Controls are not friendly when trying to manage units
*Reviewed on Xbox One