Chronologically, Halo Wars 2 takes place roughly three decades after Halo Wars and after the events in Halo 5, namely the defeat of the Covenant. In this latest installment within the Halo franchise you assume the primary role of Captain James Cutter and his warship, the Spirit of Fire. Essentially you all awaken from cryogenic sleep After the events of Halo 5, when Master Chief has finally defeated the Covenant, a new enemy, The Banished, emerges to fill the antagonist void. The Banished are led by a Brute named Atriox, who rebelled against the Covenant and ultimately formed his own faction. Now every up and coming conqueror needs a base of operations (even if it’s already occupied) and Atriox has his feral eyes set on the Forerunner installation which we’ve all come to know as, the Ark. Because of this, you’ll spend the majority of the campaign hot on the heels of Atriox and his forces, to prevent him from achieving his lofty goal of conquest. The story further unfolds during the campaign missions and cut scenes. In typical Halo fashion, the cut scenes are deeply cinematic and immersive to watch.
The campaign is rather short at just twelve missions, during which, players will be introduced to the game’s RTS mechanics which will serve to hone their skills for when they venture into multiplayer. The missions typically consist of capturing points, defending bases or troops, or surviving waves of enemies. You have control of the entire army, including manufacturing new troops and vehicles as well as managing the two resources you need to continue the fight: supply and power. Within those missions there are also optional objectives to complete and hidden skulls to find amidst the ensuing chaos. The missions themselves don’t require a deal of strategy. In this regard the campaign falls a little flat. All in all, having only twelve missions actually works because once you get grasp of which units to use, the missions can feel a bit repetitive at times. Despite this, Halo Wars 2’s campaign will have a fair amount of replay value, given that it can be played at various difficulty levels as well as in Co-op mode.
Multiplayer is straightforward, offering several modes of play that should feel ultra-familiar within the RTS genre, albeit with a Halo twist. The game modes being Stronghold, Domination, Deathmatch and the new addition, Blitz mode, which is card-based. In this particular game mode, opponents equip cards that are obtained randomly from card packs. An opponent’s overall hand determines the strength or weakness of their army. While you do get card packs during the completion of campaign missions, to be truly competitive in this particular game mode one would have to shell out the bucks for additional card packs which can be acquired through … you guessed it, micro-transactions. I won’t frown upon that too much since micro-transactions are pretty much a permanent fixture in games these days.
Halo Wars 2 does benefit from Xbox Play Anywhere functionality which basically means if you can buy/play it on either Xbox One or Windows 10. If you buy on one platform you’ll be able to download it on the other. This also extends into your saves for the game so you could be playing on Xbox One, save your progress then jump on your Windows 10 machine and continue on where you left off which is great if you are travelling and can’t take your Xbox One with you.
The gameplay and mechanics are neither groundbreaking nor lacklustre, but exceptionally solid. From the addition of “hero powers” to the ease of managing resources and upgrading your armies etc. The menus and commands feel intuitive and responsive. Even during some of the most hectic enemy engagements. I was able to fluidly use the menus at a fast pace without incident or frustration. Simply put, it just works. Halo Wars 2 offers the sort gameplay that both seasoned RTS players and non-experienced players alike can find appealing. For the former there’s the traditional, tried and true RTS mechanics coupled with a healthy dose of nostalgia and for the latter, an accessible RTS experience supported by the evolutionary framework one of the most prolific first person shooters of our time.
- Simple Multiplayer
- Xbox Play Anywhere
- Missions feel repetitive after a while.
- Feels like RTS-lite