The long awaited sequel to Halo Wars is here, Halo Wars 2 is a real time strategy game in which players will face a new type of enemy, and follows on from the events of Halo 5. Is Halo Wars 2 worth a buy? Read our review below to find out..
Halo Wars 2 takes players almost three decades into the future from the original Halo Wars but brings those of us who played the previous games back to a very familiar location. The Ark. Now, rather than the Covenant players find themselves facing a new enemy known as the Banished. The Banished are a splinter group made up of brutes and others who defied the Covenant. The leaders of the Banished are Atriox, Decimus and the Shipmaster, whom players can pick as leaders in other game modes as well as being the main villains in the campaign.
The idea of having a rouge faction being built up in the shadows to rival the covenant now taking control of the home of the Halo rings, who’s only opposition is an old UNSC ship makes for a very interesting situation and story. However, that’s about as interesting as it gets since whenever it comes to character development there’s next to none across the entirety of the campaign. There’s a few moments which emphasise specific traits in the characters and the cutscenes and amount of detail in them is beautiful but sadly none of it feels truly meaningful. I won’t go into the details because of spoilers but the last missions of the campaign specifically are very underwhelming for feeling like you’ve made any real progress which is a shame because the original Halo Wars managed to get it pretty much spot on.
The way Campaign plays is sort of like the FPS games in how you’ll have certain situations to work with but with the RTS gameplay. So for example: there’s a part in the first mission where there’s a mini warthog run but it’s from the birds eye view. There’s also a slower paced sniper missions similar to ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ from Halo CE or ‘Nightfall’ from Reach. There’s also massive battles on a scale you couldn’t find in one of the FPS Halo games so overall the campaign does a great job of still feeling like a Halo game despite the massive difference in gameplay from the FPS counterparts. My only issue with the gameplay when it comes to taking on the AI is that no matter the difficulty it still feels very easy to outsmart them and there’s not much of a strategy element to it. Sure, players will have to make the correct units for what they’re dealing with but it mostly comes down to just a massive rush to the enemy base with a large enough force. Nine out of ten times this will guarantee victory which is a shame but as a personal opinion I believe RTS games are all about the multiplayer, so the slightly bad AI didn’t massively impact my overall opinion.
Outside of Campaign there’s quite a lot of options for people to chose from and head into for their game modes. There’s Skirmish, which is just custom games against AI and/or other players, Multiplayer let’s you face off against other players in a variety of modes, and Blitz, a whole new mode making its debut in Halo Wars 2. Multiplayer has various modes to it which will give you a different objective for each mode. Deathmatch pits you against an opposing side which once destroyed ends the game. Strongholds has players fighting for control of the map by building bases around the map, whoever has the most bases at the end of the game wins. Finally, there’s Domination, in which 3 points on the map must be controlled by players until their team accumulates enough score to win.
When it comes to multiplayer, the most important thing players have to do is pick the leader appropriate for the tactics they want. Most basic tactics can be pulled off with any leader such as setting up artillery on hills to cover strategic points and such. However, of you want a playstyle that’s defensive then you’ll want to pick someone such as Atriox. Support roles go to Anders and Shipmaster and so on. Each leader has abilities that emphasise and help each player depending on the playstyle suited to that leader. Pairing these abilities with each other in 2v2 or 3v3 battles can really make the difference in battle which is great for encouraging teamwork but without the communication players will most likely be all over the place with their tactics in larger battles. The same can be said for the general way the game works. Infantry, Vehicle and Air units act in a rock, paper, scissors fashion in which Infantry beats Air and Air beats Vehicle in most situations. The ability to able to build up you army and mix up units accordingly can also be a factor that decides the outcome of the battle.
Blitz is very unique in terms of gameplay. It is split into two modes: Standard Blitz and Blitz Firefight. The standard Blitz mode is Domination on a drastically smaller map than normal while Firefight pits you in Blitz except you must face endless waves of increasingly difficult enemies. The main focus in Blitz is the collection and use of cards. These cards represent specific units or abilities which can be placed into a deck for each leader and then placed in-game for a cost of energy which is collected in the match. Balancing control of each zone as well as the collection of energy makes Blitz a very frantic and challenging mode, regardless of how skilled a player may be at the game. I loved playing Blitz and find it a lot of fun, but I found an issue straight away.
Blitz cards are obtained through packs which can be earned through completing missions, challenges or levelling up. They are also available for purchase as micro transactions. The problem is that each card becomes progressively more powerful and effective as you collect more duplicates. As each level goes up on the card, more duplicates are required. Obviously this can become massively unfair if someone spends a lot of money since they’ll automatically be getting a lot of duplicates and in turn, more powerful units on the field at a much faster rate than someone who isn’t buying. Even then, it can leave players who have just started on the game if they pick it up late at a massive disadvantage against people who have played the game longer and collected more cards. It works sort of well for now but it will definitely need some looking at in the long term.