Halo Wars 2 is the sequel to 2011’s best-selling console RTS Halo Wars, a Halo based real-time strategy game that puts in command of the Spirit of Fire and her crew. Halo Wars 2 picks up where the first one left off. This will be an in-depth Halo Wars 2 review where I’ll be going over Graphics, Gameplay, Controls, Audio Qualities as well as many other things to take into consideration when buying Halo Wars 2.
Before we get into this check out this cinematic trailer.
Story Overview and Thoughts (No Spoilers)
This section of the Halo Wars 2 Review delves into the story and as already stated, no spoilers are in it. Anything talked about has already been revealed and this is simply my opinion of the Story.
Halo Wars 2 takes place 28 years after the events of the first Halo Wars in which the crew of the Spirit of Fire wakes up above the Ark. They face a new enemy known as the Banished, led by a brute named Atriox who is not only skilled and strong but is an incredible leader. The introduction of another new faction into the Halo universe, in my opinion, is a great one. Since the reception on the Promethean’s is a bit of a mixed bag, I think most people can agree that the Banished is a welcomed addition to the universe that also helps in expanding it. Another added bonus of this is that the Banished can be used a reentry point for the brutes back into the rest of Halo, only time will tell.
The Campaign as a whole is pretty solid, with the game starting off with a strong intro that carries it throughout out the rest of the campaign. Except the end. For those who were disappointed in Halo 5’s ending there is good chance that you’ll be disappointed with this one, as the conclusion really resolves nothing and does nothing but leave us in suspense wanting some form of satisfaction but there really is none. It’s very open ended making way for future DLC campaigns, which is confirmed by the season pass. What the campaign stories will focus on is unknown at this point. Other than that I will go over the contents of the Season Pass below.
Art Style and Level Design
In this Part of the Halo Wars 2, I’ll go over something that many might not feel is to import but for me and many others it’s just as important as anything else and really makes Halo Different from other Sci-Fi Genres. So let us start off with
Halo Wars 2 brings back the Classic Halo Art Style
and it does so in an intelligent and welcoming manner as many don’t like the redesign of many of the classic Halo designs such as Elites and Spartans. The older style makes sense for these two factions as the Banished and the Spirit of Fire are using older gear and modifying them with what they can scavenge. If you are like me, you appreciate it as these designs just feel more like Halo. The design of the units is much easier to see in the Blitz cards but that’s not to say that the in-game models are bad. They’re actually quite decent, but compared to other RTS’s out there the models are less detailed.
In terms of the level designs, all of the levels in the Halo Wars 2 Campaign look like normal Campaign levels, from say like Halo 3, but greatly enlarged for the RTS experience. So an example would almost be like the mission in Halo 3 The Ark when you come out from underground and there is a just this big fight going between some Scorpions and Wraiths and in the end a Scarab shows up it’s like that but on a bigger scale.
Gameplay and Controls
As a play anywhere title Halo Wars 2 has two versions, a PC and a Xbox One version so I’ll be going over how fluid and easy the controls are as well as the general flow of the game.
Halo Wars 2 carries of the rock paper scissors mechanic of the first Halo Wars where Air generally beats Vehicles, Vehicles beat Infantry, and Infantry beating Air. This is the case most of the time as there are specialized units that counteract other units and break this mold. Some examples would be Wolverines, armored vehicles which generally get destroyed by air units, but in this case, Wolverines are extremely effective at killing air units. Then, of course, you got Leaders who have special units and powers that make each one feel more unique and adds more of a variety of play styles to the game. Some examples are Sergeant Forge, a DLC leader that has access to Grizzly tanks, and generally favors playing on his economy first and working on armored units. An opposing leader who benefits more from harassment tactics is the Shipmaster who has access to cloaked units who can harass well and recall units. This doesn’t mean though that Leaders are confined to one play style but some lean towards others.
Before we move one to the Leaders one game mechanic I should go over the Veterancy mechanic , which now applies to all units and allows a unit participating in combat to grows in strength.
In this Section of the Halo Wars 2 Review, I’ll be going over Leaders, some of their abilities, special units, and powers and the different strategies they bring to the table, as really the depth of strategy in an RTS will really depict its life span. Most of these characters are present in the campaign or are DLC Leaders. I’m only going over a few of the Leaders in depth to show off how different leaders complement certain play styles.
Captain James Cutter’s hero unit is Jerome-092 and have the Spirit of fire’s arsenal at his disposal. The following are his abilities
|Tier 1 Abilites|
|UNSC Raid I||Units Capture Units Faster and Infantry Move Faster|
|UNSC Raid II||Jackrabbits Can Capture Points and Passive is Increased|
|Lotus Mine I||Drops Cloaked Mines|
As you can see Cutter’s Tier 1 ability UNSC Raid gives increased unit speed to infinity as well as unit capture speed later on being expanded over to Jackrabbits. This Gives Cutter an edge in early game map presence being able to relocate infantry units quickly as well as harass and control map objectives like power generators. While Lotus Mines gives him the ability to defend some of these positions or your base more effectively.
|Tier 2 Abilities|
|Battle Hardened I||Units gain Veterancy at a Faster Rate|
|Battle Hardened II||Effect is Increase|
|Restoration Drones I||Heals all Allied Structure and Units in a Targeted Area|
|Restoration Drones II and III||Healing Effect is Increased|
Cutters first Tier 2 ability promotes good micro, as the longer a unit is alive and in combat will increase the units potency. So Individuals who have great micro can keep units for long periods time this benefits them will. The second ability Restoration Drones complements the last ability as well as being a great tool in a fight as healer units are aerial units that can only heal one target at a time.
|Tier 3 Abilites|
|Archer Missiles I||Call down missiles in a straight line dealing damage|
|Archer Missiles II and III||Increased damage dealt and ignite area afterward|
|ODST Drop||Drops a squad of ODST’s|
Archer Missiles is a great ability for large fights as it softens up the enemy. If you have level three Archer Missiles then it’s great for area damage, that punishes opponents with slow moving units as well as poor micro. ODST Drop is just a nice way to quickly get some strong infantry to where ever you need fast whether it be your main army or just at a map of objective being contested.
|Tier 4 Abilites|
|Turret Drop||Drops a temporary turret|
|Turret Drop II||Increase damage and duration|
|Cyclops Drop||Drop a veteran Cyclops|
The Tier 4 of the abilities are similar in function to the Tier 3 but offers a bit more on the end of anti-vehicle with the Cyclops.
|Tier 5 Abilities|
|ODST Assualt Group||Drops an Assortment of Veteran Units|
|Close Air Support||Calls in Four Pelican Gunships|
Great to quickly reinforce a position and Close Air Support can quickly change the course of a fight.
Isabel’s powers focus less on maneuvering the battlefield and more on a powerful mechanized army. Being able to construct Vehicles at a faster not only but buff them with shields, health, and temporarily increasing the armor of all units. Mix in some variety of units to support the vehicles and her hero unit Alice-130 you got a powerful army. Not even including a lot all of the massive AEO abilities that many UNSC characters have like Healing Drones, MAC Blast, and Ghost in the Machine which gives temporary control of enemy vehicles and air units to you. On a final note, Isabel has access to one last interesting ability called Holographic Decoys which creates holographic decoys of select units that don’t deal damage but have as much health as the normal unit. This interesting as you can effectively double the size of your army on the spot, but have the holograms in the front to take the brunt of the damage.
Anders has a bit of a theme to her as most of her abilities are Sentinal based either calling in Sentinals Protector Sentinels or Aggressor Sentinels both air units but different in functionality, the sentinels are also a unique unit to Anders.The Protector Sentinels are larger sentinels who have the ability to disable vehicles for a short time period. Anders can build these at air pads once she gets the leader power Protector Sentinel. The Second type is aggressor sentinels who have no special attacks, can not be built and are summoned through Ark Defense where they swarm an area and deal damage to units in the area. The other way to summon them is through Sentinel Beacon which makes it to where artillery spawns aggressor sentinels. Combo the sentinels with the Spirit of Fires support like Restoration Drones and Anders unique passive R&D which makes it to were all upgrades are researched significantly faster and later on boost the effects of the upgrades. Allows for a sizeable difference in the strength of your army throughout the match. Lastly, Anders Hero Units is Douglas-042.
This Section of the Halo Wars 2 Review, I’ll go into great detail about one leader then do a quick overview of the others.
The Shipmasters Hero Unit is the Honor Guard who move incredibly fast for infantry but suffer from having less health than say a spartan. His unique unit is the ghost which is a fast moving light vehicles great for early game pressure as they can be upgraded with shields and with proper micro can deal great amounts of damage on the field.
|Tier 1 Abilites|
|Banished Raid I||Increases capture speed of all units. as well of infantry sight range|
|Banished Raid II||Ghosts can capture points, as well vehicle line of sight increased|
|Banished Raid III||Increases movement speed of Ghosts, Wraiths, Choppers, and Marauders|
|Teleport I||Teleports own units within a range.|
|Teleport II||Range increased, as well as number of units that can be teleported|
These Tier 1 abilities are similar to functionality to Cutters Tier 1 abilities with the exception of Teleport being a great way to either surprise the enemy with some reinforcements out of no were or to just make a quick escape.
|Tier 2 Abilites|
|Scout Mine I||Drops a cloaked mine that provides vision in a small area and explodes on contact|
|Scout Mine II||Increase damage and vision range|
|Extraction I||Teleports units back to base and heals them on return|
|Extraction II||Increases the number of units that can be teleported|
The Tier 2 abilities continue to support an early aggressive play style being able to have areas scouted with Scout Mine, as well as sending in small groups of units for harassment then recalling them using Extraction when the enemy goes to deal with it. Also, Extraction is a good way to recall units back to base to defend when needed.
|Tier 3 Abilites|
|Glassing Beam I||Fires a controllable plasma Beam|
|Glassing Beam II||Increases size and damage|
|Advanced Cloaking I||Reduce cost of Cloaking Generator and Shroud Production. Marauders also gain cloaking|
|Advanced Cloaking II||Increases duration of all cloaking|
Glassing Beam is the Shipmaster’s only large damage ability so this is a pretty valuable cooldown for him. Advanced Cloaking is really nice as Marauders deal quite a bit of damage as well as move quite fast so having them cloak goes great with hit and runs.
|Tier IV Abilites|
|Spirit Support||Drops one group of Elite Rangers, Hunters, and two Engineers. The Spirit dropship does provide some cover fire|
|Displacement||Teleports enemy units.|
Spirit Support is a nice little support ability it’s not necessarily going to change the course of large battle but like a small skirmish going on between two small groups or just dropping them off to help with a hit and run it’s nice. Displacement is the more interesting ability in this tier as it offers so much playmaking potential in the right hands.
|Tier V Abilities|
|Mass Cloaking||Cloaks all units, while cloaked they move faster and gain Siphon|
|Tactical Gateway||Places two connected teleporter nodes|
Tier V are generally the leader’s big abilities, and The Shipmaster does follow this with things like Mass Cloaking and Tactical Gateway. They are however not something that is big and flashy like Close Air Support or a Retriever Sentinel, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective as if they don’t have detectors then they can’t fight back.
Compared to the Shipmaster, Atriox is more upfront when it comes to confrontations using abilities that give invulnerability for short periods of time like Unbreakable and Atriox’s Bulwark which also heals. Which is just crazy strong in a game with big damage dealing abilities like Mac Blast, or Glassing Beam which Atriox has as well. Atriox’s hero unit is Atriox Chosen which is a brute with a brute shot with an insanely long range about the same range as artillery units.Lastly, he has one of the most flashy and awesome abilities in the game, and it’s called Eradication. What it is are eight beams enclose onto a point and upon contact, they explode and deal massive damage.
Decimus embodies the berserker rage of brutes most of his abilities are centered around making his army deal more damage to the enemy as well as heal off of attack them sometimes even at their own risk. Abilities like Killing Frenzy, Siphon, Fury, and Boundless Fury which buff your units to deal more damage as well as move heal from fighting, but Fury has a few more things to it also applies movement speed as well as damage but drains you units health while active so you’re really counting on that siphon to counter balance it. One ability that might help with this is in a fight is Vortex Lightning which is a controllable orb of lightning that damages and stuns enemies it touches. Decimus also has Spirit Assault to quickly reinforce some units or Glassing Beam to help deal some AEO damage, and if that’s not enough Decimus will get right on the ground with the rest of units with Decimus Drop. He has no unique units but shares the hero unit Atriox’s Chosen which is an extremely long range brute with a brute shot.
Now their general isn’t much to talk about in a game review when it comes to going over game controls but for a Halo Wars 2 Review, I felt that it is necessary to talk about it a bit for a game that is not only an RTS, but a console RTS. Much like the first Halo Wars the controls for the Xbox are very similar to the first game with a few exceptions and added features. The most notable new feature is the ability to create control groups, which for those who aren’t familiar with it, are groups of units that you can basically key bind for easy access. This can of course be done on the PC version, but on Xbox it can only be done to the D-Pad. One thing that seems to be a bit of a downgrade from the first game is the input or the responsiveness of the controls don’t seem to be as fast as they were and sometimes units don’t seem to do what you tell them. This doesn’t happen often but say if you tell a unit to go attack something it will sometimes not attack it or just take a while to do so.
Now DLC is a sensitive topic to talk about for most especially for a game that either hasn’t come out or just came out, but for this Halo Wars 2 Review, I’ll go into what has been announced DLC wise as it is important to most. So I’ll come out and say right now Halo Wars 2 does have day one DLC in the form of the multiplayer leader Sergeant Forge from the original game, which pisses off most players as it’s generally something that could have been included in the base game. So with that out of the way, lets get into what the season pass has to offer and this straight from the Microsoft Store on windows 10.
“The Season Pass delivers regular updates that span more than six months, including: New Leaders with abilities that change the course of multiplayer matches, new Units that add to your multiplayer arsenal, new Blitz cards to collect and take into battle, and new campaign missions that expand the Halo Wars 2 Story”
Now a lack of game modes has been a common problem amongst the recent FPS Halo titles, and generally speaking RTS don’t have too much in the way of game modes normally only having like 1v1, 2v2 3v3 so and so forth Halo Wars 2 does it’s best to provide some variety into the mix, but ultimately can be broken down into the same categories. The core game modes are basically broken up between Multiplayer and Blitz a new unique game mode added in that uses a Card based system to spawn units. You can create your own decks in the deck builder with a limit of twelve cards per deck which is ok a bit of a sweet spot not too little not to much. You do not start off with all the cards you unlock cards through card packs which Halo Wars 2 version of microtransactions in which at first don’t seem to be too bad, but cards can get stronger than their normal versions by getting the same card up which levels up the card up. What this does is make a card stronger than it’s base version, the problem comes now where someone can buy a bunch of card packs and simply have stronger cards than someone who just plays.
Other than the pay to win thing though the game mode is really fun and quick matches only lasting like 5-10 minutes. There is also a slight variation of this game mode, firefight which is the same thing against waves of AI opponents. The multiplayer game modes are your typical 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 game modes with some slight variations like infinite resources and all upgrades, or simply having objectives like capturing and holding points. One thing I wish was that you could choose to do 2v2 or 3v3 instead you just Que up for a team match and the game will set you up with either 2v2 or 3v3 which everyone it can find.
Now this section of the Halo Wars 2 review is going to be filled with issues that affect the game most of them on a technical level that players need to know before buying these issues should go away in time but as of the time of this review, these are issues. So right now the Xbox One version of Halo Wars 2 runs fairly well, it does suffer however from long load screens and the game stuttering when achievements are unlocked. The load screens are the worst technical issue for the Xbox One version some lasting a few minutes to where I thought the game broke or something. The PC version, however, has way more problems that need to be fixed. When you start up the game it will take a few minutes for it start up where the logo will go off but then there will just a black screen for a few minutes then the game starts. It also for some reason has an issue staying in fullscreen or windows so if you want it in fullscreen a lot of the time you’ll have to switch it off then turn it back to fullscreen. One last thing about the PC version is multiplayer, I have yet to play a match where it’s either not lagging really hard or I just get dropped out of nowhere which is incredibly frustrating.
|Windows 10 System Requirements||Halo Wars 2 Min Specs||Halo Wars 2 Recommended Specs||Halo Wars Definitive Edition Min Specs||Halo Wars Definitive Edition Recommended Specs|
|Operating System||64-bit Windows 10 14393 (Anniversary)||64-bit Windows 10 14393 (Anniversary)||64-bit Windows 10||64-bit Windows 10|
|DirectX Version||DirectX 12 (Feature Level 11)||DirectX 12 (Feature Level 11)||DirectX 11 (Feature Level 11_0)||DirectX 11 (Feature Level 11_0)|
|Intel Core i5-4690K
|Intel Core i3 or Equivalent||Intel Core i5 or Equivalent|
|GPU||nVidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti
AMD Radeon HD 7750
Intel HD 520
|AMD RX 480
nVidia GTX 1060
|NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
AMD Radeon R5 M240
Intel HD Graphics 4200
|NVIDIA GTX 560, 650, 750
AMD HD 5850, 6870, 7790
Overall Halo Wars 2 is an above average game, as the game itself is lots of fun and the campaign is interesting gameplay wise and narratively but suffers from a weak ending. Multiplayer is that of most RTS games which isn’t bad. The gameplay is actually a lot of fun. With some extra game modes to go through in spice here and there. The Blitz game mode is a lot of fun as well – It’s just not when someone simply has stronger cards than you because they paid for them. If you’re a Halo fan and you enjoyed the first game, you’ll enjoy this one. If you didn’t like the first one, there is a good chance you won’t enjoy this one. If you’re a person who likes RTS games but is on a console you’ll probably enjoy the game. If you’re looking for a bit of an entry point into the RTS genre then this wouldn’t be a bad place to start either.