The first Halo Wars launched way back in 2009 for Xbox 360 was an admirable attempt to bring a real-time strategy to consoles. It did not get the recognition it probably deserved for even daring to make the attempt, but there are players with fond memories of playing it. Which is thankfully reason enough to bring the title back from oblivion in Halo Wars 2.
There isn’t a lot of detailed information regarding the game, but what there is, we have gathered for you in a bite-sized early glimpse before Halo Wars 2 launches in late February 2017.
I was frozen today!
The game’s story comes directly after the events of original HW. Sort of. The Spirit of Fire crew wakes up from cryo-sleep entered roughly 20 years before the events known from Halo: Combat Evolved. The thing is, they wake up after the mess from Halo 5: Guardians, to a new status quo. In other words, while the story of the Spirit of Fire crew continues without a hitch, they made quite a jump forward in time.
A new old enemy
In this time a previously referenced Covenant faction known as the Banished rose to prominence under the guidance of Atriox, a season leader of Brute squads. Make no mistake, though. Atriox is a tough-as-nails warrior, having survived more than any other Brute, but it’s his brilliant mind that makes him a threat. Of course, this is still a faction of the Covenant, so it’s not like we get some radically new enemy. Which is probably fine. A clear connection to an enemy already established in extensive Halo lore will make veterans feel right at home, while a sort-of new faction will likely be a good entry point for newcomers.
What about the gameplay?
Other than this setup not much is known of the singleplayer campaign. We know it is planned to span thirteen missions, which is a decent number, although without data on an average mission’s length we can’t speculate about how long the campaign will last you. Some longevity will be provided by the announced co-operative mode.
War is more fun with friends
Although the developer Creative Assembly (known chiefly from the Total War series) makes sure to provide an interesting singleplayer experience, it’s the multiplayer that is Halo Wars 2‘s focus. So far we know of five modes, with one of them genuinely fresh.
Stronghold and Domination
Both these modes are focused on capturing and holding specific areas of the map. Whether nodes, resources, or bases, the core concept is a well-known scheme, making for an easily accessible bundle of rules and objectives.
Deathmatch and Skirmish
Another pair of rather familiar modes. Deathmatch has the players battle against each other for being the last one standing. Skirmish will allow you to play with friends against AI opponent, if that’s what you like.
Now, that’s a curious one. Blitz abandons base building and resource management in favor of cards you can play on the battlefield to summon new units etc. In effect it blends RTS and collectible card game (CCG). Each of announced six leaders will have a unique deck, with new cards unlockable via completing specific in-game actions. Using the cards will be balanced by the Energy resource, collected on the map.
The push of collecting all the cards for all the leaders, rather quick (7-12 minutes) matches, and transparent mechanics are likely to make Blitz a very popular mode with strategy veterans and newcomers both.
Halo Wars 2 will release for both Xbox One and Windows 10, supporting shared saves, but without cross-play. The precision of PC controllers would make playing against console-bound players very unfair, so developers decided not to implement it. There is some talk regarding 4K and ultrawide screen support for PC, which is good, because even now, still in deep beta, the game looks great.
Moving the camera and selecting units is designed to be intuitive and easy even with console controllers, typically ill-suited for this task. The players will be able to use pre-set and custom control groups, although PC will have more available keys to manage them, for obvious reasons.
There will also be a PC remake of the first HW, although whether it will be available outside of the Halo Wars 2 pre-order+ season pass remains unknown. Of course the remake will be called “Definitive Edition”, because every other re-edition is called Definitive these days.
Halo Wars 2 has a tough task to complete. Although real-time strategies are commonplace for PC players, and there is a soul crushing lack of Halo games for PC, on consoles this is still a largely unexplored genre.
Creative Assembly is a very experienced developer, and in general it is wise to trust in their expertise. It remains to be seen how they manage to translate this expertise to console control scheme.
Regardless, Halo Wars 2 is an interesting enough endeavor to make it worth following.
Halo Wars 2 as of now is set for release on 21 February 2017.