Review – Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 seemed like an unlikely sequel to find success, announced six years after the original game and in development by an all-new development team after the well-respected dev house that created the first was dissolved in the interim. Fortunately for fans of the franchise, Creative Assembly was up to the task and have turned in a sequel that handily outdoes the original.
Graphically there’s no comparison, even the remastered Halo Wars: Definitive Edition – released as part of the Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition – doesn’t measure up. There’s also little to no slowdown when the action really heats up and there are a dozen or more units on the screen and a ton of particle effects from attacks going off.
Even the gameplay feels a bit more refined, with tasks like assigning units into groups or selecting those groups on the fly working very well in even the most action-filled battles. With the game’s ‘rock-paper-scissors’ approach to balance, where infantry beats aircraft, aircraft beat ground vehicles, and ground vehicles beat infantry, being able to move units in and out of the fray quickly is essential. Leader skills like healing troops within a set area or calling in air strikes are simple to set off, adding to the tactical strategy elements.
Even the story holds its own against the original, and against the mainline Halo games as well. The crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire – after the events of the original game – awaken from cryosleep to discover they’re in uncharted space, 28 years after they entered their sleep tubes. Without a clue as to the status of the war against the Covenant, they’re quickly thrown back into the mix against a new enemy faction – the Banished, a Brute-centric force led by Atriox. The game’s 12 missions will take 8-9 hours to finish on Normal, considerably longer on Legendary – especially if gamers want to complete all the bonus objectives.
Then there’s multiplayer, where a real-time strategy (RTS) game like Halo Wars 2 really shines. Deathmatch, Domination, and Strongholds offer conventional fare, while the new card-based Blitz mode branches off into something new altogether. This mode gives you a 12 card customizable deck from which you draw four cards to play. Collect resources to play cards from your hand, and try to overcome bad draws with smart and strategic play. Allow enemies to overextend while you gather resources, for example, then crush them with a well-timed Scarab drop.