Halo Wars 2 is opening up the genre for everyone
The original Halo Wars, despite its limitations was a well-made real-time strategy title for the Xbox 360. Console and RTS usually don’t mix together but Ensemble Studios made it happen and provided a robust experience with Halo Wars that retained the cinematic story experience the series is well-known for. With Creative Assembly and 343 Industries at the helm of the upcoming Halo Wars 2, we’re expecting great things from a veteran strategy studio known for their Total War series.
The new Halo Wars 2 will be released on both Xbox One and Windows 10 which is part of the new move by Microsoft to release a title on both platforms. The original will also be released on PC which is great news especially for PC fans wanting to get on the Halo Wars action. For the preview, I tested both the PC and Xbox One version to get a feel of the difference and while it’s obvious the PC platform is preferred thanks to keyboard and mouse – you can’t look past the proven control scheme from the previous game.
Jumping into the game, everything felt familiar as the developers retained the base layout and control scheme. If you have played the original, you’ll feel right at home like I did. In the previews, we were treated to the multiplayer portion of the game with a Team Deathmatch 3v3 scenario. Each player were given a choice of a commander whom provides special abilities, almost Command & Conquer Generals-like. Due to the limited time, all resources has been boosted and the tech tree unlocked giving us unprecedented access to creating some big battles.
The first thing I noticed was the fact that you can actually create more units on the field than the original. This gives us more strategic flexibility allowing us to easily flank and hold two battles on our own. The battles were heated and just like a shooter or MOBA title, voice communications between the teams were key in Halo Wars 2. We asked each other for help, pointed out enemy positions and movements which gave the game a competitive vibe that I didn’t expect.
During the early stages of the rounds, the matches had small skirmishes here and there but once more units flood the map – it was chaotic. The controller was manageable but despite being well laid out, it started to prove difficult when controlling vast armies and I suddenly felt the limitations of it. This is probably why Microsoft are introducing keyboard and mouse support for the Xbox One in the near future – probably and more likely because of this game.
There was also a balance issue in the games I played. Some of the commander powers like the orbital cannon was simply too over-powering. After taking out the opponent’s army, I managed to lose mine entirely with a strike of the cannon which halted my assault on his base. By the time I recovered, his defences was already back and I had to take on his army again. This will get ironed out however because of the future betas to fix these problems. Halo Wars 2 also had some performance issues and while most of the base game worked fine, there was still a lot of things that needed optimizing which is problem the reason why they’ve pushed back the date to 2017.
While many RTS fans will complain about the lack of depth compared to other titles – Halo Wars 2 is all about opening up the genre to everyone. The difficulty curve while there is not high meaning the game will be more open to casual players with no RTS experience. Above, I did mention the game was easy to jump in and I think this is what 343 and Creative Assembly are aiming for.
Being a fan of the original, I’m keen to see more of Halo Wars 2 especially with Creative Assembly involved. With a veteran studio and a strong IP, it’s just good to see another RTS back in the market which is a genre that’s been quite lacking. Microsoft saw potential here especially with the whole Windows 10 push so it’s not surprising to see them release this on both platforms. There’s still lots of work before release but Halo Wars 2 is shaping up to be another great entry into the franchise.
Halo Wars hits Xbox One and PC on February 21, 2017