“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” – Sun Tzu
Halo Wars 2, unlike the Halo series we all known, is a standalone series of the franchise that drops the entire first person shooter experience and put you in an RTS setting. Halo Wars 2 leans towards being more of an RTS game for Halo fans, rather than the other way around. However, as different as the genre between both series may be, the root ideals of what make Halo a Halo game have been executed well in Halo Wars 2.
Sun Tzu’s words in the quote above are like perfectly fitted gloves to Halo Wars 2. The only thing is, you know that there will always be an enemy. However, positioning is always a key to success, and that, in any war ever fought.
Halo Wars 2 takes place right after the events from Halo 5. As a matter of a fact, about three decades have passed since the very first Halo Wars instalment. Now set a little in the future, the Spirit of Fire has awakened from its long cryosleep and is facing the rogue Brute faction that goes by the Banished. No more Covenant so it seems! The Banished are under the rule of Atriox, a cruel and heartless Brute. It is your task to lead an army, find him and take him down. The plot itself isn’t so bad and enriches the Halo lore. A few things from the storyline we know are also explained, granting you a lot more understanding over the universe you fight so hard for.
Halo Ward 2 has some interesting and great-looking cutscenes. It is always oh so fun to watch high quality CGI once in a while; the game balances those and gameplay quite well. Unfortunately, where the game shines in visual quality, it fails to deliver any persuasive character development. They hardly have any depth to them. At the end of the day, the visuals, the CGI and the voice acting end up being nothing more than lore improvement. You will probably feel as though your soldier(s) are but pawns you are throwing in front of a queen for the sake of protecting her. In a war, every soldier lost has a story and in their own way an impact over the lore, but not necessarily in Halo Wars 2.
CGI also have another key importance to the game and its storyline. As it turns out, they are setting markers indicating why certain troops are positioned in a certain matter. They also give you an indicator as too who and how many of the enemies you will be facing. These pre-combat dialogues should be analyzed practically religiously, especially if you are playing on harder difficulties. Knowing your opponent in a war and their location is an advantage none should ever take for granted.
Visually, the game puts a lot of effort making sure that you always have an eye on who your troops are, where they find themselves; you can’t have any excuse and claim that you were fooled by the color schemes. The display and controls are difficult to grasp at first for new players of the RTS genre, but as soon as you gain little experience holding that controller, the commands become intuitive.
The rest of the graphics look fine. Halo 5 in terms of sheer visuals and details overwhelms Halo Wars 2 on that end. However, this title offers just the right balance of details and special effects to make up for the lack of ‘looking like Halo 5’. Lack here is a big word indeed, but one uses regardless to express that a little more polishing could have made Halo Wars 2 just a little more graphically enjoyable during gameplay. As far as CGI is concerned, those were on point.
The main feature of the game rests on the campaign mode. There are tons of missions ranging from surviving enemy waves all the way to capturing key strategic points critical to winning the war. From the get go, as soon as you are invited to the long and important tutorial, you are granted to power to control the entire army with a single video game controller. Your tasks including calling out the shots and commanding the troops to head to certain points on the map, but that is not all. You also have control over manufacturing new troops, as well as managing the supply and power, the two resources required for combat. Keep in mind that the enemy is at your tail so if you don’t have enough troops, you must make some. Pick your times and spots well to optimize your army output and production.
Earlier, it was mentioned that Halo feels more like an RTS for Halo fans rather than being a Halo game for RTS fans. This is made apparent when comparing the overall strategy required when placed in front of other more serious RTS titles. In Halo Wars 2, there is a lot of rock-paper-scissors element that come in play. On lower difficulty levels, paying attention to what kind of troops your enemy runs and countering them with the proper forces is almost guaranteed to make you win. However, position and more complex tactical strategies will be of use only on harder difficulty levels. The basics, however, will still be required when things get tough.
If you are a die-hard Halo fan looking to drop the FPS for a minute and play something different, Halo Wars 2 might have the buzz you need. The missions and lore all related to one another and, on harder difficulty levels, the game offers a challenging gameplay where positioning and masters over the basics need to be on par with one another. Just like how Halo game punish you for being too aggressive or overconfident, Halo Wars 2 can do the same. Stand your ground and don’t ever let the enemy overwhelm you. Losing a battle in this titles means losing the war!
Halo Wars 2 was a title important for me to test in order to truly understand how the RTG genre varies from a title to another. While most of my experiences required a lot of managing and strategy preparations, Halo Wars 2 was by far one of the easiest RTS games to understand and grasp. The rock-paper-scissor concept helps you early on, but as your progress and reach harder missions, you will need to think differently. Lower difficulty levels are way to easy. However, as soon as you hit hard or higher, that is when it actually becomes a real though nut to crack.