Halo Wars 2 is the second game in a series, but is not necessarily a regular sequel. The game is a form of a hybrid between an RTS game and an FPS game viewed from another perspective, which sounds all the way up the walls but is the feeling the game gave me on more than one occasion. It’s a strategy game made to work on console just like the first game, technically, it works well, really great. The game delivers all important pieces from Halo’s FPS Series satisfactorily, converting missions from FPS games into a format that works in a strategy game. With that said, you should not compare this with, for example, Total War or similar games since it is after all an incredibly downplayed version of a strategy game. The game appeals to Halo fans more than it appeals to strategy fans.¨
Historically, Halo Wars is playing 2 decades after the first Halo Wars and after Halo 5. The primary enemy in the game is called ‘The Banished’ and the absence of ‘The Covenant’ occurs quite soon. Despite the fact that the classic enemy is missing this time, the game is interesting enough to attract you and you want to know more about it, for us, the new enemy. The story is made through some of the best and coolest cutscenes you’ve seen, but as usual, the dialogue is filled with cheeky one-liners. Unfortunately, the new characters do not develop satisfactorily, so after a while it’s easy to drive away when there’s a cutscene while waiting for the next mission.
The game’s campaign consists of quests based on taking different points, defending a base or surviving hordes of enemies. Classic, but it’s about as deep as the strategy in the game becomes. Which I personally think is a bit sad. You have full control over your armies and you have two resources to keep track of. Just like in similar games, the weight and the balance of the game lies in making decisions about when and how much you are going to manufacture. I understand that this is designed to work well on console, just like the first game was. But the first game was first and offered something we had not seen before. Something like Halo Wars 2 does not. In my very personal opinion, they could very well have made the game a bit more complicated and it had still worked well on the console, as the mechanics behind it all work just as you expect it to do.
At the normal level of difficulty, the game does not feel particularly challenging and the AI seems almost corked, which destroys the feeling of challenge. As long as you choose the right types of troops, it’s no problem to advance, especially if you’re used to more complex strategy games where enemies flank on multiple fronts at the same time. The tools you use are rarely used to the fullest extent, as the easiest way for you is to mark all your troops at the same time and submit them in battle. In some missions lies the challenge of building correct types of soldiers to counter enemy movements, but it is about as deep as the game becomes.
In multiplayer, it also largely involves winning and defending various points, taking the feel of Halo’s FPS titles and adapting them to RTS. However, the limited possibilities of the game continue to light here and it feels like the challenge disappears once you have learned everything. However, the matches can be very hectic and it means you want to stay and see the outcome. Another advantage is that it’s quick and easy to jump into a match and you do not have to book an entire weekend to get ready.
Halo Wars 2 builds on a stable concept and continues the series with some single news and a few improvements. If you like Halo, this is something you’re guaranteed to like. It will be a fan service when you recognize the layout of some missions taken directly from the FPS counterpart. For strategy fans, it will most likely not feel as appealing to the handicapped arsenal of choices and options available at your disposal. The first game in this series lived in its innovative way to build a robust RTS that worked really well on the console, but Halo Wars 2 lacks the innovation and suffers from an overly simple setup. If you’re a fan of Halo, you’re guaranteed to appreciate this game, but do not expect an excessively long life as it’s actually getting boring pretty fast.