'Halo Wars 2' Hands On: Enjoying The Loss

I tried 343 Industries’ Halo Wars 2 for the first time back in October, and I found that it can accommodate a hardcore real-time strategy (RTS) player, a novice, and everyone in between, thanks to its different game modes. Last week, Microsoft invited me once again to play Halo Wars 2 for a few hours. In addition to more time with the campaign and Blitz modes, I was able to play some traditional RTS multiplayer in a map that had two teams of three fighting for victory.

Trial By Banished

The campaign level I saw a few months ago seemed to be one of the early stages of the game, and this new level seemed to follow immediately after that. In the beginning I controlled Spartan Jerome and a few units in order to continue the push against the Banished forces. The ultimate goal was to take control of three towers and defend them from foes. To do this, I needed to create a central base from where I could create my army. By dropping in a few resource-gathering buildings alongside my troop-making structures, I created a little fighting force that I thought would easily take on the enemy.

While I built this army, I still had to fend off enemy attacks. I could build turrets to protect my base or leave a small force behind to protect my hard-earned resources. After a small attack, however, my troops were ready to move out. It’s at this point, however, that I remembered that the RTS genre isn’t my forte.

As soon as my troops took the first tower, I was in a points race against the enemy. The more towers I had under my control, the faster I accrued points, which is similar to the Blitz-style of gameplay. However, I was now fighting a small war on two fronts. Because I took one tower, the enemy sent units to take it back. At the same time, there were other troops heading towards my main base. I built an auxiliary structure near my first claimed tower to create more troops, but by the time they came out, the Banished were already decimating my army. I tried to create a second wave of forces, but time was against me. While I was building more soldiers, aircraft, and vehicles, the Banished’s points continued to rise. In the end, I failed the mission.

Disappointed as I was, however, I still found the gameplay to be engaging. I wasn’t bored throughout the level, mainly because there was always something that required my attention, and I had to stay on my toes (metaphorically) anyway because I didn’t know when the enemy would launch another attack. If I had more time in the session, I have no doubt that I would’ve succeeded. I just need more time and experience.

Six-Man Brawl

If my time against the Banished was any indication, my experience against other players would be even more embarrassing. Nevertheless, I participated in a six-person Deathmatch multiplayer game, where two teams of three players build bases and assemble armies in order to eliminate all the other players in an opposing team.

The key to victory, or at least what I thought was the key to victory, was speed. Whoever had the most troops in the fastest time could have an early advantage to potentially cripple the opponent’s production by destroying buildings. To that end, my teammates and I built a hybrid coalition of units that ranged from regular ground troops and heavy armored vehicles to fast aerial units, coupled with support aircraft that could heal friendlies. However, our human opponents had the same idea. Throughout multiple points on the map, there were skirmishes where many soldiers died, and large explosions crowded the screen. One side would leave victorious while the defeated party had to rebuild their army again.

The problem was that the enemy was secretly building the most powerful units in the game. By increasing the level of the main base, you get access to some of the most devastating pieces in the game. For instance, none of my teammates could stand up against the behemoth of an aircraft that was the top-tier unit of the United Nations Space Command faction. Its size and massive firepower reminded me of the airships used by S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There was nothing we could do against it as it obliterated every one of our units. After that, we just waited for the end as the enemy rolled into our bases and destroyed them building by building.

A Little Bit Of Blitz

Thankfully, my traumatic experience with the campaign and multiplayer were offset by Blitz, my favorite game mode in Halo Wars 2. Instead of gathering resources, creating a base, and then sending out troops, this game mode utilized unit or ability cards and energy points. Based on the amount of energy gathered around the small map, I could bring out a small group of foot soldiers or a barrage of missiles.

Within the first few minutes of the game, both sides (we were still playing three versus three) were trying to grab as many energy points as possible while also trying to take all three zones on the map. Similar to the campaign level, we had to accrue a specific amount of points to win. The more zones we controlled, the faster we gained points.

Unlike the previous two game modes, Blitz doesn’t require too much time to get things rolling. The small map ensures that both sides will get into the fight in seconds rather than minutes. With the right amount of teamwork and communication, it’s easy to hold down all three zones against the opposing team. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for my team. Despite the fact that we had a strategy in place where one of us would grab energy while the other two would stay in our held zones and fight off the enemy, our opponents seemed to have a larger force every time. We didn’t stand a chance.

Still Enjoyable

Even though I was on the losing side of all three modes that day, I still had a blast playing Halo Wars 2. I still stand by statement from the first preview event--that this game has something for everyone, regardless of experience with RTS titles. For those new to the genre, Blitz is a great starting point because it doesn’t require you to learn much before the game starts.

If you’re looking for a slight challenge, or want to get into the mechanics of RTS, the story mode is right up your alley. For those of you who want to prove that you’re the best in the world, Deathmatch is for you. If the game mode you started out with becomes too easy, you can always try out one of the other portions that Halo Wars 2 has to offer. In any case, you’ll find that there is always something for you to do in the game, and it’ll be hard to stop playing once you start.

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Game Details
NameHalo Wars 2
TypeReal-time strategy, Action
Developer343 Industries, Creative Assembly
PublisherMicrosoft Studios
PlatformsPC, Xbox One
Where To BuyMicrosoftAmazonBest BuyTargetWalmartGameStop
Release DateFebruary 21, 2017
  • Arbie
    I'm playing "Ashes of the Singularity / Escalation" which seems to have all of this and much more. I'm judging from the video here... Ashes has better graphics, production control, group control, viewing etc. It also has excellent AI and pathing. Anyone new or experienced in RTS should try that first.
  • smdelfin
    Probably a good game, but would it be accessible via Steam? The other comment about Ashes, it's available on Steam and I think I'll try that.