Why RTS Games Can’t Succeed on Consoles?
It’s not that the original didn’t find its way to the fans. However, it just wasn’t as successful as other Halo games, especially on Xbox. Ensemble Studios, the team that worked on Halo Wars, managed to transfer the core mechanics of real-time strategy genre to a console without making players perform controller gymnastics or watering the game down too much. On top of that, the story fits perfectly in the Halo lore and expands it in a smart way.
The development team changed for Halo Wars 2, and Creative Assembly with 343 Interactive overtook the wheel. If you’ve played any of the Total War games on PC, you certainly know the CA name. Despite the change, a lot of things remained the same. The controls are similar to the original – you use the left stick to move the camera around, while the right stick rotates the camera and zooms in or out. Those who played the original will appreciate the information that camera movement is a bit slower this time.
Selecting the units is also quite easy, so you won’t have a lot of trouble getting used to the commands. I’m specifically talking about controls because they are often why RTS games can’t succeed on consoles. However, Halo Wars 2 offers an intuitive control system that uses the most out of their input device – controller. PC users don’t have these issues, so they can expect everything to function great in the game, at least control-wise.
Can This Be a Sequel to Halo 5?
As for the story, Halo Wars 2 sets its events 28 years after its predecessor and just after the Halo 5: Guardians. Don’t feel like you need to play either of two games, although you will certainly like if you can connect the stories between them. The Spirit of Fire crew wakes up from its 26-year cryo-snooze and finds itself over a Forerunner Ark. A short investigation leads to the discovery of the main villain – Atriox, who leads a group called Banished that broke off from the Covenant. Naturally, Captain Cutter and the crew decide to fight back, eradicate the group and revenge the fallen UNSC soldiers.
The plot of Halo Wars 2 is a great combo of sci-fi action and the lore. The 12 missions in the main campaign offer enough variety to keep things interesting. Some of them will require you to focus on base building, while you will need your attack skills in others. You have two sets of objectives – the primary ones you must complete and bonus objectives intended for more experienced players. These secondary objectives usually involve reducing your losses to a minimum or hunting down optional items, and they will bring you a shinier medal for completing the mission.
You Won’t Be Banished
The problem with the campaign is that you can’t play as the other faction, which is something many other RTS games offer. Instead, Halo Wars 2 solely puts you on the UNSC side, and you can’t play as Banished. That is a shame because Atriox is truly a unique character – he defies the rules of the Covenant, and he is smart, so it’s a pity that he is reduced to being just another villain.
A Whole Bunch of Multiplayer Options
Multiplayer was an important part of the success of the original, and the latest installment also focuses on online gaming. Halo Wars 2 servers can handle up to six players per a single match, and it’s completely up to you whether you will play against AI or battle one another. The servers worked like a charm while we tested them, so we can safely say that online play is bullet-proof and you won’t encounter any issues.
As for the Skirmish options, the modes you know from the predecessor and other RTS games are all there. Domination will require you to control a certain number of territories, while Deathmatch mode involves completely destroying your opponent. Strongholds is a combination of the two as it requires you to occupy as many territories as you can and keep them yours until the clock runs out.
Build Your Deck and Defeat Your Opponent
I would particularly like to emphasize the Blitz multiplayer mode. It’s sort of like a Domination game, but with a twist of the maps being much smaller and the scoring starting only when you conquer two out of three territories. You can use supply drops to get extra boosts or the cards from your deck to call for additional units. A new one replaces each used card, but you will notice that the cards in your hand may vary depending on the leader you chose.
You will collect cards throughout the game. For example, just completing the tutorial will earn you three packs of cards. Each mission also brings you a new card pack, as well as the challenges that appear on a daily and weekly basis and an overall leveling system (which also upgrades your rank). There are a lot of opportunities to earn card packs, so you won’t have to resort to buying them (at least at first). Another neat trick is that if you have more copies of the same card, you can upgrade that card. That way the game solved the issue of luck not playing the role when it comes to card decks because there is no way of being at a disadvantage.
What is particularly good about Blitz is that it succeeds in mixing strategy with deck-building. When preparing for the battle, you should choose your tactics. The options at your disposal include selecting a lot of weaker units to outnumber your opponent from the start or holding out for stronger units to reach a long-term goal. There is a reason why the creators gave the mode the name Blit – the games are fast, and you can choose to play several Blitz battles instead of only one regular multiplayer match.
It Feels Nice, but It Looks Nice, Too
Halo Wars 2 features solid graphics. Unfortunately, you can’t zoom enough to see the details of your buildings or units, but they look beautiful from afar. The overall look seems fitting to the Halo franchise. What’s more important, the game doesn’t have any issues when a bunch of units appears on the screen at the same time. A crowded battlefield doesn’t mean a frame rate drop, so you can sit back and enjoy the game. The sounds seem appropriate, and voiceover actors also did a good job. The music knows its place, and while it adds to the atmosphere at certain moments, it also knows when to retreat and let the game itself increase the tension.
The game is originally released only for Xbox One, but because Microsoft is the publisher, it’s also compatible with the newest Windows version. So, if you have Windows 10 installed on your PC, you can enjoy playing Halo Wars 2 on it. The users that have the privilege of owning both can also make use of the cross-play options the game offers.
The biggest advantage of the PC version is the use of a mouse and a keyboard, which are the reason why RTS games are far more popular on that platform. Halo Wars 2 does support playing with a controller, so you can consider doing that if you are a masochist. Joking aside, using a mouse makes a selection process faster, and the PC version offers more slots for custom units (10 compared to 4).
Halo Wars 2 Is Really Worth Playing
Halo Wars 2 is a considerable improvement compared to its predecessor. It seems that it took all the right things from the previous installment and upgraded them while adding several exciting things of its own. The camera movement is much better, and the controls are even more intuitive. The single-player campaign is fun, but multiplayer is key to the game. Several interesting modes, particularly Blitz battles which are incredibly exciting, guarantee that you will have hours of fun playing this title. This is one of my favorite games of the year for Xbox, along with Dishonored and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.
This is probably one of the best RTS games on the next-generation console market so far. Truth to be told, the competition is almost non-existent, but that doesn’t change the fact that this game is highly playable and attractive whether you intend to play it by yourself or with other people.