The first Halo Wars came out back in 2009 and was well received even though the RTS genre is more akin to PCs in lieu of consoles. Now the franchise returns with Halo Wars 2 releasing on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.
Sadly the original's developer, Ensemble Studios, got shut down a few years ago so Halo Wars 2 is now the product of both 343 Industries and The Creative Assembly. Despite the RTS genre being more suited to a keyboard and mouse, I actually felt comfortable playing this game on my Xbox One using a controller.
Both 343 Industries and The Creative Assembly have done a great job of making newcomers feel welcome playing this game. I never played the first Halo Wars video game and nor am I any good at RTS games either. Despite being a novice, Halo Wars 2 does a great job of getting someone like me up to speed pretty quickly.
This game has a very helpful tutorial section and the controls are surprisingly comfortable. Both 343 Industries and The Creative Assembly have been able to tailor the controls so that every command is accessible using the analogue sticks and buttons on the Xbox One controller. I didn't miss using a keyboard and mouse at all.
The thing that makes the controls so comfortable is that there are shortcuts that you can use in order to take command of your army easily. You can press the right bumper to control every unit, or press the right trigger to just take command of each specific unit in your army.
You can also press the d-pad in order to switch between different units in separate locations. This is truly helpful if you need to go to another location quickly if you see the enemy ambushing you from a blind spot or something like that.
If there is a flaw I can name about the controls, it's that the game doesn't allow you to zoom out far enough. Whenever I play RTS games, I usually like to zoom out far enough to see an overview of the whole map. Here in this game, you can only zoom out far enough to see your local units only.
As far as gameplay goes, this game has been simplified compared to other RTS titles out there. In this game, collecting resources are no longer a chore as you only have to collect two of them. These two resources are supplies and energy.
To make things even easier, you don't even need to go out and explore to find these two resources. You can instead build factories inside your base that supplies these two resources for you automatically. This makes the process of constructing buildings and your army less time consuming and boring compared to other RTS games which is a good thing.
Halo Wars 2 is more than just a simple point and click affair mainly because there is a lot of strategy that is required. You have to make sure you create the right type of units for the right types of enemies or else you will be hammered. For example, creating anti-air turrets are good for taking out Banshees while Scorpion tanks can destroy enemy bases with ease and more.
To make things more exciting, the game forces you to strategically place your units at different places as the enemy will hone down at you on all sides. You don't want to leave your eggs in one basket so-to-speak as missions require you to be at several places on the map at once. Making sure your army is healthy and ready to go are keys to success.
In terms of game modes, there's both a single player campaign and a multiplayer section. The single campaign is epic as it features excellent cutscenes with an engaging story. Basically some of the characters from the first game return and they have to take out a Brute that calls himself Atriox.
The story takes place after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, and it's still considered canon. The aforementioned cutscenes are stunning to watch and the story is exciting from beginning to end. The campaign is a little on the short side lasting only six to seven hours across 12 missions, but every mission feels unique and they take place in different locations.
Outside of the single player campaign there are a lot of fun multiplayer modes for you to delve into. The best part about multiplayer is that you can go up against the A.I. to get a bit of practise first before you jump online. There are also eight maps in total and you can stage 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 matches.
There's the traditional Deathmatch mode where you just have to destroy all the enemy bases. Matches can take a long time, but they're fun to play if you are good enough to stay alive. The other two modes in the game are where you capture enemy towers. There is even a mode called Stronghold where you have unlimited resources so you can wreck havoc as much as you want!
The last multiplayer mode is quite different and it's called the Blitz mode. Blitz mode is more fast-paced because it's kind of like a trading card game. Instead of collecting resources and building your base, you draw out many cards to defend or attack. Thankfully you can earn valuable cards by playing through the campaign.
As a whole, Halo Wars 2 is an enjoyable RTS that is catered towards more casual gamers and beginners. There's still some depth here for RTS fans, although the gameplay it not as complicated here. Aside from a kind of short campaign, the multiplayer modes will offer gamers hours of fun. This game is worth checking out even if RTS games aren't usually what you play.