Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition dropped this Friday on early access, giving me a much needed return to RTS games. Thanks to the joys of cryo sleep, Captain Cutter and crew have enjoyed a nice nap just in time to wake up 28 years later, dropping them back into the story not long after the events of Halo 5. Coincidently just in time to find a rather grumpy Brute named Atriox who also recently showed up and decided to put all the UNSC researchers stationed there to the slaughter.
With the help of the Ark stations AI, Isabel, and Professor Anders, Cutter is going to show Atriox a thing or two about stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds. With immaculately sculpted cut scenes brought to life by some fantastic voice acting and writing, interspersed by a variety of intense missions relays a deep story charting the exploration of the Ark as you try to defeat the apparently indomitable Atriox.
Missions vary throughout the game, from your straight forward story driven advancement upon the enemy to races for resource points, standing your ground and even a twist on the tower defence genre. Apart from your main objectives you get optional and bonus objectives to gain more XP. All XP earned from the campaign goes towards building up your mp rank and helps unlock more Blitz cards.
The game is a genuinely deep RTS made accessible for console and Windows 10 (I’ve primarily been playing it on Win10), the introduction of new units has made your strategic choices more diverse, such as using snipers to spot enemies allowing artillery to rain down upon them. The graphics and audio are highly detailed, with lovely touches such as the shadows stretching out in front of the troops leaving the base in the picture below.
The downsides, the same old inexplicable need to gradually discover abilities, even though you could build certain vehicles in the last game you now have to wait until later in the game. Legendary difficulty increases the time it takes to complete specific objectives as you throw your troops at the enemy just to have them break like waves against cliffs as more troops and leader powers are put between you and that objective. At once point I lost 26 marine units as a leader power rained down from above and they were too slow to escape from it. Part of me would prefer harder enemies rather than far more numerous, especially when it is so easy to clean your troops from the face of the world.
I’ve very much been left wanting more as RTS veterans Creative Assembly have done an excellent job of building on the original game. Looking forward to the campaign DLC to arrive in the future in hopes it will expand more on Halo Wars’ place within the current Halo universe. Wondering if Creative Assembly will also take to trying out more missions types within the DLC, I’d actually like to see more of the tower defence map. I’m hoping it does well, not just for itself, but so that hopefully more publishers will start investing in mainstream RTS games.