Halo Wars 2 Review by Joutja

09 Mar 2017
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This review is based on the experiences and opinions of the author. Anything written here may not cover the entire extent of the game nor will it reflect on the experiences of others. All opinions expressed are held by the author and if you disagree with any content and wish to discuss please be polite. Rudeness will not be answered or tolerated. If later patches, findings, DLC or if the author’s opinion changes, this review may be edited to include these, in which case there will be an identifier placed at the top of the review.

Quick Summary

- The Banished are a great new faction to replace the Covenant.
- Cut-scenes are awesome.
- New units.
- Well-Polished – No bugs encountered so-far.
- Graphics not as up-to-date as expected.
- Difficulty has been spiked. Not as accessible to new players.
- Some controls a bit fiddly.

Overall Score: 8/10

Full review

Please note that this review is also for the Xbox One Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition so may incorporate DLC features not available on other versions. This is also my first review so please don’t just too harshly on the organisation of the review. Any feedback is appreciated provided it is constructive.

First, I’m going to give a quick summary of the campaign. You continue the story of the Spirit of Fire after they exit cryo sleep from the previous game and are pitted against the new enemy, the Banished. The campaign isn’t very long, consisting of only 12 missions which took the best part of 8 hours to finish. However, with all the bonus and optional objectives mixed in, there is a lot of re-playability and achieving those and in playing on the higher difficulties.

Without giving away too much detail, the campaign missions provide several different scenarios which require the player to think on their feet and not rely solely on base-building and unit spamming to achieve the objectives. This variance means that there will be levels geared for a number of different type of strategy players.

One thing which bothered me which may not bother other players, is the magical feature of the cryo tubes in that they can change a person’s race if they stay in it too long. This is a slight spoiler alert but shouldn’t have much bearing on the story of the game.
*** Spoiler - click to reveal ***

The ability to fight against the AI in a skirmish mode continues in this game. You have a greater variety of options available to you this time than in the previous game. As well as a couple of different game modes you also have the option to adjust the number of starting resources and whether mini-bases count towards the over-all base count. There doesn’t appear to be as large many maps to play on initially but it is likely that more will be released with the DLC packs as advertised by the season pass.

One of the new game modes available in Halo Wars 2 is the domination mode which creates a series of captures points in the map which the players must fight over to accumulate enough points to win the game.
One aspect of the skirmish mode which I have noticed but I’m not sure if it is intentional or if I’ve just had bad luck in this sense but the AI is very proficient at rushing you early on with fairly advanced units. This was only on normal mode which adds to the difficulty spike discussed later. After these initial first waves the AI appears to almost give up the attack and remain entirely on defence. It was not unusual for me to survive the first waves, build up a huge army and attack the AI only to find that they still only had their starting base and was defending it with only leader powers. Whether this will be patched later to make a more balanced match throughout remains to be seen.

A completely new game mode called Blitz has the potential to be fun and is definitely aimed at the more speedy players who like to rush into battle or players who only have time for a quick battle here and there. While I like the idea, I’m not entirely sold on the requirements of having to build a deck from booster packs which provide a random set of cards for you to customise your decks with. These packs are gained on levelling up your player career which can be done both single player and multiplayer (although, only campaign counts. Skirmish mode provided no XP).

In a Blitz battle, each team starts at the opposite sides of the map and they are tasked with capturing three domination points until the score reaches 200. Units are brought onto the map by the player drawing a “hand” of five cards picked from a deck of twelve cards and playing them by using power. Power is accumulated slowly but at regular intervals there are power drops on the map for your units to collect. This adds additional complexity as you would have to defend all the domination points and collect the power.
Technically, the game performs well. The graphics are good, although not as updated as I would have expected considering Creative Assembly’s record and the current standard required of games. This could be due to Xbox One limitations. The game is harder than the previous Halo Wars but this seems to stem from the increased reliance on creating a more varied army roster. In Halo Wars One you could easily build a Grizzly/Hornet/Vulture/ODST army and still dominate the battlefield. If you tried that now you would instead be greeted by an AI that can adapt its army to effectively counter yours. Even if you varied up the unit’s, the AI can still pack a serious punch.

The are some issues that the game suffers from. Connection issues were quite common in the multiplayer with disconnections from me and other players which then unbalanced the match for the remaining players. There is also an issue with the recording of wins and with one of the achievements. The lack of wins being recorded is a particularly frustrating problem. When you’ve finally managed to play through a whole match without disconnections and managed to beat the enemy but your hard earned win doesn’t count, desk’s get flipped. The achievement “Short Term Commitment” is, at the time of writing, logged on TrueAchievements as an unobtainable achievement as many players have managed to complete a daily challenge every day for longer than a week and yet it hasn’t popped. This can be frustrating because the players have to make the commitment to playing a few matches every day, not always possible for those who work long hours and might not get many chances to play every day.

Now, to round off the review. While I’ve complained about a few of the features in Halo Wars 2 they don’t detract from the overall experience of the game significantly. Halo Wars 2 is a very fun game with a brilliantly thought out new enemy. There are a return of familiar units, improvements to others and some new ones to play with. The campaign, while the story is forgettable, provides a good mix of mission types with a bit more immersion with the characters on the field. It is a good starting point to prepare the player for Skirmish and Multiplayer. The multiplayer is fun and can offer a surprisingly large variety of game modes for the genre which gives me hope for a potential rebirth to the Command and Conquer type games.