Just about everybody knows what Halo is. As the original Xbox’s biggest launch title, Halo: Combat Evolved revolutionised the first-person genre for video game consoles and kick-started one of the largest video game franchises ever, cementing itself as Microsoft’s flagship series.
Thanks to its significant popularity, Halo has expanded into other mediums, including novels and multiple web series’. But it’s also expanded in video game form, exploring more than just the story of Master Chief. The most unique of these was Halo Wars, a real-time strategy game set within the Halo universe.
Its sequel, Halo Wars 2, expands upon the 2009 original, and I’ve gotta say – it wasn’t a sequel that I was expecting. The game follows the same story presented in Halo Wars, taking place 28 years after the events of the first game. This time around, the Spirit of Fire locates The Ark and comes into contact with a new villain; Atriox. Atriox is a brute warlord who has defied The Covenant and built his own army known as The Banished.
Atriox is a worthy antagonist. Not only is he intimidating, his backstory is interesting to boot. His loyal ally Decimus also serves well as a secondary antagonist, who comes off as a more brutal warrior. Unfortunately, the Elites get the short end of the stick this time around, as the most prominent of the species, a Shipmaster, doesn’t hold much relevance to the plot and is kind of just there.
Our returning characters and members aboard the Spirit of Fire are much the same. For narrative purposes, Captain Cutter was de-aged, which is quite jarring, but he’s still a likable character in both design and attitude. The same can be said for Professor Anders and the new AI aboard the ship, Serena.
Halo Wars 2 is an enjoyable experience. Much like the original and the remastered Halo 2 cut-scenes in the Master Chief Collection, Blur Studios have developed the cinematics for this game, and they’re just as beautiful as you’d expect.
On the gameplay side of things, Halo Wars 2 refines the gameplay of the original without changing too much or adding anything extraordinary. The addition of new units such as the Hellbringers, Snipers, and the Reaver allow for players to make more specific choices in their builds, while also requiring extra thought in order to combat the additional unit types that your opponent could throw at you.
I can’t say much about the multiplayer portion of the game, as the population had already dwindled by the time I got around to playing it. However, in the small amount of games that I’ve played, much of it seems the same as before. It’s worth noting though that they have included a new mode known as Blitz. In Blitz, players utilise a deck of cards to determine what forces are available to them, which can then be customised in the Blitz menu. The addition of this new mode also provides the option for micro transactions, as players can purchase card packs from the Xbox Store.
Halo Wars 2 is a fitting sequel to the original Halo Wars. If you got the chance to play the first one already, you should be able to get an idea of what you’ll be getting here, as the team at Creative Assembly and 343 Industries haven’t really gone out of their way to make any drastic changes to the game. What we are given with Halo Wars 2 is a visually stunning and interesting campaign, coupled with an entertaining and strategic gameplay hook. If you were a fan of the original Halo Wars, I’m sure you’ll find some enjoyment in Halo Wars 2.