by Dillon Meehan
It has been a rough start for 343 Industries. After Bungie, the creators of the Halo series split with Microsoft in 2010 to join Acitvision Blizzard. In 2012, 343 launched Halo 4, a disappointment by Halo standards, and regarded by many as the worst in the franchise.
Two years later, The Master Chief Collection followed, which featured the four main Halo games all on one disk. It gave players the option to play through a decade of great games on the newest Xbox hardware. But it was plagued by server related issues that rendered online play practically impossible.
In the fall of 2015, they once again attempted to restore faith to their fans with Halo 5, but that too was a disappoint to fans. It had a lackluster story and featured a marketing campaign that was borderline false advertising.
However, it looks like 343 got it right this time with Halo Wars 2. A spin-off real time strategy (RTS) series based off of the lore from the mainline first-person-shooter (FPS) Halo games. The game was co-developed with Creative Assembly, a team mostly known for the well-received RTS Total War series. It is often difficult to make RTS games work on consoles compared to PC. The controls are simply much more difficult with a controller compared to a keyboard and mouse. But unlike previous failed attempts in other games, Halo Wars 2 seems to have found how to make it a seamless transition.
The game also features 12 separate single player campaign missions that can be played on four different difficulty levels. Depending on the difficulty, the campaign can take anywhere from six to 12 hours, maybe even more on the higher difficulty levels. In many games the campaign is simply an elongated tutorial, however, that is not the case in Halo Wars 2. There’s a relatively sound storyline that features an interesting antagonist to fight against the USMC. While some of the voice-overs and dialogue are simply throwaway lines at times, the cinematic cutscenes practically brings the story to life. The scenes were put together by Blur Studio, best known for working on the space scenes in Avatar and remastering the cutscenes for the Halo 2 anniversary edition in the Master Chief Collection.
Lastly there’s multiplayer, at the time this review is being written, the game has not had a full release so the servers have not been truly tested. For those with early access, the game seems to have steady online play as of right now. Because of the debacle that was the Master Chief Collection, fans have a right to be skeptical of online play. However that is where this game may shine apart from the traditional skirmish battles, where players can fight one on one or team up with friends. There is also a new card based game know as blitz, where it is a combination of luck and skill. It is a fast based game on domination, where you can choose to battle one on one or up to three versus three.
In 2009, Halo Wars was viewed as a one-time spinoff and nothing more. However, it looks as though Microsoft may have something here with the sequel. The only way to know if this becomes a legitimate series is based on sales numbers. Microsoft barely attributed any of its marketing budget to this game, however, it was a strange way to attempt to support one of their exclusives.
Microsoft has also cancelled some of the series more anticipated exclusives in 2016, so it is tough to imagine them continuing that trend in 2017 if they hope to build their platform. All in all, Halo Wars 2 is a great RTS game that does its best to summit itself as a legitimate series going forward.