While at E3 I had the pleasure of meeting with the Halo Wars 2 team so they could show off a hands-off demo of the game’s first campaign mission, and the big takeaway they wanted to impart upon me is the fact that the Halo Wars 2 campaign will be bigger, badder, and more Halo-battlefield-chaos like than the original. After watching the demo, which sees a small force of UNSC soldiers and two tanks taking on Banished forces on the surface of the Ark that their frigate is orbiting, I can say that Halo Wars 2 is definitely more explosive in every sense of the word.
Halo Wars 2 doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to the havoc your forces can wreak upon the Banished. Every little skirmish en route to the mission’s end game was sprinkled with firy blasts from troops wielding flamethrowers, which were complimented by showers of hellfire missiles coming from the two tanks in the UNSC squad. The visuals resembled what an eagle’s view of a mission from a traditional Halo game would look like, or if a drone was hovering over the battlefield as Master Chief kicked one grunt’s ass after another. If organized chaos was an object, the Halo Wars 2 campaign would embody it.
I also noticed that thanks to the game’s PC version, the campaign played out more like a traditional RTS experience. The demo player could quickly select units and assign them targets all with the comfort of a mouse and a keyboard, which effectively led to the utter decimation of the enemy forces. Certain units would be used to combat specific enemy types they could counter well, such as a squad of flamethrower troopers easily being able to dispatch a pair of Hunters. While your forces are powerful, you must rely on these types of tactics to win the day, because the enemy forces can just as easily counter your units with its own, such as using Hunters to take out UNSC tanks.
Another change to the Halo Wars 2 formula that I noticed both on my own and through the dev’s focus on it is the inclusion of visible building damage for the bases you must take out and protect. There are no longer health meters on base buildings, rather players can literally watch them erode and decay from gunfire over time until they explode debris all over the battlefield. It’s a nice touch to the game’s already impressive visuals, and it just made the experience seem more natural since there were no hovering health bars over the building signaling how much damage you’ve done. Bases are much more animated now too–both during and after construction–making the game world feel just a bit more alive.
The dev team did mention that another beta for the game will undoubtedly go down closer to release, and that this beta would also be playable on PC, so you’ll be able to experience Halo Wars 2’s native PC RTS controls for yourself before the final build of the game ships in February. The campaign is shaping up nicely and should provide 8-10 hours of gameplay in addition to a scripted narrative that is fleshed out through engaging cinematics, so if you didn’t appreciate the original due to the fact that it wasn’t on PC, or just didn’t feel like a RTS or a Halo game, I think you’ll be impressed with how the feedback from that first game has been implemented in the sequel.
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