The original Halo Wars was a testament to how real-time strategy games could not only function on a console, but thrive. And more than seven years after the release of Halo Wars, players are still itching to jump in to help the USNC achieve strategic victory over the Covenant – or vice versa. In early 2017, fans will get to experience the next wave of console-based strategy when Halo Wars 2 launches on Xbox One and Windows 10.
We had the chance to sit down and play the Strongholds game mode at E3 2016, and experience firsthand how Halo Wars 2 is maintaining a delicate balance between strategy, accessibility, and intense action.
In Strongholds mode, two teams of three players fight over seven small bases; whichever team has more bases at the end of the round is crowned the winner. It’s a very straightforward mode, focused more on action than resource management: Every player has unlimited resources, and every base element is fully upgraded with every available infantry type.
As you might expect, that means all six players unleash the full force of their armies at once, flooding the map with powerful units all fighting for the same points. With every base you capture, your team’s population cap rises, allowing you to add more firepower to the fight. This can quickly turn the tide in favor of a team who works together effectively and communicates well, compounding early victories into a formidable defense.
In the demo for Halo Wars 2 we saw two of the leaders: Captain Cutter, of the UNSC Spirit of Fire, and the villainous Atriox, a Banished warlord making his first appearance in the franchise. Each has his own special attacks that assist your team: For example, Cutter can drop explosive mines, heal enemies, and summon Spartans to help turn the tide of battle. The special moves add an extra layer to the strategy game, and it’s immensely satisfying to lure enemies towards a few grunts, only to drop a mine on them and wipe out a whole troop.
Developers Creative Assembly (the team behind the last 15-plus years of awesome Total War strategy games) have worked hard to make Halo Wars 2 comfortable to play on a controller without sacrificing the tactical precision necessary for a great RTS. The ability to trigger different commands based on whether you tap or hold a button opens up a surprisingly large array of options, and lets Halo Wars 2 offer deep strategy while still feeling very intuitive.
Of course, the Windows 10 version comes complete with traditional keyboard and mouse controls, hot keys, and everything an RTS fan would expect from a modern strategy game. Halo Wars 2 on Windows 10 plays just as well as you’d expect from a game made by one of the best RTS developers in the game industry.
Halo Wars 2 is one of the many games that supports Xbox Play Anywhere, meaning that whether you buy the game for Xbox One or Windows 10, you can play it on both systems and transfer save files between both versions.
If you’re hungry for Halo Wars 2 action, good news! The Halo Wars 2 beta is going on right now for Xbox One players, running through June 20. But if you miss this round, don’t fret; a second beta for both Xbox One and Windows 10 players will follow in the coming months.