When Halo Wars was originally released for the Xbox 360 in 2009, I was skeptical about the Halo franchise branching off from the FPS style that I had known and loved to a RTS, as I hadn’t played much of that genre previously. Nonetheless, as a Halo fanboy it was my duty to display my commitment to the brand, play this game and like it. To my surprise, I did so thoroughly and to my mother’s concern, spent the next 3 days completing all levels and objectives along with finding all of the skulls I could (I think I was maybe 2 short in the end). A grueling 8 years later see’s the release of the sequel, Halo Wars 2, on February 21st on Xbox One and Windows 10 and I recently had the privilege, nay the honor, to have early access to the game.
A lot has happened in this period of time within the Halo universe with Halo Wars 2 being set 28 years after the Halo Wars storyline and beginning just after the conclusion of Halo 5: Guardians. It was this aspect of the game that renewed my fondness for the Halo universe as these characters were now thrown into the scenario that was the same for Master Chief in the original Halo: Combat Evolved. The crew of UNSC warship Spirit of Fire have been in cryosleep for the last 28 years, completely unknowing of what has happened along with the involvement of the Forerunners, their technology and their structures. The story definitely becomes explorative as well as a fight for survival which follows the original plot but from a refreshed perspective. I’m not going to delve into the storyline too much but give more of a ‘what to expect’ from my first impressions of this game.
After meeting with Clay Jensen, Design Director from 343 Industries, we were immediately thrown into the 2nd mission of the campaign, where I was filled with nostalgia as I remembered why it was that I fell in love with this game in the first place. It is a Halo game at its core and that is immediately felt as you start to upgrade your bases, recruiting troops that you have seen in every short, comic and cinematic, preparing yourself for the inevitable attack of aliens that, at times, you have come to fear. As a game that was originally shallow in the sense of RTS, I feel the sequel has evolved at a fundamental level to more align itself with the true nature of the genre. I felt that the first game was very much linear in your objectives and in the way you pursue them but this game has grown to accommodate for the play style of different players. And this was just the campaign.