Halo Wars 2 PC assessment: the spirit of Command & Conquer trapped in a dilapidated husk

Loving or hating Halo Wars 2 largely is determined by what you search for in an RTS.


“Being designed for a controller has evidently been to the detriment of the overall experience.”

Before Halo Wars 2 was introduced, I by no means anticipated I’d be speaking a few triple-A RTS that isn’t Dawn of War or Company of Heroes anytime quickly. The RTS style is kind of useless, and has been for some time. It gave option to off-shoots like the various MOBAs and different tower-defence variants, however the good ol’ sport the place you construct your base, spherical up your troops and make a large number of your enemies is all however gone.

Games like Dawn of War 3 are attempting new issues; a mixture of hero battles typical of MOBAs and a standard RTS construction. Whatever method new RTS video games take, nothing has fairly been in a position to replicate the Command & Conquer video games. There’s both too many assets, distinctly asymmetrical factions, or some bizarre gimmick added in to “push the genre forward”. Although I take pleasure in them, nothing comes near the model of enjoyable present in Westwood’s traditional video games.

Halo Wars 2 does come shut, however after ending the marketing campaign and taking part in a couple of Skirmish and Blitz matches, I’m hesitant to name it a religious successor to Command & Conquer, even when it performs quite a bit prefer it. Being designed for a controller has evidently been to the detriment of the general expertise.


There’s quite a bit to love in Halo Wars 2, although. It’s a sport constructed on a philosophy of offering accessible, largely autonomous RTS battles. It’s additionally a sport that provides a marketing campaign with a surprisingly first rate story and glorious cut-scenes. It even tries to introduce new concepts with Blitz mode.

Unfortunately, each a type of features finally devolves right into a lesser model of itself, leaving you to surprise if the preliminary lustre is what stored you going within the first place. The sport’s marketing campaign begins off with the introduction of a formidable villain, and units up a wrestle with poor odds. Characters are one-dimensional for probably the most half, however that’s as a result of they’re largely right here to let you know stuff over the radio.

The first few missions introduce new mechanics, models, and create situations so that you can battle your approach out of at a gentle tempo. But then it simply stops doing that, and begins going via the motions, undermining the opening salvo of excellent missions you have been greeted with. Having lately performed the remaster of the unique sport on PC, I used to be stunned to discover a returning, close to equivalent design for a specific mission.

That mission was to get long-range artillery models into firing positions, preventing enemies alongside the best way earlier than finally securing the factors and defending them from enemy retaliation. Though the mission wasn’t significantly tough or attention-grabbing, it wasn’t spectacular both. And that is the sentiment that underlines your complete expertise, not simply by way of what the sport allows you to do, however in the best way a few of its greatest moments are provided up.


The PC model is a superb instance of this misdirection. Though not fairly the nightmare I feared it could be, it was missing to a generally irritating diploma. The menus and UI are equivalent throughout PC and Xbox to the purpose of hampering mouse and keyboard play.

Halo Wars 2’s menus are an unorganised mess, among the many worst I’ve ever seen. The key bindings menu particularly is a case research of how to not make a menu for something ever. Made of some 15 pages, and utilizing up solely 50 % of display actual property like there’s a legislation towards utilising the total accessible house, this menu’s existence in its present state is itself an achievement.

I didn’t understand how I may take away a key binding to remap it to a different operate as a result of the sport doesn’t comply with the common ‘hold escape or backspace to remove bindings’ rule, and it received’t hassle telling you methods to do it both. I later came upon how to do that by chance, however after I had almost completed the sport.

Control points wouldn’t have been a lot of a trouble had the sport itself provided different primary RTS staples. There’s no idea of an assault transfer, or halt. Your models are at all times attacking, and also you by no means know in the event that they’re going to chase their targets endlessly or simply drive them away.

The solely approach the sport is aware of methods to speak to you is thru radial menus. They’re inefficient, and a waste of house a number of the time, however extra importantly, a trouble on PC. Said menus additionally imply you’ll be able to’t queue up models remotely. You should be at your base, clicking the actual constructing you need and coaching models there.

It’s perplexing how Creative Assembly, an knowledgeable developer of far more complicated PC-only technique video games, someway couldn’t provide you with a PC-specific UI. Anything else would’ve carried out it actually, because it’s onerous for me to think about Creative Assembly workers taking part in the sport with this UI on a PC and pondering it was wonderful.

Though in equity, that’s precisely what it’s: it’s wonderful. It didn’t cease me from taking part in, however I dreaded its shortcomings each time I used to be reminded of them, and that was usually.


It’s a disgrace, as a result of faraway from these issues, Halo Wars 2’s core gameplay loop is basically enjoyable. It’s a sport that encourages scouting and taking motion over every little thing else, a C&C precept. Unit roles are simple to grasp, and the sport even spills out the onerous counters for you within the tutorial. The focus is in your capability to create a sizeable pressure and win skirmishes till you’re robust sufficient to take out a complete base.

It appears to be like superb, with beautifully-designed environments and animations that look nice on the smallest and the biggest models alike. Even constructing development animations, one thing I often analyse in these video games, are excellent, particularly contemplating all buildings get air dropped. The intricate methods models navigate round one another and what they do whereas idling are all properly thought-out.

It sounds good, too, and very similar to the mainline Halo video games, you’ll be able to simply inform the models aside by the sound of their weapons and the kind of chatter they get into. Projectile weapons are crisp-sounding and power weapons ship a number of oomph and thump.

Being very conversant in Halo models and automobiles, I usually felt like a child taking part in along with his motion figures on the ground. Only the toys listed here are high-polygon, and brimming with life. The zoom and comply with cameras can significantly produce a number of superb moments, even once you’re on the receiving finish of a bombardment.


“Whether or not you’re going to have fun with Halo Wars 2 relies heavily on your tolerance levels for UI issues, and a core loop that’s not very advanced. If you’re looking for a StarCraft clone with Halo units, this is not it.”

Even Blitz, at its most elementary stage, is a mode designed to get individuals to love RTS video games. It strips down all the bottom constructing and useful resource gathering components of the style for – fairly actually – an on the spot motion method. Unfortunately, like I had suspected after playing the beta, the microtransactions facet of it’s going to find yourself ruining it.

You can spend $50 on day one and go in with a significantly higher-level, extra highly effective deck than what most different gamers would have beginning out. And though matchmaking may theoretically account for this, and also you clearly nonetheless must play your playing cards proper, it’s nonetheless a bonus. As for matchmaking, I don’t suppose the sport could have wherever close to sufficient gamers – a minimum of on PC – to assist this break up.

Sure, you earn card packs totally free at a gentle charge, and you’ll simply ignore aggressive Blitz and solely play the Firefight variant with a good friend. But why compromise the mode with a system like that within the first place? Halo Wars 2 is already preventing an uphill battle on each the platforms it’s on, wouldn’t it make extra sense to look player-friendly now to win the viewers over quite than minimize and run as early as doable?

Ultimately, whether or not or not you’re going to have enjoyable with Halo Wars 2 depends closely in your tolerance ranges for UI points, and a core loop that’s not very superior. If you’re searching for a StarCraft clone with Halo models, this isn’t it. I used to be actively searching for the precise reverse, and that’s what I discovered. After kind of getting used to its weird quirks, I discovered an off-the-cuff RTS that lets me construct massive armies and crush opponents that appears and sounds prefer it was made in 2017.