Halo Wars 2 First Impressions

The release of Halo Wars 2 is fast approaching and I’ve been lucky enough to spend some serious hands-on time with the title already. What can I tell you? Well, I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will say that it’s shaping up to be rather good.

As you’d expect it’s visually a step up from the original title; textures are sharper and everything just looks a lot cleaner, but what’s really surprising is how smooth an experience it is. You can tell that 343 Industries and Creative Assembly have prioritised the framerate over excessive eye-candy for Halo Wars 2 and it’s a move that pays off. Navigating and moving your units around maps feels better because of it, and gameplay isn’t hindered by hiccups or slowdown at even the most hectic of times.

Whilst the campaign and the brunt of its additional gameplay modes will feel very familiar to returning Halo Wars players, the new Blitz modes offer fresh experiences that are faster and more arcade-like. Base building and traditional resource management are thrown out of the window in favour of a simpler, more immediate system of summoning units via decks of cards. Your aim is to occupy more bases than your enemy, filling a bar to emerge victorious in adversarial play and prolonging your game time against waves of enemies in solo and co-op firefight mode.

To summon more units to keep the upper hand or mount an assault you’ll need to destroy dropped canisters and collect the energy inside, but in doing so you’ll need to spare some units, potentially leaving some of your controlled bases undermanned. It makes for a fast and furious bout of strategy action that is easy to pick up but has enough depth to warrant extended play, especially when your deck of cards can be customised.

Released on the 17th February for those buying the Ultimate Edition and the 21st for everyone else, Halo Wars 2 looks set to offer more of the same fast-paced strategy gameplay that the original did but with more bells and whistles and increased performance. That’s a good thing in my book. Those who have yet to sample the delights of the Halo Wars series should bear in mind that Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition includes the definitive edition of the original title as well as the season pass, meaning it’s the perfect opportunity to jump in. It’s also a Play Anywhere title, so buying either version digitally grants a licence to play the same on PC.

Look out for my review of Halo Wars 2 coming later this week to find out my final verdict on the title.