Critics are weighing in on Halo Wars 2, praising its attempt to bring the RTS experience to consoles, while questioning the strength of its storyline and the length of its campaign.
Halo Wars 2 launches next week, with Ultimate Edition owners set to gain access to the explosive RTS tomorrow. Ahead of the game’s official debut, critics are publishing their thoughts on whether the sequel to 2009’s Halo Wars is a worthy follow-up or a disappointing continuation.
Many were surprised when Microsoft announced the sequel at Gamescom 2015. While the original game garnered a fair fan base, its developer Ensemble Studios closed down shortly after its release, which seemed to confirm that Halo Wars 2 wasn’t in the cards.
Fortunately, the talented team at Creative Assembly picked up the mantle, using skills acquired while developing the perennially popular Total War series. Now, we’re finally set to find out whether the only Halo game scheduled to release for the Xbox One in 2017 can cut the mustard. Here’s the early critical response to Halo Wars 2.
Polygon (Arthur Gies)
This unexpected sequel is evolutionary, rather than a departure from the original idea, refining the strangely workable controller-based inputs that made a reasonably serious RTS possible on a console. It further elaborates beyond the “select all units” battering ram that became the first game’s most successful tactic — surely in part because Halo Wars 2 is, now, a genuine, honest-to-goodness PC RTS as well.
IGN (Dan Stapleton)
Where Halo Wars 2 feels most limited is in its controls, and that’s not at all surprising. Gamepad controls for an RTS are always going to be clumsy at best, and though I didn’t expect it to fully solve this problem, developer Creative Assembly doesn’t seem to have done a lot to design around it, either.
Score: Review in Progress
EGM (Ray Carsillo)
On the surface, Creative Assembly has only really made minor tweaks to the basic gameplay of the original Halo Wars, but that in and of itself is an accomplishment. It’s not easy to make an RTS game work on consoles, but maintaining a lot of the same controls—like using the A-button to sweep over and collect units, or double-tapping a bumper to select all the units—I never once felt hampered when commanding my UNSC or Banished armies in both campaign and multiplayer.
Hardcore Gamer (Kevin Dunsmore)
The console market hasn’t had a solid RTS game since Halo Wars back in 2009, but that all changes with Halo Wars 2. Despite streamlining and simplifying some aspects of the genre, Creative Assembly and 343 Industries have successfully resurrected the series. The story isn’t anything to get excited about, but the addictive gameplay is.
Destructoid (Chris Carter)
If you’re craving an RTS on a console, or perhaps aren’t particularly well-versed in the genre, Halo Wars 2 has you covered. It doesn’t offer much that other games in the same space have given us over the past 10 years, but it’s polished and fun to play.
Critics seem to be rather enamoured with Halo Wars 2, even though it’s fair to say that certain elements of the game are divisive. The game’s plot — particularly its dialog — its criticized by many, but on the other hand, there’s plenty of praise for the game’s fearsome villain, Atriox.
The length of the campaign also seems be a sticking point for some, clocking in at twelve missions. Anyone who’s buying Halo Wars 2 for multiplayer won’t be too bothered, and the fact that the campaign features co-op support adds to its replayability, but single-player-centric gamers might be disappointed.
It’s also worth noting that many critics didn’t have time to test out the full extent of the game’s multiplayer, given that it’s not yet out in the wild with fully populated servers. Blitz mode looks set to be a compelling spin on competitive RTS gameplay, even if some players may shudder at its reliance on microtransactions.
Halo Wars 2 certainly seems like a treat for fans of the first game, and the franchise in general — even if there are some flaws. If nothing else, it’s good to see a console RTS that’s mechanically solid and fun to play.
Halo Wars 2 is scheduled to be released for Xbox One and PC on February 21, 2017.