Halo Wars 2 reviews are coming in, and the critics are generally happy with it. In a time when RTS titles need to go all the way to escape the realm of mediocrity, Microsoft’s latest proves that the genre can work well, even with a console controller.
Real-time strategy games are often extremely complicated with their controls, utilizing the PC’s keyboard and mouse in creative ways that your average console controller just can’t match with up to about 16 potential buttons. Many of them often rely on button combinations to really get the most out of console controls, though in the case of the RTS, even console gamers often resort to using a Bluetooth keyboard or something similar.
Of course, finding a Bluetooth keyboard for consoles might be a generally difficult or pricey task, as most keyboard add-ons usually plug into the controller’s audio port and are about the same size as your average Blackberry. If you’ve tried texting with a Blackberry, you know that the buttons can be very tricky to hit individually, and those with thicker fingers often resort to people typing with their fingernails.
Controller mapping for RTS games can be awkward, as proven when the N64 port of StarCraft. The game used the directional pad as a stand-in for the various building functions, but in the end, when the climactic battles happened, there was so much lag it was almost unplayable. Consoles today don’t have as much of an excuse, regularly closing the gap with PC, especially with the upcoming Project Scorpio.
Microsoft has proven to be a major player in real-time strategy before, having created the Age of franchise, including Empires and Mythology. The latter of these received a quiet update in January of 2016 featuring a Chinese army in addition to the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Atlantean, and the reviews weren’t so great.
Thankfully, the Halo Wars 2 reviews point to a far more interesting addition to the genre from the same publisher, despite delays.
Gaming Age says that Microsoft’s latest entry is long-awaited, being eight years after the first one. They say that this title is easy to pick up and understand right away, unlike the controls of rival Command & Conquer. It takes place around the same time period as Halo 5, so it ties in nicely with the classic series, which started back with the original Xbox.
They claim multiplayer appears to be a nice option, though, at the time, the online capabilities weren’t available yet. Playing against human opponents is most of the draw years later, but having a competent single-player option can make or break a game like this.
The reviewer at EGM Now says that he was introduced to RTS games with Age of Empires and fell in love with it. Command & Conquer gave him the exact opposite impression, despite being more console-friendly. Microsoft appears to be the one studio that really understands what he wants from that genre, and Halo Wars 2 renewed his faith.
The one major addition is the ability to command groups, a kind of shortcut which makes it easier to swap between them when the action really gets going.
Games Radar says that the whole game just feels tired and lacking in originality. The example given was a tactic that Robert Zak calls “zerging.” This is a reference to StarCraft, a way of swarming the opponent with massive numbers of disposable warriors for an almost guaranteed win. The Zerg was a race of low-armored insect-like creatures that could be spawned in larger numbers simultaneously, and Halo Wars 2 seems to enable that. The story seemed worthwhile, but in the end, Robert claims it was just disappointingly simplistic.
Have you played Halo Wars 2? If so, what do you think?
[Featured Image by THQ Nordic]