Is Halo Wars 2 a game that is relevant? Right now… It sort of is… I mean the game hasn’t received nearly as much attention as other 343 Halo titles, even Halo 4 and the MCC, but I think that’s more down to this game being an RTS and the core of the Halo fanbase being FPS players. But since 343 and Microsoft had no meaningful news to deliver on Halo 5 or a potential Halo 6 at this E3, Halo Wars 2 took the spotlight for the franchise and will be receiving campaign and firefight DLC. Considering this is a game nobody really wanted or asked for, it’s doing pretty well, and I myself still enjoy playing it.
The game definetly has its ups and downs though and they’re obvious… In my mind this is a “love it or hate it” type of game and I guess I’m in the “love it camp”. But let me explain to you how the game has ended up this way, in my opinion; This isn’t exactly something that can be factually proven, it’s more a point of view kind of thing.
Let’s start with the negatives. One quick note on the Campaign; It ended on a cliff hanger. That sucks and really turns people off. Halo 5 had a cliff-hanger and people weren’t the least bit pleased, Halo 2 had one and, despite that games praise, still left fans wanting a conclusion that didn’t come until the next game. Hopefully the Campaign DLC will fix that and give us some conclusion.
But now onto the meat of it: Multiplayer. There isn’t much negative I can say about the multiplayer except for the introduction of new leaders. Now don’t read this wrong; I am glad that there are new leaders being introduced as it helps keep the game fresh, but the problem is that most of these new leaders don’t feel very different to me than the base game leaders. I mean the special abilities are different, yes, but the way I play doesn’t feel different. No matter if I’m playing as Johnston, Kinsano or Colony I will still pump out the same units I normally would, despite the fact Johnston has an array of mechs, Kinsano has a bunch of cool flamer units and Colony has big, badass Hunters. Why is it I do this? Because counter unit strategy is key. If I’m playing as Kinsano, for example, against Anders, the only reason I would actually build flame units would be to rush Anders before the sentinel spam begins. Otherwise I have no reason to use any of her unique abilities or unique flame units because, against Anders, I’ll just be pumping out anti-air as usual and then maybe some building killers. What I’m saying is that its hard to use the unique units for some leaders when matched against specific others. This isn’t seriously bad though, so don’t assume I’m trying to make a fuss out of nothing. You can use these unique units in games still to your advantage and to win, but it’s just more effort to do than it is to do a classic marine rush or chopper rush.
But now for the positives: The new leaders; Commander Jerome and The Arbiter are a step in the right direction for how new leaders should be. This is because, I find, they are harder to use due to the fact their abilities heavily impact how you use them. This is because their offensive abilities are both severely limited (meaning you can’t just spam carpet bombs, turrets and aerial assault all at once), and that their abilities are instead heavily lenient towards supporting pre-existing units.
Both of these leaders are heavily based on support tactics. The Arbiter is the most. He only really has one offensive ability, which is called a plasma shot, but it’s only really useable against infantry. It can damage vehicles but not as much unless you put multiple points into it and is essentially useless against air units. The Arbiter instead has stasis fields that either make your units invulnerable, but the catch is they can’t move or attack while in stasis. It’s good for protecting your troops against other leaders offensive abilities, but not much else. However it can also put enemy units into stasis so your units can kill them without them so much as even trying to fire back at you. The Arbiter also has some unique upgrades to the grunt squads, which I sometimes find myself actually using because it makes them actual viable units to use against marines and (sometimes, but not always) flame thrower units. Additionally he has Elite Raiders, which are building killer units. These are infantry units that are available straight off the bat at barracks, making them good rush units if you have the necessary power and supplies.
Then there’s Jerome. He has one major offensive ability which is calling down debris from space to crush enemies (don’t ask me how he does it, he must have a big magnet). He does have access to turrets but they are weaker than the turrets other leaders have from what I’ve experienced. They die a lot faster than, say, Cutter’s turret drop would. However units near the turrets get a morale boost, which basically increases their health and armour while they’re within its radius. This is what all of Jerome’s other abilities essentially revolve around; Increasing morale of nearby units. All these abilities on their own are pretty useless, but if you combine them all together and dump loads of leader points into them they can be really effective.
Both leaders have unique troop transport vehicles which is what really makes them interesting. Arbiter, for instance, has Phantoms. What you can do is buy a bunch of Phantoms and put all your troops inside so when you’re attacking an enemy base or defending your own, the enemy has no idea what your army consists of until you press the deploy button and release them from the vehicle. Jerome has armoured ground transport trucks though, rather than Phantoms, but they serve the same purpose. It also makes it a lot easier to move your units around the map, especially without giving away what you have to the enemy, so it becomes harder for the enemy to build counter-units.
I think the Icons Of War update is a huge improvement on Halo Wars 2. Whereas with other DLC leaders you might have thought, “Oh… this leader is different because you unlock the turret or glassing beam ability two stages earlier than you normally would and also they have a fire and healing power that’s a bit better than the base leader’s healing and fire power”, you are now thinking “Wow, Jerome and Arbiter both have a set up of powers that really encourages me to focus on my army instead of pumping twenty leader points into a cluster bomb to essentially insta-kill the enemy army.” Jerome and Arbiter both encourage a different play style, which makes them harder to use because I feel like, aside from a few minor changes, the other DLC leaders didn’t encourage this to an extent that really mattered, aside from maybe the Colony.
This encouragement of alternate playstyles is good and it sets Jerome and Arbiter apart from the other leaders, so you feel like there is more depth to your game when playing with or against them. I really do encourage 343 and the folks at Creative Assembly to follow this line of thinking when releasing future DLC leaders.
So if you’re hesitant about the new DLC leaders or haven’t played Halo Wars 2 for a while I would encourage you to buy this DLC, because it’s the most unique DLC leader pack so far, and because Halo Wars 2 still feels fresh. The sentinel spam isn’t as viable as it used to be… Cutter’s archer missiles will actually hit the target before the enemy can move and the Eradication Banished ability is as deadly as ever. Do jump in. This game deserves more praise.