Growing up playing real-time strategy (RTS) games such as Command And Conquer, Age Of Empires and Starcraft, I find the current lack of RTS games frustrating.
So I was really happy when Halo Wars 2 (HW2), the RTS spin-off of the famed Halo shooter franchise, was finally released.
You see, it has been a long wait as the original Halo Wars was released around eight years ago.
HW2 picks up the story 28 years after the events of Halo Wars. Almost all of the original cast like Captain James Cutter, commander of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) warship Spirit Of Fire, as well as the Spartan troops, have returned.
After defeating the alien Covenant alliance, the Spirit Of Fire's crew went into cryosleep.
PRICE: $69.90 (Xbox One, version tested; PC)
GENRE: Real-time strategy
They were awakened by a signal from a Spartan team that had encountered an alien group known as the Banished.
The Banished comprises rogue Covenant members, and its formidable leader Atriox is an interesting character that should have been given more exposure time in this story.
Otherwise, the plot is told beautifully and seamlessly through the 13-mission, single-player campaign, which will probably take around 10hr to finish.
The cutscenes that follow the successful completion of some missions are just simply gorgeous. It looks like you are watching an animated movie with great sound effects and voice acting.
During gameplay, the graphics might not be as breathtaking as the cutscenes but they are crisp and detailed as well.
In addition, you can only play UNSC in the campaign. It would have been great to be able play the Banished faction as well. I hope this option will be available in future downloadable content.
Designed for consoles, the gameplay of HW2 is simple. There are designated plots of land to build your base. There are only two resources to worry about - supplies and energy. Once you have enough resources, you can build structures such as barracks, an armoury and airpad to create more fighting units.
There are basically three types of units - infantry, vehicles and aircraft. Each unit has a counter unit, and it works like the scissors-paper-stone game.
The infantry are effective against aircraft but susceptible to vehicle attacks, while the vehicles are prone to aircraft assault.
HW2's controls are equally intuitive. To select a single unit, tap A. Then tap X to deploy, attack or garrison a location. Tap Y to activate special weapons and moves of the unit. To select units on screen, tap the Right Bumper - double tapping selects all units.
I found myself simply double-tapping the Right Bumper to select all units and attack for maximum firepower.
There are the usual multiplayer modes like Deathmatch, but one that is more interesting is the new Blitz mode.
It involves playing cards that you earned from finishing the campaign missions (or you can buy more cards with real money). Each of the cards - they are for one-time use only - lets you deploy a unit on the battlefield. However, the cards appear randomly during a Blitz match, so you might not get the unit you want during the battle.
Playing Blitz involves a mix of luck and tactics, which adds to the mode's fun factor.
The Blitz mode will likely add longevity to the game.
• Verdict: Halo Wars 2 continues the simplicity and charm of its predecessor. And with the new Blitz mode, you might just want to keep on playing and paying.