343 Industries and Creative Assembly have teamed up to create the second installment in the Halo Wars series. It has been nearly eight years since the original game debuted and now Halo Wars 2 is here. Microsoft’s Halo series is one with a deep history of success and lore, and Halo Wars extends it beautifully.

The franchise has been able to introduce new and interesting characters into the fold. Both the Covenant and UNSC bring new personalities that fit perfectly with characters from previous Halo games. The campaign of Halo Wars 2 is an exciting and thrilling way to step into the game’s world.

Set not too long after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, this new chapter in the Halo series sees Captain James Cutter and the crew of the Spirit of Fire wake up from a cryosleep. Turns out they are not above the Ark, which creates Halo rings, and they now must face an enemy known as the Banished.

Throughout the entire campaign, action-packed and suspense-filled cutscenes take you through the events of Halo Wars 2. The manner in which the story is created is one of great intrigue. There is a nice ebb and flow to how the story is paced and the introduction of the game’s main antagonist, Atriox, is outstanding.

Gamers must face the fierce foe of Atriox (Courtesy of Microsoft).

343 and Creative Assembly did a fantastic job of creating the character of Atriox. When players see how the Banished came to be, and who is the driving force behind them, it is quite a memorable experience. Atriox possesses all of the badass characteristics you might expect from a Halo bad guy.

He’s intimidating, powerful and has a strong sense of rebellion about him. Additionally, the fashion in which he leads is almost endearing to watch. Atriox is a villain I enjoyed and think he fits wonderfully with the rest of the Halo villains we’ve seen in the past.

As gamers push through the campaign, their tasks become opened up with more complicated missions. Maps become more wide-open and unpredictable to manage. Players must utilize all of the skills and features at their disposal in order to complete each mission. The campaign leads players through a gradual build up where a deeper understanding of the game’s system is essential.

At first, gamers are given the basic tools to grasp Halo Wars 2‘s gameplay and features. As they progress through the narrative though, more is asked of them. I love how the gradual increase in difficulty means the gradual alteration in strategy. Gamers can of course play how they would like, but the nature of each mission and its difficulty tend to vary up your playstyle.

How will you build your forces in Halo Wars 2 (Courtesy of Microsoft)?

Halo Wars 2‘s campaign also does a fine job of getting the player ready for the rest of the experience. While there are several useful tutorials for players to complete, the campaign does the best job of educating gamers on how to best use the game’s functions and features. While everything is simple to initially grasp, it takes time, a certain level of understanding and patience to master everything.

From there, Halo Wars 2 extends itself beautifully in its additional modes. Blitz is the new mode for Halo Wars 2 and it is by far a favorite mode for me. In Blitz, there are several ways you can play. Straight up 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 matches come into play, and each delivers a fast and furious pace.

Blitz asks each team to try and capture three points scattered around a map. Setup and how the mode functions is similar to your traditional Domination mode. The first team to score 200 points wins the match. Gamers are given a slew of cards they can play at anytime during a match.

The only requirement is you must have enough energy, the mode’s main resource, in order to play them. Cards can include things like building a new unit or calling in support like an airstrike attack. How you manage your energy as well as your units impacts the ultimate outcome of your match.

Destroying the enemy in Halo Wars 2 (Courtesy of Microsoft).

1v1 matches are probably the simplest battles you’ll find in Blitz because it is just you on your own team. Strategies and choices are far easier when there is only one person affected by decision-making. 1v1 produced some of my quickest match results with me and my opponent battling back and forth for the capture points.

At the beginning of each match, all three points are open and energy quickly appears around the map. Gamers must quickly decide which to prioritize. Get the early points or capture the energy to build up your army? I love how strategy can be varied up and this creates a very strong level of replayability.

Once you bring in multiple players on each team, that is when things become far more interesting and hectic. 2v2 and 3v3 matches are extremely entertaining, but they place a major emphasis on communication and teamwork. Teams that can coordinate and plan as a singular group often times turn out to be the victors.

Blitz is an amazing mode because it scratches the multiplayer itch many of us have, while also being mindful of time. The mode is great for those who only have 15 or 20 minutes to game, and it is just as effective for those who wish to invest several hours into a play session. Blitz is a breakout mode in Halo Wars 2 and it is one I’ll be playing for a long time to come.

The battle has begun (Courtesy of Microsoft).

Traditional multiplayer is a major part of Halo Wars 2, both when talking about Blitz as well as its actual multiplayer. Gamers can partake in Team War, Solo War, Rumble and several other modes. These blend the excellent gameplay of Halo Wars 2 with different objective-based matches as well as straight up deathmatch. Team War provided some of the deepest experiences I found in multiplayer, both in length and in experience.

Map variety turns out to be a strength in Halo Wars 2 and I thoroughly enjoyed its diversity. Maps are nicely varied both from their look as well as their design. Verticality is an important part of strategy when it comes to combat, and it is something players must be aware of at all times. Multiplayer is a major strength of Halo Wars 2, both its traditional modes as well as Blitz.

Halo Wars 2 is a wonderfully entertaining experience that will have fans of the series enthralled from start to finish. This RTS is one that core fans of the genre will enjoy and newcomers will quickly pick up. Halo Wars 2 is a fabulous way to start off the year for Xbox One. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Halo Wars 2Microsoft provided an Xbox One code of Halo Wars 2 for the purposes of this review.

About Steve Ruygrok

Gaming, Spirits, and Craft Beer enthusiast. If you say you don't like beer, then you just haven't had the right type yet. Great spirits keep away the bad ones. Video games are kind of amazing, just do it...or something like that.