I’ll be honest with you, I never really got into Halo Wars when it tried to reinvent the Real Time Strategy genre for console gameplay in 2009. RTS has and will always be better on PC with mouse control rather than a gamepad/controller. Despite being a huge fan of the Halo franchise, the Halo Wars spin-off just couldn’t get past the existing RTS games in my life at the time like the Total War and Dawn of War series’.
Needless to say that despite loving Halo 5 and continuing to be invested in the story and lore of the Halo universe, Halo Wars 2 didn’t grab my attention as a game I definitely needed to play (even with all the cool trailers).
This weekend however, Halo Wars 2 is running the open Beta for the Blitz mode, a brand new hybrid between the traditional Halo Wars RTS and a more deck-building card playing mechanic, something that I definitely needed to see for myself.
Having now invested a few solid hours into playing the Blitz Beta, I’ll admit that I’m no longer writing off Halo Wars 2 as a waste of time.
While the promises of an epic story based campaign are good and the involvement of Creative Assembly (the developers responsible for the aforementioned Total War series, among my favourite of all time) Halo Wars 2 definitely holds some promise, and although I’m more likely to invest in the PC version of the game, I tried my hand at the Xbox One Beta and was pleasantly surprised with how readily playable it is with the Xbox One controls.
The Blitz Mode itself allows you to collect cards and build various decks depending on which of the commander characters you have selected, from the classic UNSC forces to the alien Brutes of the new villain Atriox and some interesting variations in between.
With your deck selected, the gameplay then provides you with a hand of randomly drawn cards, representing units to deploy or special weapons or abilities to trigger, using a resource of Energy to limit the flow of battle and giving each team a resource other than points to fight over. With the traditional Fog of War as the only other limitation, players can quickly change the tide of battle by playing their cards anywhere allied units can see, dropping Wraith tanks, Spartan heroes and orbital bombardment into the thick of things as players rush to control the map and secure victory for their team.
As with all RTS games there is a big jump in learning curve between getting a handle on how to play and then getting good enough to actually compete in online play, but with relatively short games and a seemingly good balance in the competitive gameplay elements it’s a game mode that is as fun, accessible and unique as 343 and Creative Assembly would have hoped.
Compared to more intensive deck-building strategy games, this Blitz mode also does a great job of leaning heavily in favour of strategy rather than luck, and the relatively cheap cost to cycle your cards allows you to focus on fighting your opponents more than fighting your own deck.
So there you have it, Halo Wars 2 Blitz is a good, fun foray into the wider Halo franchise, even if you lower yourself to playing it on Xbox One instead of PC. The Beta is still open until the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to decide for yourself if Halo Wars 2 has done enough for you to buy it when it’s released on 21st of February.