Halo Wars has caught some flak over the years for being very unlike other entries in the Halo series. After all, all six other entries have been first person shooters, whereas Wars has been the only title to differ. Halo Wars is a Real Time Strategy game, and in my opinion, it feels like a Halo game at its core despite that gameplay difference.
Halo Wars is a great entry for Halo fans, but it is not to be approached in the same manner as other Halo titles. RTS enthusiasts will find a steep difficulty curve with many variants in level design and objectives. If a player can overcome the difficulty (and canon discrepancies, for Halo fanatics like me) there is an enjoyable experience to be found at the end of the eight hour campaign. Overall, this campaign scores an 8/10, in my book. The game’s storyline takes place a couple decades before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. A crew of never-before-seen characters is in charge of defending the Harvest colony, and later, Arcadia. I won’t spoil too much, but in the end, they are led to a Shield World where the explosive conclusion takes place.
The gameplay follows as such: in most instances, the player forms a base (or multiple) and is tasked with defending and upgrading the base(s). The bases produce units such as Scorpions, Warthogs, Infantry units, and more. These units must be commanded by the player to attack enemy units and take objectives, thus putting the player in a commander mode.
Gameplay is fun but incredibly difficult. I always play Halo on Heroic or Legendary with few problems. For Wars, I was forced to play on Normal; the step below Heroic but above Easy. The problem was that the concept was easy to learn but hard to master. Another issue was that once I devised a tactic to beat a level, I could not use this tactic for the next level. This is both good and bad; it offers much level variety, which is a good thing, but it strips away familiarity from level to level. It was like relearning important mechanics every half hour, as the levels ranged from 10 minutes to roughly 30. On one round, for example, it might be a good idea to stockpile units before attacking, but in the next level, the player may have to run first and stockpile later, thus ruining any carryover of strategy between rounds.
The level size was great; bite-sized levels kept the chaotic ground war in check and gave the player a breather before flinging them into the next fight. One cannot say that this wasn’t an action-packed game. With so much chaos and action, it is important to note there are no checkpoints in any of the missions, which can be a major drawback. If the player is 29 minutes through a level that should take about 30… well, sorry; you get to start over.
Being a writer, a game’s storyline is important to me; this one was well written, and it was well voiced. The cutscenes were great additions and filled in all the blanks, never leaving the player guessing as to what happens next. Aside from that, the cutscene visuals were amazingly gorgeous, even on a standard definition television. The visuals were very smooth, crisp, and elegant. The lighting was phenomenal, and, surprisingly, so were the facial expressions.
The same level of intricacy cannot quite be said for the gameplay graphics, but this is not for lack of effort; the game gives you a top-down look of the world, and it is best to be zoomed out to be able to view many units at once. Therefore, you cannot see fine details in the world, such as grass and hair textures. The colors are very vibrant, however, and as always, Halo gives the player a great escape from the drab grays and browns of other war themed games. I will never bore of Halo’s ingenuity.
This ingenuity allows for great level design; the territories were varied from level to level, and no two felt similar. It was a new and fresh experience each level.
My final pet peeve has to do with the canon of Halo. I won’t bore you with the intricacies, but here’s the shorthand: there are many unit types in Halo Wars that have not been seen in any preceding game or book, nor have they been seen since. Of course, a strategy game calls for many units with many strength and weaknesses, so I completely understand why Ensemble Studios (Developer of Wars in place of Bungie) had to create new units. The problem is that these units have not since been implemented, which feels like a loss.
With all of this being said, I left the game with the same set of twisted emotions I feel in other Halo games, thus leading me to believe it belongs in the Halo library. I always wonder if I could have done something differently to save a fellow soldier if I were really the one in charge. I always end up reminding myself that there are incredibly brave people that will lay down their lives for their country–for people they have never met. I applaud those men and women.
Halo Wars is a solid game at the end of the day; it isn’t perfect, but it isn’t broken either. If a player can survive the difficulty (I can’t imagine playing on Legendary; I couldn’t even handle Heroic) it’s a fun game with plenty of replay value.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog so far, would you please consider leaving a comment or a like? Get a conversation going; I’d love to hear what your thoughts were on Halo Wars, if you’ve played it before!
Also, check out my friend Nathan’s Youtube channel, if you’d like. He’ll be starting a brand new series in the coming week(s), so now is a great time to jump in.
Until next time!