Published on January 21st, 2017 | by Suros_Six0
First Look – Halo Wars 2: Blitz Mode
During the more recent years I’ve stayed as far away as possible from the RTS genre. I played some Starcraft II here and there in the past, but lately I’ve lost almost all interest in playing games like it. However, one franchise that can quickly bring me back to this genre is Halo. The first Halo Wars was pretty awesome for what it was on console. The story was great, the music was soulful, the cutscenes created by BLUR were stunning, and entertaining gameplay sat atop of it all. Like many others, I waited patiently for the fabled Halo Wars 2 to be announced, but I certainly wasn’t optimistic. While Halo was quite popular, I didn’t know what the demand for another installment in the RTS take on the series would be. You could imagine my surprise when Halo Wars 2 was not only revealed at Gamescom 2015, but also announced to be released on PC. Fast forward to the present and now the opportunity to play a small piece of a sequel I never expected to exist sits on the Microsoft store. It goes without saying that I immediately downloaded and launched it.
The Halo Wars 2 beta taking place between January 20-30th only gives players a small slice of whats to come. This slice comes in the form of what the developers like to call, “Blitz mode”. Blitz mode is a fast paced PvP gametype that has players deploying units, collecting energy, and capturing zones. Halo Wars was dumbed-down significantly in comparison to other RTS games so it would be more accessible to the average player. On top of that, the simplification of RTS mechanics was necessary so it would play nicely with the layout of a controller. For example, you could only build a base on set areas of each map instead of anywhere you’d like. On top of this, each base had a set number of buildings that could be built on it, and those buildings were locked to platforms that occupied each base. Well, Blitz mode makes things even simpler by removing bases entirely.
When I say these things, it’s important to note that simple isn’t being used in a negative connotation. Removing the base building mechanic in this mode makes for faster matches that focus solely on action. Instead of deploying units from a base, players have a deck of cards and each card represents a unit or ordinance. For example, shown below are some unit cards. Among these cards are Marines, Warthogs, Grunts, etc.
The symbol in the top right corner designates what type of card it is. There is a different symbol for foot soldiers, vehicles, aircraft, and ordinance. Some cards are leader specific with leaders being chosen before a match starts. In the top left there is a number that represents the amount of energy needed to play each card. Energy is gained slowly over time and by collecting it when it spawns on the map.
This card system makes the game a lot simpler because you only need to manage one resource and you can deploy units wherever you like. Your decision of what to play next is limited to the five cards in your hand. Not being swamped with choices makes snapshot decisions much easier to make, and having opponents that are just as limited as you makes effective plays a bit easier to execute.
Now that you know what Blitz is, is it good? Is it fun? After a few games, I have to say that it’s just alright. Remember that I’m saying this while it’s still in beta, and I don’t mention this because things can change, but because everyone is still new to the game. I’m sure many intense high-skill matches can happen in this gametype, especially since deck building is involved, but for those matches to occur people need to understand the game first. The tutorial does a pretty good job of teaching someone how to play, but the first match I played still felt like I jumped right into the deep end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that there is definitely a learning curve. It’s going to take me a few games before I truly understand what is going on.
Aside from the actual gameplay, the game looks gorgeous as it is right now. It seems to be a pretty promising port aside from not giving me a clue as to how to mute people in my party. There are a decent set of graphical options to tweak, and a few settings to change to give you the RTS experience you desire. Halo Wars 2 ran well for the most part, except for the excruciatingly long loading screen when you initially boot up the game. Hopefully that changes when it is fully released, but I doubt it. Dishonored 2 has a similar loading screen at the start, and I really hope this doesn’t become a trend.
I really am trying not to get my hopes up with this sequel, but it’s really hard when they show me such a polished portion of the game. Once through the loading screen I was instantly hit with the atmospheric music that the first game was known for and it made the waiting so much more worth it. Halo Wars was a great game, and I really hope Creative Assembly can fill the large shoes that Ensemble Studios left behind almost eight years ago.