ByMatt Walz, writer at
Avid comics and video game enthusiast and aspiring creator of wonderful things.
Matt Walz

In a surprising announcement at E3, Microsoft studios and 343 Industries opened a beta version of their upcoming real-time strategy game, Halo Wars 2. From June 13th through 20th, players are able to test out the multiplayer portion of the game, and take control of UNSC and Covenant forces in 2 on 2 battles.

PLayers can choose from Captain Cutter, a protagonist of the original installment of Halo Wars, or Atriox, a Brute leader of a Covenant or ex-Covenant group called the Banished. Each brings unique play styles and abilities, with Atriox well suited to large rushes, and Cutter to more calculated and slightly more defensive maneuvers.

Atriox (left) and Captain Cutter (right)
Atriox (left) and Captain Cutter (right)

The beta shows off some good stuff. The visual update looks pretty great, and the controls aren't bad for a console RTS. They would presumably improve once remapped on an Elite controller as well, with the added paddles.

Despite this, the controller's limitations still show. In order to properly group troops, one must tediously arrange them together before selecting and assigning them. In strategy games, this can waste precious time. Though it doesn't really make a difference early on, this time adds up, and can decide the outcome of the game even more than the applied strategies. Not only that, but managing units in the heat of battle is a harrowing experience, and the player is liable to feel like they're falling behind.

Speaking of strategies, the low number of allowed troops is a major shortcoming. Though it may help to quicken the gameplay, the fact that only sixty units are allowed, with some costing multiple units, makes it feel like you're only commanding a company or so instead of an army. Though the decision is understandable, an upgrade to one or two hundred units would be worth the slower, more calculating (and definitely more epic) gameplay.

Despite the issues, there is still promise in the game. Visually, the game is gorgeous, and the skirmishes look incredible, especially with skilled players and different types of armies involved. Holding a point just long enough for friendly air support to swoosh in brings a shout of excitement, and gathering allied armies together to rush a base is suitably epic. Hopefully, the final game will bring greater unit volume to ramp up the effect.

Halo Wars 2 is set to release February 21st, 2017.


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