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Halo Wars 2

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Halo Wars 2
Halo wars 2 cover art.jpg
Developer(s)
Publisher(s) Microsoft Studios
Director(s) Alistair Hope
Artist(s) Jeremy Cook
Writer(s) Kevin Grace
Composer(s)
  • Gordy Haab
  • Brian Lee White
  • Brian Trifon
Series Halo
Platform(s) Windows, Xbox One
Release February 21, 2017
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy (RTS) video game developed by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly. The game was published by Microsoft Studios and released in February 2017 on Windows-based personal computers (PCs) and the Xbox One video game console. The game is set in the science fiction universe of the Halo series in the year 2559, and is a sequel to the 2009 video game Halo Wars. The game sees the return of the human crew aboard the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire and introduces a new alien faction known as the Banished. A war between the two factions ensues on the Ark, a Forerunner installation. Gameplay in Halo Wars 2 builds upon the foundation established by its predecessor; players construct a base of operations and command armies from a bird's-eye view of the battlefield.

Development of Halo Wars 2 began in 2014 when 343 Industries approached Creative Assembly about collaborating on the title. 343 Industries were careful about choosing the right partner to work with on the project; Creative Assembly were chosen for their years of experience in developing RTS games. An effort was made to integrate the story of Halo Wars 2 more closely with the main storyline of Halo series. This approach influenced the setting of the game, which takes place on the Ark (featured in Halo 3) and is set 28 years after the events of the original Halo Wars to fit more inline with the current timeline of series' main story arc. The game was officially announced in 2015 at Gamescom and showcased at a number of video gaming conventions prior to release. Two open betas ran during the final year of the game's development so that the development team could make adjustments to the game based on feedback from players.

Upon release, Halo Wars 2 received generally positive reviews from professional critics. The campaign cinematics, created by Blur Studio, were lauded for their outstanding animation quality. Reviewers found the game to be very approachable to beginners but felt that it was in need of more strategic depth to gain popularity amongst experienced RTS players. Several nuisances present in the game's keyboard and mouse controls left some critics disappointed, however, enhancements made to the gamepad control scheme from the first Halo Wars were praised. Post-release, the game has been supported with additional content and updates such as support for cross-platform play. A campaign expansion, titled Awakening the Nightmare, was released in 2017.

Gameplay[edit]

UNSC forces attacking a Banished Scarab. The green circle surrounding UNSC units is an active leader ability that restores health to the enclosed units.

Halo Wars 2 is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game, in which players command armies from a bird's-eye view of the battlefield.[1][2] The game can be played using a gamepad or using a mouse and keyboard.[2] Like its predecessor Halo Wars, the game features two playable factions: humanity's main military arm, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), who return from the first game, and a new alien faction known as the Banished, who serve as replacement for the Covenant.[3][4] A story-based campaign mode lets players take control of UNSC forces in battles against the Banished on an ancient structure.[1][3] The campaign consists of twelve missions that can be played alone or cooperatively.[2][5] Each mission presents main objectives that involve capturing points, defending bases, or surviving waves of enemies,[1] and often require the player to lead Spartan supersoldier units around the map. The campaign also features optional side objectives such as ensuring a certain unit survives over the course of a mission or destroying extra bases within a time limit.[2] Animated cutscenes and dialogue precede each mission to provide context and integration with the game's story.[1]

Outside the campaign, both the UNSC and the Banished are playable; each faction has a distinct set of units.[2] Players choose a leader that is based on a prominent character and emphasises a particular style of play.[1][2][3][6] Leaders have unique abilities that can be upgraded and activated during a battle; using one triggers a cooldown period before it can activated again.[2][6][7] Healing groups of units, carpet bombing a targeted area, and deploying special troops are examples of some leader abilities.[7] Combat in Halo Wars 2 is balanced by a "rock–paper–scissors" counter-attack system, in which ground vehicles are effective in combat against infantry, infantry are effective against aircraft, and aircraft are effective against ground vehicles.[8] In most game modes, the player establishes a base of operations at a predetermined location on the map.[2] Barracks and vehicle depots can be constructed at a base to deploy infantry and vehicles for combat. Each unit deployment, building construction, and leader ability requires supplies, a resource that can be gathered on the battlefield or collected via a supply pad building. Some units and buildings also require a second resource—power, which is produced using a generator or extractor building. Base buildings can be upgraded to grant passive bonuses and unlock access to higher tier units. Initially, the battlefield is shrouded by a fog of war, which can be uncovered by moving units to clouded regions of the map. Units can be selected and then commanded to engage in combat or interact with structures on the battlefield.[6] In addition to their primary attacks, every unit has a special ability and certain units have two abilities. For example, Spartans are capable of hijacking vehicles and performing a smash attack after leaping into the air.[7] The player can build additional bases once they have accumulated enough resources and gained control over areas of the map, which allows them to expand their army further.[6]

Halo Wars 2 features a number of multiplayer modes that can be played online with up to six players.[9] Skirmish is a cooperative or solo play mode against AI opponents.[10] Deathmatch involves eliminating the opponent's army.[9] Stronghold and Domination are territorial modes centered around controlling bases or nodes on the map.[2] Blitz is a mode that combines elements from collectible card games with RTS gameplay by replacing the base building and resource management with a card-and-deck mechanic for unit deployment.[11][12] Players create decks from card packs that are earned by playing the campaign mode and completing daily challenges. Each card features a unit that is deployed on the battlefield.[11] Energy is the resource for using cards; more powerful units have a higher energy cost. Energy generates automatically throughout a match and more can be collected as additional energy supplies are dropped onto the map periodically.[10] There is single-player and cooperative variant of Blitz named Firefight, which pits players against waves of AI enemies.[2]

Plot[edit]

Setting and characters[edit]

Halo Wars 2 takes place in the science fiction universe of the Halo series, during the 26th century. The game is set in 2559, 28 years after the events of Halo Wars and shortly after the events of Halo 5: Guardians.[13] Halo Wars closes with the crew of the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire entering cryosleep and drifting into space. Since that event, the war between humanity and the military alien alliance known as the Covenant has ended, and the Spirit of Fire has been declared lost with all hands.[4] While the Spirit of Fire is adrift in space, the ship's artificial intelligence (AI) Serina (Courtenay Taylor) terminates herself before succumbing to rampancy, a terminal state.[13][14] Captain James Cutter (Gideon Emery), Professor Anders (Faye Kingslee),[5] and the crew aboard Spirit of Fire wake from cryosleep at the Ark, a Forerunner installation that manufactured the Halo rings.[4][15] Isabel (Erika Soto) is a UNSC logistics AI operating at a research facility on the Ark when an alien faction known as the Banished invades the installation.[16] The Banished are led by the Brute warlord Atriox (John DiMaggio) and rose to power following the Covenant's demise.[14][4] Serving under Atriox are the Brute general Decimus and the Elite Shipmaster Let 'Volir (Darin De Paul) who reluctantly sided with the Banished in exchange for fuel for his ship and crew.[17][14]

Story[edit]

The Spirit of Fire's crew awakens from cryosleep at the Ark and receives a UNSC signal from the surface of the installation. Spartan Red Team is deployed to investigate the signal. They recover Isabel from a base but during the exfiltration, Spartan Douglas-042 is injured in an engagement with Atriox and Spartan Alice-130 is left stranded on the Ark. Back on the Spirit of Fire, Isabel reveals to Captain Cutter how Atriox and the Banished invaded the Ark, which leads Cutter to declare war on the Banished. A strike team manages to set up a forward base and defeat Decimus, who is salvaging the Ark’s resources. Decimus escapes and orders a bombardment upon his own base. Upon investigating the wreckage, Isabel discovers information about the Cartographer, a map of key systems and weapons upon the Ark. The team secures a Forerunner elevator and ascends to the Cartographer.

Meanwhile, Alice-130 contacts the Spirit of Fire and escapes the Ark with numerous recovered UNSC prisoners. The team, including Professor Anders, reaches the Cartographer’s map room despite being attacked by autonomous machines (Sentinels) that maintain the Ark. There, she discovers that Atriox has hijacked the Ark’s portal network, allowing him to transport troops across the whole structure. While trying to shut down the portal network, the team face Decimus again and defeats him for the second and final time. The Spirit of Fire then comes under attack from a Banished carrier ship. Professor Anders suggests that they create a Halo ring using the Ark’s protocols to transport the crew away from the Ark and back into UNSC-controlled space. The attacking carrier is destroyed when Isabel and Spartan Jerome-092 hijack its weapon systems to prompt the Sentinels stationed on the Ark to shatter it in two.

The Spirit of Fire releases the new Halo, but faces immediate resistance upon it from the Banished. Back on the Ark, Alice-130 and Douglas-042 destroy enemy barricades and prevent reinforcements, including Atriox, from reaching the Halo; they then use the portal network to reach the Halo themselves. There, Professor Anders is escorted to the ring’s control room, where the firing system of the structure is deactivated and a signal beacon is set. Meanwhile, the Spirit of Fire's forces are locked in a struggle with the remnants of the Banished. Anders finds the gravity controls for the Halo and uses them to raise the land that the remaining Banished are standing on into space where it disintegrates. The ground forces return to the Spirit of Fire, but Anders and the Halo enter slipspace as they cannot halt the jump's countdown. Before the Halo jumps, Anders promises to get help from the UNSC as soon as possible. On the Ark, Atriox and a legion of Banished still live, preparing for the next fight against the UNSC. Meanwhile, the Halo carrying Anders drops out of slipspace prematurely, only to encounter a Foreunner construct known as a Guardian.

Development[edit]

In 2009, Microsoft Studios launched Halo Wars, a real-time strategy spin-off to the first-person shooter video game series Halo. The game was developed by Microsoft subsidiary Ensemble Studios.[18] While Halo Wars was a commercial success,[9] Ensemble Studios was shut down upon completion of its development.[18] Prior to its closure, Ensemble had started writing a script and laying the narrative groundwork for a sequel. According to Halo Wars lead writer Graeme Devine, this original script explored the history of the Forerunners and involved the Spirit of Fire arriving at a Forerunner station that Anders had tracked.[19] In 2007, Microsoft formed an internal division named 343 Industries to oversee and develop products in the Halo franchise.[20] While the division had intentions of creating a follow-up to Halo Wars, they refrained from doing so until they found the right developer to partner with on the project.[21] They viewed working with other developers and using external experience as a significant part of maintaining quality across their numerous projects.[20]

In 2014, 343 Industries began development on Halo Wars 2 after approaching UK-based studio Creative Assembly about collaborating on the game.[3][18][22][23] Creative Assembly—known for their Total War series—[18] was chosen because of their reputation in developing real-time strategy games.[21] The studio had been considering creating an RTS for console and PC for a long time, so the prospect of working on Halo Wars 2 was viewed as a perfect opportunity.[8] The Halo Wars 2 development team within Creative Assembly was composed of people who worked on Alien: Isolation (2014), the Total War series, and new employees hired specifically for the project.[24] While Creative Assembly is a PC-centric developer, staff from the Alien: Isolation team were able to provide experience in producing games for consoles.[25] At Gamescom in August 2015, Microsoft Studios announced Halo Wars 2 for Windows PCs and the Xbox One video game console.[18] On January 18, 2017, the development team announced that the game had "gone gold".[26]

Design[edit]

Creative Assembly's studio director, Tim Heaton, explained that Halo Wars 2 would not feature gameplay similar to their Total War series. Instead they wanted to build upon the foundation established with Halo Wars.[25] With Halo Wars 2, the development team hoped to introduce new players to the strategy game genre while appeasing experienced players by including a range of multiplayer modes that a wide spectrum of players could enjoy. They also wanted to extend the purpose of leader units and their abilities by giving each of them a more defining role in the style of play they represent.[3] Creative Assembly thought that the game needed more units capable of performing long range attacks. They wanted to add more artillery pieces, however they found that there were currently no suitable vehicles in the Halo universe. To remedy this, they created two new vehicles, the Kodiak and the Blisterback, to fit the role. They used reference material supplied by 343 Industries to ensure the new vehicles did not feel out of place.[27] Halo Wars 2's creative director, Alistair Hope, noted that staying true to the source material was important aspect for all of Creative Assembly's games, but stated that the team were given more freedom to explore and expand the Halo universe than they had anticipated.[24] Hope praised the control scheme used in Halo Wars and aimed to enhance the system by ensuring that Halo Wars 2 would be intuitive to play on a console.[3] One common control feature included in many PC RTS games but absent from the original Halo Wars is control groups, which enables sets of units to be manually assigned to a key.[28][27] As Halo Wars 2 was developed for console and PC, the designers were keen to include the feature for both versions of the game.[28] 343 Industries had initially considered supporting cross-platform play between Windows and Xbox One devices, but the feature was ultimately excluded from the game at launch.[22]

The Blitz game mode was the result of experimenting with ideas for a fast-paced and accessible variation of RTS gameplay. The development team wanted to streamline mechanics, such as base building and resource management, that players typically viewed as being complex and intimidating. The initial design of Blitz involved players having an army roster, like in tabletop war games. After playtesting this version, they realized that the scale of battles would shrink and become less appealing over the course of the match. They revised the mode by implementing a card-and-deck system for unit deployment and introducing randomly spawning resources on the maps.[12] Blitz was influenced by the Warzone game mode from Halo 5: Guardians and Blizzard Entertainment's collectible card game Hearthstone, taking design cues from the card collecting and deck building systems.[8] 343 Industries' head of strategy games Dan Ayoub cited the multiplayer online battle arena genre as impactful on the design of Blitz, since games in the genre replaced resource management with individual unit combat.[3]

343 Industries and Creative Assembly ran two open multiplayer betas during the development of Halo Wars 2 to get data and make adjustments based on community feedback.[29][30] The first ran on Xbox One from June 13–23, 2016,[31] and included the Deathmatch and Domination game modes.[9] A second beta centered around the Blitz mode ran from January 20–30, 2017, on Windows and Xbox One.[29] Players earned rewards for Halo 5: Guardians for participating in the first beta,[9] and Blitz card packs for participating in the second beta.[29] Changes made to game following the betas included resolving connectivity issues, tuning the gameplay, and adjustments to the control scheme and user interface.[30][32]

Halo franchise development director Frank O'Connor explained that Halo Wars 2 would be more integrated with other fiction in the universe than its predecessor. The story of the first Halo Wars is set 20 years before Halo: Combat Evolved, and is largely isolated from other games within the series. This was to prevent it from interfering with other projects (Halo 3 and Halo: Reach) that were also in development at the time.[4] Consequently, Halo Wars 2 is set in the contemporary fictional timeline following the events of Halo 5: Guardians,[33] and is said to have a "sense of scale" that the first game was missing.[4] This decision also opened a narrative thread in Halo Wars 2, in which the returning characters are placed in an unfamiliar universe with outdated technology.[33] Narrative director on Halo Wars 2, Kevin Grace,[16] said that the development team took most of their inspiration for the game's tone from Halo: Combat Evolved.[4]

The narrative team wanted to establish a new villain who was both powerful and intelligent in Halo Wars 2, which led to the introduction of the Brute warlord Atriox.[15] Grace cited the Arbiter as a great example of a character who was unique within his species; he noted that this trait was applied to the Brutes with the creation of Atriox.[34] To subvert the notion that Brutes are just the "dumb muscle" of the Covenant, Atriox is presented as a smart commander that takes advantage of the alliance's collapse.[4][11][34] Inspiration for the character was drawn from folklore legends such as Excalibur and stories of an underling rising to power.[11][34] While Atriox's faction, the Banished, have been referenced in previous Halo media, Halo Wars 2 marks their debut as the primary enemy faction.[4] Real-world events and historical mercenary groups were a source of inspiration when designing the Banished.[34] From the beginning, Isabel was designed to exhibit flawed behavior to distinguish her from other AI characters in the series. Ellen Ripley from the 1986 film Aliens was a particular influence for Isabel's characterization.[35]

Art director Jeremy Cook stated that maintaining readability and clarity of the units and combat space was highest priority of the game's art direction. He also wanted to make sure that the visual style remained consistent with the Halo universe, by ensuring that the recognisable traits of the units and structures were preserved. The Banished's art style was designed to contrast visually with the UNSC. Cook wanted the Banished to be reminiscent of the Covenant, but with a greater emphasis on the aesthetic of the Brute species.[36] Brute vehicles and weapons featured in past Halo games helped influence the design changes and creation of new technology in the Banished's arsenal.[37]

The in-game cinematic cutscenes for Halo Wars 2 were created by animation company Blur Studio.[9] Blur had worked with developers to create animation for past Halo titles, including the original Halo Wars.[38] The scenes were directed by Dave Wilson, who worked as a visual effects supervisor on the Halo Wars cutscenes.[16] 343 Industries explained that alterations to the appearance of returning characters were a result of upgraded technology, the use of performance capture, and casting new actors.[5] Wilson explained that advances in technology allowed the animation team to capture body motion, facial motion, and audio simultaneously for Halo Wars 2, unlike during the development of Halo Wars, where each of these performances was recorded separately and later combined.[39]

Audio[edit]

Paul Lipson served as audio director on Halo Wars 2. The game's soundtrack was composed by Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White and Brian Trifon.[40] White and Trifon had collaborated with Lipson on the music of previous Halo projects, such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection and the Halo Channel application.[40][41] The composers analyzed design documents, artwork, and early versions of the game to learn about the story and motivations of characters. This research helped them to determine the emotional tone and instrumental choices for the music. They wanted to incorporate the customary components of Halo scores such as the use of a large orchestra, a choir, and electronic music, while also taking the music into a new direction.[40] With Halo Wars 2 being a spin-off to the main arc of Halo games, the composers were not as beholden to Martin O'Donnell's established sound of the series. This gave them the opportunity to experiment with the soundtrack and introduce elements like brass instruments to the music.[41]

The opening track of Halo Wars 2's soundtrack, "Recommissioned", is an adaption of the "Spirit of Fire" theme from the original Halo Wars soundtrack. Haab stated that they wanted to put their own style on this existing theme.[42] Specific melodies were written for each of the game's main characters to reflect their personalities.[40][41] For example, the track "Run Little Demons" made use of tribal drums, electronic percussion, and heavy brass to capture the dread and terror induced by Atriox and the Banished.[41] To generate an array of emotional effects, different instruments were used to create variations of the character themes.[40] One goal was to have the music dynamically interact with dialogue and gameplay.[41] The composers created music of different intensity levels to correspond with the player's actions in the game; for example, low intensity, ambient music would play during base construction and more percussive, thematic music would play during battles. A system was designed to adapt the score based on events occurring during gameplay and to prevent the music from becoming repetitive.[40] The composers worked closely with Lipson and Creative Assembly's audio lead, Sam Cooper, on the implementation of the interactive audio.[42] The live orchestra was recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox's studio in Los Angeles.[41] The Halo Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack, featuring 21 tracks, was released in retail stores on February 17, 2017, and digitally on February 21, 2017.[43]

Marketing[edit]

Halo Wars 2 demo booth at Gamescom 2016.

Trailers featuring cinematics from Halo Wars 2 were released from the announcement of the game up to its launch. The announcement trailer revealed at Gamescom 2015 showed an injured UNSC soldier being dragged away and Atriox taunting.[44] The trailer shown at E3 2016 was created by Blur Studio,[36] and depicted the leaders of both factions—Cutter and Atriox—facing off as their forces are engaged in conflict.[4][36] At RTX 2016, 343 Industries revealed a teaser of the in-game cinematics, illustrating the Spirit of Fire's arrival at the Ark and Spartan supersoldiers encountering the Banished.[45][46] At The Game Awards 2016, a trailer focusing on Atriox's background and motives was presented.[34] The game was showcased and playable at a number of video gaming conventions and expos including E3,[9] RTX,[47] Gamescom,[48] and Paris Games Week.[49] 343 Industries and toy maker Mattel announced a partnership to create a new line of Halo toys based on Halo Wars 2.[50][51]

Release[edit]

Halo Wars 2 was initially scheduled to be released for Windows and Xbox One in 2016,[18] however the game was delayed until February 21, 2017.[52] It is the first Halo game to launch simultaneously on console and PC.[8] The game is part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program, which allows a digital purchase to be playable on both Windows and Xbox One.[5][9] THQ Nordic handled distribution of the European retail PC release.[53][54] An Ultimate Edition version of the game includes a downloadable content (DLC) season pass, access to the game four days early, and a copy of Halo Wars: Definitive Edition—an enhanced version of the original game for Windows and Xbox One.[55] Halo Wars 2 debuted in second place on the UK's weekly retail sales chart.[56]

Post-release[edit]

Following the launch of Halo Wars 2, a demo, featuring the campaign's opening mission and the Blitz Firefight mode, was released on the Xbox One and Windows.[57][58] 343 Industries and Creative Assembly supported Halo Wars 2 post-release with additional content and updates.[59] A multiplayer ranking system was withheld from the game at launch as the development team wanted to ensure that gameplay was as balanced as possible before its release.[60] The post-release DLC included a campaign expansion, new units, new leaders, and new cards for the Blitz mode.[49] The content was distributed on a monthly basis beginning in March 2017.[61] On June 12, 2017, a campaign expansion titled Awakening the Nightmare was revealed. Players take control of the Banished as they come into conflict with parasitic alien life forms collectively known as the Flood. The expansion features new leaders, maps, and a new cooperative mode.[62] It was released on September 26, 2017.[63] In late October 2017, Halo Wars 2 received a number of visual enhancements for the Xbox One X. Additionally, cross-platform play between console and PC was enabled.[64]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic70/100 (PC)[65]
79/100 (XONE)[66]
Review scores
PublicationScore
GameSpot6/10[1]
GamesRadar+3/5 stars[67]
IGN7.0/10[2]
PC Gamer (US)65/100[68]
Polygon8/10[69]
USgamer4/5 stars[10]

The Xbox One version of Halo Wars 2 received "generally favorable" reviews from professional critics, while reception towards the PC version was more "mixed or average" according to review aggregator website Metacritic.[65][66] The general consensus among critics was that Halo Wars 2 provided an accessible strategy game experience befitting newcomers but that it either lacked tactical depth or was too conservative in its design to appease veteran RTS players who had access to alternatives on PC.[1][2][68][70][7][10][67] Several writers were able to comfortably recommend the title to console players, in part due to the dearth of RTS games on the platform.[2][70]

AI behavior in Halo Wars 2 drew some criticism. Some reviewers described the pathfinding of units as substandard,[70][7] and others considered the enemy AI to be too easy and not very smart on the normal difficulty setting.[1][69] IGN reviews editor Dan Stapleton disliked that bases had to placed in predetermined locations; he found it to be limiting and said it constrained build order freedom.[2] Rock, Paper, Shotgun writer Fraser Brown was also concerned about the restrictions on base building initially, however he became fond of the idea after playing the game for some time.[7]

Critics thought the enhancements made to the gamepad control scheme were smart and welcomed additions like controls groups.[1][2][68][70] However, in some cases reviewers still regarded the gamepad as a suboptimal control method, largely due to the nature of analog sticks being imprecise in comparison to a mouse.[2][69] This led to some frustration among several writers as they were unable to avoid enemy attacks because maneuvering units was slow with a gamepad.[2][69][10] While the mouse and keyboard controls were seen as superior for performing precise actions quickly, some reviewers considered the control method to be unpolished and believed that concessions had been made for the gamepad.[2][68][69][7] The unresponsive minimap, unintuitive default keybindings, and unfitting radial menus were highlighted as problems with the mouse and keyboard controls.[2][68][69][70]

The game's campaign received mixed impressions from reviewers. USgamer editor Jaz Rignall thought it was great for teaching the mechanics of the game and the progression of difficulty was reasonable.[10] GameSpot reviewer Kallie Plagge thought the highest points of the campaign missions were the sequences that borrowed elements from the main Halo games.[1] Brown stated that while the campaign was brief, he felt it had good pacing and there was a decent variety of objectives and scenarios.[7] Stapleton agreed that the campaign missions offered enough variety to prevent them from becoming repetitive. However, overall he was unimpressed by the campaign missions, which he perceived as unambitious in their design. He was also surprised by the frequent bugs, which included crashing and mission events failing to trigger, that he experienced during his playthrough of the campaign on the Xbox One.[2]

Some reviewers enjoyed the game's story,[1][2][68][69] but many pointed out that the campaign's conclusion was anticlimatic due to its abrupt and unresolved ending.[1][68][69][7][10] Plagge found the plot to be interesting because it explored different parts of the Halo universe. She also felt the integration of the narrative with the campaign missions was effectively implemented through the cutscenes and pre-fight dialogue. However, she remarked that characters were underdeveloped and the story did not contribute much to the main Halo arc.[1] Stapleton thought that Isabel was an endearing and emotive character that bolstered the fear induced by the game's antagonist, Atriox. He enjoyed Atriox's strong introduction but felt that the character became less prominent as the story progressed.[2] Eurogamer writer Chris Bratt believed there was potential for an interesting backstory with Atriox and the Banished, but he viewed their motives in the campaign as being too similar to the Covenant, which consequently made the story feel like it was retreading familiar territory.[70] Reactions towards the campaign cutscenes were overwhelmingly positive, with plenty of praise directed towards the high quality production and exceptional animation.[1][2][68][69][70][7][10][67] While the character dialogue was noted as being cheesy at times, the expressive facial animations kept the cinematics captivating.[1]

Writing for PC Gamer, Leif Johnson complimented the variety of multiplayer game modes available.[68] This sentiment was shared by other reviewers who thought the multiplayer offering was considerably more diverse than what was typically available in most RTS games.[2][70] Numerous critics regarded Blitz to be the standout multiplayer mode, however they were still apprehensive about its shortcomings.[68][70][7][67] GamesRadar reviewer Robert Zak called Blitz the most forward-thinking area of Halo Wars 2, in contrast to other parts of the game which he thought were formulaic.[67] Other writers agreed that the mode was an interesting twist on RTS and enjoyed playing it.[68][10][2][70][1] While Blitz card packs could be earned through playing the game, both Bratt and Rignall still expressed disappointment about the inclusion of microtransactions for purchasing card packs.[70][10] Johnson and Stapleton suspected that winning games in Blitz may be too reliant on the luck of the draw.[2][68] Consequently, Stapleton thought the mode was unsuitable for competitive multiplayer but felt that the randomness and card mechanics worked well in the Firefight variant.[2]

The game was nominated for "Best Strategy Game" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards.[71]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Game Critics Awards Best Strategy Game Nominated [72]
Gamescom 2016 Best Strategy Game Nominated [73]
2017 Gamescom 2017 Best Add-On/Downloadable Content Nominated [74]
Golden Joystick Awards Studio of the Year (Creative Assembly) Nominated [75]
Xbox Game of the Year Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Original Score - Video Game Nominated [76]
The Game Awards 2017 Best Strategy Game Nominated [77]
2018 21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year Nominated [78]
16th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards Sound Design of the Year Nominated [79]
Best Interactive Score Nominated
Best Cinematic/Cutscene Audio Nominated
Best Audio Mix Nominated
ASCAP Composers' Choice Awards 2017 ASCAP Video Game Score of the Year Nominated [80][81]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Stapleton, Dan (February 21, 2017). "Halo Wars 2 Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on February 23, 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
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