It’s been 8 years since the first Halo Wars came out which feels like forever ago. Our president was black and Battlestar Galactica was in its final season. I was on my third Xbox 360 and never really gave Halo Wars the love it deserved so in preparation of Halo Wars 2 coming out on February 21, 2017 I thought I’d take a look back and see what I missed.
Halo Wars is a real-time strategy (RTS) video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360. It was first unveiled at X06 in the fall of 2006. About one year before the best video game of all time, Halo 3, was to be released. RTS games on consoles were a rare breed back in those days so Halo Wars had to be designed with the Xbox 360 controller in mind.
Unfortunately Ensemble was closed by Microsoft before the game’s release and Robot Entertainment, which was founded by many of Ensemble’s former employees, took over. They would continue to support Halo Wars with updates and downloadable content.
Robot Entertainment has stayed mainly quiet since then releasing Age of Empires Online and Orcs Must Die! Unchained most recently. In 2015 it was announced that Tencent Holdings had bought an undisclosed, minority stake in the company.
Halo Wars received generally positive reviews thanks to it’s pre-rendered cinematics, attention to detail in replicating the Halo universe, and the fantastic control scheme. The game sold one million units worldwide through March 2009, making it the best-selling console real-time strategy game to date. Nothing since has topped that number, which in itself is not actually that large of feat. Starcraft 2 sold one million units worldwide in its launch weekend.
I’m going go into story spoilers below so if you’d like to play the game for yourself before Halo Wars 2 launches I recommend picking up Halo Wars: Definitive Edition that is available for both Windows and Xbox One.
Halo Wars takes place during the 26th century in the year 2531. Roughly 20 years before the events of the first Halo game. In 2525, 6 years earlier, a collective of alien races known as the Covenant attacked humanity, declaring humans an affront to their gods, the Forerunners.
James Cutter is the star of Halo Wars and is the commander of the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire. Serving under him are Sergeant John Forge, Professor Ellen Anders, and superintelligent AI, Serina.
Here’s the story synopsis from wiki which contains MAJOR SPOILERS.
The Spirit of Fire is sent to the ruined planet Harvest to investigate Covenant activity, where Cutter learns that the Covenant has excavated something at the planet’s northern pole. When the UNSC’s main outpost on Harvest is captured, Cutter orders Forge to retake it. Soon after, Forge scouts the Covenant excavation and discovers that they, under the direction of the Arbiter, have discovered a Forerunner facility. Forge’s troops defeat the Covenant forces before they can destroy the installation, and Anders arrives. She determines that the facility is an interstellar map, and recognizes a set of coordinates that points to the human colony of Arcadia.
After repelling a Covenant counterattack on the Forerunner facility, the Spirit of Fire travels to Arcadia, where the Covenant has begun raiding local cities and slaughtering civilians. Forge contacts the local Spartan special forces and assists with the evacuation process. The Covenant builds a giant energy shield to hide the construction of a gigantic Scarab super-weapon, but the UNSC forces use experimental equipment to break through. The Scarab is destroyed, but the Arbiter kidnaps Anders and escapes the planet.
Forge and the Spartans return to the Spirit of Fire and the crew follows Anders’ signal to an uncharted planet in another star system. The planet’s surface is infested by the parasitic Flood, who attack and assimilate any sentient life they encounter. The Spirit of Fire inadvertently activates a Forerunner docking station and enters the planet’s interior. Flood board the ship, and very soon Forerunner Sentinels appear to cleanse the Flood threat and also to destroy all UNSC forces in the process. The crew discovers the planet is actually hollow, with a habitable interior and a miniature sun. The Covenant’s plan is to activate a dormant fleet of highly advanced Forerunner starships inside the planet, and use them to obliterate humanity.
While the Forerunner ships are being activated, Anders escapes through a teleportation device and is rescued. Cutter decides to destroy the Forerunner fleet rather than allow the Covenant to use it. Anders formulates a plan to detonate the ship’s faster-than-light drive in the planet’s sun, as the explosion would cause a supernova. Before they can prepare the reactor, Forge and the Spartans are ambushed by the Arbiter and his Elites. The Spartans dispatch the aliens and Forge kills the Arbiter. The reactor is damaged during the fight, necessitating a manual detonation. Forge volunteers for the suicidal task, telling the Spartans that they will be needed in the coming fight.The Spirit of Fire escapes just as Forge overloads the reactor, destroying the Forerunner fleet. Without its faster-than-light drive, the Spirit of Fire is left drifting in space. The crew enters cryonic sleep for long-term storage as Cutter takes a last look at Forge’s empty cryonic tube. If the game is completed on the “Legendary” difficulty mode, Serina wakes Cutter and tells him that “something has happened”.
END OF SPOILERS
So how does that tie into Halo Wars 2?
Well for one, Halo Wars 2 was developed by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly and published by Microsoft Studios.
The game picks up 28 years after Halo Wars and shortly after the events of Halo 5: Guardians in 2559. Since the final events in Halo Wars, 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.
Players will once again take control of Captain James Cutter and his team upon waking up from cryosleep at the Ark. Unaware of how the Human-Covenant war ended the crew on Spirit of Fire must travel down to the surface of the Ark where they will find a new faction called the Banished who are led by a brute warlord named Atriox.
Atriox is described as both powerful and intelligent and is a brand new character in the Halo universe. He has been described as a “smart commander” who has salvaged and re-purposed the Covenant’s technology.
The game will feature a number of multiplayer modes that can be played online with up to 6 players. These modes include:
Skirmish, Co-op and solo
Deathmatch, a fight until only one player is left standing.
Stronghold & Domination are multiplayer modes centered around controlling bases or nodes
Blitz, combines elements from collectible card games. This mode replaces base building and resource management.
Players will be able to take control of both the human team, United Nations Space Command and the new alien faction the Banished.
I’m excited to get my hands on Halo Wars 2 mainly for the story, as most of you know I’m a huge single player guy and I’ve been a Halo fan for years now. I will give Blitz mode some love as it also looks like it has some serious potential for the more casual multiplayer player. We will have a review up for you in the coming weeks. The game just went gold so you can expect to see quite a lot of people diving into this game come February 21st.
And hey, if you’re in New York Microsoft is hosting a Halo Wars 2 event tomorrow!