Halo Wars 2 is a 2017 real-time strategy game developed by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly and published by Microsoft Studios. It is the second game in the Halo Wars series, and overall 13th title in the Halo video game franchise. In the game, the player is tasked with establishing a base and gathering the resources to explore the hostile world. The game includes single player and multiplayer modes, with the latter offering cross-platform gameplay on both PC and XBOX One.
In Halo Wars 2 the player commands their units in real time from the bird’s eye perspective. The game allows players to set up a base of operations in a specific location, where they can build facilities to further their battle efforts. These facilities include barracks which produce ground troops or vehicle depots from where the player can deploy ground units such as light vehicles, tanks, gunships, and more. Base buildings can be upgraded to produce better units and grant bonuses. Players will gather supplies through special pads located on the battlefield that can be used to build additional facilities and deploy units. Certain constructions require an additional resource, power, which can be obtained from a generator or extractor building. When enough supplies have been gathered, players can build other base camps on the map, to further expand their forces.
The game map is initially covered with the fog of war and the players have to discover its contents by moving their units further into the clouded areas. When they encounter enemy units or a structure, players can choose units of their own to engage it in battle. The combat in game employs the counter system based on specific units being more effective against each other. And so, ground units are more effective against infantry, infantry deals more damage to aircraft units and air vehicles should be deployed against ground ones. Units possess special abilities they can use during skirmishes, for example, UNSC Spartans can commandeer vehicles from enemy units and perform smash attacks.
The story of Halo Wars 2, told through cutscenes played before the missions, occurs 28 years after the first game. The characters from the first game, the crew of the USNC spaceship Spirit of Fire is also featured in this installment. During the events between Halo Wars and its sequel, the war between the alliance of alien races, called the Covenant, and planet Earth has ended. However, the Spirit of Fire crew were considered lost. The crew, including captain James Cutter and professor Ellen Anders, wake from cryosleep at the Ark, an alien site capable of creating Halos. There, they discover an AI, Isabel, in the abandoned UNSC station. Soon after, the crew is ambushed by a group of aliens called the Banished and after defeating them, they set up in the base of operations of the Banished to find out more about the Ark and its secrets.
Halo Wars 2 includes a multiplayer mode, in which owners of Xbox One consoles and PCs can play together. Multiplayer mode can host up to 6 players online. While in campaign mode players can control only the UNSC forces, multiplayer enables them the choice on which side of the conflict they would like to fight. Players can choose the leader of their army from one of the game’s prominent characters. Each of them possesses unique abilities, such as healing units or carpet bombing, however using them consumes resources and activates cooldown period, before they can be used again.
Multiplayer modes include Skirmish where players can fight against the AI opponents, either solo or in cooperative mode, Deathmatch where players focus on eliminating enemy army, as well as Stronghold and Domination modes that require their participants to control areas on the map. Multiplayer also includes Blitz mode, with mechanics combining RTS and collectible card games. Players build decks which allow them to deploy units. Blitz mod has also a single-player and cooperative variant called Firefight, where players must fend off waves of enemies controlled by the AI.
Halo Wars 2 gathered positive reviews from game journalists and was met with favorable reception among the gamer community. Players praised the visuals of the game, especially the quality of animated cutscenes. Some however, took issue with lack of new mechanics and short and boring campaign.