I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be much interest in Halo Wars 2. The Halo Wars 2 subforum only has two other threads (both of which were made months ago), and outside of Giant Bomb you don't see much chatter about the game (in fact, I see more "ALL UNITS" jokes than actual interest in the game).
So! As someone who fell in love with the first Halo Wars, and then has since played through the majority of Halo Wars 2, as well as maybe 10 hours of Blitz between the Beta and the final release, here's a concise list of why you might want to check the game out:
- It's the best Halo story since Halo Reach, full stop. I'll go to bat for Halo 4 and Halo 5 when I feel like they are being disparaged but the stories in both of those games are quite average. Halo Wars 2, in comparison, is tight, is tense, is dramatic when it needs to be, is beautiful thanks to the wonderful people at Blur, and makes you care about space super-soldiers, computer programs, and gruff military officers in ways that are totally unexpected. It has its cliches and rough dialogue at times, but those moments are far outnumbered by the times the game made me smile and reminisce for the great days of Halo.
- It's an RTS with a great amount of depth, but also streamlined enough to appeal to beginners as well as veterans. The first Halo Wars always ended up one way: play for time until you could build up a massive army of Scorpions and air units, and then just roll over all enemy resistance once that point had been reached. This is very much not the case here! The new units introduced in the sequel fill in gaps in the rock-paper-scissors formula that you wouldn't even imagine existed. Sure, infantry beats air, air beats vehicles, vehicle beats infantry, but you can also use Cyclops infantry to beat back armor. Or you could build Reaver vehicles to tear enemy air defenses to shreds. There's a depth here that requires thinking about what units work together well against what other units that require a good amount of strategizing. At low levels, sure, you can just keep churning out Scorpions and Vultures and hope for the best, but past a certain skill level that all falls apart--anti-vehicle infantry and anti-air vehicles are cheaper to make than vehicles and air support, respectively, and that's a key point to understand. But this is not to say that it is too deep for the inexperienced RTS player--the toned down base-building and resource gathering allows anyone to feel their way through the game even if they've never played an RTS before. And, of course, it's playable with a gamepad.
- Blitz is exhilarating and takes the focus away from micromanagement and instead on broad troop strategy. The idea behind Blitz is to remove the basebuilding entirely, and put the entire focus on spawning troops using the cards in your hand. Each card costs resources that can be gained passively and obtained from drops on the map. You spawn troops to complete a domination-style objective of holding points. The key to this mode is that you do not need to keep troops on the point to keep the point, and taking a point just involves moving troops to it and making sure no enemies are on it--there is no timer or countdown to take it, you just take it. This gives it a metagame where anyone can come back at any moment (during the beta I played a 3v3 where we were down 42 to 192, and you needed 200 to win--we rallied and were able to come back to grab the win from the jaws of defeat) and moving quickly is a critical aspect. Building up an army to take and hold one point for an extended amount of time might leave your flank open, so make sure you've got troops ready to move quickly if the other player sends a scout to take the point and dash. Leaving your points completely defenseless is an invitation for the other player to grab them, but if you bait them into doing so you can get them to leave their capture points weak or completely undefended. It's thrilling, it's relentless, and it always keeps you on your toes. There is no slow buildup as both sides start to churn out armies, the game will never go one way for certain, it's the antithesis to what an RTS is in a lot of ways, and it works incredibly well. OK, sure, there's the microtransaction and card pack aspect, I get that. But, in defense, just by playing through most of the campaign, I got over 10 card packs, giving me a majority of the unlockable cards in the game. After a preorder bonus, playing the beta, and downloading the free DLC available right now, I ended up with 25 total card packs, which left me with close to every unlockable card in the game. Plus, you get cards by completing challenges that aren't even gameplay-specific, such as playing three 3v3 games, or completing three matches as a specific leader, and that's in addition to the as-expected level-up card pack reward. You don't have to put in money to be competitive, which is great.
- It's Xbox Play Anywhere, and the PC port is really good. This is maybe less of a factor for most people, but if you're afraid that it's a UWP game, don't be. The game runs great on my i5 and 480--I play on maxed everything at a super-sampled 5120x2160p on my 2560x1080p monitor, and it runs incredibly smooth (would say it's a locked 60, but haven't actually used an FPS counter to check). It also puts my ultrawide screen to good use, filling out the edges in the cinematics and displaying an extended view of the battlefield in normal gameplay. Plus, if you live in the EU, you can grab a snazzy-looking PC retail copy that will also count as Play Anywhere!
Normally, I don't feel very strongly about the games I play unless I think they execute on their promise in a big, big way, and I feel like Halo Wars 2 is one of those games. Creative Assembly did a great job with the game, and it deserves more interest. So, please, if any of the above appeals to you in any way, go ahead and check out Halo Wars 2. It's deserving of your interest.