Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game that requires maximum patience and attention to fully appreciate. It is a spin-off from the main series that is given a deeper insight on the Halo world with the help of the designers at Ensemble Studios, and while it is obviously a departure from your normal Halo title, it still holds the same charm of the expansive, science-fiction universe.
I will primarily be covering the campaign in this review since I could not successfully find a multiplayer match due to Halo Wars being over ten years old. Nonetheless, I am sufficiently confident that this review will cover most of the game’s concepts for multiplayer to be an insignificant topic to touch up on anyway.
Halo Wars starts off as a seemingly daunting and complex experience but soon becomes a fairly enjoyable delight with the help of the tutorials, which ease the player into the highly tactical adventure quite flawlessly. The controls are easily the most vital part for the player to learn, as they essentially work as your control board, with the player acting as the commander of their troops. The controls are compatibly made and are rightly complex to match an equally complex game.
However, I felt there could have been even more creativity with the controls. It is easy for your army to get messy. Certain units will be in places you don’t want them to be and vice versa. More controls could have definitely solved this.
One example of a function I personally wished existed was a “guard” function. Let’s say you want to have a spartan, three warthogs, and a couple of marine squads guard one of your bases, but you want to have the rest of your forces explore the uncharted areas of the map. You would set those specific troops to “guard” an area around the base so then they wouldn’t be selected when you pressed the “all units” button. They would remain unselected, guarding the base while you could direct the rest of your troops elsewhere. There is a certain way to get around this in the game, but it is undoubtedly tedious.
The campaign missions themselves are relatively pleasing, with a few questionable exceptions. The successful Halo Wars missions are superbly fabricated, and finely apply the element of strategy to achieve intense gameplay. Multitasking is a must, and the missions that presented time limits were especially thrilling and anxiety-inducing. The player is constantly kept busy, but is also provided phases of inactivity to allow the player to rebuild their ideal army.
The few “questionable exceptions” I mentioned were missions that required the player to build from the ground up. These levels were particularly lethargic in the beginning, and it was nearly impossible to make a satisfactory army with only one base. What was even more upsetting was the fact that I was awarded more highly on levels where the game gave me a head start than ones that obliged me to assemble from the ground up.
For the most part, Halo Wars is a positive experience that still effectively delivers the enchantment of the Halo universe. The real-time strategy is successfully harnessed to ensure a captivating and exhilarating time. As long as one is patient and attentive, they should find this game to be a rewarding experience.