So since this is my first Halo review, you folks may not know that I am one of the biggest Halo fans in the world.
I have played all the games through on Legendary multiple times, have read every book, watched every film and even listened to the entire Truth podcast series.
So needless to say, and am a bit of a fanboy, so chances of finding a biased opinion here is pretty slim.
I grabbed the ultimate edition of the game last year, and sadly did not find time to dive in until now.
One of the main upsell to the Ultimate version was you got the original Halo Wars that they remastered included, so it was sort of a 2 for 1, plus the season pass.
The original game was something special when it launched 9 years ago in 2009, it was the first non-fps game we got for Halo, and while it was commercially panned back then, it was a damn fine deviation in my opinion.
The story takes place in the first 5 years of the covenant war, a while after we lost Harvest to the hinge heads.
Admiral Cutter is sent to help take it back from the covies, and in doing so goes on a wild goose chase across the galaxy in search of a kidnapped scientist and a massive Foreunner installation.
What really stood out in the story is that we got to go back to a very early point in the war, see where things began and get a sense of what the covenant were like and where the old hatreds came from.
Sadly the game ends on a bit of a “to be continued” with the crew of the Spirit of Fire going into cryo-sleep for the long ride home (as they lost their slipspace drive).
Little did we know at the time there would be a second game, especially since HW1 did not do very well in sales.
So when the news came in via E3 that the sequel was planned, it was a good day for us Halo fan.
The second game pics up 28 years later, with the crew of the Spirit of Fire waking up to a shock, the covenant war is over, and they are sitting in front of the Ark, a Forerunner seed vessel that was the stage of Halo 2 and 3.
I wont get into spoiling the story here, but it goes in some very interesting direction, right up to yet another cliff hanger ending that has direct ties to Halo 5.
What also adds a little intrigue to this story is that there is a pseudo tie in novel called Smoke and Shadow. This is the story of a girl in search of any information about her father (Forge) who was presumed dead after the Spirit of Fire disappeared in the timeline of Halo Wars 1.
So there is a lot of media to consume for a game that is essentially a B-list title from Microsoft.
As for the game itself, it was very enjoyable, where Halo Wars 1 was a nice RTS for the time, you can see where Halo Wars 2 expands on the new gaming advancements made in the last 8 years.
With missions that are 100% tower defense, to small commando like squad missions that really keep you on edge as you have very few troops to use and keep alive.
The visuals also got a HUGE bump, with an extra layer of zoom it is like watching a mini Halo play set, it is just unfortunate this game never had VR support added on PC, that would have been incredible.
The missions span all kinda of environments, from arid dessert climate to old but shiny forerunner installations.
This is one of the few games too that supports 4k/UHD on the XB1X. So the presentation is brilliant. Colors pop and the subtle shadows really jump from the screen on a properly calibrated display.
The sound in the game was typical fare, but did get a bit annoying, when moving troops, every click illicits a “going” “moving out” “yes sir” “on our way”, not terrible, but after hearing it for the 100th time in a single chapter, it gets a little grating.
Both of these game sadly are not very long, each clocking in around the 6 hr mark only, and very little time added for the DLC.
Now the DLC is where my problem lies. Season passes are meant to include everything that is put out in DLC for a game, that is the whole point. Pay the extra 20-30 upfront, not knowing what you will necessarily get, and it is cheaper than buying them one at a time.
But the real issue here is that MS or the dev really screwed their fans with the release of the final DLC, Awakening the Nightmare. They opted to sell this outside of the season pass, and gouge fans for a whopping $30 for a 2-3 hour campaign.
Sure it had a lot of spit and polish, even including full CG cutscenes, but I certainly do not feel that the few commanders (used in MP play) and the 2 mission Operation Spearbreaker constituted the original $25 extra for a seasonpass…
So it was a real slap in the face to Halo Wars supporters.
In the day and age of trying to milk people with loot boxes, this practice is sadly jsut as bad, but oft overlooked by reviewers.
But not me, I felt ripped off.
Sure the story was interesting, and playing as the Banished (the covenant baddies) was cool as you got to use units that we only killed up until now. But it still does not justify the double dip on price.
And in the grand scheme of things, the story was kind of throw away. It revolves around 2 Brutes sent to the wreckage of High Charity to find supplies and riches and they accidentally release the flood plague.
The main antagonist in HW2 was Atriox from the comic series, so it would have been nice if we saw more of him, but alas they went in a different direction with 2 character we never heard of before.
So after a quick 2-3 hours, the plot remains the same, Atriox is still alive and well and plotting his revenge.
All in all the entire story of HW1 and 2 plus the DLC makes a nice tight narrative and leaves us wanting more, when or if we will get more is yet to be seen as there have been no announcements thus far of Halo Wars 3.
As a whole a solid 8/10, but individually, Halo Wars 1 – 7/10, Halo Wars 2 9/10 and the DLC sadly a 6/10.