It is said that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In that sense, Halo Wars 2 is the de facto king of real-time strategy games on consoles, where the venerable genre is underrepresented because of the challenges of managing a lot of units at once on a gamepad. Like its predecessor, Halo Wars 2 does a reasonably good job of overcoming many – not all – of those challenges, but compared to the best RTS games on PC, where it also exists, its campaign missions are flat and unambitious, and its distinctive Blitz multiplayer mode sacrifices the stability of a level playing field in the name of fast and unpredictable action.
I admire Microsoft’s effort to expand its prized Halo series into something that spans beyond an endless procession of first-person shooters, and with Halo Wars 2 (like Halo Wars before it) we get to experience this sci-fi universe from a perspective that emphasizes the scope of its battles. Seeing instantly recognizable vehicles like Warthogs and Banshees on the field adds an inherited personality to what is otherwise a fairly standard set of units. While there are substantial differences in tactics thanks to the unique Banished (a rebel faction of the Covenant) units like suicide grunts and airborne Blisterback artillery, the greatest distinction between them and the UNSC Marines comes from support powers like bombardments and buffs cast from above.