What is Halo Wars 2?
Halo Wars 2 is a real time strategy game set in the Halo universe. Played from an isometric/top-down perspective, it's up to you to build a base, gather resource, and produce the units you'll need to take the fight to the enemy. The story begins as the crew of the Spirit of Fire awake from a long slumber in cryosleep to find themselves above an Ark - a legendary spaceship-come-homeworld-come-weapons-factory. After venturing down to investigate, they find themselves confronted not by the traditional Halo baddies, the Covenant, but by an army of battle scarred Brutes known as the Banished. Led by Atriox - the only Brute to have defied the Covenant and survive - the Banished declare war on the crew of the Spirit of Fire - and it's up to you to take back the Ark, and save the galaxy.
How do you play Halo Wars 2?
As a traditional strategy game, Halo Wars 2 follows a familiar formula in most levels. You'll have to build a base, construct extra buildings to let you either produce troops, or provide a steady stream of extra resources, and slowly amass an army to take the fight to your opponent. Whether you go straight for their base, or decide to pick off smaller outposts first is up to you.
Underlying everything in Halo Wars 2 is a simple rock-paper-scissors style system, where each unit has a strength and weakness against another. Airborne units are strong against ground vehicles, but can be easily picked off by infantry; infantry are strong against air units, but weak against ground vehicles, while ground vehicles can flatten enemy soldiers with ease, but their speed makes them easy targets for airborne troops. It's how you make use of these trade-offs that will determine whether you win or lose. Scouting out your opponents, seeing what units they have, and building a mix of units that'll leave you prepared for any eventuality is key to victory.
How easy is Halo Wars 2 to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Halo Wars 2 has been designed to be simpler than most strategy games, both to make it easier to control on a console, and so new players can find their footing easier. Units come grouped into squads to make selecting them easier, a number of shortcuts let you quickly jump between different unit types, and even base building is easier, with a number of pre-defined blocks you can fill with buildings/factories of your choosing.
However, that doesn't mean Halo Wars 2 is easy. The campaign regularly ramps the difficulty up, and with so many plates you need to keep spinning, it's keeping track of everything that provides most of the challenge. With a tendency for everything to happen all at once, you'll need to jump between groups of units and bases when they come under attack; keep your base churning out a regular supply of new troops to replace the ones you lose; and micromanage your attacks, making sure you make good use of your units strengths and weaknesses, lest they get overwhelmed by a more strategic opponent. At several points in the campaign, the game ramps the difficulty up even further, at one point by giving you only a dozen units to defend yourself against fifty or more, and on another by effectively making it a lot harder for your troops to get back and defend your base, forcing you to try out very different ways of using your troops in order to survive. With a hefty requirement for foresight and a need to think three or four stages in advance, Halo Wars 2 can quickly get very complex.
The game does offer an adjustable difficulty system though, with four difficulty levels on offer, from Easy all the way up Legendary.
In terms of mature content, Halo Wars 2 sits somewhere in the middle. While there's nothing in the way of sexual content here, and only very mild bad language (the rare use of b*tch and ass), the levels of violence here vary from the game itself to cutscenes.
In game, Halo Wars 2 is played from a distance, and enemies don't tend to bleed - instead, they'll give off small patches of brightly coloured alien goo, fading away when defeated. In cutscenes, however, things can be just a little bit more violent, with soldiers being thrown around by one monstrous foe, and one scene showing blood coming out of a stab wound - however, any such scenes are brief, and for the most part, the violence in Halo Wars 2 is minor.