Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game that everyone can enjoy. Granted, Halo fans may get a bit extra out of it as it continues the series' story 28 years after the events of Halo 5, and there’s something great about seeing familiar vehicles like the Warthog ramming into enemies. However, even if you’re a real-time strategy fan who has never played a Halo game before, the fact that you are taking on an all-new enemy in The Banished means that you don’t need to understand 16 years of Halo lore.
With its action-packed campaign, plus all-new multiplayer modes, strategy masterminds Creative Assembly (Total War, Alien Isolation) have delivered an accessible real-time strategy game that delivers for fans of the genre and Halo fans. That doesn’t mean it’s easy – you’ll need to be able to think quickly and control multiple troops at once.
So to help you control the maps, beat the Banished, defeat the bosses and dominate multiplayer, we have some top tips from Creative Assembly’s David Nicholson.
Who are the Banished and how do you defeat them?
The Banished are a Brute-led faction formed by Atriox. Atriox rebelled against the Covenant after seeing his race cut down in the Human-Covenant war. Atriox and the Banished reject the Forerunner worship that defined the Covenant and do not share the reverence for Forerunner artefacts, although they do recognise them as useful potential weapons.
The Banished weapons and vehicles are based on Covenant technology, but heavily modified to fit their brutal aesthetic (for example, they tend to overload their weapons to dangerous degrees for more power). Atriox is dangerous because he is just as intelligent as he is strong, a combination we haven’t seen before in Brutes. The Banished are joined by mercenary Elites, who have eschewed their honour for survival.
The Banished can hit you hard from unexpected angles and, with the new Banished armour plating, take more punishment than the average Covenant equivalent. In order to succeed versus the Banished, you have to be one step ahead and lure them into situations that you control. If your enemy is building lots of cloaked units, be sure to build units that can detect them. For units that jump past your core army, have a reserve force ready to take them down – Jump Pack Brutes won’t enjoy jumping into a gaggle of Hellbringer (flamethrower) anti-infantry units.
How hard are the bosses and how do you beat them?
The boss fights in the campaign are versatile encounters where Commanders get a chance to apply their smarts and come up with a strategy that’s best for them. If you’re after a test of your micromanagement skills, aim to bait the Boss with some fast and agile units like Jackrabbits, while utilising your hard hitting but fragile air units. They’re certainly not walks in the park so be warned: the player isn’t the only one with access to large orbital-to-surface weaponry.
How to win against the AI in the Skirmish multiplayer co-op mode
Our multiplayer skirmish AI has been crafted to use a range of classic RTS strategies. Halo Wars 2 AI doesn’t cheat – unlike other games where the AI gets bonus resources or can see through the fog of war, the Halo Wars 2 AI has the same capabilities and limitations as a human player. This was intentional to provide players with a more realistic training environment. Instead of learning to ‘cheese’ an AI exploit, players must learn how to become better Commanders.
In one game you may face an AI that seemingly isn’t very aggressive, but secretly they may be pulling off a ‘turtle’ strategy, where they aim to slowly creep across the map, building and fortifying bases to the maximum level before moving on to slowly steamroll your base. In other games, our AI Commanders may use a rush strategy and after five minutes, turn up on your doorstep with a horde of Jump Pack Brutes and Suicide Grunts.
The trick is working out what your opponent is up to and experimenting with what the best strategy is to defeat them. Is your enemy greedily building undefended resource buildings? Then respond with an aggressive rush before they can make the most of their increased economic power.
If your friends are offline and you don’t fancy player vs player, then you can also team up with other humans to take on AI Commanders in our vs AI matchmaking playlist.
How to survive in Deathmatch
If you find you’re struggling in Deathmatch, definitely polish your skills by facing AI in Skirmishes or get some tips from teammates in the vs AI playlist. Once you’ve done that, my biggest recommendations are:
Keep an eye on your enemy – The battlefield intelligence gained from scouting your enemy will give you the information to help you build a smarter combination of units that counter your enemy’s army.
Spend excess resources – Unspent resources are wasted resources. Try to always be producing units, researching upgrades or building new buildings.
Team up with allies – Move your army to support theirs. One combined force attacking a single location will have dramatically quicker results than three smaller forces attacking three separate locations.
Don’t ragequit! – In team games, a team that works together but might be a little bit outgunned can still beat an enemy team that doesn’t work together.
Retreat to fight another day – If a fight is going badly, pull back to a safer location. Heal your damaged units and reinforce your army with units that counter your opponent. It’s much faster than rebuilding an army from scratch!
How to build a deck in Blitz
We always like to suggest that players bring a Support, Detect, and fast scout unit to battle as required, with other strategies depending on the game size or role you want to play. If you like defence, pack up with Artillery and Guard units. If you like farming, double down on scouts and take Rush units. If you like harassing your opponent to the point of a Sangheili rage, then you might love running with Air and Blast units.
I’d also recommend that in Blitz you keep an eye on your enemy units (as there’s no fog of war in Blitz) and cycle your cards until you have a good mix of units that have an advantage versus that force.
The new units you should take into battle
I absolutely love our new artillery units, the Kodiak and the Blisterback. They do massive damage from a long range but are immobile while attacking. During development we got into some fun matches where players would have a group of Kodiaks deployed to provide cover to another group of Kodiaks deployed even further away, daisy-chaining a line of artillery-flavoured destruction!
They allow for some wonderfully lazy defensive plays as long as your opponents blunder into cannon range. If your opponent realises what you’re up to and builds a fleet of aircraft, then things start to get a bit dicey.
The new support units are also great for promoting a variety of battlefield tactics and forcing your opponent to build detectors or counter units. We tried to provide players with the incentive to keep games from falling into static Tank-fests, teasing players to switch up army composition to best suit the battlefield situation.
Halo Wars 2 is out on Xbox One and PC on February 21