Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 is a 2017 real-time strategy video game which serves as a direct sequel to Halo Wars, developed by Creative Assembly and 343 Industries and published by Microsoft Studios. Set in the year 2559, the game focuses on a conflict for control of the Ark between the UNSC and the Banished. It was first revealed at Gamescom 2015 with a teaser trailer and was playable at E3 2016. The game was released simultaneously on Windows 10 and Xbox One on February 21, 2017.
Characters and setting
Halo Wars 2 takes place 28 years after the events of Halo Wars in 2531, after Phoenix-class colony ship UNSC Spirit of Fire had floated adrift in space for decades and declared by the rest of the United Nations Space Command as "lost with all hands". The remaining crew of the Spirit of Fire are awoken from cryo-sleep above the Forerunners' Installation 00, previously the setting for Halo 3. Led by Captain James Cutter, the crew of Spirit of Fire encounter the mercenary faction known as the Banished, led by the cunning Jiralhanae warlord Atriox. Having previously battled the Covenant, the Banished rose to power in wake of the empire's fall in 2552 by gaining control of numerous assets from the Covenant.
According to franchise director Frank O'Connor, a primary theme of the game is two commanders from two very different backgrounds facing off against each other in an attempt to gain control of Installation 00. The crew of the Spirit of Fire, having been in cryo-sleep since 2531, are unaware of the nature of the installation, nor do they know the result of the Human-Covenant War. In an effort to return home, Captain James Cutter leads the ship's crew to the surface of Installation 00 to search for a way to reconnect with the rest of the UNSC. It is at this time that the crew encounter Atriox and the Banished. While Halo Wars 2 is tonally designed to feel like a direct continuation of Halo Wars, managing director Kevin Grace stated that the game would have a similar tone to Halo: Combat Evolved, as the game's setting is primarily contained within one location.
In 2559, after 28 years of drifting through space, the Spirit of Fire begins to return to operational status. In a message to Captain James Cutter, the ship's AI Serina outlines the current state of affairs, stating that she has awakened the crew due to an unexpected development. Serina herself is long gone, with her report a mere recording; at the end of her seven-year operational lifespan, she terminated herself in accordance with UNSC final dispensation regulations. Cutter meets with Professor Ellen Anders on the observation deck, where she is already at hard work investigating the current situation: the Spirit of Fire has been transported through slipspace to an unknown location outside the galaxy. Looming below them is an enormous megastructure, evidently the source of the mysterious slipspace transit. An encrypted transmission of UNSC origin is intercepted from the surface of the construct and recon teams are deployed to investigate.
Scouting the surface, Spartan-II Red Team comes across signs of battle and a deserted science outpost. Inside they meet a frightened logistics AI who identifies herself as Isabel. Almost immediately, the Spartans are ambushed by a large Jiralhanae. In a lopsided fight to the alien's favor, Douglas-042 is seriously wounded. The Spartans fall back, evacuating their now-unconscious comrade, and escape the outpost with hostile forces in pursuit. While the others board a Pelican, Alice-130 stays behind to hold off the attackers, her fate uncertain. Aboard the Spirit of Fire, a shaken Isabel briefs Captain Cutter and the crew on the new threat: A Jiralhanae warlord, Atriox, who rebelled against the Covenant during the Human-Covenant War, amassing a mercenary army known as the Banished, who have now attacked the Ark and massacred the humans under Isabel's charge. The AI pleads the crew to flee, but Cutter instead chooses to stay and stop the Banished on the Ark.
The Spirit of Fire crew begin their campaign against the Banished with a strike on a salvage operation led by Atriox's lieutenant Decimus, while Anders works to find a way to contact the UNSC. Decimus and his local forces are eventually defeated, but he manages to escape. In the Banished base's wreckage, data is discovered pointing to a Cartographer — a map room of the entire installation. To prevent the Banished from making use of the Cartographer, Captain Cutter decides to mount an assault on the site. While the UNSC forces secure the access point to the Cartographer, the narrative returns to Alice-130, who has been carrying out her own operations against the Banished behind their lines. She launches an operation to rescue UNSC prisoners while using another abandoned research outpost to reestablish contact with the Spirit of Fire. After successfully doing so, she is placed in command of the UNSC forces in the area by Captain Cutter, with the intent of continuing a local campaign against the Banished.
Meanwhile, the UNSC forces reach the Cartographer, and after meeting some resistance from the Banished and the Ark's Sentinels, they gain access to the central chamber. Interfacing with the Cartographer, Professor Anders learns that Atriox has been using the site to take over the Ark's entire portal network, allowing him to quickly transport his forces across the installation. Destroying a key control node will deny the Banished access to the portals. Anticipating the UNSC's plans, Atriox has stationed forces led by Decimus in the area. After a lengthy battle, the UNSC forces manage to destroy the portal node and kill Decimus. However, their victory is short-lived as the Spirit of Fire falls under attack by the Banished flagship Enduring Conviction. While the Spirit fights off the attack in space, Alice-130 and her forces must survive waves of Banished forces without orbital support. Aboard the Spirit of Fire, Professor Anders introduces a bold plan: in order to reestablish contact with the UNSC, they will launch a Halo ring. It is revealed that the Ark maintains a nearly complete Halo in its Foundry as an emergency replacement. Additionally, Anders has discovered a means to disable the ring's firing mechanism, though it can only be deployed to one of the sites of the original installations. Cutter resolves that since Installation 04 was discovered relatively close to Reach, a communications beacon deployed in its former site may feasibly reach the UNSC.
However, the plan cannot proceed before the present threat of the Enduring Conviction is addressed. Isabel outlines a plan to use a Forerunner particle cannon on the Ark's surface to fire on the assault carrier, while she and Jerome-092 will board the flagship through its gravity lift. Anders manages to activate the particle cannon, though it only disables the Enduring Conviction's shields. Jerome and Isabel then head to the gravity lift but their Pelican is shot down on the way. After UNSC forces besiege the Banished base at the gravity lift, Jerome successfully boards the lift, infiltrates the carrier, and inserts Isabel into its systems. She then fires the ship's ventral energy projector on the Banished troops below, feeding off of her rage over their massacre of the Ark personnel under her care. The beam soon penetrates the Ark's crust, rousing the installation's Aggressor Sentinels. Swarms of the Sentinels descend upon the Enduring Conviction, ramming themselves into the carrier in massive numbers. While Jerome fights off Banished Jiralhanae inside the ship, the Sentinels finally manage to bisect the ship, stopping in perfect synchrony once they have punched through. Jerome picks up Isabel and jumps off the ship toward the Ark.
In the aftermath, Atriox and Shipmaster Let 'Volir survey the wreckage of the Enduring Conviction. As they assess their losses, both are surprised to witness a Halo rising from the Ark's Foundry. Atriox immediately orders 'Volir to send all his forces on the ring to prevent the humans from gaining a foothold. While the UNSC work to establish a presence on the new Halo, the Banished mount their own invasion there through access portals at the Ark's Foundry. After the UNSC forces destroy Banished bases sending troops to the Halo, they travel to the new ring as well through the access portal. Atriox contacts Captain Cutter and makes an offer to spare the crew of the Spirit of Fire — if they leave. Cutter staunchly refuses, pointing out that Atriox did not extend similar mercy to the personnel he slaughtered before their arrival. On the Halo, the UNSC must reach the control room and disarm the ring before it can reach human space, while the Banished continue to send in forces in an effort to gain control of the installation. The control room is shielded, but Anders manages to take control of an initially hostile Retriever Sentinel and use the machine to disable the energy barrier.
While Anders enters the control room to disable the Halo's firing systems and deploy a communications beacon, the UNSC must hold off waves of Banished attacks before she can complete her work. Interfacing with the control room's core, Anders manages to cordon off a section of the ring's landmass housing the majority of the Banished troops and launch it into space. The UNSC forces then evacuate from the ring, but Anders has no time to make it out of the control room before the Halo enters a slipspace portal toward its destination — the Soell system, the original site of Installation 04. Anders assures Captain Cutter that she intends to return as soon as possible, perhaps only in several weeks, before her signal is cut off. Cutter resolves to continue the fight against the Banished on the Ark before Anders returns, while Atriox, furious about his defeat, looks upon a massing of his forces.
On its way to the Soell system, the Halo unexpectedly drops out of slipspace. An elevator descends to the control room's central chamber and Anders returns to the surface, where she is confronted by a Guardian.
Halo Wars 2 comes with three tutorial missions to allow new players to get to grips with the controls and gameplay of the game.
Campaign DLC released after the original game.
The Skirmish mode allows players, through solo or cooperative play, to battle against AIs with a range of difficulty levels. Strongholds is a fast-paced, timed gamemode where players must control more bases than their opponent when the timer stops to win. Domination centers around players building bases, armies, and battling for control of the map. Deathmatch involves players building up their own bases and armies, though players battle to eliminate one another rather than taking control of the map.
Blitz is a new gamemode with a unique approach to RTS gameplay. In Blitz, players contest control points by positioning their forces over particular areas of the map. When one team holds more control points than the other, they start accumulating points until the balance is redressed. The first team to hit 200 points, or the highest scoring team after 12 minutes wins the game.
Using the same gameplay as Blitz, Blitz Firefight will focus players on survival of countless waves. Player must hold the control points as long as they can while the enemies number increases over new wave of attack.
A brand new cooperative experience to the Firefight family. In Terminus Firefight, up to three players amass armies to defend both their bases, and their Forerunner terminus node against an ever-increasing and intensifying hoard of attacking enemies.
Halo Wars 2 uses a socket base system similar to the original Halo Wars, with some differences. Halo Wars 2 introduces Minibases as a new feature allowing the player to build subsidiary "Battle Bases" or "Supply Bases". Visually, the various base structures are no longer constructed from the base hub and are instead delivered by dropships.
Halo Wars 2 features a number of units carried over from the previous Halo Wars, as well as several all-new ones. Unlike Halo Wars in which each Hero Unit is given unique abilities and Super Units, each faction now has only one type of Super Unit: the G81 Condor Gunship for the UNSC and the Banished Scarab for the Banished. For neutrals, Sentinals have the Retriever Sentinel as Super Unit and the Flood has the Abomination as Super Unit.
Unlike Halo Wars, units are no longer listed by role such as Building Killer, Infantry Killer or even Vehicle Killer. They are now listed as their role in their unit such as Reconnaissance, Sniper, Anti-Air Walker, etc.
When producing a unit, it has three colors to indicate its strengths against various unit categories, namely Infantry, Air, Vehicles and Buildings, each represented with an icon, respectively as:
A units' strength against enemies, however, does not determine its capabilities to deal with them; sometimes numbers can close the gap or maintain it. Cannon Fodder, for example, does poorly against all units but will deal considerable damage if engaged with large numbers and buffed with Methane Wagon and Goblins.
Veterancy is now limited to three ranks unlike Halo Wars where there are five. Each veterancy rank increases one's units' attack and defense capabilities.
Super Units are labelled with a special icon on the minimap, while Hero Units are commonly labelled with a star.
The following units are available for the UNSC, the Banished and Neutrals, respectively:
Like in Halo Wars, players in multiplayer pick a leader to play as, each of whom have a set of unique "Leader Powers" and units. Leaders for the UNSC include Captain Cutter, Professor Anders, Isabel, and Sergeant Forge, with four characters, Morgan Kinsano, Sergeant Johnson, Jerome-092 and Serina, added post-launch as downloadable content. Atriox, Decimus, and Let' Volir serve as the leaders for the Banished faction, with five new characters, Colony, Ripa 'Moramee, Yapyap the Destroyer, Pavium, and Voridus, added post-launch as DLC. However each of the leaders is now able to use the same super units, unlike Halo Wars where each leader had their own super unit unique to them. Each leader has their own privileges; for example, Professor Anders can deploy two types of super unit at one time (G81 Condor Gunship and Retriever Sentinel) or Yapyap, who can recruit Cannon Fodder without using any resources.
Unlike Halo Wars, where each leader had only one leader power, each leader on Halo Wars 2 now has a set of 10 unique leader powers split into 5 tiers, either passive or active. Player must assign leader points to unlocked leader powers in order to unlock the next tier of leader powers. This gives the player a new challenge, as leader powers now no longer can be upgraded from the war council / armory and player have to assign leader points wisely to gain the advantage and win the battle-or, in terminus firefight, survive more waves.
This includes a hero unit as well where their abilities can be upgraded but with more balanced build due to compensated by sets of Leader Powers. Each upgrade now increases damage and health while under some circumstances, some ability may improved as long as it was related to the ability the Hero possess. Hero Unit now must be purchased instead of acquiring it for free for the first time. Hero unit also will display what they are good, okay, and poor unit to deal with so player can form strategy more efficiently to compensate hero's lacking.
Leaders and specialties
Each of the leaders in Halo Wars 2 has a certain specialty with select unique units and leader powers. Like in Halo Wars, some of the leaders can be summoned to the field as hero units. Some Leaders only available in the campaign.
When the player acquires leader points, they can be applied on several leader powers (special abilities that can aid the player on the battlefield). Even when the player is idle, the leader point bar gauge charges gradually and when the gauge is full, the player gains a point. However, points can be earned faster by killing enemy unit and destroying enemy buildings. The number of available leader points is indicated by stars above the map HUD. Player must distribute at least two points on previous tier to unlock the next tier.
In Halo Wars 2, players are no longer capped the Reactor as the Tech Level system is replaced by Generator Power Resources that are generated by Generators that function similarly to the Supplies in the original game. In order to advance Technology, the player must upgrade the Firebase to the next tier in order to upgrade units. Player are unable to upgrade further until tech requirements are met. This brings player to new challenge as they have to keep the generator running to generate more power to upgrade units further.
Skulls can be obtained through completing various optional missions, like killing specific enemies and keeping allies alive.
Similar to the Black Boxes of the original Halo Wars, collectibles known as Phoenix Logs found throughout the campaign unlock codex entries featuring background information for various characters, events and locations in the story.
Pre-production for Halo Wars 2 started around 2014[note 1], with concept work intended to kickstart idea generation still being done in early 2015. Blur Studio once again created pre-rendered CGI sequences for the game's cutscenes. Changes in Blur's approach to CGI animation have resulted in some of the characters being recast. In the original Halo Wars, the characters were hand-sculpted and animated whereas Blur has since come to favor full motion capture technology, including facial performance capture; due to this change, actors that resemble the characters they are playing as closely as possible are preferred. Most notably, Captain Cutter, originally voiced by Gregg Berger, is now played by Gideon Emery (digitally aged to appear closer to Cutter's biological age), while was recast as Professor Anders due to scheduling conflicts with her previous voice actress Kim Mai Guest.
After the announcement of Halo Wars 2, Creative Assembly went on to publicly advertise positions working on the game.
For the Ark's Forerunner architecture, Creative Assembly's art team initially explored a direction reminiscent of that in Bungie's Halo games, but they ultimately adopted a more streamlined style based closely on the Forerunner aesthetic in Halo 5: Guardians.
In the pre-rendered Blur cutscenes the Marines wear Human-Covenant War era battle dress uniforms similar to the ones seen in Halo Wars. But in gameplay as well as artwork, the Marines wear the post-war BDU design introduced in Halo 4. The Spartans' armor varies similarly between gameplay and cinematics; while the Blur cutscenes use Halo Wars's original Mark IV design, Red Team's models in-game and in artwork appear to be more closely modeled after the Mark VI Mjolnir.
Marketing and merchandise
Halo Wars 2 Announce Trailer
On August 4, 2015, at Gamescom 2015, Halo Wars 2 was first announced by Bonnie Ross. The Halo Wars 2: Announce Trailer is a pre-rendered trailer showcasing Halo Wars 2. The trailer was created and produced by Blur Studio, in collaboration with 343 Industries and Creative Assembly. It was directed by Blur Studio's Dave Wilson.
Around August to November 4, 2015, for the numerous parties involved in Halo Wars 2, Jeremy Cook, Art Director at 343 Industries, made 3, 9 inch, statues of Atriox, who was featured in the announcement trailer. The statues were made using the very detailed highpoly meshes Blur studio made, and the statues are fully colored, the skin and hair is blue and grey, and armor is metallic.
The first statue was finished sometime before August 21. The second bust was finished during a power cut on September 1, and was given to Creative Assembly, The third and final statue was colored using a Valejo airbrush primer, with its color blended in so it can be detailed and highlighted, to finally be finished on November 4, and was given to Blur Studios.
Halo Wars 2 toys
On February 12, 2016, numerous toys were announced with the start of a partnership with Mattel. Two of which were the MegaBloks Jackrabbit, and the Boomco Type-25 Spiker set to be featured in Halo Wars 2.
Halo War 2 Open Beta
During E3 2016 it was announced that between June 13 and June 20, 2016 an open beta for Halo Wars 2 would be available. The beta was later extended an additional three days. Another Beta for both Xbox One and Windows 10 will be available closer to the game's full launch.
Know Your Enemy
A ViDoc was shown on July 22, 2016, after 343 Industries' panel at SDCC 2016, and it focused on the story and characters of the game.
The ViDoc was shown on October 19, 2016, and its focused on Halo Wars 2's multiplayer, including the first look to the new gamemode Blitz.
A cinematic trailer for Halo Wars 2 was revealed on December 2, 2016 at Game Awards 2016, and it focused on the story of Atriox and the Banished.
Starting on January 17, 2017, 343 Industries ran a twitter minigame to promote the new Blitz Mode of Halo Wars 2. Played over twitter's Direct Messaging system, players could face off against the computer or challenge their friends with the hashtag #twitterhalowars. Players were rewarded for their victory with an exclusive skin code. The game concluded on February 16, 2017.
Limited edition poster series
The release of a series of limited edition posters depicting central characters from Halo Wars 2 was announced on February 2, 2017. These posters, three sets of paired prints featuring Let 'Volir and Professor Anders, Isabel and Decimus, and Atriox and Capt. Cutter, were produced by 343 Industries with artists Grzegorz “Gabz” Domaradzki, Craig Drake, and Kevin Tong (respectively for each set). The release dates and availability of these posters will later be revealed on twitter. Murals based on these posters were also later installed by 343 Industries through local artists in six U.S. cities: Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and San Francisco.
The official launch trailer for Halo Wars 2 was released on February 6, 2017.
War of Wits
Released on February 9, 2017, War of Wits is a pair of live-action trailers that humorously portray the dynamic between Atriox and Captain Cutter in mundane real-life situations.
Kinsano Vidoc – Trial by Fire
Colony Vidoc – Hunt or be Hunted
The Flood Vidoc - Awakening The Nightmare
Rise of Atriox comic series
Halo Wars 2 launched with two separate game editions available for purchase; the standard issue, which offered the base game, and Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition - a special edition of the game that offered access to several pieces of digital content. The Ultimate Edition offered early access to Halo Wars 2 on February 17, alongside access to the game's Season Pass (including the Operation: SPEARBREAKER expansion) and access to the Halo Wars: Definitive Edition, which had previously been in early access restricted to those who had digitally preordered Halo Wars 2. Following the launch of Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare in September 2017, the Halo Wars 2: Complete Edition was released, offering access to the base game, Season Pass and aforementioned Awakening the Nightmare expansion - the latter of which was not included in a Season Pass purchase. The Complete Edition was only offered via digital download, while the standard and ultimate editions could be purchased as physical items.
Concept art and illustrations
Announcement trailer images
Marketing and merchandise images