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I recently, like many others, got the chance to spend some time with Halo Wars 2: Blitz Mode. The developers released a limited demo and I was pleased to hop on and get some firsthand experience with a game I have been eagerly anticipating for quite a while now. The original Halo Wars was one of my favorite games for the Xbox 360. I can recall countless LAN parties at friend’s houses, playing against AI opponents on legendary, or if we got lucky, a full 3v3 match up with real people in one crowded room. I was ecstatic when the definitive edition dropped and I got to play that classic title with a nice new coat of paint. Now with Halo Wars 2 just on the horizon, I was chomping at the bit to jump into the commander’s seat and take the battle online with a deckbuilding mode in one of my favorite franchises.

ALL ABOUT THE CARDS

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This isn’t what I expected from a Halo Wars game and I was surprised in the best way. As a sucker for games like Gwent in The Witcher 3, or Caravan from Fallout: New Vegas, I was intrigued by how a deckbuilding card game would work for the Halo Wars franchise. Much like the mobile app Clash Royale, you build a deck of cards with various unit types on them that you play to deploy that unit.

If you deploy them outside of your base there is an eight second penalty that halves their health and damage output, but if deployed in the base they are good to go immediately. The cards display what types of units they are strong or weak against, which can offset that penalty if you need a certain type of unit in a pinch. This means the game all boils down to how you build your deck and the luck of the draw.

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FEED ME ENERGY

Each side, whether in a 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3, must vie for control over control points on the map as you deploy units to fight against the enemy. When you deploy a unit it uses energy, which is slowly accumulated. As time goes on there will be energy “drops” that speed up the accumulation of energy. This keeps the pacing of the game moving up and up until the end when both sides are throwing huge forces at each other trying to control the points and claim victory.

BALANCE

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No base building here, Blitz's sole focus is the fight.

After trying a few different types of deck builds I started to appreciate how balanced the game was. I tried a rush deck, where most of my cards were very low cost, hoping that if I got more units on the table early, I could steam roll through the opposing force and claim a quick victory. This didn’t work on my several tries for a couple reasons:

One, because in the beginning, you don’t accrue energy quickly, this means those first few picks are vital, even if you can make a couple more than the opposition, it usually isn’t enough to tip the scales, and Two, the cheaper units often don’t leave you playing a balanced game. Like most strategy games there are elements of Rock, Paper, Scissors in play here that need to be respected. You can rush with 10 ground troops and a couple vehicles, but if I bring a couple anti-vehicle units and go air superiority on you, it’s going to be lights out. Your best bet is to cover all your bases and make sure you have the whole triangle in play when you’re attacking or defending. I really respect this aspect of the game, especially having it down BEFORE the game releases. There may be more tweaks needed before the game officially releases, but as it stands it’s at a great start.

 

FOR THE FUTURE.

FOR THE FIGHT.

 

In the end, this demo left me feeling even more excited for the full release of Halo Wars 2. After seeing what is in store for the limited console strategy market, I can’t wait to put some serious time into this title with my friends (and enemies) and refine my deckbuilding skills in this fast paced, cunning, and refreshing take on Halo Wars. The fact that this mode is coming in addition to a full campaign and standard multiplayer modes means this game will more than likely be worth the price tag.

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