Here is the much-promised review of Halo Wars I have been going on about. My friend who is a complete Halo fanboy had it pre-ordered for a while now and he let me try a skirmish and showed me some of the story missions. It’s a rather different RTS (Real-Time Strategy) than what most people are used to, with the emphasis on units exploring and moving out rather than having evolving, sprawling metropolises.
Your base consists of one central unit, responsible for special powers and base upgrades and serving as a spawn point for units. Around this are a limited number of building spaces which can be turned into many different buildings like infantry barracks, vehicle factories and resource generators.
But the limited number of buildings you can have introuduces a new pressure to become efficient in what you actually make. Around these still are a number of turret spaces which can be upgraded and modified for different targets. You are also given a hero to start with who can be improved through extra armour and the like and who will most likely lead your troops into battle.
The campaign is amazing with the events leading up to the first Halo game (Combat Evolved) recognizable in some parts. The protaganist of the shooters, Spartan John-117, sometimes appears as an rare easter egg as one of the ground troops you build. A timeline is unlocked as you progress with people and places recognisable from the Halo franchise. It covers the events from humanity’s first contact with an alien race through Halo Wars to the beginning of Combat Evolved.
Some of the cutscenes are absolutely amazing with more and more improvement on even the Halo 3 graphics. A particular favorite of mine is where 3 spartans take on 2 dozen Elites and the game’s protagonist, Sergeant Forge, kills the Arbiter in hand-to-hand combat in a spectaular fight.
Skulls are present, of course, where you must find a small skull hidden somewhere in the level. These, once activated from the main menu, make the game harder in some respect or provide some sort of asthetic effect. Black boxes can also be found in a similar manner but these provide information in the timeline instead.