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343 Industries details ‘Halo Wars 2’ multiplayer mode to kick off open beta

Why it matters to you

Halo fans can preview Microsoft's first big video game exclusive of 2017 until January 30.

Friday marks the start of the Halo Wars 2 open beta, which gives players the chance to try out its card-based Blitz mode. Blitz is a far cry from standard real-time-strategy gameplay, so 343 Industries has released an in-depth guide to help commanders get to grips with its unique take on the genre.

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.

Blitz differs from the standard RTS gameplay of unit production and skill trees by allowing players to select a deck of 12 cards that correspond to various units and special abilities. Before a game, players choose a leader — each of which has unique cards that cater to their play style — and assemble a deck.

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To play a card, you need energy, which generates automatically at a slow pace. You can also gain bonus energy by claiming cells that drop to the battlefield, which upgrades the rate at which your energy replenishes. When units die, part of their initial energy cost will be refunded.

The Blitz Beta will outfit players with a selection of cards to get started, and more can be earned by completing the tutorial, increasing your rank, and winning matches. However, any additions to your card library won’t carry over to the full release — instead, participants will earn two free packs that can be opened on launch day; one for logging in, and one for completing a match.

It seems that in Blitz mode, knowing the strengths of your leader character and assembling a potent deck will be just as important as knowledge of the map and the ability to implement a strategy on the fly. Detailed information on each leader and their starting decks can be found as part of the Blitz 101 tutorial on Halo Waypoint.

Blitz mode certainly puts a different spin on RTS gameplay, and it’ll be interesting to see whether it strikes a chord with players when Halo Wars 2 releases on February 21. Until then, Xbox One and PC owners can download the beta for a sneak preview of what’s in store, as the game’s open beta runs from January 20 to January 30.