New to RTS games? Get ahead in ‘Halo Wars 2’ with these 6 tips

halo wars 2 beginners guide header
Microsoft Studios
At long last, Halo Wars 2 is finally here and if you were itching to get another taste of Microsoft’s iconic shooter franchise in the form of a real-time strategy (RTS) game, it delivers on that front. It’s far from perfect, but if you’re a Halo fan, this is one for the books.

Between the beautifully-rendered cutscenes from Blur Studio to the fast-paced action and atmospheric music score, Halo Wars 2 is a must-play for anyone craving an extension of the Halo universe and the many stories that inhabit it.

That said, the shift in genres is an obstacle to overcome for many newcomers to the Halo Wars sub-series. Anyone who missed out on the original Halo Wars seven years ago will be elated to know that this sequel is largely self-contained, taking place 28 years after its predecessor.

Like many Halo fans, you may find yourself jumping into Halo Wars 2 without a history of RTS experience from which to draw. As such, we’ve carefully constructed a beginner’s guide of sorts to help you get started with Halo Wars 2.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to confidently complete the Halo Wars 2 campaign and move on to the hard part: competitive multiplayer.

The Pause button is F10 for keyboard and mouse players

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  28

The biggest oversight that just about everyone and their mother is talking about right now is the lack of clarity when it comes to which key pauses the game. For Xbox One players, the answer is obvious. The Menu button (previously Start) opens the menu, naturally. Typically, in PC games, the menu is opened with the Esc key. Not in Halo Wars 2.

Of course, key bindings can be re-mapped once you do access the menu, making this not as dramatic a flaw as some are making it out to be. Then again, there is no indication in the Halo Wars 2 that F10 is the pause button. So unless you read it here or elsewhere, you were probably as baffled as we were.

Build lots of supply pads and generators 

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  16

If you’re the type of player to find yourself strapped for resources, build as many upgraded supply pads as you can without compromising on the breadth of unit types you’re able to produce. So long as you’re not afraid to divert from the primary mission at-hand and break for a little exploring, you’ll find that some locations are riddled with areas to lay down your next set of bases.

Once you have enough upgraded generators, too, you’ll be able to get your energy level to 1,500 more quickly, allowing you to upgrade your base to a level 3 headquarters in no time. With that, you’ll be able to assemble a more powerful army of units, complete with the vehicles needed – such as Scorpions – to more efficiently take down enemy bases.

Keep your units (and buildings) diverse

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  14

There’s no point in having units on the field if you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of each. While Scorpions are (quite literally) tanks, marines are best kept in garrisons, which themselves act as a shield against impending enemies. Cyborgs, meanwhile are best for eliminating vehicle opponents while Wolverines are most effective against air units.

Building-wise, you’ll want a strong lineup of turrets at all times. Depending on the types of enemy waves, you’re seeing, modify turrets as you see fit. You can make turrets anti-infantry, -air, or -vehicle, but not all three at once. If there are any enemy bases or units nearby that a turret could reach, build a Siege turret closest to that direction.

Take advantage of shortcuts to remain productive

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  25

Keep in mind that in Halo Wars 2, there’s no time to sit around and wait for your next round of infantry to come scurrying out of your base. There’s always something to attend to outside of your home terminal. That being the case, it’s integral to all missions that you use shortcuts to quickly move the camera around the map. Cycling between armies and bases is merely an example of this. There are also controls for setting a global rally point and returning to the previous alert.

With a controller, it’s fairly easy to remember that all shortcuts are mapped to the d-pad. To switch between base locations, you’ll want to press the left d-pad button; to cycle between armies, you’ll want to press down. As for keyboard and mouse controls, by default cycling to base locations is Z while cycling between armies is X. Likewise, hold up on a controller (Y on kb&m) to set a global rally point and press right to go to the last alert (Space on kb&m in campaign and multiplayer; period key in Blitz mode).

Don’t underestimate the importance of Nightingales

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  24

Halo Wars 2 can be a real grind without the proper mechanisms required for healing in place. Sure, there’s a leader power for recovery drones, but Nightingales are a much faster way to ensure that your squad doesn’t go under at the mere sight of a Scarab.

Effectively Hornets designed for healing, it’s essential to have a healthy number of Nightingales by your side, especially if you’re escorting a Scarab yourself. While Nightingales won’t keep an unbalanced team of units alive, they will aid in averting more immediate death, particularly for vehicles like Wolverines that aren’t well furnished with fancy armor to tighten their defenses.

Stay on top of leader powers at all times

halo wars 2 beginners guide screenshot  18

As a newbie to Halo Wars, it’s tempting to dismiss leader powers as they use up much of your time and resources to disperse. However, there’s no feeling quite as sweet as unloading a barrage of missiles on an enemy force, leaving them with (hopefully) fewer units than they started with. Not only that, but if you’re deprived of Nightingales or could do with some extra support, recovery drones and ODST troops are cataloged as leader powers as well.

To utilize leader powers, simply press F if you’re on a keyboard (LT if you’re on a controller). That will trigger an ability wheel that allows you to drop everything from Lotus mines to additional turrets on the enemy. In instances where enemy units are engulfing points and your squad count is low, the Archer missiles will serve you well in moments of desperation. It doesn’t take much time out to check if leader powers have been restored either, so check often.

Gaming

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.
Deals

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Gaming

How to delete and reinstall games on your Xbox One

Removing and reinstalling games on the Xbox One's hard drive isn't difficult, but it's a process that not everyone is familiar with. Thankfully, our guide will run you through each step so you'll know precisely what to do.
Gaming

Get caught up on all things 'Fallout 76,' including recent controversies

Bethesda's Fallout 76 takes the open world series in a new direction. With an emphasis on co-op, survival, and rebuilding a broken world, Fallout 76 is a far different game than its predecessors.
Gaming

How to make a clan in ‘Destiny 2’ and where to go from there

Want to know how to make a clan in 'Destiny 2'? Here's everything you need to know, including how to design your clan's banner, earn extra loot, and help other players with guided games.
Gaming

Ditch the meditation app. 'Katamari Damacy Reroll' is pure gaming zen

Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the magic of the PS2 classic to Nintendo Switch and PC. With updated visuals and the same great, singular loop, Reroll stands the test of time. Katamari Damacy is the ultimate relaxation game.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Deals

The NES Classic is back in stock just in time for the holidays

The NES Classic is back in stock at multiple outlets at its original launch price of $60 in time for Christmas. Retailers offering it online are Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy -- if you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for…
Gaming

Some ‘Fortnite’ players aren’t too happy with the new Infinity Blade weapon

The most recent update for Fortnite added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to battle royale, and some players aren't happy with how much it has changed the game during competitions.
Gaming

Soulja Boy’s ‘new’ console appears to include stolen Nintendo games

Rapper Soulja Boy recently released his SouljaGame console, and it includes several emulated games that appear to be stolen from companies like Nintendo, SNK, and Capcom. A handheld version is also available.