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Halo Wars 2 tips, tricks, and strategies

It may have taken a couple years short of a decade, but Microsoft did eventually release Halo Wars 2Although the sequel improves on the original in a number of ways, it’s more of a showcase of the new blood handling the Halo franchise. Developed by 343i and Creative Assembly, Halo Wars 2 certainly has some talent behind it. No matter how fun the game is, though, it’s still tough. Like most real-time strategy games, Halo Wars 2 isn’t beginner-friendly. That’s why we rounded up all the tips, tricks, and strategies you need to know before entering the battlefield.

From properly controlling the game to getting involved with the community, we have everything you need to get started in Halo Wars 2. By the end, you’ll have enough of an understanding to jump into Skirmish matches with high-difficulty artificial intelligence (A.I.). To compete with real opponents, however, you’ll need practice.

The pause button is F10

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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.

Wait on PvP

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If Halo Wars 2 is your first competitive RTS, you’re in for a wild ride. Like Starcraft and just about every other frantic RTS, PvP is where you should turn only when you’ve mastered the single-player content. That includes the campaign if you’re interested in the story, but you can always cut your teeth in Skirmish mode with A.I. opponents, too. Doing so will allow you to not only get a feel for playing the game, but also the ability to try out 2v2 and 3v3 game modes without letting down your teammates.

Unfortunately, you can’t shortcut your way into PvP. It’s not enough to simply be strategic in Halo Wars 2; you need to be fast, as well. Although it’s tempting to jump straight online and start playing, take your time with A.I. opponents on Skirmish until you can comfortably put up a fight on Legendary difficulty. Of course, the range of skill in random matchmaking is large. However, it’s still a good idea to hone your skills, even if you don’t need to use them all for every battle.

Build lots of supply pads and generators 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Battlefield Blitz

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As long as you follow our tips above, you’ll have a decent start with single-player and deathmatch. Blitz is different. Although it still features real-time battles, you don’t have to worry so much about managing resources and continuing production. In Blitz, you build a deck before entering battle. Each card in your deck represents a group of units, a sole character, or an ability. Each unit has the same strengths and weaknesses as the full game, as well as certain keywords. Prowling Grunts, for example, have the “Cloak” attribute, which means they remain hidden unless detected by a unit with the “Detect” attribute. You’ll play cards from your hand to spawn units, capturing three points in a Domination-like fashion.

Participants can bring about one dozen cards into a fight. Before every battle round, that player has to choose four cards. As you play a hand, the cards replenish automatically, but each card does cost you vital energy. Play strategically by selecting a variety of low and high-energy cards. Rarer or high-cost cards will always suck out a significant amount of energy, for example. Create a balance by using expendable cards, powerful late-game units, and support cards in battle. And opt for well-rounded cards, like the Hunter Captain. It may cost 260 energy, but it can defeat nearly anything in a fight. 

As the game continues, you can always try your luck and refresh your deck of cards. It costs a bit of energy, but you can reroll your deck to swap out weaker cards. If you’re at the end of the game, we recommend rolling for haymaker cards.

Learning what’s what

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Halo Wars 2 is relatively complex; Similar to other multiplayer games, it changes and grows as you play it. Participants’ actions and decisions can sway the value of races, units, and gameplay. We recommend connecting with gamers who match your strategy with metagame shifts and playing style. It also wouldn’t hurt to check out the Halo Waypoint forums for Halo Wars 2. In those forums, you’ll find tons of advice for the game and a discussion board to talk strategy.

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Gabe Carey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
A freelancer for Digital Trends, Gabe Carey has been covering the intersection of video games and technology since he was 16…
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