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
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
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
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
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 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
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.