This month has been a big one for high profile demo releases, one of which is Halo Wars. Of course, the Halo franchise means different things to different people – but the direction Halo Wars has gone is most interesting to me. Taking a best selling first person shooter, and changing the scale, and style of game so it's barely recognizable...well, there were bound to be some thoughts on it. Thankfully they didn't drop Halo's staple of having co-op.
Nick had his own first impressions to share of the demo, and I simply sought to elaborate on that just a little bit by asking some of the staff what their personal impressions of the brief demo were. Unfortunately there's no co-op play to be had, but you'll still get a good idea of just where this title is heading.
This is what they have to say about it:
The game seems top notch with the caveat that although the controls are well done, it would be so much easier if there was mouse and keyboard support on the 360. I grew up playing RTS games using hot keys and a mouse. Using the 360 controller, even when bringing the speed down quite a bit, I still found myself overshooting targets in order to unleash a smack down on the Covenant as well as having to backtrack many times after overshooting a spot in order to setup the correct way point I wanted. Now, after many hours this may become secondhand, but I felt in the couple hours I played I felt no more confident in the precision of the controls and wished for mouse and keyboard support. This game exudes a lot of class and seems relatively streamlined for an RTS, which a console RTS needs to be. The cuts cenes seen in the demo were high quality and the game certainly feels like it is in the Halo universe even though it is told 20 years before the Halo incident. This game just screams out that a PC port will be coming because with mouse and keyboard support it would probably be the at the same level quality as previous Ensemble games (RIP).
I just got through the demo, and I quite enjoyed it. I felt the micromanagement was a little *too* dumbed down, but controlling all of the assets at my disposal was very straightforward and I didn't feel like I was fighting the system at all. The contextual nature of the controls was very helpful as well - it seemed that my units would use their special abilities only when it makes sense, so I didn't have Warthogs trying to knock over a Covenant base.
This went from being off my radar completely to something I'm pretty interested in.
I was impressed with the ease of Halo Wars as compared to a series like Age of Empires. At first, I'm sure that the lack of in-depth resource farming and micromanagement will be a turnoff for die-hard RTS fans...but when they realize that Halo Wars saves you 30 minutes and puts you right into the action, I'm confident that the initial protest will wear off. I'm interested to see how the simplified gameplay translates into lengthy campaign levels and multiplayer matches, because "ease" often also means "thin", and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, there's only so much fun you can glean from watching your units play for you unless the game can hold your attention otherwise...which is how RTS games usually benefit from micromanagement gameplay.
My main gripe is the same complaint that Loren had: the cursor moves too fast for my taste, even when dialed down. There is a "stickiness" that helps, but it didn't seem to work all of the time.
After Nick's HAWX preview, I'm pretty sure that Halo Wars will not be a launch-day pickup for me. However, I'm marking it down as a potentially solid April title, so long as the co-op doesn't disappoint!
I've enjoyed the Halo games for how (potentially) rich the universe is. They have an established force, detailed wars, and a solid enemy, I just had a hard time grasping the first person shooter aspect of the games. I read some of the books, and when I found out about Halo Wars, the Strategy-game-fan in me did a little dance. What I saw in the demo was completely amazing; the way everything came together was outstanding.
One thing I was wary about, as with most people, was the controls. Strategy thrives on PC, so to see Ensable Studios take on the Xbox controller was a bit scary. However, to my pleasant surprise, this works really well. The gameplay was a lot of fun, building units, and even the micromanaging was alright by me. The one, and (so far) only complaint I had, was the missing flood – I loathed the flood in the Halo 1-3 games, but I pictured Zerg in my head and wanted to see the Flood take on that role. I think, by having only two enemies head to head, they've limited a lot of their potential – but who knows, they may still be there, somewhere.