I have a confession: I never beat a Real Time Strategy game. Actually, I recently beat Civ5, but that doesn't count. That's a 4X game. I'm talking about RTS games like Dune II or Command & Conquer. Y'know? You build up armies and shoot stuff? Those kinds of RTS games. So I never beat one of those. And the confession gets worse: I never really spent any serious time even attempting to play one of those. Totally serious. I have fired up a couple of C&C games over the years, but I doubt I gave them more than thirty minutes each. But there's a reason I tell you all this... it will possibly explain why I've recently had so much fun with Halo Wars 2.
Y'know that thing where your first experience with anything is going to leave a bigger impression on you than the ones that follow? Meaning... your first horror movie probably scared you worse than the ones you saw later, even if that first one wasn't really that scary? Well that's the thing I'm talking about here. Probably I wouldn't think so highly of Halo Wars 2 if I was really familiar with the genre. But I'm not, so I don't have much to compare it to. Which is fine. Who cares? I had a good time. I'm happy.
I don't even remember how I heard about Halo Wars 2. I know I wasn't aware of it leading up to its release. One day it was just sort of there. A game that existed. I didn't even know about the first game, nevermind the sequel. But something made me want to play it. There was a demo - a single level - which I played and decided that yes, for some unknown reason, I had to get this game.
Nothing about Halo Wars 2 is great. Everything is good. Sometimes it's very good. But nothing is great. The cut scenes... are odd. Sometimes they look expensive, other times it's as if they were meant to be in a different game with a sort of cartoon-ish vibe. I don't know. The voice acting... exists. I find it funny that various in-game voice clips when directing troops are word-for-word things that are said by your little soldiers in XCOM.
The story was I don't know and I don't care. Y'know, Halo stuff. Space marines and outer space and whatever. I just cared about the missions, of which there were a mere dozen. With missions averaging 30-60 minutes each, I know this will be a major complaint. But not from me. I found the length of the main campaign to be just fine. And in fairness - being a neophyte and all - there were some missions that I had to replay before I got the hang of the strategy. My Xbox profile tells me that I put in sixteen hours on this game - which is a bit of an exaggeration since I know that a couple times I left the game running on a menu screen while I went and ate dinner or whatever. But still, this game lasted me about a week and a half of casual playing. And in fairness those twelve missions mix things up. Some are scouting missions, others are defensive, others are attacks, some are timed... All in all, it felt rather just right.
To be clear, I am not some newly minted RTS convert. I still find it a generally intimidating genre. And yet, I've now found a game that has at least acted as a gateway into these games. I'm not totally afraid to try anymore. Not that I'll run right out and play every RTS I can get my hands on. But I'll certainly be considering some others now. You can call Halo Wars 2 "Baby's First RTS," and that's fine. I had a great time with it.