An Expert (ish) Guide to Halo Wars 231 Aug 2018 1
Alright marine, listen up. Last time we gave you a brief introduction to Halo Wars 2 and why it still has potential as an RTS worth playing, but now it’s time for the big leagues. As you step out into the battlefield there are a few key things you have to know: Fortune favours the bold; the best defence is a good offence; there is a need, for speed. Hang on, I need to reload my platitude gun...
There are many different tactics and each commander lends a better with different playstyles, so the tips given here are for a more general approach. As you familiarise yourself with specific commanders you’ll learn what their best build orders and unit compositions are, but until then here’s what you need to know about the two primary multiplayer modes in the game: deathmatch and blitz.
The Starting Gun
At the start of each game you’re given a 5 slot base and some basic infantry squads (2 marines or 3 grunts). As soon as the match starts queue a supply pad and a generator. These will take some time to build. While you’re waiting, grab your infantry and find the nearest caches of resources and power, send your infantry to collect separate caches. Taking the closest ones will give you a quick boost or you can run some infantry into the centre of the map and collect those caches before the enemy does. Infantry will collect these caches over time so leave them to it.
Resources and Power are your currencies so you need to make sure you’re producing enough. Upgrade your generator and build another. Que another 2 infantry squads. While they’re training, send your starting infantry squads to the nearest forerunner generator. Ignore the sentinels for now and just focus on capturing, you will lose these squads but you’ll get a massive boost to Power production which you can use to upgrade your supply pads, infantry, and firebase.
Now that you have a decent income of Power, you can start upgrading your Resource buildings and build more infantry. Aim to have 2 heavy supply pads, 2 advanced generators, and a barracks as quickly as you can. At this point you should start looking to expand. Send some marine squads to pick up further afield caches and grab the next closest minibase. By expanding to the cheap minibases, you will be able to build more supply pads/generators which will allow you to build and upgrade your army quickly.
Some players will aim to rush by the 5 - 6 minute mark so get some turrets down, build a couple of scout units and see what they’re up to. Countering these can be difficult, especially against high level players who have plenty of practice but it is possible.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Everything in Halo Wars 2 falls into the category of Infantry, Vehicle, Aircraft, or Building. These are fairly self explanatory but just in case; infantry are soldiers that move around on foot, vehicles range from scout bikes to tanks, aircraft is anything that flies, and buildings are well, buildings and turrets.
In the building menu for each unit you’re given a quick heads up of what they’re strong against. Keep this in mind and once you have an idea of what your enemy is focusing on, start preparing your counter. Lots of infantry around? Swarm them with flamers while snipers pick them off from the rear. Lots of aircraft? The wolverine is specifically built to counter aerial threats.
Like all strategy games, expect the worst. Don’t prepare your forces purely to counter an aspect of theirs that you’ve seen. The hornet swarm might be the brunt of their forces but a wave of scorpions might be right on their tail. Have some diversity and remember to keep upgrading your units through their respective buildings.
Leader Powers and Veterancy
Throughout the match you will earn Leader Points for capturing bases, destroying enemy units, upgrading your own buildings, and collecting caches. These are used to buy powerful Leader Powers which will change how you’ll approach the rest of the match. Some leaders have great passives which allow them to build units faster once the power has been bought. Others have devastating attacks that can change the tide of battle.
Much like Chess it’s important to think several moves ahead and to know what powers you’ll invest in as the match progresses. On the topic of the long game, it may not be apparent at first but units also earn experience while in combat and can achieve Veterancy. A veteran unit has increased damage and hit points so keep those marines out of the grinder and pull back when you can. Healing units and skirmishing with the enemy can help you to get that Veterancy and to keep their numbers down. Though be warned that any of their units that survive will get the same bonus.
Tips and Tricks
The limiting factors in Halo Wars 2 that keep you from growing too powerful too quickly are Population and Level.
Population limits how many units you can have on the field, with more powerful units costing more population. It’s easy to overlook this at first but in the Armory you can upgrade your population cap. Each level of this upgrade is more expensive but well worth it if you get the chance.
Level, much like the Ages in Age of Empires, limits what buildings and units you can build until you upgrade your firebase. The Garage and Airfield are unlocked at level 2 with heavy tanks, aircraft, and ultimate units being unlocked at level 3.
Having some artillery/siege turrets set up at your base with garrisoned marines guarding the approach will let you get some heavy hits in while the enemy is approaching. Like the old ASDA adverts used to say, every little helps. And if you can defeat an enemy’s army and still have a sizeable force left, that pushback can be critical.
Losing all of your bases isn’t an immediate loss. If you have units and enough points to buy a new firebase, the game will give you a chance to try claw back. In 99.99% of cases, this is pointless but hey, at least you can try. In a game I played the enemy struggled to break my defences for an hour, finally did, then left before my timer ran out. So maybe there is hope.
Consider practising against AI while you learn the different commanders as the matchmaking issues I mentioned last week can and will throw you in the deep end.
On Your Marks!
Blitz focuses on area control and each player has their own custom deck. Before you start, look at the cards in your deck and decide what playstyle you prefer. Do you like to defend? Take some heavy hitters or artillery. If you like to move around, get some ghosts or warthogs and choose a starting composition that fits your playstyle. Each leader gets a small selection of units that they can start with that fit a fast or heavy playstyle.
During a Blitz match you will fight over 3 control points but you’ll also have to keep an eye out for the energy canisters that drop into the map. Getting that energy keeps it out of your enemy’s coffers but they will be hotly contested so consider keeping a couple of fast units back to catch em out. If they’ve sent a decent force for the energy, try hit them with a power card if you’ve got it and move your main force in behind them to take the hopefully undefended point.
In a Blitz match you don’t need to control every point, just the majority. And if you have managed to gain a sizeable lead, you may be able to ride it out on a single zone at which point it’s better to start defending.
Tips and Tricks
Always remember that units spawned outside the starting portals have a form of summoning sickness and slowly heal up to full from half health. If you’re desperate for a little more firepower, spawn them at the back and give them a few seconds. Heck, even if you aren’t desperate it’s usually better to spawn them with your main force as they heal up quicker than the commute.
Much like a Magic The Gathering deck, make sure to have a good spread of low cost cards, powers, and costly units. And never underestimate the value of a healing unit in a skirmish. Those extra hitpoints can be all the difference.
Instead of receiving doubles, every duplicate you get from a Blitz pack increases the level of your unit. This gives them a little more health and damage so consider building your strategy around your higher level units.
Keeping a unit in a zone gives you a sacrificial goat that you can use to spawn more units around while you move some reinforcements in. Keep your energy up, there is nothing worse than sitting on an 120 point Scorpion and being unable to summon it.
And lastly, enjoy the game. You might get curb stomped in the first few minutes of a deathmatch or finally break their defences after an hour but there’s no point if you aren’t enjoying it. Try new things, experiment, and find tactics that work well for you and your playstyle.