Having spent about an hour playing through the Halo Wars 2 Open Beta, I feel a little disappointed for two reasons:

  1. I can actually write a first impressions having only played it for an hour. The beta only has one mode of play, 2v2 Domination, and one map.
  2. So far, it’s not much of an improvement over the original Halo Wars.

Now, I understand it’s a beta, and as such the content offering will be limited. I was just hoping to at least be able to play against the AI in some skirmishes (my personal favorite way to play RTS).

As for the gameplay itself, it plays pretty much identically to the first Halo Wars. Now, that’s not a bad thing necessarily, but with the long wait for Halo Wars 2, I was hoping for some more substantial upgrades. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic of infantry-vehicles-aircraft is still in place, and the two factions have their own heroes with unique abilities and units. The control scheme is generally the same as ‘Halo Wars,’ as well, although I can’t seem to find a way to speed up the screen traversal.

One feature I’m very glad to see added, however, is the ability to section off groups of units into fireteams, although honestly I haven’t found a use for it in this game mode. With the tug-of-war type of gameplay Domination boils down to, everyone usually ends up spending their entire army at once. Still, it’s a feature I don’t recall being in the original Halo Wars, and one that I’m sure I’ll find myself taking advantage of.

As for performance, the game runs smoothly enough- once the match is loaded. I tried matchmaking with a kid I met in my first match, but unfortunately, it didn’t work. I also had to restart the game twice thanks to a loading screen I couldn’t get past. Again, this is a beta, and technical hiccups aside the actual gameplay itself is solid.

Halo Wars 2 is certainly fun if you’re a fan of the RTS genre, but as of right now, I don’t see it competing with a mouse and keyboard RTS. However, with the RTS genre virtually non-existent on Xbox One, I’ll take whatever I can get.