The original Halo Wars released on Xbox 360 in 2009 and while it never was a deep RTS game it brought the Halo universe into the Real Time Strategy genre for the first time. Many hardcore Halo fans would claim this was the original intention with the game before Microsoft bought the rights to the franchise and turned it into its flagship First person shooter on the original Xbox.
So what are we doing in 2017 talking about a game that came out 8 years ago you might ask? Well the combined effort of three separate developers PC gamers can finally experience what was a brand new experience 8 years after the fact. It begs the question, why did Microsoft decide to release this almost 10 year old game in 2017? Does this PC version of the game provide some experience or content that can’t be found on the console version of the game? These are some questions this review will hopefully answer along with providing my opinion of the Steam version of the game and brief view of the game.
So let’s begin with the elephant in the room or the question many people who will come across this game will be asking. How does it play on PC ? The quick and simple answer to this question is without a doubt it plays superb for what it is. The menus are mouse driven letting you navigate all of the in game menus with ease. This was bit of a concern initially due to some ports leaving that important and critical “feature” out. So now that we can navigate the menus what about key rebinding. I’m happy to say that most of the main commands can be rebound to whatever key you wish.
There are a few key bindings that appear locked in, mostly the camera movement controls. While I personally did not find anything wrong with this, it’s always a concern when any controls are locked and cannot be rebound.
Next are the video and sound options. I feel in this case pictures speak louder than words so if you’re concerned about what options are available please check out the pictures below.
I never felt like I was missing anything in the options menu but they at the same time did not feel very robust. This may be more a limitation of the game engine and reflective of the age of the game.
Game performance was another surprise to me because I was anticipating some issues due to the age of the game and the fact that it was a port. Much to my surprise I am happy to report that the game ran smoothly for me and I had no frame rate issues even with everything turned up as high as it would go in giant multiplayer 3v3 battles where the entire screen was covered in units. Below are my system specs so you can see how your system matches up and if you will experience any issues.
– EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Classifed
Overall I’m very pleased with how the port plays as a whole. It runs smoothly for me and has enough options to set it up to how I like it and that’s it. The bare minimum to not bother me as far as limiting options but also enough so I don’t feel annoyed when I go looking for a specific option to change.
The gameplay is something that I just wanted to touch on more than anything. I did play the original game on Xbox in 2009 when the game came out and I can safely say that nothing has fundamentally changed, for better or worse. This game still plays like it did back then and some people will find that exciting and be relieved that nothing has changed and that the port is faithful to the original. Others may have wished for a few quality of life updates. Some tightening up of the mouse controls would have done wonders.
One of my only real complaints about the gameplay relates to the special call-in abilities and when trying to aim them with the mouse, the mouse becomes slow and unresponsive, almost as if there is some sort of mouse acceleration being applied even though it is turned off in the options. It’s a bit annoying but something I’ll just have to get used to. Not a huge complaint but something I felt I should at least mention.
To do a direct comparison to Halo Wars 2 that was recently released on the PC is not the fairest of comparisons but one I have to make in the gameplay department based on the smoothness and responsiveness of the controls. Halo Wars 2 felt a lot tighter with their controls and even then I was wishing for more control. In Halo Wars Definitive Edition they did not go through and tighten up any controls for mouse and keyboard. I struggled to get my camera view where I wanted and ended up relying on the hotkeys for moving the camera around the map. Dialing in the mouse sensitivity is the closest you’re going to get to make the mouse panning and movement feel the way you would expect them to feel in a proper PC RTS such as StarCraft 2 or Company of Heroes 2.
I don’t really want to spoil anything involving the campaign and I’m sure many of you have already played it and know what it’s all about. You can play the campaign in co-op online and while I’m not sure if this was a feature in the original Xbox version it is available here and something I wish to try out at some point.
The cut scenes are visually astounding for their time, always a treat to watch. I only wanted to make mention that the cut scenes run at 30FPS even when the game runs at 60FPS. This I found annoying because it takes you out of the experience when everything changes frame rate. Not a huge concern but a grievance I felt I should inform everyone of.
So first off, yes the multiplayer works via Steam and that’s the good news. You can have battles of up to 3v3 with friends in custom set up games or play via automatic matching. I had a big 3v3 battle and it was both exciting and quite spectacular to look at. I can’t speak to the balance of units or if that will be updated in the future based on user feedback but I can say it’s a fun experience.
My main two complaints about the multiplayer on launch were two fold. One issue being the number of maps. There are only a handful of total maps and I found that slightly disappointing. Some fan favorites were there such as Blood Gultch but having so few to pick from will lead to repetitive map selection over the long haul. One can only hope that modders find a way to add more maps later down the line to extend the multiplayer life.
The other more glaring complaint and more than anything a overall concern is the sheer number of people online playing the game. Let me clarify there are not very many people online within the first 24 hours. I was only able to find onegame and that was the 3v3 I mentioned above. I was extremely disappointed and hope that as word gets out about this game the player base can grow and become an exciting revival to the game on Steam.
My final thoughts on this game are bit confusing and it really depends where you’re coming from. For $20 you can experience Halo Wars on Steam with all the features Steam have to offer without the Windows 10 requirement. To some this is reason enough to make the purchase. I should also note here that the Windows Store version and the Steam version of Halo Wars 1 do not allow cross “platform” play. This game is a fun and casual RTS that is right in the middle of the Halo universe and something that I’ve been waiting for. On the other hand Halo Wars 2 just came out and that is arguably a better and more modern game though tied to Windows 10 and the Windows Store. The choice is yours in how you want to experience Halo Wars on PC. I for one am very glad that they put the game on the Steam platform and would recommend it to anyone wanting to find out what Halo Wars is all about.