Halo Wars 2 Blitz Beta impressions

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I spent some time playing the Halo Wars 2 Blitz Beta this weekend. The new Blitz gamemode is billed as “a fast, card-based strategic experience.” There’s no base construction, and units are summoned from cards randomly drawn from your deck; an interesting and unique concept for RTS games, but one that has received mixed reactions from the community.

Captain Cutter on Deck.

Captain Cutter on Deck.

Blitz is a very action-oriented gamemode. Battles are almost constant, particularly in the 3v3 mode, as matches take place on a small map, and require players to hold control points in order to score. Blitz strategies won’t require as much thought as your standard mode, as most players will just focus on rush and flanking tactics, but there are a few elements to add some depth.

Units summoned outside of your base will have reduced health and damage for a short time, meaning it’s often a bad idea to drop them into an ongoing firefight. Different units cost different amounts of Energy, a resource which is automatically generated over time, with Energy Cells randomly dropping across the map to increase your charge rate. Units still have the same strengths and weaknesses, but rare cards summon units with special abilities, like siphoning enemy health or creating an explosion after death.

Halo Wars Screenshot 3

But where’s the heart of the cards?

The different leaders also come with unique units and powers, but I found this had a minimal effect on the way I played. Blitz is too short and fast-paced to really require changing your strategies, and aside from a couple of unique cards, my decks were very similar and simply focused on being able to counter different units.

Matches are so short that they’re over just as things are getting interesting and the way that Energy randomly drops around the map means that a few lucky drops near one player’s troops early on means they can quickly steamroll the opposition. Cards are drawn randomly from your deck, meaning it’s sometimes difficult to plan ahead or to effectively counter an enemy’s air force if you’re only able to summon anti-air unit.

You’ll also be able to buy card packs using microtransactions, which is certainly news for concern. Thankfully a developer confirmed that in the full game, playing campaign and multiplayer will grant players a lot of Blitz cards. I even found myself with a solid deck once I ranked up after a couple of matches. Plus, unlike Halo 5’s Warzone Reqs, Blitz cards are permanent once unlocked, so you won’t need to constantly hunt for rare cards.

Halo Wars Screenshot 4

It does feel pretty great to ambush the enemy with a Scarab.

I’m not saying that Blitz is shitz, but I think it’s too chaotic to hold up as a strong RTS experience. It’s a useful way to learn the different units, and could be a fun way to warm-up before going into more strategic modes, but it’s too shallow to hold up for hours on end. That’s not to say I’m worried about Halo Wars 2 overall, as the last beta showed that the standard gameplay is solid. It’s just that there’s something about the way you can create units as you move around the map that feels too Tiberium Twilight.

The Halo Wars 2 Blitz Beta runs on Xbox One and Windows PC until January 31st AEST.

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