Halo Wars Impressions

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It’s not really fair of me to play Halo Wars. I mean, first it has to get past the apples-and-oranges comparison with the original Halo games. Which makes no sense, but you can’t help it. Then it has to compete with my memories of Bungie’s old RTS Myth, which are sacred and can never be superseded. To this day when I fly cross-country the landscape looks like one big Myth map to me. Berserkers there … archers there … flame arrows could light up that field … And when I do something particularly stupid a dwarf who only I can hear says “I-di-ot!” Maybe I should talk to somebody about that. (And yes, I know HW was actually developed by the late Ensemble, not Bungie. You see what I mean.)

Plus it’s a PC genre getting played on a console. So Halo Wars has a lot of baggage to deal with.

But I am enjoying it. The cut scenes look spectacular, and it’s good to be back in those sweeping Halo environments. Everything looks wee and gem-like and minutely detailed. Your wee little minions are real go-getters, they take a lot of initiative, so you can trust them to bash away at the Covenant even if you’re not around to tell them to. The whole thing is very toy-like, including the various buildings you build to make more dudes and level them up, which sort of snap together like Legos.
Like everybody says, the control scheme is nicely organic, but some subtlety is inevitably lost on a console. I found it hard to select little custom squads, the way I used to in Myth, hand-picking different mixed units like I was assembling a miniature D&D party and then sending them off to glory …

In fact, although I liked Halo Wars, I don’t feel any particular emotional engagement with it. It’s just too slick and simple — it’s as if somebody had made a video game based on a video game, then released some toys based on the second video game, and then made a third video game based on the toys. I won’t see it on the insides of my eyelids when I go to sleep, like I used to do with Myth.

I get great resolution on my eyelids by the way. It’s the platform of the future.