Friday, March 27, 2009

Halo Wars

Ended up liking this game in the end but knocking it for some fairly unforgivable flaws. They've overhauled the entire RTS genre to be trimmer and faster, delivering the same experience in half the time. People may gripe about this, these are games that one is used to consuming slowly after all. But honestly ever since S. Korea introduced their playing style to these games I think this was inevitable. The initial reaction of designers after Starcraft turned into a zerg rush finger twitch was to find ways to slow everything down. Warcraft III adds more crap for you to manage, Dawn of War relies more heavily on squad tactics, but none of the new RTS titles bother to go in the other direction.

That direction being to just say "F*** it" and make a game that's a massive race to build the best mob and then throwing them at one another. Single player ended up feeling a bit flat, Covenant needs a campaign, and the controls need a way to hot key units.

But the multiplayer has an enormous amount of potential.


Ben Abraham said...

It's a funny game isn't it. I started out being pretty critical of a number of things, but I certainly don't hate the game. Maybe hate some aspects of it.

You make a good point about wanting to make hotkey groups - but I wonder how effective they could ever really be, given that you've got, at best, 40 pop worth of units...

Funny, I didn't even think about the lack of a covenant campaign until you mentioned it, but then I haven't really played it all that much yet. It does suck that it's not in there! Just more evidence that Ensemble's last work was pretty half-arsed, I guess.

Nerje said...

RB to select all on screen units, RT to scroll through to the type that you want.

Not ideal, but pretty simple considering you'll be losing units quickly. There are no true power units in the game, the ones that are powerful tend to be so big you just grab them with the A button. If you want better individual unit selection, you can increase the stickiness of the cursor to the point that it's basically flicking between them like a spreadsheet.

Right on the d-pad selects the various armies around the map, which basically means 'that mass of units there, or this mass of units here.' Down on the d-pad moves you to your various bases. I've won a couple of great matches by creating crossfires with gauss hogs on one side of the enemy and ODSTs on the other, RB to select all local units, RT to narrow it down to the ODSTs, Y button to fire rockets on the most threatening enemy vehicle then X on the infantry to mow them down. RT again to select the hogs, Y on the different enemy infantries to knock them down in turn, then X to move the hogs away (they can fire in any direction while moving). Down on the d-pad to go to my base and queue up replacement hogs, then right on the d-pad to go straight back to the firefight. RB, then RT a couple of times to use a spartan to jack a tank. You get the idea.

The controls lack certain aspects, but once you get the hang of them, all that it left is cunning strategy and tactical wit.

L.B. Jeffries said...

I do get the idea and in multiplayer it wasn't as bad, but not being able to hotkey units is still a fatal flaw. They could've done it any number of ways and for every tactic you rattle off at me, that's still two buttons too many to select the damn unit I want.

Nerje said...

Understood, but I would probably say that hotkeying a unit is about three button presses too many when the unit will be dead before too long. This game has a very high unit turnover, and is very restrictive with how quick the popcap is reached.

I'm probably too defensive about what is definitely a flawed game, I just have this urge to tool around the internet scalding all the haters.

If I was to design a revision of the game, I would create 'captain units' which you could attach groups of units to, so you could scroll between the captains and use them to issue army sub-commands. So your criticism isn't unwarranted, but I certainly don't think it's game breaking.

L.B. Jeffries said...

I understand, I like underdogs too and I'm kind of an RTS snob.

And hey, 7/10 just means it had a few problems, nothing fatal.