Mini Review: Halo Wars

I downloaded and played the Demo of Halo Wars, the new RTS game placed in the Halo universe. I really liked what I saw, and enjoyed playing Skirmishes with the computer opponents.

So I rented the full game when it came out, and I couldn’t even finish the campaign. There are a couple of outstanding issues that made the game not fun to play. All of them come down to the stupid AI of your units.

  1. No patrolling. There’s one map where you must defend 2 ships while civilians escape a city. You only really need one ship to survive for a specified time to finish the level. Most of the damaging attacks come from air units. So I spawned about 20 pelicans and placed them right on top of the ship. I then started tooling around with my base and helping civilians. Then I hear squawking about how the ship is almost dead. I flip over to that part of the screen to discover one of my pelicans shooting at 3 enemy ships while the other 19 simply float in place watching. The enemy ships are completely visible to my pelicans, but since they weren’t being directly attacked, they weren’t responding. You have to constantly babysit all of your units because they are too stupid to defend a target.

  2. Stupid navigation. I had camped out a unit out of sight and away from attackers. This unit needs to not die, so I placed some protection around it and moved on. Well the protection got killed so I went to the other side of the map and told a Vulture to go and help out. Vultures are the big bad boy air units, and I figured it would be no problem. So I swing back over to the unit being attacked and wait. After about 20 seconds or so, the unit is close to dead and there’s no Vulture. So I scroll over to where it’s at, and watch it repeatedly running into a mountain trying to flip itself over. I had to take command of it and manually steer it to the other location. Ugh.

  3. Stupid tactics. On one map I had built up about 7 tanks, and went to attack the enemy base. Unfortunately there was a narrow row to take them through, and lots of baddies on the other side. Only one tank could get through at a time. Mmmm bottleneck. No biggie I think to myself, I’ll just steer them all through and I’ll take minimal damage. Nope. Once the first tank engaged, it wouldn’t move forward at all even when I specifically told it to. So it, along with all my ground units got chewed up while I cursed at the screen wondering why my tank wasn’t moving. I had to pull everyone back and take them around another way.

There’s a lot of other little annoyances, but these were the big things that made the game not fun for me. Unfortunately, many of the campaign levels seem designed to focus on these shortcomings. Some people may really like constantly jumping from unit to unit and having to micromanage every single thing they do, but that drives me completely batty.

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