The first add-on for Ensemble Studios' Halo Wars, which is now under the care of Robot Entertainment, was released today. On Marketplace you'll find the content available for 800 Microsoft Points ($10), which gets you three new game modes for use in skirmishes against the AI or against others online. As a fan of Halo Wars
I couldn't wait to try out the new modes.Keep Away:
Here a small airborne Forerunner sentinel warps into seemingly random parts of the map and can be captured by whatever unit gets to it first. You get a notification when it shows up and it's also visible on your minimap, so expect a rush to that location as soon as the sentinel spawns. The team that grabs hold of the sentinel and keeps the unit that captured it alive for two minutes is then awarded a point, and the first to three points takes the match. It seems to be the best idea to let your most powerful unit capture the sentinel (such as a leader unit if you're playing Covenant). Once the carrier is destroyed the sentinel doesn't respawn immediately, so there's a little bit of downtime to build more units and tech up before the next race to capture and defend begins.
Keep Away - Watch or download the video here (HD available).
To the carrier's disadvantage, the fog of war surrounding it on the battlefield is pulled back, meaning if an enemy carrier is standing still and you've got a MAC blast ready…well that's pretty much lights out for that attempt. Since the sentinel seems to spawn in random locations you could get lucky and have it show up right near your army, or watch in horror as it spawns right near where your enemy is set up. If you're playing with others online this could potentially be a good time, but don't try to play with only AI. While the computer seems pretty adept at picking up the sentinel, the artificial intelligence doesn't seem to understand anything about preserving the carrier, making little effort to move the unit away from incoming fire.Reinforcement:
This mode didn't really make a lot of sense to me, mostly because it takes away the ability to build any units. You can still set up bases, research tech, and use leader powers, so nothing new there. But all battle units are delivered to your base at timed intervals, taking away your control over what arrives. Based on what we were told previously by Robot Entertainment
, the units that show up are based on your tech level and available supply.
Reinforcement - Watch or download the video here (HD available).
This undercuts what generally draws me to a real-time strategy game – the ability to customize my attack force however I see fit, and adjust tactics and army composition however I want. With the game making these kinds of decisions for me, well, I just don't really have any interest in continuing to play. I suppose this kind of mode could be appreciated by the type of player that doesn't want to shoulder the responsibility of decision-making. This could also appeal to more hardcore players looking for something less stressful than the standard matches. Either way, there remains an unshakable and, for me, an unwelcome degree of randomness in this mode.Tug of War:
The idea in this mode is based around building and, perhaps more importantly, maintaining your armies. A bar at the top of the screen fluctuates based on what's built by both sides. The more you've got going on, the more an arrow on a bar will shift to your side (which is indicated by a smiley face on one end of the bar). What you need to do is get the arrow to move all the way to the smiley face, which can be accomplished by wiping out other armies as well as keeping up your production. In the few games I played this didn't feel like as distinct a mode as the other two simply because it played fairly simliarly to what was already available. Of course, as more players continue to check it out in online games more mode-specific strategies will likely develop.
Tug of War - Watch or download the video here (HD available).Verdict:
For 800 Microsoft Points (US $10), the Strategic Options Add-on doesn't really seem like it's worth a purchase considering what's offered. The added Keep Away mode seems like it could have some legs, but the Tug of War mode isn't much to get excited about and Reinforcement mode cuts out what to me is a major appeal of the game and the genre in general. Or maybe I'm just being too harsh.
As a fan of Halo Wars and someone who'll undoubtedly be spending more time playing online, maps seem more valuable than modes at this point. Another thing potential buyers should note is that the new modes, with the exception of Keep Away 1v1 are only playable online in team mode, so if you tend to play online by yourself, you may wind up feeling a little left out after downloading this add-on.
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