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Halo Wars 2: release date, system requirements, editions, story - everything we know

Halo Wars 2

We’re less than a month away from the release of Halo Wars 2, one of the few Halo games ever to make it to PC. As a follow-up to a bold attempt at making RTS work on console, it promises to be a stripped-back experience compared with something like StarCraft, but there’s also an opportunity here to reinvigorate a genre that goes with PC gaming like a mouse goes with a keyboard. Here are the answers to all the burning questions you’re likely to have ahead of release.

If you’d rather out-think than out-shoot your enemies, why not browse our list of the best strategy games on PC?

When is the Halo Wars 2 release date?

Halo Wars 2 is due for worldwide release on February 21, 2017.

When is the Halo Wars 2 beta? How do I get in?

The first multiplayer beta for Halo Wars 2 was in June 2016. Unfortunately, that’s been and gone, but the second and final beta is live from now until January 30.

Head to the Halo Wars 2 page on the Xbox website and you can download the new beta for Windows 10 right now. You’re limited to just the one game mode, and it’s a bit of an experiment for the RTS genre: Blitz.

In blitz, your army is represented by a deck of collectible cards, which you can customise before each match begins. During games, you’ll spend energy to play cards, instantly summoning the corresponding unit to the field. It’s a novel experience, to say the least; for more on Blitz and Halo Wars 2’s other modes, see ‘game modes’ below.

Halo Wars 2 gameplay

What Halo Wars 2 editions are there? Is there DLC?

There’s not too much in the way of silly edition larks, we’re glad to say: Halo Wars 2 has just the standard and ‘ultimate’ editions. That said, there is a season pass, and there is also day-one DLC as a pre-order incentive.

Standard edition

As you’d expect, this includes the base game, but if you pre-order, it also includes the ‘Welcome to the Ark’ DLC (see below).

You can pre-order the standard editionfor £47.74, which is a very precise conversion from the US price of $59.99.

Ultimate edition

This includes the base game, plus the Halo Wars 2 season passand a remastered ‘Definitive Edition’ of the first Halo Wars. That game was exclusive to Xbox 360, so this is the only version of Halo Wars on PC, and the only way to get it is the Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition. If you pre-order, you get theWelcome to the Ark DLCtoo, just like the standard edition.

For a game, a season pass, DLC and a remaster of another game, it’s actually not an unreasonable price; pre-ordering the Ultimate Edition will set you back £64.99, or $79.99 for those in the USA. If you’re interested, here’s the store link.

Welcome to the Ark DLC

The description on thisin the Microsoft storereads “experience the exciting first battles between the UNSC and The Banished. Unlocks the story missions and multiplayer leaders from the original Halo Wars 2 campaign.” Rumour – and from what we can tell, it is only that – suggests this DLC will feature the Banished attack on the UNSC research base on the Ark (see ‘story’, below), which would fit with this description of “the first battles” between the two factions and tell a self-contained story, discretely partitioned from the main campaign.

Regardless, it seems this is day-one DLC which expands the campaign and adds new leaders to multiplayer. It will likely be available separately after launch, but for now the only way to get it is if you pre-order either the standard or ultimate editions.

Season pass

The Microsoft Store says the season pass “delivers regular updates that span more than six months, including: new leaders with abilities that change the course of multiplayer matches, new units that add to your multiplayer arsenal, new Blitz cards to collect and take into battle, and new campaign missions that expand the Halo Wars 2 story.” A campaign from the perspective of Atriox and the Banished is one possibility for this expanded story, but we’ve heard nothing official.

Thus far, the season pass is only available if you pre-order either edition of Halo Wars 2, but we’d expect it to be available separately once the game launches. There’s no indication on the store at present that the ‘Welcome to the Ark’ DLC is part of the season pass.

Atriox, leader of the Banished

What are the Halo Wars 2 system requirements?

Here are the Halo Wars 2 minimum and recommended system requirements, as laid out onthe Xbox website.

Halo Wars 2 minimumsystem requirements

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 10
  • DirectX version: DirectX 12 (feature level 11)
  • CPU:
    • Intel i5-2500
    • AMD FX-4350
  • GPU:
    • AMD R7 260X
    • GeForce GTX 650 Ti
    • Intel HD 520
  • VRAM: 2GB
  • RAM: 6GB
  • HD space: 25GB

Halo Wars 2 recommendedsystem requirements

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 10
  • DirectX version: DirectX 12 (feature level 11)
  • CPU:
    • Intel Core i5-4690K
    • AMD FX-8350
  • GPU:
    • AMD RX 480
    • GeForce GTX 1060
  • VRAM: 4GB
  • RAM: 8GB
  • HD space: 25GB

Halo Wars definitive edition minimumsystem requirements

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 10
  • DirectX version: DirectX 11 (feature level 11_0)
  • CPU:
    • Intel core i3 or equivalent
  • GPU:
    • GeForce GT 740M
    • AMD Radeon R5 M240
    • Intel HD graphics 4200
  • VRAM: 512MB
  • RAM: 8GB
  • HD space: 10GB

Halo Wars definitive edition recommendedsystem requirements

  • OS: 64-bit Windows 10
  • DirectX version: DirectX 11 (feature level 11_0)
  • CPU:
    • Intel core i5 or equivalent
  • GPU:
    • GeForce GTX 560, 650, 750
    • AMD HD 5850, 6870, 7790
  • VRAM: 1GB
  • RAM:
  • HD space: 10GB

Who are the factions in Halo Wars 2?

Captain Cutter


The United Nations Space Command (UNSC) is an agency of the Unified Earth Government. It represents humanity’s military and exploratory presence in space, defends Earth and its colonies, and briefly served as its emergency military government.

The UNSC conceived the Spartan super-soldier programmes which created the Master Chief, the protagonist of the Halo shooters. As Earth’s representatives in space, they’re the protagonists of the Halo fiction (to call them ‘good guys’ is a bit strong, given the ethics they sometimes bend – see the Spartan programmes as a good example).

In Halo Wars 2’s campaign, you’ll play as a commander of the Spirit of Fire, a UNSC colony ship refitted for military purposes, with enough crew and supplies to maintain an army. James Cutter is the ship’s captain, and the closest Halo Wars 2 has to a lead character.

The Banished

The Banished are a splinter faction from perennial Halo villains, the Covenant. Their leader is Atriox, a chieftain of the alien species called Brutes (or Jiralhanae, to be accurate). Unconvinced by the Covenant’s religious mission and the war against humanity that it inspired, Atriox came to hate his masters for sending his people to their deaths in a conflict he saw as unnecessary. After surviving an assassination attempt that was his punishment for refusing orders, Atriox led a rebellion against the Covenant.

This was relatively early early in the war against humanity, before the Covenant was racked by a civil war known as the Great Schism. Shattered by these events and exhausted by the war, the Covenant disintegrates in the later Halo games. Atriox and his new faction – the Banished – manage to salvage much of their former power.

At some point before or during the events of Halo 5: Guardians, Atriox developed an interest in Installation 00, also called the Ark. Built by the ancient alien race known as the Forerunners, the Ark was the birthplace of the eponymous Halo rings, and Atriox learned it was also capable of ‘firing’ them. This would give him the power to wipe out life in the galaxy, if he wished.

Having consolidated the remnants of the Covenant, Atriox’s main motivation is the acquisition of power, so the Ark became his next destination. Upon arrival, the Banished destroyed the UNSC Ark Research Outpost, killing all the humans there but for Isabel, an AI.


Beginning as a fairly simple war between the UNSC and the Covenant, the belligerents of the Halo universe have since grown in number. As we mentioned, the Ark was built by an ancient, advanced alien race known as the Forerunners, who made a reappearance in the shooter series for Halos 4 and 5.

We know thanks tothis footagefrom MasterofRoflness on YouTube that some Forerunner units can appear in multiplayer, andWindows Centralsay there’s a chance they might also appear later in the campaign.However, the Flood, the Forerunners’ hated enemies and the reason they built the Halo rings in the first place, willnotappear.

What’s the story of Halo Wars 2?

Halo Wars 2Halo Wars 2 picks up 28 years after the original Halo Wars, which is also just after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, the most recent Halo shooter game. Thus it will be the latest game in the Halo timeline. The Spirit of Fire, a UNSC starship, has been left adrift in space after sacrificing its faster-than-light drive at the end of the first game. After 28 years in cryosleep, the crew awakes to find themselves above the Ark.

Unaware of what’s happened in the last 28 years – so pretty much all of the Halo shooter series, including the end of the human-Covenant war – the crew of the Spirit of Fire go to investigate the Ark, hoping for some means of re-establishing contact with the rest of humanity, which believes the ship to be lost with all hands.

As they set about this, the crew find a devastated UNSC research base on the surface of the Ark. Shortly thereafter, they encounter those responsible for the attack: Atriox, and the Banished.

All of this fits quite snugly within the Halo universe, by the way; the Banished have been mentioned before, but this is the first time they’re the main antagonist of a Halo game. A lot of their weaponry will be familiar if you’re a Halo fan; they use iconic Covenant vehicles such as Wraiths, Ghosts and Banshees, but with a few new twists.

Anyway, Atriox wants the power of the Ark for himself – which is probably a bad idea for all sorts of reasons – and he’s already destroyed a human base, which gives the Spirit of Fire plenty of casus belli. Thus, fighting ensues.

What are the game modes in Halo Wars 2?

Halo Wars 2 will have four game modes at launch: campaign, multiplayer, skirmish and blitz.


The single-player campaign will tell the events of the conflict between the Banished and the UNSC Spirit of Fire, a vast, modified colony ship that can supply an army. You’ll play as the UNSC – at least at first – and fight to keep the Banished from capturing the Ark and its power over the Halo rings.

More broadly,Windows Centralsay that Halo devs 343 intend for Atriox, the leader of the Banished, to be a major franchise villain rather than a one-off for this game, and that Halo Wars 2 could have a major impact on the future story of the series. This is rather exciting. It also means Atriox might not die at the end of the campaign, but that’s us guessing.

From what little we’ve seen in previews, expect a fairly traditional RTS campaign, with one major change from the C&C/StarCraft formula: no gathering/worker units. Resources are generated from your base via upgradeable supply buildings, or occasionally found on the map in crates. According to a 343 interview with Gamespot, this is a deliberate choice to make RTS more accessible.

Halo Wars 2 multiplayer


Halo Wars 2’s multiplayer will have three different game modes:

  • Deathmatch: The classic game mode, deathmatch offers the standard RTS gameplay elements of base-building, army planning and combat. The simple goal is to destroy your opponents and be the last player (or team of players) left standing.
  • Domination: a map-control mode, domination has all the features of deathmatch, except the objective is to capture specific points on the map. Doing so will deplete the enemy team’s tickets, with the first team to fall to zero losing the game.
  • Strongholds: a fast-paced game mode with a 15-minute time limit, in which the objective is to control the most ‘strongholds’ – small bases scattered across the map – by the end of the game. For each stronghold you control, your population cap increases, so building up momentum with early captures is crucial.


Skirmish is your sandbox mode. You can fight against any AI leader you like, adjust their difficulty to your preferences, and team up with other players to take them down co-operatively. Good for practice or for playing around with all the game’s toys in a low-pressure environment.


Blitz is a new multiplayer mode that got its own tab in the main menu, so it’s here rather than under ‘multiplayer’ above. Billed as an “entirely new way to experience Halo Wars and real-time strategy gameplay”, it combines an RTS with a CCG. Your army is represented as a deck of cards, which you can design outside of games by picking cards from your collection.

Cards can be units, which spawn a copy of the relevant unit when the card is played, or powers, which have shorter-term effects. When building a deck, you’ll first choose a leader, whose particular specialisms will determine which cards in your collection will be available. You can play Blitz in 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 multiplayer games, or in a horde-like PvE mode called ‘Firefight’.

You can play Firefight solo or in a co-op team with one other player, and you’ll face waves of increasingly powerful AI-controlled enemies. These waves spawn infinitely, and you’ll be awarded points and arcade-style killstreak scores according to your performance.

Halo Wars 2 multiplayer

In both forms of blitz, you’ll hold four cards in your hand at any one time, each of which costs ‘energy’ to play. You can discard cards for a lesser energy cost, but you’re still at the mercy of RNG when it comes to which cards you get in your hand at any one time. You earn card packs through gameplay, but – yes – you can also buy them via real-money microtransactions. Your cards ‘level up’ when you have more copies of them, with a noticeable improvement in their in-game performance.

Energy builds up slowly during the match, but it will also drop to the battlefield randomly in energy pods. Destroying these will dump gobbets of energy onto the map, which you can then collect. Contesting energy pods is important, since whomever gathers the most can overpower their opponent.

In Versus mode, there are three capture zones in the centre of the map, and you’ll score points as long as you control more zones than your opponent. You win the game when you score 200 points. In Firefight, you start in the centre of the map, and simply keep fighting the hordes until you’re overwhelmed.

There’s no base-building in blitz. In Versus, you and your opponent(s) each get a version of the same base(s) on opposing sides of the map, where you’ll spawn in. If you play a unit card outside of your base, it’ll suffer ‘deployment fatigue’, causing reduced health and damage for a period. If eight seconds go by without the unit suffering damage, it recovers. Obviously, this mechanic is designed to stop you dumping fresh units into the middle of a fight, or on a capture zone.

We’ll update this post with more details whenever any emerge on the above subjects. If there’s anything else you’re desperate to know about Halo Wars 2 before it comes out, let us know in the comments!