Climbing the tech tree, unlocking newer and deadlier toys, and building up your army is one of the most satisfying parts of strategy games. With Halo Wars 2 out now, we thought we'd walk you through your new toybox. Read on for all the units you're able to command in Halo Wars 2.
For all the latest on editions, factions, story and in general, here's everything we know about Halo Wars 2.
The United Nations Space Command (UNSC) is an agency of the Unified Earth Government, and humanity's military presence in space. They're represented in Halo Wars 2 by the Spirit of Fire, a colony ship refitted for military purposes and capable of sustaining an army. You'll command the UNSC's armies in the single-player campaign, and have the choice of leading them or their adversaries, The Banished, in multiplayer.
The staple of the UNSC military, Marines are core infantry and moderately capable against everything in all game modes. In single-player and multiplayer, they're available from the start (tier zero), but can be upgraded at tier one to throw grenades, and at tier two you can add a combat technician to their squad (he can repair vehicles and carries a rocket launcher).
Returning from the original Halo Wars, Hellbringers are a cheap anti-infantry unit with a big flamethrower and a lovely Scots accent. They are strong versus buildings and infantry (obviously), weak to vehicles, and can’t engage aircraft. They're available at tier zero, so can be a deadly rush unit. You can upgrade them with dispersion nozzles, which can set the ground on fire, at tier two.
Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, or ODSTs, are a special forces group within the marines, which we suppose makes them the best of the best of the best. Elite infantry, they can be dropped into combat at a moment’s notice. They have the ‘Demolition Charge’ active ability, with which they will throw timed explosives that are effective against structures and garrisons.
In blitz, they are only available via a power, which drops a squad of them, and are exclusive to Captain Cutter.
Snipers are cloaked scouts who excel at picking off enemy infantry at very long range. They can also cloak themselves and detect enemy cloaked units, but they can't engage either vehicles or aircraft. They are available at tier one and can be upgraded with a Stanchion rifle at tier three, gaining extra damage.
Spartans are technologically-enhanced super soldiers, created by the UNSC in a series of ethically dubious training programmes. John-117, better-known as the Master Chief, is the poster boy of the Halo shooter games and a product of the Spartan-II programme.
In Halo Wars 2, Spartans are hero units for the UNSC faction. They are strong against everything and have the ‘Spartan Slam’ active ability, which causes the Spartan to leap high in the air and slam an enemy, taking control of enemy aircraft or vehicles.
They also have the ‘Shield’ passive ability, granting an energy shield which absorbs damage and regenerates when out of combat - exactly like it does in the shooters.
In blitz, there are three different Spartans available, each restricted to a different leader, each with a different new passive ability on top of the above. Professor Anders has Douglas-042, who has the 'Guard' passive, enabling him to take damage on behalf of nearby allies. Isabel can field Alice-130, who has the ‘Reflect’ passive, which deals half of damage received back to an enemy attacker.
Finally, Captain Cutter has Jerome-092, who has the ‘Rush’ passive, which means he doesn't suffer fatigue when deployed outside his base in blitz.
First introduced in Halo Wars, the new version of the Cyclops is a tier two anti-vehicle walker with a gun on its arm. It can’t engage aircraft, but can be upgraded with shock rounds, which increase its damage. In blitz, it's classified as weak against infantry.
Debuting in Halo Wars 2, the Jackrabbit is a fast scout trike. It can detect cloaked units, but comes without any weaponry as standard. It is available from the start, though, and can be upgraded with a mini-frag launcher at tier one, so it's an option if you like rush tactics. At tier two you can add a support drone, which increases its line of sight and repairs it. In blitz, the Jackrabbit is classified as moderate versus infantry and vehicles, and weak to aircraft.
The Warthog has appeared in each of the Halo shooters and in the first Halo Wars. A core UNSC vehicle, it’s strong against infantry and moderate versus vehicles and air. It also has the ‘Ram’ active ability, which will cause it to charge through enemies, dealing damage.
Introduced in Halo Wars, the Wolverine is a half-track with a pair of missile pods on its back, intended to bring down enemy aircraft. It can detect cloaked units and was available at tier two in the multiplayer beta. In blitz, it's classified as weak to infantry and vehicles.
The Kodiak is a heavy artillery vehicle, with eight big wheels and one big gun. You’ll need to deploy it to fire that gun, which renders it immobile, but it can put out punishing damage at extreme range. It’s strong versus infantry and vehicles, but vulnerable to aircraft. In the multiplayer beta, it was available at tier two.
The Scorpion is the UNSC’s main battle tank, though it’s not as big or scary as the Grizzly. It’s strong versus infantry and vehicles, and moderate versus air. In the beta, it was available at tier three, and could be upgraded with the 'Canister shell' active ability at the same tier, which enabled it to do area damage.
Now we’re talking. The Grizzly is the biggest tank the UNSC deploys, a double-barrelled, four-tracked beast that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Mammoth tanks of old Command & Conquer games.
In blitz, Grizzlies are strong versus infantry and vehicles, and moderate versus air. They have the ‘Missile Barrage’ active ability, which will fire several missiles at medium-range targets. They are exclusive to Sergeant Forge. Lucky fella.
The Hornet VTOL helicopter is the mainstay of the UNSC air force, and has appeared in several of the Halo shooters as well as the original Halo Wars. It's a core air unit, available at tier two. In blitz, it's classified as strong against vehicles, and moderate versus infantry and other aircraft.
The Nightingale is a support helicopter, able to help your forces out with several useful abilities. First, its trio of restoration drones can heal friendly infantry and vehicles (they’ll do this automatically when close enough). Second, it has the ‘Defensive Smoke’ active ability, which enables you to cloak all units and suppress combat within a given area. Finally, it has the ‘Detect’ passive ability, and can reveal nearby cloaked enemies.
Just don’t expect to do any fighting with it. The Nightingale is unarmed, and can’t engage any enemy targets.
The Vulture is a slow-moving heavy gunship, and one of the largest aircraft fielded by the UNSC. It's available at tier three and has the ‘Phoenix Missile’ active ability, which launches a devastating missile attack with a wide area of effect. In blitz, it's classified as moderate versus infantry but strong versus vehicles and aircraft. It has
The Condor is an aerial 'super-unit'. In blitz, it's only available temporarily via a power card, and will leave the field after a certain time has lapsed. Its main party trick is the ‘Heavy Gauss Barrage’ ability, which fires three magnetically accelerated slugs at a target to devastating effect. Because it has the ‘Rush’ passive ability, enabling it to ignore deployment fatigue, you can drop it on the map wherever you like. We're not sure how it'll work outside of blitz just yet.
Having splintered from long-time Halo villains, The Covenant, The Banished are the UNSC's enemies in the campaign and the second of the two factions you can command in multiplayer. They are led by an alien named Atriox, who renounced the Covenant after they sent too many of his clanmates to die in their wars with humanity. Tired by that war and rent with internal strife, the Covenant began to dissolve, and Atriox and his followers absorbed much of their former strength, manpower and weaponry.
The Unggoy, called Grunts by the UNSC, were a client species of the Covenant employed as labourers in peacetime and cannon fodder in war. The Banished use them in much the same way. They are core infantry, weak to vehicles, moderate against other infantry and aircraft.
As you might guess, these are grunts who have been fitted with large bombs. Their only purpose is to get near enemy troops and blow up - they are very effective against infantry, weak to vehicles, and can’t engage air. They have the ‘Blast’ passive ability, meaning that if killed them, they’ll blow up anyway.
The Sangheili, known to humans as Elites, are warlike aliens who were one of the two founding species of the Covenant. Their rivalry with the Brutes was at the heart of the Great Schism, which led to the Covenant’s collapse.
In Halo Wars 2, Elite rangers are scouts and snipers. They are strong versus infantry, but weak against vehicles and aircraft. They have the ‘Detect’ passive, and can reveal cloaked enemies.
Jump pack brutes
The Jiralhanae, who the UNSC name Brutes, are strong bearlike aliens, and the final addition to the Covenant before its collapse. Atriox, leader of the Banished, is a Brute, and has somehow united a certain number of Brutes and Elites under his leadership despite their rivalry.
In Halo Wars 2, Brutes wield jetpacks and gravity hammers, and excel at battering enemy buildings into rubble. They are moderate against infantry, weak to vehicles, and can’t engage aircraft. They have the ‘Jump Strike’ active ability, which will cause them to leap forward and smash the ground, damaging and stunning nearby enemies.
The creatures known to the UNSCas Hunters are actually bipedal masses of Lekgolo, a worm-like former Covenant species which can clump together to exponentially increase their intelligence and strength.
In Halo Wars 2, they are anti-vehicle infantry - they are weak against other infantry, strong against vehicles, and can’t engage aircraft.
Elites wielding Halo’s iconic energy swords, the Honor Guard are a Banished hero unit. They are strong against infantry and vehicles, but can’t attack air. They have the ‘Shield’ and ‘Cloak’ passive abilities, enabling them to not only hide but tank some damage with their regenerating energy shields.
In blitz, they are exclusive to Shipmaster.
The Warlord is another hero unit for the Banished - a big, armoured Brute with a siphoning gravity hammer. Like most other heroes he has the Shield passive, but also the Siphon passive, which automatically heals him equal to the damage he deals. This should make the Warlord an incredibly tough unit.
As if this weren’t enough, he also has the ‘Gravity Shockwave’ active ability, which stuns enemy units and structures with a massive hammer slam. The Warlord is classified as strong against infantry and vehicles, but can’t attack aircraft. In blitz, he’s exclusive to Decimus.
Brutes hand-picked by Atriox, his Chosen are another Banished hero unit. Halo fans will recognise the big ‘Brute Shot’ grenade launchers they wield. Atriox’s Chosen have ‘Shield’ like other heroes, but also have ‘Shock’, meaning they intimidate enemy troops, reducing their armour. Unsurprisingly, they're exclusive to Atriox in blitz.
Choppers are basically large engines with a seat to carry their Brute pilots. They have the ‘Ram’ active ability, like the UNSC Warthog, are available at tier one, and can be upgraded with shrapnel rounds at tier two. They could detect cloaked enemies in the multiplayer beta, but their blitz card doesn't have the 'detect' ability as of January, so this may have changed. In blitz, they are strong versus infantry, moderate versus vehicles and weak to aircraft.
A favourite for many who played the shooter games, Ghosts are light hover vehicles ideal for scouting. They are moderate versus infantry and vehicles, and weak against aircraft. Ghosts have the ‘Ram’ active ability and the ‘Shield’ passive ability, so they are more durable than you might think at first glance.
Ghosts are exclusive to Shipmaster in blitz.
Marauders are two-man light tanks, and core vehicles for the Banished. In blitz their card indicates they're strong versus infantry, and moderate against vehicles and aircraft. Elsewhere, they're available at tier two, and can be upgraded with thicker armour at tier three.
Reavers are bipedal, anti-aircraft walkers. They are weak to infantry and vehicles, but with their two missile pods, they excel at shooting down enemy aircraft. They can detect cloaked enemy units, and have the ‘Predatory Leap’ active ability, with which they can jump a short distance to escape or ambush enemies. They're available at tier two.
Locusts are quadrupedal walkers, smaller counterparts to the fearsome Scarab. Formerly used by the Covenant for both mining and combat purposes, they excel at crushing enemy buildings and have a good range, but are weak against aircraft and only moderate to infantry and vehicles. They have the Shield passive ability and are available at tier two.
One of the Covenant’s mainstay armoured vehicles, the Wraith is an infantry support tank. It’s strong versus infantry and vehicles, moderate to aircraft and has the Shield passive ability. It's available at tier three and can be upgraded at the same tier with the 'Scorch Mortar' active ability, which causes lingering damage.
The Scarab is the Banished super unit, seen duelling a Retriever Sentinel in this YouTube video from a community event, courtesy of MasterofRolness. It's the bigger brother of the Locust, a giant quadrupedal walker with a huge flamethrower.
There are limitations on its use. In normal multiplayer only three can be fielded at once. In blitz, it only stays on the field for 30 seconds, is deployed via a power card, has the Rush passive ability to protect from deployment fatigue, and the ‘Carapace Shield’ active ability, which renders it briefly invulnerable.
Huragok, known to humanity as Engineers, are funky-looking jellyfish who will repair and heal nearby allied units, and can reveal cloaked enemies. They also have the ‘Overshield’ active ability, which casts a temporary shield to protect nearby allied units. Like the Nightingale, they can’t engage any enemies. They're available at tier one.
The Banshee is the Banished’s core ground assault aircraft. They're available at tier two, and can be upgraded with a plasma torpedo at tier three, which makes them much stronger against other aircraft. In blitz, their card indicates they're strong versus vehicles, and moderate versus infantry and other air units.
Shrouds are an aerial support unit that look a bit like a mini-Reaper from Mass Effect. They can cloak friendly units and are available at tier two, but can't engage any enemies.
One of Halo Wars 2’s coolest new unit designs (we think), the Blisterback is an airborne artillery weapon. Looking like a giant tick, they cruise menacingly over the battlefield. When ordered to deploy, they will land, anchor themselves in the earth and open their missile tubes, ready for firing. They're available at tier three, and in blitz are classified as strong versus infantry and vehicles, and moderate against aircraft.
The Forerunners were a highly advanced race who colonised millions of planets in the Milky Way roughly 100,000 years ago. They built many wondrous things, among them, the Ark, which is central to the conflict between The Banished and the UNSC in Halo Wars 2. Though not a core faction and unplayable in either single- or multiplayer, you can get hold of some of their units in certain circumstances. These are them.
Aggressor sentinels are drone-like light aircraft. They will protect capture points in Domination multiplayer games, and you can field them yourself if you're playing Professor Anders in blitz. Their blitz card indicates they are weak to infantry, but moderate versus vehicles and aircraft.
Another variety of Forerunner Sentinel, the Protector's blitz card classifies it as a core aircraft, moderate versus infantry and other air, and strong versus vehicles. They have the ‘Lockdown Bolt’ active ability, a lightning bolt than can stun and damage vehicles and structures. Again, you can use them in Blitz if you're Professor Anders, but it's not yet clear if or how they will appear in other game modes (see also: Super Sentinels, below).
Retriever Sentinels are an 'ultimate' unit. One can be seen attacking YouTuber MasterofRoflness's base in this YouTube video. This was taken from the 3v3 multiplayer mode, so we know they can be fielded here.
A roughly equivalent 'Super' Sentinel in the original Halo Wars could be recruited by the player, along with other Sentinel types, if you captured a Forerunner factory. These were neutral buildings, protected by AI Sentinels.
Which units are proving most handy so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments.