When someone mentions the game Halo, they usually refer to the record breaking First Person Shooter that has earned its place in history, partly due to its multiplayer and surprisingly deep backstory. As with all sufficiently large game franchises though, Microsoft was not content on simply letting the Halo brand rest on its laurels, creating various books, short films, and "alternative" games that are intended to expand the world and story of Halo beyond the actions of the Master Chief. One of the results of this multimedia push is Halo Wars, a rather ambitious game for the Xbox 360 that tried to combine the Halo universe with the Real Time Strategy genre.
First announced in 2006, Halo Wars was released in 2009 to fairly positive reviews, though the limitations of console controllers did detract from the RTS nature of the game, despite the best efforts of the developers. Nonetheless, more than a million units were sold worldwide within a couple of weeks, showing that it is quite possible for the Halo series to expand beyond its FPS roots. Now, almost a decade later, the sequel to Halo Wars, aptly called Halo Wars 2, is about to come out, seeking to bring console RTSs to a new generation of the Xbox as well as PCs.
Developed by Creative Assembly, best known for their work on the Total War series, Halo Wars 2 is a sequel in the most direct sense of the word. As far as can be told from various previews of the game, Halo Wars 2 not only continues the story of the characters from the first Halo Wars, but it also features fairly similar gameplay and aesthetic design. Naturally, if you liked the original game (or for that matter, the spinoff Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike games), you will probably like the sequel as well. If you haven't played the first game, then think of Halo Wars 2 as a very extensive and incredibly well-done Halo themed spin-off for something like Command and Conquer, with more simplified and streamlined mechanics (for better or worse, there is no intensive micromanaging of units unless you really want to try and do so with a controller) and beautiful cutscenes that really do expand the Halo universe.
However, the big question is whether or not Halo Wars 2 will connect with "modern" audiences. It is undeniable that console RTSs are not as popular as their PC counterparts for some rather obvious reasons, but Halo is still a veritable powerhouse of a franchise that has a fairly dedicated fanbase. On top of that, the simplicity of Halo Wars' gameplay is a rather fair alternative to much more, comparatively, complex games like Civilization and Stellaris. On the other hand, RTSs, by their very nature, are not exactly pick up and play games in the same way that FPSs are, which puts quite a dent in the game's appeal to more "casual" (and for that matter, younger) audiences. Fans of the Halo franchise are probably going to buy the game regardless, but the real question is how will the game perform among general audiences when it is released on February 21. After all, Halo Wars 2 may not be a Halo game featuring the Master Chief and gratuitous teabagging, but, if the prequel is any indicator, it is likely going to be an enjoyable game nonetheless for those who want a change of pace from all the FPSs on the market.