It has been a long seven years. The year 2009 was the first time we had our hands on the original Halo Wars for the Xbox 360, the first true real-time strategy (RTS) experience on consoles that worked well with a gamepad.
If you are wondering why the one-time console exclusive is now available on PC, Halo Wars 2 is coming in February and anticipation is high.
However, if you are looking to purchase Halo Wars: Definitive Edition, you are out of luck. It is only available currently as a pre-order bonus for Halo Wars 2‘s Ultimate Edition. Of course, a digital pre-order technically means you can place an order for the game, get the ticket to download Definitive Edition, and cancel the pre-order for the Ultimate Edition. I am sure Microsoft has thought this through and will deter anyone who’s trying to score a quick free game off a pre-order. I just hope that the game itself will be available for purchase on its own eventually.
Following the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, you’ll get working versions for both PC and Xbox One, which is great for those who are used to the console trappings of the original. While the console version remains as great as I remembered, the PC version took some getting used to. Playing Halo Wars using a mouse and keyboard may be familiar fare for any RTS veteran, but there is one major issue for certain abilities when trying to use special attacks such as the Covenant’s laser or UNSC bombs. They are easier to aim using a gamepad and to track using WASD or the mouse felt finicky and weird.
The positive trade-off of that is you gain more control over the selection of units. Q and E selects local and global units, the mouse wheel cycles through individual unit types in a group, and the Control and Alt keys can be grouped with number keys, creating custom bands of units. This is something that the console version could never do.
A definitive edition brings with it full 4K support, and thankfully a smooth 4K performance. It’s not a drastic difference, but the slight tweaks to the original’s graphics and lighting are enough to improve the already stellar looking game. Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is proof that the aesthetic has aged really well.
As expected, multiplayer modes are not up yet. Presumably, as the community is currently separated by the different waves of unlock codes going out but this will be rectified in time. Local split-screen multiplayer is still reserved for the console version, however.
If you have been a fan of the original Halo Wars, even if you are just coming into the series for the first time, Halo Wars: Definitive Edition is a great point to start. The snappy, fun, and moment to moment gameplay of the Halo RTS has always been a draw, and age changes nothing in that aspect. A different base management system and a wonderfully designed campaign add enough to the RTS recipe to keep this veteran happy and glad to be back in the universe again. It works great on the Xbox One controller, and it works great on a mouse and keyboard, there is no reason for a fan not to get this when it becomes available.