Title – Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare
Developer – 343 Industries / Creative Assembly
Publisher – Microsoft Studios
Release date – September 26, 2017
Platforms available – Xbox One and Windows 10(Play Anywhere Title)
Difficulty Played – Normal
Price – $19.99
The Flood race has always been my favorite enemy to fight since its original debut back in 2001 with Halo: CE. When this expansion was announced at E3 Live show, I was ecstatic to get my hands on it, especially when 343 confirmed right away they [The Flood] are canon to the Halo universe. I will be talking about the campaign, the content that came with it, and the story in this review, so beware of spoilers.
Story – The Flood are back
In this expansion you play as the antagonist faction The Banished, more precisely, as the brothers Pavium and Voridus. Both are sent to High Charity, the past capital city of the Covenant empire that crashed on the Ark during the events of Halo 3, to attack the Sentinel defense system placed around the city by the Installation’s monitor. Soon after, Voridus and his men ignore the cautions from Atriox to not go inside the High Charity – jam-packed with flood spores – claiming that they are nothing more than stories and folklores from the Covenant.
Voridus’ men cut the containment shield and enter the facility infested by The Flood spores, and with no sentinel defense system in place, The Flood begin to spread and infect any living tissue nearby. Pavium and his army are forced to hold their ground against The Flood until they can regroup with Voridus and make a proposal for a containment plan.
The (re)introduction to The Flood in Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare expansion had me excited for the future of the Halo franchise, mostly since it gives me hope we will be able to battle them in the next mainline game. Don’t expect full-blown story content in this DLC. It’s a modest story with a beginning, middle and an open ending – which seems like the latest trend of 343’s stories – leaving plenty of opportunities to articulate new tales around this scrounging enemy.
Once again, the main Halo Wars 2 villain, Atriox, hardly had any in-game or Blur cutscenes screen time, which left me somewhat disappointed. Up until its launch day back in February, both 343 and Microsoft kept advertising this new, badass and intellectual character to only give him limited minutes of antagonism in the story. This doesn’t change in Awakening the Nightmare.
Overall, I’m pleased with the story; it accomplished what I was hoping for as a humble, straightforward plot. The characters are well written, voiced and structured, the missions, which I will be talking more about down in the gameplay section, are great, and the Blur cutscenes steal this expansion’s show.
I took approximately four to five hours to go through the campaign on Normal difficulty – that’s twice as long as the Spearbreaker single-player DLC. I hear Heroic and Legendary will take you between five to eight hours to complete, depending on how competent you are at the game. Each mission has its own uniqueness in level and gameplay design. Creative Assembly and 343 Industries heard some of the criticism of the main campaign and tried a diverse approach for this expansion. The Flood forces you to think differently and more swiftly, making the game exhilarating and clever.
This expansion lets you momentarily fight the UNSC in the first mission when you encounter a party of scouting marines and quickly eliminate them while moving towards your objective. That’s basically the only time you will ever fight the human faction.
Of the five missions available, all of them feel dynamic and well-designed, with one mission experimenting with stealth and slow-paced gameplay, while others are more swift and brutal. There’s diversity enough to make everything feel distinct and fresh.
Multiplayer and New Content
The banished brothers are playable in Multiplayer, bringing the leaders’ roster to a total of sixteen. Both have different playstyles, but when played together in a match, they can be rather challenging to deal with. Let’s take a look at each leader’s special ability:
The younger of the brothers, Voridus’ special ability allows him to slam the ground, creating a damaging shockwave and a large pool of Infusion. For a period of time after placing the pool, Voridus is also able to leave a trail of Infusion behind him wherever he goes, allowing him to block chokepoints or surround bases. Voridus can also be upgraded to create longer-lived Infusion pools with every attack, increase the size and length of his plasma trail, and even add the ability to cloak whenever he’s in Infusion.
Pavium is best at defense, where he can sit back and pummel the enemy from range while repairing structures with his drone. His special ability fires a long-range spotting beam, which paints and reveals enemy targets caught in the beam. Painted targets are slowed, revealed, and take extra damage from other weapons which target them. This makes Pavium excellent as a forward spotter for Mega Turrets and other artillery.
This expansion brought two new maps – Mirage and Fissure, free for everyone regardless of whether you purchased Awakening the Nightmare or not. For the sake of review, my full attention went to the campaign and Terminus Firefight. I didn’t have the time to try and play competitive matches in the new maps, but hey, free maps are always good!
Plus, this recent update introduced a new spectator mode, enabling players to view custom matches and watch others play the game.
Terminus Firefight – The new exciting PVE experience
Since launch, 343 Industries had a firefight mode called Blitz Firefight, resembling Warzone Firefight, but instead of REQ Packs you have Card Packs. At first I was enjoying, however, the lack of dynamic objectives and maps at launch kept me somewhat skeptical for this mode and its future.
Terminus, on the other hand, is a very different mode, scrapping Card Packs and hosting new defense measurements such as spike floors and barricades. Terminus Firefight also adds an entirely new tower defense-style twist to the beloved wave-based Halo mode. Up to three players amass armies to defend both their bases and their Forerunner terminus node against an increasing and escalating hoard of attacking enemies. A new faction will surge every five waves, mixing the gameplay and forcing you to implement different strategies for each respective faction.
A new faction will surge every five waves, mixing the gameplay and forcing you to implement different strategies for each respective faction. I managed to get over 46 million points reaching Wave 63…If you do better, feel free to send me a screenshot of your accomplishment on Twitter at Wh1plash96 and RectifyGaming.
A final wrap
Overall, I loved my time playing through Awakening the Nightmare for this review. The new Flood design looked much like Bungie’s old and beloved design, while 343 and Creative Assembly introduced their own artistic style, which was a welcome and heartful change I will forever cherish. Halo Wars 2 and this expansion, as a whole, pay homage to the classic artstyle Halo fans have been begging for since Halo 4. I will continue to say Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare was the right decision from the get-go.
The campaign offers enough replayability for multiple playthroughs, multiplayer received two brand new and dominant leaders, and Terminus Firefight is the right PVE mode I’ve sought since launch to enjoy more of the good ol’ classic Firefight. I did experience a few game crashes, disconnections, and insane frames-per-second drops while playing Terminus Firefight, yet nothing too infuriating or game-breaking. For $19.99, there’s enough content to justify each dollar you will spend.