Halo Wars 2’s Awakening the Nightmare: A Nightmare Worth Experiencing

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After six months of new leaders, units, and a mini campaign following a squad of ODSTs, Halo War 2 rounds out it’s DLC with the largest, and best, one yet. A new campaign told from the Banished perspective, two new multiplayer leaders, a new Firefight, two new maps, a spectator mode, and the glorious return of the parasitic Flood, Awakening the Nightmare is a marvelous package that will leave you blinded by its majesty and very much worth the $20 price tag.

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Story: A Desperate Fight for Survival

Awakening the Nightmare’s story is a simple one. Sent on a salvage run around the ruins of High Charity, the former capital city of the Covenant empire that crashed on the Ark during the events of Halo 3 after the Gravemind took control of it, the Jiralhanae brothers, Voridus and Pavium, begin to assault the Sentinel defense system, put around the city by the Installation’s monitor, and clear a path to the crash site. After a brief run in with the UNSC, Voridus disables the Sentinels and his forces find themselves at the entrance to High Charity. Soon after, they find themselves overwhelmed by the remnants of the Flood lurking inside the city after Voridus ignores the warnings, claiming that they are nothing more than rumors and legends, and has his men cut a hole in the containment shield and enter the structure.

With the Sentinel defense system disabled, the Flood quickly begin to spread and infect the surrounding area. Pavium and his forces have no choice but to hold the line until they regroup with Voridus and his surviving men before retreating and planning a means of containment. It’s pretty straightforward from there. The Brute Brothers devise a plan to contain the Flood by re-activating the Sentinels and put it into action.

Don’t expect to be blown away by it or have the Halo universe flipped on it’s head because of it. It’s a very simple story, though an enjoyable one. There’s a clear beginning and middle, as well as an ending that leaves room for more tales of the parasite. The Brute Bros. were also very enjoyable and well written characters. Voridus and Pavium have a lot of excellent chemistry and it really shows.

There was also a huge missed opportunity with the UNSC. They only appear once throughout the entire campaign, and it’s for a very brief moment in the first level. We learn of a large scouting party and quickly take them out on the way to High Charity. That’s it. That’s all we see of them.

This was the perfect campaign for Morgan Kinsano, the very first DLC leader and commander of the Hellbringers aboard the Spirit of Fire, to make her debut in the story. Every other DLC leader that is canonically alive during the events of Halo Wars 2 have appeared at some point in the campaigns. Colony was the main bad guy of Operation: SPEARBREAKER while Pavium and Voridus are the stars of Awakening the Nightmare. Everyone but Kinsano has appeared in a story for Halo Wars 2 and it’s really disappointing, especially since she’s the only new human character introduced.

It’s really upsetting to not see her in her modified cyclops fighting the Flood alongside some Flame Warthogs or Hellbringers. It’s also annoying that we don’t know why the UNSC was present near High Charity and now I pray for a comic or novel to expand on what they were doing, as well as their reaction to the Flood’s return.

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Gameplay: The True Star of the Show

Awakening the Nightmare features five brand-new missions, and boy are they good. Each mission is unique in level design and experience and it really feels like Creative Assembly have a strong grasp on the Halo Wars 2 sandbox. The Flood force you to change how to approach the game in clever and exciting ways, while the levels themselves force you to mix things up a little.

Being overrun and forced to retreat, with little downtime to prepare for the next assault from the parasite, balancing resources between building and upgrading units and powering three giant drills as the unstableness of the area unleashes hordes of Flood from all directions, navigating tight spaces filled with Flood pods and defense lasers, Awakening the Nightmare’s level design is the true start of the show and offers hours of replayability as you tackle the levels with new strategies and at higher difficulties.

Creative Assembly took risks with these missions, flipping the Halo Wars formula on it’s head in a beautiful and challenging experience. I’ve only completed the campaign on normal, but I hear legendary is a true challenge that I can’t wait to experience.

I wish the campaign was a mission or two longer, simply because it left me craving more. I would love to have seen how else the team could’ve challenged the player to play the game in a way previously unseen in Halo Wars, or even the RTS genre as a whole.

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Multiplayer: Polar Opposite Playstyles That Play Nice With Others

The Brute Brothers are also the newest leaders added to the multiplayer roster. Bringing the total number of leaders to sixteen, Voridus and Pavium change how to approach an online match in interesting ways.

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Voridus: The younger of the brothers, Voridus focuses on infusion gel, the result of experiments with Colony’s weapons.The infusion gel slows down and burns the enemy inside of it, with leader powers that increase the damage done or heals targets.

Because of this, you want to spread this stuff as much as possible, and the game makes it very easy for you to accomplish this task. With a variety of leader powers from mines to a cleansing beam-esque infusion painter, the battlefield will quickly find itself covered in the stuff.

The new Engineer and Scarab variants, who sacrifice their shield abilities and replace it with the ability to spread infusion, will further help you achieve this task. And you’ll really want to make sure you can get infusion gel on the field once you get the new Brute Grenadiers on the field. These guys fire grenades from a distance and can absorb infusion pools to boost their states for a short time.

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Pavium: Where Voridus is all about the early rush and aggressive behavior, Pavium is the exact opposite. He’s a turtle leader who will lock down his base and do everything in his power to make sure nothing destroys it. And he accomplishes this with some of the coolest additions to Halo Wars 2 ever. The deadly Mega Turrets see a return from the first game, now a buildable and upgradeable turret that takes up a building slot, a orbital designator that not only reveals units in the fog of war, but can be upgraded to do damage to those revealed units, a deadly series of plasma beams that cover a small area, and the ability to deploy a Liche to secure an area of interest and deploy units directly from it. Pavium also has a new APC-style vehicle in the form of a Wraith Invader, the Banished counterpart to Jerome’s Mastodon.

The two leaders work exceptionally well together and mesh well with the other leaders in the game. The new strategies that one can create from the Brute Brothers are insanely powerful, yet can be countered in a way that doesn’t make them stupidly overpowered.

The expansion also released two brand new maps, Mirage and Fissure, for everyone, regardless of whether they bought the expansion or not. While I have yet to play on them, more maps is never a bad thing and the fact that they released them for everyone means we don’t have to worry about a split playerbase.

There is also a new spectator mode, which allows players to view custom matches and watch others play the game

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Terminus Firefight: A Beautifully Crafted PvE Experience

The newest in the Firefight family, Terminus firefight tasks players with defending a Terminus from endless and randomized waves of the various factions encountered in Halo Wars 2, with the faction changing every five waves. Able to play solo, or join two friends or randoms over Xbox Live, Terminus Firefight is an exciting addition to the Firefight family, and just what Halo Wars 2 needed.

The game adapts to the number of players, closing off or opening pathways for the enemy AI to us to advance on your position, as well as limiting the number of bases one can build based on the player count. Communication and picking the right leaders are key to making it to the higher waves.

Terminus Firefight also sees the introduction of a new building type: Fences. Three types of fences exist for each playable faction, so having at least one UNSC and Banished leader is heavily suggested. Some fences stop enemies in their tracks until they are destroyed, others feature explosives that can do heavy damage to the hordes of units coming your way, while others will slow down and damage, but not stop, enemies that cross over it.

The gamemode doesn’t do a lot to mix up and change the done to death Horde mode, but it’s nevertheless a very enjoyable experience.

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Audio and Visuals:

The return of the Flood also means the return of their disgusting and warped appearances. Combat forms from the trilogy make a return, while new pure forms offer a new visual for the Flood not seen in the other games. The Flood very much looks like the Flood and 343i have done a wonderful job keeping in tune with the classic and iconic look of the parasite, while also introducing their own artistic style into them. New forms such as the Spawner and Abominations will glow orange while they using their abilities against your armies, a cut unit also makes it’s debut in the new Infestor form, a cut Flood form from Halo 3 that now acts as an anti-vehicle unit, turning the machines against you as biomass spreads on the hoods of Warthogs and the barrel of a Scorpion tank’s cannons.

Blur also returns with three brand new and glorious cutscenes. They are short, roughly seven minutes in total length, they play at the beginning, after the first mission, and the very end of the campaign. While we saw the Flood in Halo 2 Anniversary’s cutscenes, they were really only the Gravemind and Infection forms. Now, we see combat forms, the new Abomination, Spawners, and more in action in these beautiful cutscenes. They show off just how disgusting and horrific the Flood can be.

There is also a new half-hour soundtrack for Awakening the Nightmare. While nothing amazing, it does add to the atmosphere the Flood bring to the table. One particular soundtrack piece, Corroded, sees the return of the classic Flood music you’d hear in some levels like Floodgate or 343 Guilty Spark. Sadly it went unused in the campaign itself.

A Communication Error:

Awakening the Nightmare’s biggest drawback is perhaps it’s issues with communication. The expansion was revealed back at E3, and while plenty were excited for it, many were also seriously pissed off. Not only was the expansion sold separately from the season pass, but it was revealed before all of the season pass content was revealed, including the Operation: SPEARBREAKER mini campaign that was included in the season pass.

Awakening the Nightmare should’ve been saved for an event like PAX or Gamescom, big gaming events that were held later on in the year and around the time that the season pass would be wrapping up. Many people refuse to buy the expansion because they feel they’ve been ripped off because of this issue with communication, and it’s a lesson I hope 343i takes to heart.

Another issue came with the new Phoenix Logs, which detail some of the new Flood forms. Previously entities known as Key Minds were referred to as Graveminds that have converted an entire planet. Key Minds now act as Flood coordinators, with the new Abomination being one of them. They command local infestations until they reach critical mass, when they then form a Proto-Gravemind. These changes threw the lore community through a loop as they tried to make sense of these changes. It wasn’t until 343 employee and writer GrimBrotherOne came along with a community update that addressed these changes and helped to clear things up. While nothing major, it was still a confusing time for fans, especially since the Flood lore was very simple to follow and understand until that point.

Conclusion:

Halo Wars 2’s Awakening the Nightmare is a must-have for fans of the Flood and RTS Halo. The campaign is highly replayable, multiplayer sees the addition of powerful yet balanced leaders, and the addition of Terminus Firefight brings us a proper and enjoyable PvE mode. Despite some slip ups, the expansion is easily worth the $20 price tag and will keep me playing Halo Wars 2 well into the future.

8.5/10

Pros:

+ Flood are back

+ Amazing campaign levels

+ Powerful and fun new multiplayer leaders

+ Terminus Firefight

+Beautiful Blur cutscenes

Cons:

– Story plays it too safe

– Lack of UNSC presence

-Communication issues both before, and after the release of the game

-Minor frame drops on the Xbox One S

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Stop Saying the Halo Wars 2 Season Pass is No Longer Worth the Money

E3 2017 has been an interesting one for gamers across all platforms. Microsoft officially revealed Project Scorpio as the Xbox One X, Bethesda has learned nothing from paid mods in the past and continues to milk Skyrim as much as possible, and Nintendo stole the show with not one, but two Metroid games, among other announcements. But among all the chaos, Halo fans continue to show just how horrible they are.

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Announced on Monday June 15, 2017 during Xbox Daily: Live @ E3, Halo Wars 2 is getting an expansion DLC that adds a new campaign where you play as the Banished fighting an ancient evil we haven’t seen since for a decade in a new Halo game, the Flood. The expansion also includes a new Firefight mode that features more traditional RTS gameplay and pits you against the UNSC, Banished, and Flood forces; the DLC also features two Banished leaders, two Jiralhanae lieutenants. While the official release date is unknown, it’s set to release this fall. But here’s the part ticking Halo fans off, it’s not apart of the season pass and sold separately for $20.

It’s understandable to be annoyed by the decision to exclude it from the season pass, however once you break it down it does make sense. The two leaders alone equal around $12 and the campaign features Blur cutscenes and those aren’t exactly cheap. I find it perfectly understandable that they are excluding it from the season pass. However, now people are saying the season pass and Ultimate Edition of the game are no longer worth their price.

 

What a bunch of bullshit.

 

The description of the season pass is as follow, “Grow your war chest with the Halo Wars 2 Season Pass. 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.”

The season pass covers content released for the first six months after Halo War 2’s launch, which was back in February. With some delay and other issues, 343 Industries and Creative Assembly have delivered on this promise. We’ve gotten a new leader every month and we have two more arriving this month, another two next month, and at some point a UNSC mini-campaign titled Operation: SPEARBREAKER, which is two extra campaign missions.

The list of DLC the season pass covers is as follows:

  1. Morgan Kisano
  2. Lekgolo Pair Colony
  3. Sergeant Avery Junior Johnson
  4. Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerome-092
  5. Arbiter Ripa ‘Moramee
  6. Unannounced Leader #1
  7. Unannounced Leader #2
  8. Operation: SPEARBREAKER mini campaign

Each leader costs $5.99. With seven in total, that totals out to $42 (the reason for seven is because John Forge is a free leader and not apart of the season pass, so it’s safe to assume July’s leaders will both be Banished.) The season pass is only $30. I should not need to spell this out, but the season pass has already saved you $12 and that amount will increase once we find out how much Operation: SPEARBREAKER costs. While the savings offered by season passes varies from a couple of dollars to saving almost thirty dollars, this is a great deal if you ask me.

But, there’s still the Ultimate Edition. This is a special edition of Halo Wars 2 that costs twenty dollars more than the standard game and is priced at $80, in America. This edition of the game contains Halo Wars 2, the season pass and Halo Wars: Definitive Edition. Separate, these items cost a total of $110 as Halo Wars: Definitive Edition costs $20. By buying the Ultimate Edition, you save yourself $30 and you essentially get the season pass for free. That means that instead of spending $42 on each DLC leader and the campaign, you get them all for $20.

What you think of the content is irrelevant. The season pass, and more specifically the Ultimate Edition, is a bargain deal. You get every DLC leader and Operation: SPEARBREAKER for $12 or $22 than you would separately.

Still not convinced? Okay, now let’s say you didn’t buy the season pass or Ultimate Edition and you planned on getting every leader and Awakening the Nightmare. We’ll leave Operation: SPEARBREAKER out as it’s pricing is unknown.

7 leaders priced at $6 for a total of $42 + Halo Wars 2 ($60) + Awakening the Nightmare ($20) = $122

By buying the Ultimate Edition, you just saved $22.

Now let’s say you got the season pass:

Season pass ($30) + Halo Wars 2 ($60) + Awakening the Darkness ($20) = $110

With just the season pass, you saved $10.

The season pass and the Ultimate Edition are still very much worth their price and to say they aren’t is insane. And one last thing, no not every season pass covers the game’s DLC. Halo 4’s season pass very clearly stated it’d cover the first three map packs and then Champions Bundle was announced. Borderlands 2’s Headhunter DLCs, Gaige the Mechromancer, Krieg the Psycho, and the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2 were also excluded from the game’s season pass

Stop saying season passes are suppose to cover all post-launch DLC when that’s only been the case for a handful of them.

 

 

 

 

The Potential of Skyrim: Switch Edition’s Amiibo Support

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During the night of Sunday June 12, 2017, Bethesda’s E3 conference was held. While it was mostly lackluster and most of the ‘reveals’ were things we’ve known about for months or even announced at last year’s E3, the amusement park theme was pretty funny and enjoyable to me and there were a few standouts. Dishonored is getting a new standalone campaign expansion with Daud and Billie Lurk trying to take down the Outsider. Meanwhile Wolfenstein is getting a sequel to 2014’s The New Order set in a Nazi-controlled America that looks wonderful.

But there’s something else that caught the eye of many viewers and that was the sudden appearance of the Master Sword, Hylian Shield, and Breath of the Wild’s Champion’s Tunic obtained from a chest dropped into the world of Skyrim by a Legend of Zelda Amiibo.

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Yup, Skyrim is still coming to the Switch and it’s getting Amiibo support which means bonus Nintendo content to give you another reason to buy the game for the fifth time beyond the portability and motion controls.

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But what will be the extend of the Amiibo support? Well, according the video description of the trailer on Bethesda’s YouTube channel; the following Amiibo series will be supporting Skyrim’s Switch port:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild series
  • 30th Anniversary – The Legend of Zelda series
  • Super Smash Bros. series
  • The Legend of Zelda series

As you can see from the list, there will be a lot of Zelda in Skyrim. We already know the Link (Archer) Amiibo figure will give players the three items mentioned above as it’s the one used in the video but there are fifteen other figures between the three Zelda lines alone. While many of the figures will probably work similarly to how they do in Breath of the Wild, where several Link Amiibo grant access to the iconic green tunic based on the way it appeared in the games the Amiibo originate from, there’s still several other Amiibo that aren’t Link as he’s appeared in the various games.

Could the Guardian and Bokoblin figures add the enemies into Skyrim for the player to fight? Will the Link (Rider) figure give us access to Epona? Could we see Zelda’s outfits added with her figures? Sadly some of these seem more like a dream than reality but you never know what could happen. Bethesda seems to have put a lot of time and care into this port and they could always surprise us. But enough about the Zelda Amiibos. I made this article to discuss something else:

The Super Smash Bros. series.

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Smash Bros. is much more than just Zelda, it covers almost every major Nintendo franchise and more. Mario, Metroid, Kirby, Pokemon, Fire Emblem, even Final Fantasy and Street Fighter have Amiibo thanks to Cloud and Ryu’s appearances in Smash. With ten waves and a total of sixty two figures and twenty eight different franchises, the Smash line is the largest and most diverse Amiibo line out there.

While I doubt the Smash Bros line will be anything beyond the Zelda figures included in there, which features another Link and Zelda figure and the only figures for Shiek and Ganondorf currently released, there’s a lot of potential.

Imagine getting Mario’s hat, summoning a dragon that looks like Charizard for you to fight, or using the Monado from Xenoblade Chronicles. These are just three of many possibilities for Nintendo and Bethesda to create using the Super Smash Brothers. Amiibo line. And there’s a great reason why they should do this kind of stuff, because the Switch version will most likely not have mod support. Let’s face it, as cool as the Switch is, it’s a weaker console than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Even if it did get mod support, it will be very limited, even more so than PlayStations 4’s pathetic support for mods. I don’t know if it’s been officially confirmed or not, but I doubt it’ll happen.

Utilizing the Smash Bros. line of Amiibo will allow for fans of Skyrim and Nintendo enjoy exclusive, crazy content from their favorite Nintendo franchises in Skyrim. Mario, Pokemon, Metroid, Fire Emblem, and so many more franchises could see amazing items and content brought into Skyrim and I hope Bethesda utilizes the potential before them. Even if they leave out third-party franchises like Mega Man, Pac-Man, Sonic, and Final Fantasy, there’s still plenty of characters, franchises, and possibilities in this line of Amiibo.

It was Bound to Happen Eventually

Yes, I made a WordPress. Yes, a lot of people in the Halo community have been making them recently. So of course I decided to follow the crowd and make one myself.

Who am I? Well, I go by the name of MonkeysxMoo on the internet. I frequent a handful of Halo community websites and I’m also very active on Twitter. I’m a huge fan of Halo and gaming in general. I’m also a huge anime fan, watched over 150 different series and counting thank you very much.

I’m also a writer. I’m currently working on a science fiction story that focuses on espers with heavy inspiration coming from anime and manga series such as A Certain Magical Index and RWBY. I’ve also wrote a few Halo fan fictions but they didn’t last long. I may revisit the idea for one though.

So, what can you expect from me on here? Well, Halo will certainly be the primary subject of my posts on here. I’m sick of Waypoint’s bullshit and r/Halo cares more about reposting old Halo trailers than anything actually worth an actual upvote so I figured with a blog of my own, I’ll actually get some real, genuine discussions going.

A lot of my posts for Halo will be focusing on ideas, changes, additions, and more that I’d like to see happen to the Halo games. Art style, gameplay mechanics, enemies, etc. Pretty much what everyone else has been talking about for the last few months.

My first post about Halo will be talking about my ideas for how the different subspecies of the Covenant can work if they were present in the same Halo game and also some changes I’d like to see made to the behavior of some of the enemies. I’m not going to give you the “Expect it out on this day or next week!” crap because I honestly don’t know when I’ll post stuff.

might introduce more than just Halo down the line. Whether it’s for other video games, anime, or my own writing is unknown currently.