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Know your enemy.

"Twenty-eight years, Professor. Let's see what kind of galaxy we woke up to."
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Halo Wars 2 is a Real-Time Strategy game set in the Halo universe, developed by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly for the Xbox ONE and Windows 10. It is a sequel to 2009's Halo Wars.

Set in 2559 (twenty-eight years after the original Halo Wars and about a year after Halo 5: Guardians), the story begins with the UNSC Spirit of Fire's crew finally waking up after being in cryo-sleep for nearly three decades, only to find themselves at an ancient Forerunner installation known as "The Ark" (the very same one that the second half of Halo 3 was set on). However, it turns out they aren't the only people there; a hostile Brute-led Covenant splinter faction called "The Banished" have already set up shop, and are seeking to use the Ark for their own nefarious purposes. Despite having completely missed the events of the last twenty-eight years, Captain James Cutter of the Spirit of Fire must now match his wits against Atriox, the Banished's terrifying powerful and brilliant leader.

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Like the original Halo Wars, the multiplayer allows the player to choose which side to take command of, with both factions (the UNSC and the Banished) each having multiple unique leaders who each provide their own special bonuses.

The game was officially released on February 21, 2017, with those who bought the Ultimate Edition getting it on the 17th.

A Downloadable Content campaign titled "Awakening the Nightmare" was released on September 26th, 2017. In it the player takes control of the Banished for a single-player campaign, specifically two Banished Brute brothers Pavium and Voridus, as they deal with a Flood infestation originating from the space station High Charity, which had crash landed on the Ark.

Previews: Announce Teaser, E3 Trailer, Launch Trailer.


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Tropes of Halo Wars 2:

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    General 
  • And the Adventure Continues: The game doesn't end with the Banished taking a decisive defeat, and the ending cutscene shows Atriox to still have substantial forces left to him. The Spirit of Fire is still left stranded above the Ark, and the new Halo Anders' is riding on is hijacked by a Guardian.
  • Big Bad: Atriox, the terrifying chieftain of the Banished, is the main antagonist.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In the penultimate mission, Atriox gives Cutter an ultimatum, saying he will let the Spirit of Fire live and all humans leave in safety if they leave the Halo and the Ark to him. Cutter shoots back that the Ark now belongs to the Spirit of Fire, and that Atriox can piss off. Isabel then reports that Atriox has never been so mad.
    • It's zig-zagged between them. Atriox didn't take the humans seriously and the entirety of the game is them managing to inflict more damage on his army than the Covenant ever did.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • After it looked like they would be left in eternal canon limbo after the end of 2009's Halo Wars (Aside from a tease in Halo: Escalation that went nowhere and heavily implied a Bus Crash had happened), the Spirit of Fire's crew are back in the fight.
    • The Brutes themselves are also this, with their last outing as a major antagonist being all the way back in Halo 3 nearly nine years ago before being Demoted to Extra in Reach and being Put on a Bus for the entirety of the Reclaimer saga.
    • Joining the Brutes in returning after a long absence from the games are the Brutes' signature attack vehicle the Chopper (missing since Halo 3), and the gigantic siege-breaking Scarab walker (last seen in Reach).
  • Bus Crash: As set up in Halo: Tales From Slipspace, Serina, the Spirit of Fire's AI from the previous game, died seven years into the ships' 28 year voyage. The game opens with her last transmission, giving her farewell before she self-terminated.
  • Call-Back: Remember how Guilty Spark in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary started launching chunks of his Halo into space to kill time? Anders uses the same function to dispatch the attacking Banished near the end of the game.
  • The Cameo: While Captain Cutter's Elephants have been removed from the UNSC unit roster, they do appear as the central structure for UNSC bases.
    • Sergeant Forge returns as a multiplayer commander, and has several unique lines referencing the fact that he died in Halo Wars.
  • Cool Bike: The UNSC Jackrabbit, a three-wheeled scout vehicle.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Brutes and their strength has been something of note since their first appearance all the way back in Halo: First Strike, where one surprised even the Master Chief himself by managing to overwhelm and nearly kill him. It comes as no surprise that Atriox, who's powerful even for a Brute, was able to deliver a curb-stomp to the ill-prepared Red Team.
    • The scrap on the Ark that the Banished salvage is described by Isabel as coming from a battle near the end of the war where "the Master Chief saved us all", clearly nodding to Halo 3.
    • Isabel was stationed at the Henry Lamb research outpost, which is explicitly named after a UNSC scientist from the novel Halo: Hunters in the Dark.
    • Several of the Phoenix Logs are all but outright stated to be from the perspective of 000 Tragic Solitude, aka the Ark's Monitor and main antagonist of Hunters in the Dark, with several of the logs combining to serve as something of a prequel to said novel.
    • Red Team is limited to driving around in a Warthog in the first mission, and close examination reveals that their armor is similar to the armor worn by Master Chief in the first Video Game/Halo. After Jerome and Douglas return to the Spirit of Fire with Isabel, their armor is upgraded to the most modern Mjolnir spec, including jump jets and other advancements though Alice's upgraded armor remains a plot hole, since she was cut off and isolated for most of the campaign.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Atriox delivers an impressive one to three Spartan-IIs rather effortlessly.
  • Cruel Mercy: Atriox lets Red Team live as a way of humiliating him. This turns out to be a serious mistake as they spend the rest of the game hammering his forces, partially driven by revenge.
  • The Dragon: Atriox's main lieutenant and muscle is Decimus, a Brute powerful enough to take on multiple Spartans and armies in gameplay, and even to call down orbital bombardment on his own position fearlessly (with the survival aid of an extra strength energy shield.)
  • Doomsday Device: A backup Halo features prominently in the plot. The final mission revolves around holding the line until it can be disarmed.
  • The Dreaded: Atriox, hands down. The Covenant used him and his clan as cannon fodder, and turned him into a legend, a rebel so terrible he was at least as big a threat as the entire human race. The biggest difference? The Covenant almost beat humanity. They never came close to beating Atriox.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • ODSTs make their glorious return to the games.
    • The Sangheili (aka Elite) mercenaries serving in the Banished are implied to be this relative to the rest of the faction.
    • While not considered Mooks at all, the Spartan-I Is (along with other "Warlord/Hero" type units) are certainly elite, and wade into battle with nearly disturbing ferocity and effectiveness.
  • Enemy Chatter: Like in the original Halo Wars, units have a diverse array of context-sensitive lines.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Like in Halo Wars 1, Spartans can hijack enemy vehicles.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Atriox is introduced by having him single-handedly defeat three Spartan-IIs at once (establishing his strength), saying that the one he defeated was "just a man", as he suspected, and then letting them flee so his forces can follow them to their base (establishing his cunning) while taunting them with a "run, little demons" (establishing his sadism).
  • Eviler Than Thou: The Banished; the Covenant not only feared them, but couldn't even curb them even in their prime.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Isabel's initial advice to Red Team and then Cutter boils down to run the hell away from Atriox.
  • Genius Bruiser: Atriox is the strongest Brute we've seen since Tartarus (possibly even stronger), but is a also extremely intelligent to boot. This throws everyone for a loop, since most Brutes are usually, well, Brutes.
  • Here We Go Again!: A bleak and depressing example, as the Spirit of Fire finally gets somewhere only to immediately be thrust into conflict with Covenant races once again. The E3 trailer and accompanying song (I Know You by The White Buffalo) play up the tragedy element of the fight for all it's worth.
    • The Ark itself and its usage in creating another Halo, presumably another copy of Installation-04, serves a heavy role similar to that in Halo 3 as both the main battleground between a human and a Covenant-divergent force as well as a potential refuge away from the possible firing of the Halo Array.
    • In the Awakening the Nightmare expansion, the Flood re-emerge on the Ark.
  • Hover Tank: In addition to the Wraith, the Banished also have the Marauder, which is sort of the Brute version of the Revenant.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Captain Cutter and Professor Anders have been redesigned to look like their new voice actors Gideon Emery and Faye Kingslee.
  • Late to the Tragedy: When the Spirit arrives at the Ark, it discovers that the UNSC garrison there has already been completely wiped out by the Banished, with the only survivor being a traumatized logistics AI.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Isabel does this to cripple the Banished by staging an opportunity to hijack their flagship and make it attack the Ark itself, instigating the installation's defenses to retaliate against the Enduring Conviction and take it out.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The Spirit's crew awaken with zero idea of what's been going on in the last twenty-eight years (sans the distress signal Anders picked up, which lets them know that either the war is still going on or the UNSC won). However, they do quickly find a UNSC logistics AI who fills them in on some of the details, in addition to providing updated specifications for improved equipment developed while they were out. This causes some confused consternation in The Stinger, when Anders runs into one of the Guardians.
  • Killer Space Monkey: Unlike Jul 'Mdama's Covenant, the Banished is primarily run by Brutes instead of Elites.
  • Kill It with Fire: UNSC Hellbringers make their return from the original Halo Wars.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Courtesy of the UNSC's Wolverine anti-air tank and Vulture gunship, and the Banished's Blisterback Spider Tank and Reaver Chicken Walker. The new Grizzly tank also has some missile pods that can launch a barrage of missiles as a special ability, making it into even more of a Mammoth Tank Expy than it already was.
  • Magnetic Weapons: In addition to Gauss Cannon-armed Warthogs, the UNSC also has snipers equipped with M99 Stanchions, coilgun sniper rifles originally introduced in the Expanded Universe.
    • One mission also sets up a Sentinel counter: the Spirit Of Fire using their MAC to essentially fire blanks, generating an EMP pulse to drive off or destroy the Sentinels.
  • Marathon Level: Several levels are lengthy ones, but "Under The Dark" takes the cake; on Legendary, it can take over two hours to complete.
  • Mini-Mecha:
    • The UNSC Cyclops makes its return, except this time it's an anti-vehicle unit equipped with a gun, instead an anti-structure melee unit like in the original.
    • The Banished have the Reaver, an anti-aircraft Chicken Walker.
  • Mundane Utility: The Spirit of Fire's crew intend to use a Halo, one of the most advanced weapons in existence, as a radio relay.
  • My Greatest Failure: Isabel is clearly haunted by her inability to do anything to stop Atriox from massacring her previous crew: she's nearly catatonic when found by Red Team, and panicked for several missions afterwards. She summons these memories for additional, rage-driven strength when she's trying to destroy the Enduring Conviction. The memories of their screams nearly drive her to tears.
  • Oh, Crap!: The reaction of Red Team to Atriox during the first mission, after he effortlessly disables and nearly cripples Douglas.
    • The Shipmaster has this reaction when he sees a fully-completed Halo emerge from the Ark's foundry.
    Let 'Volir: But how?
  • One-Man Army: The members of Red Team, Spartans Jerome-092, Alice-130 and Douglas-042, are almost unstoppable on their own: Jerome and Douglas use powerful, single-shot weapons (Spartan Laser and Missile Launcher) while Alice carries a minigun, and they can destroy anything short of a Super Unit given enough time to do so. Anything they can't kill, they can hijack and turn against their enemies, and if the unit they've commandeered is destroy, the Spartan survives to continue fighting on foot. It's not until halfway through the campaign that you get to control most than one in a mission, but until then, one is more than enough. The last two missions in the campaign let you control all three simultaneously for glorious carnage. Averted on higher difficulty levels, where they are quite a bit squishier, but still formidable.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The Spirit of Fire can launch several different weapons to support ground units, including Archer missiles, Lotus mines, and a turret.
    • Decimus' favored tactic when he's being overwhelmed is putting up a very powerful energy shield, and then having ships in orbit bombard his position with anti-capital-ship beam weapons.
  • Pride: Atriox's only real flaw and it is Pride Before The Fall given how much damage the Spirit of Fire does to his forces. Subverted as Atriox survives.
  • Put on a Bus: The Elephant, Cobra, Hawk and Vampire from the first game aren't usable in this one, though the Elephant does appear as the new central structure for UNSC bases.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Warthog's special ability involves hitting the gas and running into (or over) something.
    • How the Banished flagship Enduring Conviction is taken out of the picture, with an absolutely massive Zerg Rush of Aggressor Sentinels literally cutting the ship in half with suicide runs, thanks to Isabel invoking a Let's You and Him Fight situation.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Atriox and the Banished have apparently existed for a while, long enough for the Covenant to be fighting both them and the UNSC at the same time, but have never been mentioned previously. Phoenix logs eventually establish that Atriox has zero love for anyone not Banished, and ONI (human spies) actively conspired to avoid provoking him during the Human-Covenant War.
  • Revisiting the Roots: With regards to the art design: both sides have aesthetics that are more reminiscent of Bungie-era Halo as opposed to 343 Industries-era Halo. Justified on the UNSC side, since their gear is (at least initially) twenty-eight years out of date.
  • Rousing Speech: Captain Cutter gives one after being introduced to the threat of Atriox, defying Isabel's cynicism and openly standing his ground and deciding to face the Banished head on to stop them.
    Cutter: We are just one ship, and an old one at that... but here we are. Thirty years past what anyone could ask of us. Our war is gone, the lives we had are gone, the worlds we knew have moved on. And now, all that we may have left are those standing beside us and the duty that defines us, battle after battle fighting side by side, together. Where you see half a crew Isabel, I see family. Courage. And a thousand heroes who swore to fight their way through hell before they ever, ever turned their backs and run. And where you see one old ship, I see home... and that is always worth fighting for!
  • Scavenged Punk: The Banished equipment look like they are ram-shackled together with whatever parts they can find.
  • Siege Engines: The UNSC Kodiak, which is basically Halo's version of the Siege Tank.
  • Spider Tank: Besides the Locust (making its return from Halo Wars) and the Scarab, the Banished also have the Blisterback, a six-legged mobile missile battery that can also fly to get around.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Banished have this to an even greater degree than Halo 3's Brute-dominated Covenant; their vehicles all have a spiky aesthetic to them, and they seem to favor spiked helmets for their Brutes.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Due to the standard lives of UNSC AI being limited to seven years, Serina, the Spirit of Fire's snarky shipboard AI, spent her remaining life fixing up the ship before terminating herself, leaving the ship without an AI until Red Team brings back Isabel.
  • Super Soldier: The Spartan-IIs of Red Team make their return.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Banished are effectively this, at least gameplay-wise, for the Covenant.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: Though it goes unmentioned in favor of the Rousing Speech above, the Spirit of Fire doesn't really have a choice about fighting Atriox. Since they used their slipspace drive as a bomb in the previous game, they can't leave the area even if they wanted to.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Atriox, for all of his skill and genius, doesn't take a single half-spent human ship very seriously. The Spirit of Fire proceeds to run a guerilla war against him that kills one of his favorite generals, devastates a super-carrier, and delivers Atriox's first real defeats. Let's just say he really probably came to regret not killing the Spartans he did.
  • Undying Loyalty: Decimus, and a majority of the Banished in general, are shown to be extremely loyal to Atriox as a result of his strength, his genius, and his legend, leading to them finding the courage to abandon the Covenant altogether as they followed him.
  • Unknown Rival: The Banished, a breakaway rebel faction that even the Covenant deemed a threat, never came into the knowledge of the UNSC both before and during this game, which led both the Ark teams and Spirit of Fire being under-prepared to deal with them. Phoenix logs indicate that ONI was aware of The Banished, and Atriox in particular, prior to his appearance here, but didn't get a chance to confirm much of anything about him, and found him so overtly hostile to everyone, including humans, that they made zero attempt to capitalize on an Enemy Mine situation for fear of getting destroyed.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Subverted. The Banished do not consider themselves a continuation of the Covenant; in fact, they originated as an anti-Covenant rebellion.
  • What a Piece of Junk: A lot of the Banished's equipment look to be largely scrapped together from salvaged parts (including extra layers of armor visibly bolted onto most of their vehicles), but that doesn't make them any less deadly.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Towards the end, it appears as though riding through a Halo's portal will allow the Spirit of Fire to get back to human space and contact them. Unfortunately, the Halo heads through the portal too quickly for the Spirit of Fire to follow through, leaving them stranded once again. As for Anders, just before the ring can reach its destination, it is yanked out of slipspace and hijacked by a Guardian under the control of Cortana.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Pretty much Isabel's reaction to Red Team asking what the strength of the Covenant force that attacked her outpost was.
  • Zerg Rush: Suicide Grunts, en masse.

    Awakening the Nightmare 
  • Brick Joke: Voridus jokes early that the next time the Covenant lose a war, they should pick up after themselves. After defeating the proto-Gravemind, Atriox tells him and his brother to clean up their mess.
  • The Bus Came Back: After being presumed destroyed since the end of Halo 3, the Flood have returned to the Halo franchise. Narrowly subverted with the Gravemind; the proto-gravemind discovered in the final mission is destroyed before it completes its final metamorphosis.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: One Flood unit is simply a tentacle that bursts from the ground to attack units (Type 1), and at various points absolutely colossal tentacles emerge to block off pathways (Type 2).
  • Body Horror: Naturally, the victims of the Flood end up this way, rapidly mutating into misshapen monsters upon infection. The first combat-form witnessed in a cinematic is a brute covered in pulsating green tumors that have seemingly overtaken his eyes, and he was infected offscreen only a few scant minutes before being shown.
  • The Dreaded: The Banished are just as frightened of the Flood as the Covenant, except for Voridus, but he quickly changes his tune when he actually sees them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Banished have their goals of conquest, but the last thing they want is the Flood devouring the galaxy.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The Banished against the Flood. Atriox even abandons positions he was setting up against the Spirit of Fire because the Flood posed a much bigger threat.
  • Final Boss: An immense proto-gravemind on the verge of its final transformation is battled in the final mission.
  • Genre Blindness: Voridus hears about the Flood, is ordered by Atriox not to break through the quarantine around High Charity, but ignores him and his brother's warnings, believing the Flood to be a work of propaganda by the Covenant.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Done to a squad of brute scouts entering High Charity; the camera cutting away just before they're devoured by the reawakened Flood. We see the aftermath, however.
  • Happy Ending Override: Awakening the Nightmare does this to the third game: The Flood infesting High Charity are revealed to have survived the activation of Installation 04-b in vast numbers, and the Banished accidentally free them from a quarantine enforced by the Sentinels.
  • Non-Player Character: While the Flood have an extensive roster of units (more extensive than what they had in the previous game, at the least), they are an AI-only faction that only appears in the DLC's campaign.
  • Room Full of Zombies: High Charity. When the Banished cut open a single, tiny hole in the protective dome erected by the Sentinels, a nigh-unstoppable horde of Flood pours from the gap within minutes, overrunning the surrounding landscape and devouring everything they see.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: High Charity is intact and is still completely infested with the Flood, though the Sentinels of the Ark have constructed a solid dome around the ruins to contain the infestation, and keep the surrounding landscape under heavy guard. Unfortunately, the Banished destroy most of the defenses in order to salvage loot from the debris field, and Voridus' greed leads him to cut open a tiny part of the shield in search of further treasures within the city itself. Within mere minutes, tens-of-thousands of Flood start pouring through the breach.
  • Tentacle Rope: Employed by a number of pure-forms during the initial outbreak to incapacitate Banished soldiers, binding their arms or dragging their feet out from under them so infection forms can latch onto their bodies unhindered.
  • Tempting Fate: Vorius dismisses the rumors of monsters lingering in the wreckage of High Charity. Even the level name he does this in is called "What could go wrong?"!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Voridus, who dismisses the Flood as Covenant propaganda and sees no problem with tearing open the obvious sentinel quarantine around High Charity. While Voridus himself survives, his actions unleash the Flood and nearly result in the extinction of all life on the Ark and the return of the Gravemind.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: With the Enduring Conviction destroyed during the events of the main campaign, the Banished have no way of actually escaping the Flood, which are well-known for devouring entire planets in days if not opposed.
  • Zerg Rush: The Flood have this tactic as central to their gameplay, as their infection forms come in large unit sizes and can infect slain enemies and vehicles into units they control. Their introduction in Awakening the Nightmare is to swarm out of High Charity as a hundreds-strong swarm of infection forms, easily overrunning the Brutes outside the entrance.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Nearly quoted by Vordius himself, and directly quoted by the name of the first mission.
  • You Don't Look Like You: A very mild example, but in cutscenes the Flood are portrayed with their typical green pallor, while in-game they're instead colored in fleshy shades of pink and red. Various pure-forms have also taken to sporting glowing orange pustules/tumors, which aren't present in other installments.
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