Hello Halo Wars, Goodbye Ensemble Studios

02Mar09

It seems good news and bad news often go hand in hand and the upcoming release of Halo Wars is a perfect example. Whilst I remain unconvinced by real-time strategy games on consoles (I’d much rather be playing them on a PC) it can only be a good thing that the Halo franchise is branching out to offer a slice of Master Chief action to more than just FPS gamers.

Halo Wars

Halo Wars

From my time with the demo on Xbox Live it’s clear that the guys over at Ensemble Studios have worked hard on migrating the complex control systems of an RTS over to the Xbox 360 control pad, it is by far the best RTS experience I’ve had on a console yet I still find it a little clumsy when compared to the good old keyboard and mouse. The other thing that Halo Wars has going for it is the modern era of High Definition gaming brought about by consoles like the 360. RTS games become a much more viable prospect when running through a nice big HDTV, the extra resolution really helps with a genre where gameplay isn’t focussed on one big bold character but instead many smaller units and vehicles.

The bad news that comes with the release of Halo Wars is that it is time to wave goodbye to one of the most respected RTS development teams of all time, Ensemble Studios. The guys that brought the critically acclaimed Age of Empires series to life close their doors for the final time this week. I still have fond memories of playing the original Age of Empires game back in the day so I have very mixed emotions with the launch of Halo Wars, great joy to see such progress made with a console based RTS game, great sadness that the genius behind it is to be split up.

Farewell Ensemble Studios, it’s been great!

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