There’s a good chance many Halo fans have skipped the series’ strategy game spin-offs Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2. After all, if hair-trigger shooters are your thing, it’s not a given that you’re also interested in real-time strategy games. But if you’ve wondered whether the Wars series might appeal to you, Xbox One and PC players will have a chance to find out next weekend, when the games will be available to try for free.
Specifically, as part of a Free Play Days event, Xbox One owners will be able to download and play Halo Wars 2 between October 18-21. PC gamers can try out Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on Steam during the same window of availability. There’s no word yet about the games being on sale for those who want to buy them once the demo period ends, but that’s traditionally the case. Both games are available through Xbox Game Pass as well.
Halo Wars first launched in 2009 on Xbox 360, pitting human UNSC forces against the alien Covenant army several decades prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. It got an enhanced Definitive Edition for Xbox One and PC in 2016; that’s the version that will be free on Steam.
In GameSpot’s original Halo Wars review, Luke Anderson wrote, “It looks and sounds great, and it captures the essence of the series well, but there’s not much else to keep you coming back once you’ve finished the short campaign and grown tired of playing multiplayer skirmishes between the two sides. It’s good while it lasts, but it will appeal more to fans of Halo and casual RTS players than anyone looking for a deeply engrossing strategy game.”
The sequel, Halo Wars 2, came out in 2017 and takes place shortly after the events of the original and offers a similar RTS-lite experience. “Halo Wars 2 lies somewhere in between an RTS game for Halo fans and a Halo game for RTS fans,” Kallie Plagge wrote in our Halo Wars 2 review. “It adapts Halo’s FPS roots well, taking the series’ classic missions and reformatting them in ways that make sense for a strategy game without sacrificing accessibility. But ultimately, this is a very light RTS experience geared toward Halo veterans, not a robust strategy game, and it runs out of steam quickly.”
In any case, both games are worth trying for free if you’ve ever wondered about them and don’t have anything else to play next weekend.