Halo Wars is a real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 console. The game is set in the science-fiction Halo universe, 20 years before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Players lead human soldiers aboard the warship Spirit of Fire in a effort to stop an ancient fleet of ships from falling into the hands of the genocidal Covenant.
Acknowledging the shortcomings of previous console RTS games, Ensemble built Halo Wars specifically for the Xbox 360’s controller and attempted to bring together Halo fans and experienced players of strategy games. Although Ensemble closed its doors before the game’s release, a company formed by many of Ensemble’s former employees, Robot Entertainment, continued to support the game with updates and downloadable content.
Halo Wars received generally positive reviews from gaming critics. Reviewers lauded the game’s pre-rendered cinematics, attention to details of the Halo universe, and intuitive control scheme. Complaints with the game included a lack of options to play as Covenant or Flood in the campaign mode, and a lack of strategic options in play. Several critics said that experienced RTS players would find the strategic elements of the title shallow. The game sold one million units worldwide by mid-March 2009, making it the best-selling console real-time strategy game to date.