"Oh, I know what the ladies like" Does this character really need any introduction? It was announced early on that the Halo Wars 2 multiplayer experience does not take place in a canonical setting. From then fans have been speculating just who might be added to the Halo Wars 2 leader roster. The fan favourite Sgt. Johnson is our first taste of a non-Halo Wars character to be added to the fray.
Sgt. Johnson served the UNSC with honour and distinction his entire life and was an important character in the original trilogy. He is remembered as a hero after his death but in a twist of fate, he has somehow been assigned a position abroad the Spirit of Fire. How he arrived at his new station is classified but death isn't going to stop this legendary character from kicking ass across Halo Wars 2's multiplayer modes.
Johnson's abilities favour a strong focus on defence while his new units provide some serious mechanised offensive firepower.
Sergeant Johnson: "All you greenhorns who wanted to see Covenant up close… this is your lucky day" The new hero unit in the update is, of course, the man himself albeit with some significant upgrades to how we usually see him depicted. Johnson leads from the front lines in his Green Machine Mech Suit. The suit comes equipped with some serious firepower, an energy shield and a unique ability the repair beacon. The ability allows Johnson to deploy a beacon that heals nearby friendly units, very similar to that of restoration drones. Upgrades to Johnson focus on enhancing his weaponry but also upgrading the repair beacon so that it also decreases incoming damage.
Johnson is an all round good hero unit to use in a variety of scenarios, he doesn't excel in any particular situation but he's also not necessarily at a disadvantage either. Fielding him early on allows for a very quick and mobile threat to make early pushes, in the late game his repair beacon ability means you can focus less on building nightingales or using the restoration drones ability and his variety of weaponry makes him a great asset in all types of engagements. His dialogue also acts as a great morale booster whether this increases win rates remains to be seen.
In Blitz, the mobile nature and firepower of the unit mean he is great for contesting energy cores while his ability is brilliant for holding down control points or for providing an edge when contesting them.
It's safe to say that the plot of the original Halo trilogy might have been a little different should Johnson have been equipped with the Green Machine at the time.
Colossus: "When I joined the Corps, we didn't have any fancy-schmancy tanks. We had sticks! Two sticks, and a rock for the whole platoon—and we had to share the rock!" The Colossus is a completely new addition to the Halo universe it's essentially a giant powerful mech that replaces the Scorpion Tank in Johnson's forces.
Like the scorpion tank, the Colossus is a tech level 3 unit that costs a lot of resources and energy to build and takes a long time to build as well. Once a few are built however they are a formidable unit to contend with on the battlefield, great for taking on infantry, vehicles and buildings whilst being less effective against air. The unit comes equipped with a powerful rail cannon which can be used at long ranges as well as a machine gun. There is only one unique upgrade for the unit which is the stomp ability which will stun and damage ground units caught in the shockwave, as with all melee based attacks the unit can have difficulty when it comes to pathfinding, especially in the chaotic battles in which this unit will likely see most of its action.
Due to the expensive cost of the unit striving to make them survive is essential. Back up the unit with Johnson, nightingales or combat engineers so that the mechs can be healed in between or during engagements. It's likely that enemy players will try and contend with the mechs with air based attacks and so building some Wolverines to compliment the Colossus is a good strategy to adopt to stop yourself from being overwhelmed. It's an overall brilliant unit to use but as mentioned building them is very time consuming and expensive. Additionally, it costs 9 population and is notably slower than the scorpion tank. Therefore it is essential to not focus all attention on the Colossus as this can leave you open to attack and it's very easy for enemy players to predict your tactics. Instead, focus on other tactics while you get yourself in a good position to start mass producing them for late game engagements.
Mantis: "For a brick he flew pretty good!" The Mantis was first introduced in Halo 4 as a devastating new vehicle that could single handily take on a small army's worth of ground and air forces. In Halo Wars 2 the mantis remains a versatile and powerful mechanised biped to contend with.
The mantis replaces the warthog in Johnsons forces and acts as a powerful and slower version of the warthog in its combat role. The unit is able to contend with infantry, air and vehicles but notably, does not excel in any given area. Like the Warthog it can be used in a variety of different roles and is a great addition to any mix of units, it's slower and more expensive but the increased firepower it possesses make it an essential part of any Johnson strategy.
The true power and use of the mantis, however, comes from its plethora of purchasable upgrades. Without upgrades, the mantis comes equipped with a chaingun and missiles. By purchasing upgrades however the mantis can become equipped with energy shields, increase in missile payload, replace the chaingun with a gauss repeater and gain access to a target designator which paints targets for increased damage. The true potential of the unit then is locked behind a variety of upgrades and thus like the Colossus the unit is most effectively used in the late game but is also cheap and versatile enough to be brought early on in matches as well.
Despite its versatility, it will still be more vulnerable to air attacks or anti-vehicle units like the hunters and thus provide some specialised support in the form of wolverines or snipers to make sure you don't get caught off guard.
Remote Sensors: A passive ability that increases the line of sight of structures and captured points. I consider this to be a mostly pointless ability to purchase as it gives very little tactical edge.
Restoration Drones: Available to other UNSC leaders these are deployable drones that heal friendly units in a selected area. In most cases an essential ability to purchase.
Digging in: Gives turrets a health syphon ability and reduces the cost of bunker drop. The syphon ability on turrets is barely noticeable but if players plan on making use of bunker drop then this is a great ability to try and unlock early in a match.
Bunker Drop: Easily the most exciting new ability. Allows players to drop a bunker down on the battlefield which 3 (or 4 if upgraded) infantry units can then garrison. Can be used in a variety of ways, such as defending and reinforcing bases, defending choke points or capture points or can even be used offensively to give infantry units an advantage when attacking an enemy base or dropped in on the fly during a large battle. Deploying the bunker does count towards population and it remains to be seen which infantry units or mix of infantry benefit best from the bunker. One tactic is to use the ability early on with snipers to effectively counter infantry rushes.
EMP Mac Blast: The EMP Mac Blast from the campaign finds its way into multiplayer. It does reduced damage compared to the standard Mac blast but the EMP shell has the added advantage of stunning enemy vehicles caught in its radius.
Pelican Transport: Used to quickly transport units across the battlefield, Johnson can exclusively upgrade this power to increase its effectiveness. Without any unit spawning ability, this power might be necessary to purchase so that additional forces can be transported to existing offensives such as using it to get the slow moving colossus about.
Siege Turret Drop: Like the turret drop available to other leaders but with a siege turret rather than the standard turret. Best deployed at the back of your army to provide additional fire support or deployed tactically to harass a base. Use in tandem with bunker drop for an effective combo of powers.
Mech Overcharge: A buff that affects all mech units (cyclops, mantis, Colossus and Johnson). Increases the speed of the units and makes them temporarily invulnerable. Can be used to turn the tide of battle particularly if a player calls down something like the eradication ability on your clustered forces.
Combat Salvage: An ability that Isabel is also able to use. The first 8 vehicles and air units to be destroyed respawn at your base fully healed. An expensive ability only unlocked in the late game, but often allows for a devastating second wave of attack or noticeably helpful in defence scenarios.
Digging In Deep: A passive ultimate ability that makes all standard building slots completely free. A great ability to use when recovering from attacks or can be used to quickly establish new bases and allow you to focus on building units without setting back your resources too much.
In addition to the Mantis card, Johnson also has access to the veteran mantis card a version of the mantis that comes with the upgrades but costs more energy to the field. With Johnson, the bunker drop ability comes into its own in Blitz, as it is perfect for holding down control points. Therefore having infantry to garrison the bunker and a nightingale to heal it between fights is essential. From there the mantis and Colossus are great units for contesting control points and moving about the battlefield to attack other units. Johnson himself is great for contesting energy drops while his repair beacon is great for defending in tandem with the bunker drop. Fill out the rest of the deck with either a focus on adding to the offensive capability of the mechs or units and abilities better used on defence.
In addition to Johnson 2 new visual variants of the proving grounds map have been added to the game. Nothing has changed tactically as the map layout remains unchanged but the visual variety should make Blitz matches a little less samey in long-lasting sessions.
"Send me out… with a bang" Johnson is a very fun and exciting leader to use that's for sure. Much of his abilities are something we have already seen before and his new units simply replace other units. That said enough has been added and mixed up here to add new tactics and depth to the ever evolving and shifting play styles of Halo Wars 2. Johnson is heavy on defence allowing him to build up his powerful mech units. Therefore it's essential to focus on other units and upgrades so that players don't overrun you early on in matches. It's unclear on what the next leader may be but hopefully, we will see more characters from throughout the Halo universe pop up in Halo Wars 2 in the future.