Suit up, Spartans. Early access to Halo Wars 2 is available today for players who purchased Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition!

Last night, 343 Industries and Creative Assembly celebrated Halo Wars 2 with the community via a special livestream event hosted at 343 Industries, which included exclusive interviews, gameplay hands-on and prize giveaways. 343 Industries also shed new light on what fans can expect with the Season Pass, including new content available every third Wednesday, new campaign missions in Operation: Spearbreaker and a new leader named Kinsano. Future multiplayer maps will also be available for free to all players, regardless of whether they purchased the Season Pass. The studio will have more to share at PAX East.

Additionally, the Xbox One S Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition Bundle is now available in most markets worldwide for $349.99 USD, and comes with 1TB of storage, an Xbox Wireless Controller, 14-day trial membership of Xbox Live Gold, and the Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition, which includes a Season Pass for post-launch content. Pricing and availability may vary by region, so check with your Microsoft Store or local retailer for more information.

Halo Wars 2 offers both new and seasoned RTS players a hybrid of action-oriented and classic tactical gameplay. Set after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Wars 2 follows Captain Cutter and the crew of the Spirit of Fire as they meet with the UNSCís most formidable enemy to date Ė the leader of the Brutes, Atriox. Today, the worlds of man and Brute collide on the biggest Halo battlefield ever.

Halo Wars 2 launches worldwide for Xbox One and Windows 10 through Xbox Play Anywhere on Feb. 21. As a thank you to the community, this morning 343 Industries shared thoughts from Studio Head of Strategy Games Dan Ayoub:

Over two and a half years ago, we embarked a on a journey that many deemed overdue Ė to bring Halo Wars back to the forefront of our Franchise. A lot had happened since the original game had released in 2009. Gameplay patterns had changed, entire new genres had emerged, and the Halo Universe itself had changed considerably. We asked ourselves if an RTS could be popular in this day and age, and we all agreed it was time for the crew of the Spirit of Fire to make their return.

The first stop in this adventure was to sign up the best partner we could, and even with full hindsight would not hesitate to call up Creative Assembly. The instant chemistry between the teams on that first meeting flourished into a remarkable partnership that led to Halo Wars 2 being what it is. I donít think that either team alone could have created what we have together, and ultimately we thought and acted as a single team: The Halo Wars 2 Team. The team was united by a common goal: to make an amazing Halo RTS on console and PC that would appeal to hardcore RTS players and new players alike.

From the start, we wanted Halo Wars 2 to be different. We wanted it to be unique even within the franchise, and that led to the creation of Atriox and the Banished, to a unique art style, and to carving out a section of the Universe for these characters to evolve. Even our debut at gamescom was different, and we intentionally changed things up by showing Atriox defeating three Spartans in battle. To our delight, Atriox was very well received, and thus began HIS journey through the Halo Universe.

All along, the team and I have been touched by the emotion and excitement shown by the fans. Across two betas, you helped us tune the game and make it better Ė changing everything from controls, to the economy, to the placement of the cameras. This game came to be because the fans demanded it, and you showed up and helped us make the game better. For that, we thank you Ė this game is for you, and we all hope you enjoy it, and lose yourself a little in this world we love so much.

For us, the launch represents the end of a long, emotional trek to create something new within a franchise that has a lot of history with players. It also is a beginning. Itís the beginning of what we hope is a new arm of the Franchise, where we can continue to tell new stories and meet new characters, and in the immediate future itís the beginning of tons of new content and features for Halo Wars 2. On behalf of the team, thank you for taking this journey with us.

See you online!

Source: Halo Wars 2 Early Access Available Now - Xbox Wire