To be honest, few companies have influenced how I’ve spent my time more directly or more tangibly than Bungie. Playing Marathon with my brother when we were little taught me about how to set up a LAN. I created my first maps and mods around age 12 using their avant garde editing tools Forge and Anvil. Memories of Macworld 1999 surface the giddy feelings of anticipation at the seismic shift in gaming the original Halo represented. Nights in the dorm at college screaming with delight at a friend’s place over Halo 2. The chance to go back, after grad school, and complete the suite of Halo works since then was certainly the main catalyst for recently purchasing an Xbox 360 – much to my girlfriend’s chagrin. And nothing whet my appetite for E3 more this year than the expectancy of seeing even just a glimpse at what the future holds for this seminal franchise.
Bungie has moved on from Halo and left it in the hands of 343 Industries. But what if I helped craft that future? What would I do with that power? That responsibility?
The Plot Coagulates
Despite the branding around Halo 3 insinuating the end of that trilogy would “Finish the fight,” those who stayed until the end of the credits after the campaign saw the Master Chief not dead, but adrift through space with Cortana. The prophet Truth is dead, the arbiter and his newly liberated brethren seem to be going home. Shaken, shattered, and separated from their hero, humanity survives.
Queue Halo 4.
At the core, Halo is a mystery created in it’s own mythology. Much like the Matrix series, the key of the narrative revolves around figuring out what the namesake actually entails. I’ve always thought the story of Halo did a good job taking you right at the moment you think your role in the plot is clear, then swinging you around to see part of a larger picture. The truly brilliant continuation of the Halo narrative would be to not only explore the enigmatic Forerunners and their connection to humanity, but also reconcile it with the complexity of Marathon.
While many people may not remember Marathon, if you do then you may have noted the remarkable number of similarities to Halo. No official connection has ever been made and certainly not surfaced in the storyline of the series. But the possibility to unite them is tantalizing, because in many ways they are the same story. A next-gen mirror to Isaac Asimov’s unification of his three main series. To put it bluntly; it would be epic.
Yet, there is much to learn about humanity’s own evolution. Exactly what is our relationship to the Forerunners? Are they really gone? My first reaction to the E3 teaser was that it looked like a Dyson Sphere. Exploring a Shield World as the Master Chief would provide the perfect stage to reconnect with our roots.
There are countless paths to connect these ideas. But here’s one way I thought up:
The huge object seen in the teaser is indeed a Shield World. But unlike those encountered thus far, as in Ghosts of Onyx, it’s not abandoned by it’s creators. After being pulled into the sphere, our hero is confronted by a system of automated defenses run by a rampant AI. Dodging and dismantling the waves of searing sentinel beams, the MC and Cortana stumble upon lost survivors of the Forerunners.
There has always been the suggestion that John-117’s predisposition to be a central player in the fate of humanity was never fully an accident. He was chosen by Cortana. Perhaps he was chosen by the Forerunners, as well. They are humans who evolved and colonized the galaxy in ages past. The branch of humanity synonymous with the UNSC is the result of the restart many of the galaxy’s sentient species experienced after the original Halo activation. Their prophecies predicted the rise of the reclaimers, who would bring the galaxy into a new age of enlightenment and harmony. Living for eons in isolation, unable to leave the sphere controlled by the AI, their civilization has shattered and the guiding principles of the Mantle fallen by the wayside. Their primary concern is evading capture by the AI and escape from the Shield World.
Recognizing the Master Chief as the manifestation of the reclaimer prophecy, the Forerunners conceive one final attempt to overcome the rampant sentinel army. They will attack at the source and attempt to destroy the AI they call Roland. Only a reclaimer will be able to shut the AI down.
This lost tribe of Forerunners have been consumed by rage. Angry at millennia of incarceration and torment at the hands of Roland and still bitter from the betrayal of Mendicant Bias. This becomes clear as the MC and Cortana retell the events of the previous Halos. The original intent of the “reclaimers,” according to the possibly twisted interpretation of these Forerunners, was to reconquer the galaxy and reinstall humanity as the dominate, yet benevolent species. Believing the second incarnation of humanity to be inferior and unfit to guide the galaxy into a new era, the Forerunners plot to turn on their new guests. They plan to offer Cortana to Roland in exchange for freedom.
But it turns out Roland is an evolved version of Durandel. And he has his own plays for the Master Chief and Cortana. DUN DUN DUUUNNN.
I can almost guarantee this story will not be the basis forof any arc of Halo 4. Actually, I’d be a little stunned if anyone made it all the way through my ramblings. But I would relish the chance to have some sway over the trajectory of one of the greatest franchises to ever inhabit gamers imagination. Despite having already spent hours thinking about this hypothetical idea, I have some plans to show what I might do with the game’s main UI.
If you want to delve deeper into this universe Halo Nation is a fabulous resource. I’d also encourage anyone with a penchent for anime to watch Halo Legends. Some creative work to get your imaginative juices flowing.