Interactive Guide to Halo's Story *Spoilers* *Long*
Dedicated to Halo, its creators, its contributors, and its overzealous but amazing fanbase.
Special thanks to fullyautomc, DarkReign2552, and Oracle_of_Halo for help with the timeline
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Fore World and Introduction- Post 2 *PLEASE READ*
Halo Mythos- Post 3
Canon- Post 4
Retcon- Post 5
Multiplayer- Post 8
Gameplay Story Segregation- Post 9
Artistic Liberty- Post 10
Common (and esoteric) Questions about Halo's Story- Post 11
The Spartan Problem- Post 17
Cutting Room Floor- Post 19
Rampancy- Post 20
Comprehensive (yet relatively simplistic) Halo Timeline- Post 21
…......Cryptum and Primordium- Post 22
…......Contact Harvest- Post 25
…......Halo Wars- Post 26
…......Cole Protocol- Post 27
…......Helljumpers and Halo: Reach- Post 29
…......Bloodlines- Post 31
…......The Flood/Combat Evolved- Post 32
…......First Strike- Post 33
…......Halo 2- Post 34
…......Halo 3: ODST- Post 35
…......Uprising and Halo 3- Post 37
…......Glasslands and beyond- Post 38
Closing Remarks- Post 40 *PLEASE READ*
Hello Halo Nation,
Since my egg hunting activities ended in horrible bloodshed, I decided to update this topic with all the new stuff... and then delay it until Halo 4 had its info reveal. However, the Interactive Guide to Halo's Story is back. If you are new to this topic, my intention is to consolidate questions, complaints, and inconsistencies around the Halo canon into one topic. I am creating this guide with the assumption that you have at least played the games and have a decent understanding of the storyline. If this is not the case, do not hesitate to ask a question. As the old saying goes, the only stupid question is the one that's never asked.
To the average Halo player, the Campaign mode is an excuse to shoot things in a series whose primary focus is multiplayer. However, a surprisingly large amount of people (including me) appreciate the story. Due to the game being a fast-paced FPS, the story of the games have to be kept to a minimum in order to not bog down the gameplay. However, those who look for it are going to find an excellent universe that is filled with centuries of backstory. Novels, strategy guides, and viral marketing devices help expand Halo's universe into a much larger picture.
This topic will begin as an introduction to Halo canon. Then, I will go into contradictions and inconsistencies, common questions, and conclude with a timeline of the series. If you want to find a quick spot on the timeline, I have listed the posts where the timeline covers the games and most of the novels and graphics novels (Fall of Reach, Ghosts of Onyx, and the anthologies have been omitted because they span decades of the timeline).
THE HALO MYTHOS
This is a simplified list of the Halo's fiction.
Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, PC, Mac, Xbox 360)
Halo 2 (Xbox, PC)
Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
Halo Wars (Xbox 360)
Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360)
Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)
Halo 4 (Xbox 360) COMING SOON
Halo: Fall of Reach (novel)
Halo: The Flood (novel)
Halo: First Strike (novel)
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (novel)
Halo: Contact Harvest (novel)
Halo: The Cole Protocol (novel)
Halo: Evolutions (novel)
Halo: Cryptum (novel)
Halo: Primordium (novel)
Halo: Glasslands (novel)
Halo: The Thursday War (novel) COMING SOON
Halo Graphic Novel (comic)
Halo: Uprising (comic)
Halo Wars: Genesis (comic)
Halo: Helljumpers (comic)
Halo: Blood Line (comic)
Halo: Fall of Reach- Boot Camp (comic)
Halo: Fall of Reach- Covenant (comic)
Halo: Fall of Reach- Invasion (comic) PENDING COMPLETION
Dr. Halsey's Journal (book)
Conversations from the Universe (booklet)
Halo Waypoint (digital)
Halo Encyclopedia (book)
Official Strategy Guides
Official Art Books (Art of Halo, Art of Halo 3, Visual Guide, The Great Journey, etc.)
Halo Legends (Animated short series)
Board Games & Toys (HaloClix, Interactive Strategy Game, Halo Wars Risk, etc.)
Alternate Reality Games (Cortana Letters, I Love Bees, Iris, etc.)
Ad Campaigns (Believe, We Are ODST, Remember Reach, etc.)
Miscellaneous sources (interviews, Bungie.net Intel, Landfall, etc)
What does canon mean?
Well, it's a word that is thrown around a lot, and is likely one of the most frequently misspelled words.
While Halo is hardly considered a “sacred book”, the meaning pretty much stays the same. Canon refers to anything within the Halo mythos that is officially recognized as being part of the storyline. In most universes, any official source is usually part of the canon. However, Halo's constantly evolving universe has created some non-canon and some debatable “gray areas”.
That's a long list. What's canon?
Bungie's rule was that the games were top priority and secondary sources were to follow suit. The Cortana Letters, Halo based board games, and the Toei Productions short in Halo Legends (Odd One Out) are all defined as non-canon. Multiplayer also has almost no bearing on the canon (I'll explain the “almost” later). The Halo Wars Promotional material, the (now closed) official website site in particular, also details some events that may or may not be considered canon.
The canon rule set up by Bungie and honored by 343 Industries also states that newer information overwrites older information in the case of a discrepancy. For example, if something from Halo: Ghosts of Onyx or Halo: Reach contradicts a fact in Halo: Fall of Reach, Ghosts of Onyx or Halo: Reach is regarded as the new canon.
That's still a hell of a lot of material
Yes it is. Fortunately, there are two sites, http://halo.wikia.com and http://www.halopedian.com, that contain most of this information. Keep in mind that these are still Wiki. Accuracy is not always guaranteed, so always check for sources. For a little more general Halo guide, there is the Halo Encyclopedia.
Okay, Mingy, so we have a site for the whole universe. What the hell is the point of this topic?
The Halo wikis are reference sites. They keep track of all information, canon or otherwise. Very few articles will tell you what is canon and what is not. The Halo Encyclopedia is a bit clearer on its information, but is fairly disorganized. I'm fairly convinced that a lot of the information from the Halo Encyclopedia came from Halopedia itself.
I guess that makes sense. This is a simple universe compared to most SF, though. Why did you say it was confusing?
As with most ongoing sagas, Halo is being filled in with more and more information. Inevitably, some smaller (and larger) details can sometimes get mixed up, contradicted, ignored, or overwritten. This introduces another word that the Internet made popular: Retcon.
Retcon is sometimes referred to as anything that is added to expand a story after it has been created. However, when the word is used here, it is usually in the above context.
Bungie is a smart group. How many retcons could they have made?
Oh lord. This topic would be a page longer if I listed them all. Bungie is a great group (as is 343 Industries), but they are only human. An ongoing fiction, no matter how insular, will almost always contradict itself after ten years. Since Bungie gave the original novel writers a lot of liberties with little input, the problem was inevitable right out of the starting gate. Eric Nylund, in particular, seems to make a lot of mistakes dealing with things that were likely his own creation.
Hey, Mingy, don't bash Nylund. Fall of Reach was awesome
When Nylund wrote The Fall of Reach, Halo was far from the only Xbox exclusive with a tie-in novel. He was also given an extensive amount of creative control with the story (as he did with First Strike). As such, a lot of things were added into the Halo series that Bungie may or not have intended. In 2004, Staten clarified that while the books were canon (“for better or worse”), Bungie reserved the right to change anything that they felt needed to be changed.
So, yes, it was a hell of a book. However, it is riddled with inconsistencies as well as retcons. The trick with Halo is figuring out which is which.
I thought Bungie said the books were not canon
Nope. In fact, both Bungie and 343 Industries have gone on record that they embrace the extended universe canon (for better or worse).
This is where it gets confusing, isn't it?
It depends on an individual person's perception. Let's take a look at two things pointed out from Halo.Bungie.Org's story section from Fall of Reach:
Inconsistency #1 is an example of a retcon. This is a theory that Nylund put together to explain why there is gravity on human ships. Later fiction sources confirm that the human ships have a primitive form of artificial gravity instead.
Inconsistency #2 is an example of an error. More than likely, Nylund was up late at night and simply made a typo.
That wasn't too confusing.
Yes, but then you get to the more confusing “gray areas”. This is where it can get confusing:
The Battle Rifle was a prototype in Contact Harvest and a new weapon in First Strike. However, it is used in a normal military situation in Cole Protocol.
Retcon or error? As of now, as far as the big picture is concerned, it could go either way. However, one note of interest is the fact that Halo Wars (which takes place only a few years before Cole Protocol) originally had some Marines use the Battle Rifle, but they were removed for canon's sake.
This is going to be really nerdy, isn't it?
Let's examine some more:
The Spartan II Roster
I will elaborate on this in its own section later. For some reason, the number of Spartan II's going missing or dying continues to increase, but the number of overall Spartan II's doesn't seem to change. Retcon or error?
This has been cited by the developers as a sacrifice for the gameplay of Halo Wars. In fact, they reported to the forum members that it was actually just regenerating armor. Despite this, the Halo Wars instruction manual states that they have energy shielding. Retcon or error?
According to Ghosts of Onyx, Onyx was deemed classified at the beginning of the 26th century. However, Professor Anders mentions it at a lecture in Halo Wars: Genesis, over 25 years later
This is another example of Nylund screwing up his own fiction. Retcon or error?
According to the Bungie.net timeline and the Halo Encyclopedia, the Battles in New Mombasa and on Cairo Station in Halo 2 both took place on October 20, 2552. However, Halo 3: ODST's script and promotional material shows that the New Mombasa battle in Halo 2 took place on October 23rd, 2552.
This is likely an error, as the timeline shown on Waypoint shows all events as happening on October 20. Still, the script is hell of a lot more official. Retcon or error?
According to the Halo Wars strategy guide, the Prophet of Regret arrived at the Apex Site prior to the events of the game. However, Waypoint's timeline says that he didn't arrive until after the battle of Arcadia.
That particular section of the strategy guide never made much sense to me. If Regret was already there, why would he need Arcadia and Harvest? Still, it's debatable. Retcon or error?
If human communication technology is not able to navigate slipspace without a special probe, how was Keyes able to communicate instantaneously with Stanforth, far away, before Sigma Octanus.
It's highly possible that the UNSC has methods to communicate instantaneously from system to system while the probe is just special because it can go anywhere. However, given the little information available, this is debatable. Retcon or error?
In Fall of Reach, the Pillar of Autumn is in orbit by August 30th. However, in Halo: Reach, the Autumn is in drydock.
This one is not likely to be an error. Personally, I'd write this one out as a retcon, but Halopedia has found a way to make both events possible by saying that the Autumn was grounded only to receive the package. It's technically possible, though. Retcon or error?
The armor that the Heretics wore was originally meant as a symbolic gesture of rejecting Covenant beliefs. However, the eleventh Anniversary terminal shows them wearing it before even meeting Guilty Spark.
Retcon or error? Once again, it could go either way.
Conversations from the Universe mentions that other civilizations have visited Installation 04 before. However, the Anniversary terminals show that he sends out warnings and fires upon any ship within 1 light year of Installation 04.
Well, he let the Covenant get pretty damn close to Alpha Halo. Maybe he just really sucks at his job? Retcon or error?
You have no life, dude
In addition, there are also sources from the MULTIPLAYER that people would like to consider canon: maps and armor permutations.
The multiplayer maps from Halo 2 and Halo 3 (and Halo Wars to an extent) were designed to be logical places in the Halo universe. Most of Halo: Reach's maps and all of Halo 3: ODST's Firefight maps are literally taken from the Campaign itself, securing their places in the canon. There is even a school of thought that believes the Invasion scenarios for Spire, Boneyard, and Breakpoint count as well, though it's unclear which side would canonically win.
Halo 4 aims to take this even a step further, not only integrating the maps into the universe but also giving a canonical purpose to the multiplayer itself. The multiplayer matches themselves are canonized as simulations by Spartan IV soldiers on board the UNSC Infinity. These Spartans will then be sent onto away missions that will make up the new episodic co-op mode: Spartan Ops.
Halo 1's multiplayer maps, however, seem more focused on variety, but are considered canon as well. However, some have rather interesting descriptions.
Chiron TL34- Spartan Clone Training Complex
Spartan Clone training, eh? That sounds different.
ARMOR PERMUTATIONS also have their own descriptions. Some are more curious than others...
To the point, there's the following tidbits from Halo 3's descriptions:
Security Armor- The Mjolnir Mark V(m) Powered Assault Armour was originally manufactured in 2528 and recently upgraded to be compatible with all current - issue armour variants.
Wait. MJOLNIR Mark V, which was introduced to Spartan 117 in 2552 (and other Spartans in 2551) was actually manufactured as a Security variant (MJOLNIR [M], without the 'Mark V', according to Halo: Reach) significantly earlier ? That doesn't sound right. Hang on, it gets worse.
UPDATE- Halo Encyclopedia changes this year to the equally illogical 2543.
Mark V- Originally issued in August 2542, all extant Mark V helmets have been upgraded with current - issue internal components and software.
Retcon or error? In terms of the Mark V's constantly changing issue date, I'd say retcon. However, the Security Armor is up in the air.
UPDATE: This might be an error caused by Bungie and the Encyclopedia following an incorrect date posted in later editions of Fall of Reach. Still incorrect by current information.
And, for added effect, here is an armor that is very similar to CQB in “Homecoming”
Why do I say "very similar"? Well, according to Reach, CQB was the successor to the CQC variant that didn't enter service until 2548. Since "Homecoming" takes place during the Harvest campaign, it's nigh impossible that her armor is CQB.
Perhaps there's another solution a little bit down the page...
You need to get laid!
Before I go any further, I would like to touch upon the shields on the Halo Wars Spartans. They are a chief example of Gameplay and Story Segregation.
Gameplay and Story Segregation?
It is what it sounds like it is. It's when something happens in the game because it would make the game better, not intending to affect the story. From my experience, 85% of grievances with Halo's storyline usually comes down to this.
In the novels, the Master Chief can run 60 Kph. Why does he barely trot in the games?
All of these questions pretty much have the same answer: Bungie (and Ensemble) did not want to sacrifice a fun experience for the sake of the story. Most of these can be disregarded... most of them.
In the main Halo trilogy, the Grunts and Jackals could not be made into Combat forms because they were too weak, yet Halo Wars has infected Grunts and infected Jackals
These forms were added because of the need to balance Flood threat between UNSC marines and flamethrower troops and Covenant Grunts and Jackals. However, since nothing has been said about them from developers, is this truly a retcon or something to overlook? Perhaps this Proto-Gravemind tried to assimilate Grunts and Jackals into Combat forms, failed, and the Flood as a whole never bothered with it again.
A close relative of this is the Interpretation of Artistic License. While this mostly effects the more bizarre interpretations of the Halo lore such as Legends or the Graphic Novel, it can pop up in the games as well. Where Gameplay-story segregation excuses problems for the sake of gameplay, Interpretation of Artistic License excuses problems for the sake of the art style. From my experience, 90% of grievances with Halo: Legends come down to this.
What is up with the crazy hair on the Spartans and ODSTs in “The Babysitter”?
Has Bungie or 343 Industries tried to address these errors?
Most of the time, retcons are the way of addressing these errors. The few attempts to explain gameplay related discrepancies are shady at best:
In Halo 1, the Fuel Rod Gun and Energy Sword are equipped with failsafe measures to prevent the player from using them. According to Halo lore, these were later removed for no given reason.