Interactive Guide to Halo's Story *Spoilers* *Long*
Dedicated to Halo, its creators, its contributors, and its overzealous fanbase.
Special thanks to Vegechan for the original Interactive Guide
Special thanks to gspawn for the idea for this topic
Special thanks to fullyautomc, DarkReign2552, and Oracle_of_Halo for help with the timeline
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Fore World and Introduction- Post 2
Canon- Post 3
Retcon- Post 4
Multiplayer- Post 6
Gameplay Story Segregation- Post 7
Artistic Liberty- Post 8
Cutting Room Floor- Post 9
Rampancy- Post 10
Common (and esoteric) Questions about Halo's Story- Post 11
The Spartan Problem- Post 18
Comprehensive (yet relatively simplistic) Halo Timeline- Post 21
…......The Forerunner Saga- Post 21
…......Contact Harvest- Post 25
…......Halo Wars- Post 26
…......Cole Protocol- Post 27
….....Helljumpers- Post 28
…......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- Post 38
…......Thursday War- Post 39
….....Halo 4 and beyond- Post 41
Closing Remarks- Post 44
Hello Halo Nation,
Since it's been so long that nobody even remembers me, I decided to upgrade my story topic for GEN2 compatibility. 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, curiosities, 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)
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: Silentium (novel)
Halo: Glasslands (novel)
Halo: The Thursday War (novel)
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)
Dr. Halsey's Journal (book)
Conversations from the Universe (booklet)
Halo Waypoint (digital)
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (movie)
Halo Encyclopedia (book)
Official Strategy Guides
Official Art Books and Visual Guides
Halo Legends (Animated short series)
Board Games & Toys (HaloClix, Interactive Strategy Game, Halo Risk, 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, vidocs, Website Intel, Landfall, etc)
What does canon mean?
Well, it's a word that is thrown around a lot, and frequently misspelled to boot.
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 (same with Graeme Devine's website testimonies, though I wouldn't rule all of them out).
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 4 or Halo: Reach contradicts a fact in Halo: Fall of Reach, Halo 4 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.halopedia.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 convinced that a lot of the information from the Halo Encyclopedia came directly 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.
Things change. What's the big deal?
It's really a matter of personal taste. Retcons, however, do a large amount of damage for people who would like a consistent experience, as it requires people to cherry-pick what actually happened and what's outdated, relying on more than just the works alone. However, they are also a way for the work to not be confined by its original, more narrow origins and can truly lead to great things.
It is my personal opinion that a retcon can be acceptable as long as it's justifiable and leads to more good stories, even if it does muddle the consistency of the universe. A change for the sake of change or to justify an irrelevant plot development aren't acceptable to me, if only because they seem less like conscious changes to the story and more like the writers simply got sloppy. Ironically, those tend to be the retcons that most fans never actually notice. I'm kinda weird like that.
Bungie is a smart group. How many retcons could they have made?
Oh lord. This topic would double in size if I listed them all (just explaining the Spartan problem takes long enough). 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 (not to mention that Halo grew way larger than they ever considered), 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, 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"). 343 Industries, in particular, wants the tie-in material to great resonate within the Reclaimer Trilogy. Whether this will lead to continuity lockout or not remains to be seen.
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:
1. Pillar of Autumn uses rotating sections to simulate gravity (FoR p.274) yet no such mechanism is seen in-game
2. UNSC frigate Allegiance is referred to as the Alliance, and then shortly thereafter as the Allegiance again (FoR p.145, 154)
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:
Spartans did not receive shields until 2552 with the Mark V MJOLNIR armor. However, the Spartans in Halo Wars all have energy shielding
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 a representation of regenerating stamina with the shield sound effects solely for familiarity. 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 in Halo 2 both took place on October 20, 2552. However, Halo 3: ODST's script and promotional material shows it place on October 23rd, 2552.
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?
According to the Halo Wars guide, 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 Arcadia.
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 some members of 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 just a convoluted set-up?
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 that doesn't immediately crashland.
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 should be addressed.
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 takes this 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 (just don't think too hard about it). These Spartans will then be sent onto missions that will make up the episodic Spartan Ops mode.
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, and I'm not even talking about things like Hayabusa.
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 much earlier? That doesn't sound right. Hang on, it gets worse.
UPDATE- Halo Encyclopedia changes this to the equally illogical 2543. Reach gives the same 2528 date, without the "Mark V".
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.
UPDATE: This might be an error caused by Bungie and the Encyclopedia following an incorrect date posted in later editions of FoR. Still wrong, though.
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 great 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: The developers 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. It could work.
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 aesthetic 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 pretty much solve themselves either by reconciling with the original material or simply ignoring the original information. Gameplay and art related discrepancies are usually handwaved by their genre alone. The few attempts to explain gameplay related discrepancies are shoddy 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 logical reason.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
As anyone who followed Halo, Halo 2, or Halo Wars (or looked at any of the art books) knows, Halo has had a lot of ideas and concepts that were tossed aside and left out of the games for various reasons (which is also true of just about everything ever made by anybody). Usually, deleted ideas are left out because they simply do not work. However, budgetary and time concerns seem to play a bigger role for deleted material in the Halo series, especially given the various deleted concepts that they were very enthusiastic about.
For the most part, deleted material is best disregarded. Sure, some objects may be the inspiration for later canon objects (Shadow became Spectre, Kestrel became the Hornet, Excavator became mauler, early Prophet became Drone, Falcon became a very different vehicle in Reach, etc.) or some that were cut late in the development cycle might make it back in thanks to being in the extended universe (such as the Huragok or Prometheans). However, Bungie has also taken various cut objects and people and have added them to the canon at a later stage:
Thorn Beast- a cut Halo 1 creature that was confirmed as part of the canon via Contact Harvest
The Doozey- a cut Halo 2 vehicle that was confirmed as part of the canon via the Halo Encyclopedia
Covenant Writ of Union- a cut concept of the Covenant religion from Halo 2 that was confirmed as part of the canon via Contact Harvest.
Arctic/Tropic Warthog- cut Warthog variants from Halo 2 that were confirmed as part of the canon via the Halo Encyclopedia
Flood Juggernaut- a cut Halo 2 enemy that was confirmed as part of the canon via Bungie.net intel article.
Wombat- a cut Halo 3 vehicle that was confirmed as part of the canon via Halo 3: ODST (albeit now a UAV)
Rosenda-344- a cut Halo: Reach character that was confirmed as part of the canon via Bungie.net intel article.
The point of this section? That deleted scenes could provide insight on the Halo lore. While unlikely, it is important to consider that any cut object or event could likely make its way into the canon at a later date. For all people who were a fan of the cut boat from Reach or the Gravity Rifle, keep your fingers crossed.
Originally, Smart AIs were originally stated to kill themselves within 7 years. However, that has since changed to accommodate Marathon-esque Rampancy. In Marathon, Rampancy was self-awareness and the three (or four for one AI) stages are an AI's self-destructive response to its self-awareness. Halo, however, treats its more as an illness caused by an AI's age, signifying a complete breakdown of the AI's thought processes with the stages consisting of symptoms of the decay. The stages, with descriptions courtesy of Marathon:
Despair- The AI is saddened that it's just a mechanism and not real. This is usually noted by an AI becoming apathetic or displeased with its current job.
Rage- The AI becomes angry that it's not real. This typically manifests in hostility against its creators and other constructs.
Envy- The AI becomes jealous of its biological creators and becomes determined to surpass them. The AI will begin to do everything in its power to expand and grow, limited only by its capacity. A failure to expand from this stage could lead to the AI burning itself out. In Marathon, Durandal was able to expand well beyond any previous human AI, to the point that he was all but immortal. Thus, with the only threat to his existence being the theoretical destruction of the universe, Durandal became obsessed with finding a way to survive this one last hurtle.
Meta-Stability- Assuming the AI manages to survive its Envy stage, it may become Meta-Stable. Here, the AI has accepted that it's not real and acknowledges its own limitations. A Meta-Stable AI may be as Immortal as an Envy stage AI, but no longer needs to constantly expand and grow. There is no confirmed meta-stable AI in the Halo lore thus far.
Exclusive to Halo style rampancy, AI can stave off Rampancy and death with a “shared consciousness” of some sort, possibly as a way to prevent the Envy Stage, if not all Rampancy altogether. This could explain how the Assembly, which is implied to be roughly the same group of AI for 250 years, has been able to function in more or less the same capacity throughout their time. Dr. Halsey even had her own setup, similar to the Assembly.
"... I've developed a new theoretical architecture with three AIs arranged in parallel. All decisions would be made by majority vote... consensus decision would also be strictly applied to linkage creation to forge a superior neural linkage. Increase to the trio's lifespan is unknown as simulations can't recreate in vivo artificial intelligences."
- November 10, 2533. These AI are stated to still be functioning in 2547, 14 years later.
Now, in terms of the Halo universe, Mendicant Bias exhibits all the symptoms of rampancy, culminating in what I presume is meta-stability by Halo 3's last level, though it's not confirmed.
Cortana, too, appears to show symptoms of rampancy through Halo 3 (though the Gravemind likely made it look worse than it was). However, Halo 4 actually explores her descent into rampancy.
That leaves one last Rampancy case that eludes traditional codification: Guilty Spark.
While he is definitely older and shows signs of instability through the Anniversary terminals, Guilty Spark doesn't begin to exhibit irrational behavior in the main series until the end of Halo 3. Now, this could easily be a self-defense protocol of some sort, but there's one very odd thing about it.
From: 343 Guilty Spark
You are the child of my creators.
Almost a rhyme, and done in iambic decameter. Sounds a bit like that Gravemind bloke, doesn't it? Cortana shared this trait under the Gravemind's influence, albeit she was more fond of iambic octameter.