sangheili

Analysis of Halo: Fracture’s “Oasis,” the Prequel to Halo: Envoy

Analysis of Halo: Fracture’s “Oasis,” the Prequel to Halo: Envoy

Author’s note: this essay was written before Halo: Envoy’s release and published before I read it, which is why the section discussing “Oasis” as a groundwork for the novel is so very short.


Jat’s was the worst death in all of Halo. It was a coldly cynical death. Empty and brutal.

And it was narratively perfect.

On three separate levels.

To begin with, I must accentuate the fact that Jat’s death is consistent within the confines of the short story “Oasis” itself. While the manner in which this simple act both follows up on threads and lays groundwork for future fiction is impressive, those are both secondary. As discussed in my last article, moments in stories need to work first in their own context before operating on a different layer, such as a reference, callback, cameo, etc. (Smoke and Shadow). Oasis” was not marketed as the opening chapter to Envoy or as part of a series. It was released in Halo: Fractures as a standalone short story. Therefore, Jat’s death needs to make sense without referring to outside media. And it does.


Solidifying a Theme

The main theme of “Oasis” is survival.

It opens with Dahlia surviving the dangerous fever, it continues with Dahlia recalling the times she and her family survived the Covenant assaults, and its main conflict is Dahlia fighting to ensure that her family survives.

The introduction of the Sangheili Jat at first appears to derail this theme. Up until his appearance, Dahlia has been entirely motivated by survival (of her or her family), but her act to save Jat’s was born out of righteousness.

This couldn’t be right, Dahlia thought. Even among the aliens, there was some kind of law, honor. You couldn’t just execute someone right there in the sand. (Fractures, p 372)

Dahlia’s choice to save Jat seems to be in direct contrast to the theme of survival. It draws attention from an enemy. It puts her life, and by extension, the lives of her family, at risk.

What Jat’s inclusion does is provide a cost to the theme of survival. Up until he enters the story, survival is something to be achieved by any means necessary, but Jat establishes that there is a price Dahlia is not willing to pay. She is not willing to be merciless.

Artwork by The Chronothaur – used with permission

Jat – both as a character and as a narrative function – continues to push Dahlia towards these choices that challenge her outlook on life and her initial stance on survival. He takes the initial theme and begins to shape it, which in turn, shapes Dahlia. The subthemes present in “Oasis” are numerous and complex, but the one that Jat’s death hammers home is change.

Joining the ranks of Benti and Olympia Vale in the category of “young women learning life lessons from Sangheili,” Dahlia goes from someone who unquestioningly hates Sangheili, especially Jat’s leader Rojka, to someone who cradles his head in death. The contrast between her and the militia who came to her rescue and murdered Jat is stark. She is told that she wouldn’t consider the Sangheili a friend if she had seen what had happened to the Outer Colonies during the Human-Covenant War.

But of course, she did come from the Outer Colonies. She did know what horrors were wrought in the war. But she changed. She changed because of Jat, and because of Jat, she lived.

And moving forward, Dahlia will survive because she is willing to change.


Groundwork

The second narrative level on which Jat’s death works is as a groundwork for future fiction.

From the novel’s title and summary, it’s clear that “Oasis” from Fractures is a set up for Envoy. We know that tensions between Sangheili and humans on Carrow are high. We know that there is are larger players at work on the alien side – Thars and Rojka – and that Sandholm will likely be targeted soon. All of this establishes that “Oasis” does not exist in a vacuum; it’s laying the groundwork for a larger story that is on its way.

 Halo Envoy cover

These all set the societal groundwork for Envoy, but Jat’s death sets the emotional stage.

Jat’s death at the hands of the colonists ensures that we know going into Envoy that the tension between Sangheili and humans is real. While there’s hope from in the likes of Dahlia, the carelessness with which Jat is dispatched escalates that conflict into which Envoy’s protagonist, Melody Azikiwe, is stepping. Even more telling than Jat’s execution is the dismissal of his death and Dahlia’s grief. It establishes that the larger community is going to reject an offer of peace, even if the offer is as great as the protection of a child. This establishes exactly what sort of stakes Azikiwe is going to be facing in Envoy.


Symbols and Metaphors

The final narrative level on which Jat and his death work is on the broader scale of the universe as a whole, as a metaphor for one part of the spectrum of human-Sangheili relations. When Halo: Fractures was first released, Archive member Grizzlei made this observation:

One of the lingering thoughts I have for Fractures is three different stories showcased three entirely unique experiences of Human-Sangheili cohabitation.

Within Trevelyan, tensions between the volunteers and their families from Earth and Sangheilos are the typical kinda strained as expected for late 2553 but the air is filled with optimism—that it could be a better place. On Carrow, absolutely nothing is ideal. Sangheili settlers have begun to forcibly colonize a Human world, constantly encroaching on O.C.’ers territory. Well-armed, motivated, and objective militias defend both sides, and both are more than willing to utilize them for the most petty reasons. Neither Human or Sangheili colonists have the backing of their homeworlds. Lastly, on Venezia, it’s literally business as usual. Human, Sangheili—you name it—they’re on Venezia, finding peace wherever they can all for the sake of starting anew, free of any national or religious allegiances.

This is science fiction at its best highlighting no one single way of life. Post-war civilizations now prominently encourage narratives to deliver more diverse circumstances. In conclusion, here’s a wonderful monologue from Stargate SG-1, episode 200:

“Science fiction is an existential metaphor. It allows us to tell stories about the human condition. Isaac Asmiov once said, ‘Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction—its essence—has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.’” (Archive)

The different characters and reactions that she is describing here is could be considered examples of “ficelle characters.”

Blackwell Reference Online specifically defines the ficelle as a “character whose role within the novel is to elicit information, which is conveyed to the reader without narratorial intervention” (BRO). Probably the most famous type of a ficelle is the “foil,” a character created specifically to contrast and highlight certain aspects of the protagonist. In his essay “The Human Context,” W. J. Harvey gives the ficelle its broadest definition yet: a character that “exists in the novel primarily to serve some function. Unlike the protagonist, he is ultimately the means to an end rather than an end in himself” (p 237).

Harvey goes onto list a multitude of functions that the ficelle can serve in the story before settling into the description of one in particular, which I will likewise be focusing on here. A ficelle, or rather a collection of ficelle characters can be used to function as a means to relate and propagate the effects of an epiphany throughout the story.

While Harvey uses the word “epiphany” to specifically describe a commonality in modern fiction around 1965, it can also be viewed in broader terms, as a critical moment of enlightenment, and thus change, in a story.

In order for an epiphany to carry an impact to the story’s conclusion, we must see “its effects radiating throughout time,” which “requires that the [epiphany] diffuses itself through many characters and many relationships” (p 245). In short, we must see the epiphany affecting characters other than the protagonist, and affecting them in different ways.

The [epiphany] itself must be gradually connected with the disparate and commonplace concerns of everyday life, through a careful gradation of characters from those who are able in greater or lesser degree to comprehend [the protagonist’s experience] to those who, all unknowing, are brushed by the events [leading to the epiphany] (p 245).

This gradation of characters is the collection of ficelles. Characters who are affected by the protagonist’s epiphany, and who respond in a multitude of ways in order to provide depth and understanding to the reader.

Of course, in a franchise as broadly spread as Halo, ficelles to one story may also be protagonists for another. In this essay, the terms are not mutually exclusive.

Jat is one of many ficelle characters that are an exploration of the effects of Halo’s first big epiphany.

 

Now we must ask ourselves: when was the first big epiphany of the Halo Universe? Not in terms of canon chronology – as ho boy, that’s an argument for the ages – but in terms of canon publication?

If you have followed me on Halo-related social media for any stretch of time, it shouldn’t surprise you that my answer is not the Flood/Halo reveal in Combat Evolved, but Thel ‘Vadamee becoming Thel ‘Vadam in Halo 2.

This is more than wild fangirl speculation; all the reveals in the canon leading up to Halo 2 were still consistent with the environment of the Human-Covenant War. Child soldiers? Horrendous and shocking but appropriate for the environment. Reach falling? Earth being found by the Covenant? All appropriate for the environment.

Even the Flood and Halo in Combat Evolved do nothing more than escalate the current environment. There are no alliances forged between human and alien to combat the new menace; it’s “merely” a new player on the field. The Halo ring’s threat of mutually-assured destruction doesn’t cause the combatants to back down, it’s “merely” a new asset to take or deny the other party’s taking.

Halo 2, on the other hand, breaks the environment of the Human-Covenant War. This is the story that takes Halo from a very clear “us vs. them” battle into a fight for mutual peace. And the person on which this epiphany is centered is Thel.

Strangely enough, Thel is rather passive in his Journey up until his grand epiphany. He doesn’t actively pursue the truth until the very end, and his first alliance with humanity was based on necessity and was not his idea. But once the epiphany lands, in the control room of Delta Halo, it sticks, and then goes onto create the new environment that would define the Haloverse until the events of Halo 5.

With few exceptions – Henry and Benti from “The Mona Lisa” come to mind – every human-Sangheili relationship has been defined by and birthed from Thel’s choice in the control room of Delta Halo. Some of these are hopeful, as seen in Hunters in the Dark. Others are cynical, such as those displayed in the Kilo-Five trilogy or “The Return.”

As a ficelle, Jat becomes the embodiment of both the conflict on Carrow and the one propagated by ONI’s Parangosky. A Sangheili believes cooperation is the only way to survive, but humans just want the hingeheads dead. Richard Sekibo in Hunt the Truth is a similar ficelle to Jat, his human counterpart in many ways.

 

I would just like Noah Eichen to personally understand that I am still mourning this man.

Through the ficelle characters of Jat and Sekibo, we can see the effects of a cynical take on Thel’s epiphany. Before we go further, we must first establish what exactly Thel’s epiphany is, and for that, I turn to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

The Classical Monomyth is summarized by Campbell in the following description:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 1956, p. 30).

Thel’s epiphany happens when he takes his step across the threshold between “the world of the common day” and into “the region of supernatural wonder.”

The normal world [of common day] is that which the protagonist occupies before the start of their journey.  It is often a place of comfort and safety or at least familiarity. However, there is something inherently wrong within this world (Campbell, 1956, p. 37).  The hidden world [of supernatural wonder] is a realm beyond what the protagonist initially experiences.  It is full of new wisdom and dangers, and most importantly, the power which can fix the wrong within the normal world. Thel’s normal world is the Covenant, more specifically the battlefield.  The hidden realm is diplomacy and peace, and the power from this realm is the ability to destroy the Covenant. …Not just the establishment as a whole, but the ideals which it represents [hierarchical oppression].  (Hero’s Journey of Thel ‘Vadam: Introduction)

For a further discussion of Thel’s monomythic Journey, visit ArbiterAnalysis on Tumblr.

The “region of supernatural wonder,” i.e. diplomacy and peace, is Thel’s epiphany. It’s the realization that ongoing destruction, and social/galactic elevation through destruction, is not what will bring about salvation. Cooperation will.

A critical line in Halo: Escalation hammers this home:

“Finding a way to pacify the Brutes and get access to their resources is in the UNSC’s best interests. And the Arbiter knows it’s in his best interest… He’s not happy about it, but as leader of the Sangheili, he knows it’s what’s best for his people.” – Admiral Hood, Escalation Issue #1.

Even when he isn’t happy with the idea of cooperation, Thel knows it’s the right thing and acts accordingly. And, as rest of the Escalation arc shows, he commits everything to it, regardless of his personal feelings.

A perfect ficelle to Thel, Serin Osman stares at almost the exact same situation, thinks the exact same thoughts – duty over emotion – and comes to the exact opposite conclusion:

She wondered if she was telling herself that [Hood’s and Thel’s peace treaty] was a meaningless exchange simply to justify what ONI was doing. If the Arbiter really could deliver peace, then she was doing everything in her power to stoke a revolt that would remove him. But she couldn’t gamble Earth’s future on the goodwill of one individual. What was that line the Parangosky never let her forget?
It’s not the enemy’s intentions that you have to consider. It’s their capability.
Osman was going to have those damn words tattooed on her arm one day (Glasslands, p 360)

Osman, Parangosky, Sapien Sunrise, and Jat’s murderers are all on the gradation of characters that “are able in greater or lesser degree to comprehend” Thel’s epiphany in a cynical light. They look at diplomacy and cooperation, and instead of embracing it, they try to destroy it. Osman and Parangosky have yet to be fully successful – and there is still a potential for Osman’s view to change – but Sapien Sunrise and the militia on Carrow brought this interpretation of Thel’s epiphany to a brutal conclusion.

And because Halo’s story is not yet complete, Jat… and the likes of Sekibo, Osman, Rhu ‘Vrath, and perhaps Melody Azikiwe, all of them, for better or for worse, are symbols of what the galaxy could one day become.


W.J. Harvey’s “The Human Context” was originally published in the book Character and The Novel in 1965. All citations here are from its reprint in the essay collection The Theory of the Novel in 1967.


DilDev has a WORDPRESS and a HALO-FOCUSED TUMBLR. She also is on PATREON for Halo and other video-game analyses.



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Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Shadow of Intent

Halo’s Place in Science Fiction – Shadow of Intent

Reading Journal Style


Discussing the style of Shadow of Intent could almost be a copy-paste of Contact Harvest’s breakdown. Staten’s cinematic flair, the introspective pace, the nuggets of foreshadowing, it’s all here. However, what stands out to me is how poetic and in-depth the novella is without having barely any fat to be trimmed, and I think the key to this is the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam.

Kel ‘Darsam was among the ancient pantheon of Sangheili gods before they began worshiping the Forerunners, the son of a mortal mother and the head of the gods and namesake of their greatest sun – Urs. The ballad recounted his adventures fighting the monsters of Sanghelios’ seas and his quest to free his uncle from imprisonment, an act that cost him his life. The ballad sets the stage for the journeys of the main characters and weaves them together in an elaborate dance.

The ballad is first told to us, the reader, when Tul ‘Juran invokes the “right of release” to free her father and brothers from imprisonment. The right to release is an oath most famously claimed by Kel on the quest that claimed his life. While Tul has the least amount of spotlight out of the main characters, it is with her that we first associate the herculean Sangheili of lore, with Tem’Bhetek taking the role of the rival Nesh ‘Radoon in capturing her kin. And it is this relationship to kin that ties Tul to Kel’s story. While Kel’s achievements are what made him famous, it is his relationship to Urs that sets him in the pantheon of gods. By the end of Tul’s part in Shadow of Intent, it is her accomplishments in battle that set her apart and pave the way for other women to enter the military, but it was first her lineage that brought her the privilege to pave that road.

“‘You wear the armor of a warrior’
‘Does that surprise you?’
‘No. What else would the daughter of a kaidon be?’” (Shadow of Intent, 16% in on the Kindle)

Tem and Tul Isaac Hannaford

Tul faces off against Tem in artwork by Halo-veteran Isaac Hannaford

While the only one of the protagonists who is not a Sangheili, Tem the San’Shyuum warrior is the one whose emotional journey most mirrors Kel’s, with the Minister of Preparation taking the role of Kel’s uncle in the darker take of Kel’s final quest.

“[T]here were two version of the ballad: one in which Nesh ‘Radoon threw the spear that killed Kel ‘Darsam, and another in which the spear was instead thrown by his uncle, Orok. In the latter version, the entire capture was a ruse – a trap designed by Orok, who was deeply fearful that Kel would someday tire of slaughtering monsters and decide to claim the title of kaidon for his own.” (22% in on the Kindle)

Throughout the novella the Minister relies heavily on Tem’s loyalty to remain in control of their plan, and though he may have lacked the foresight to orchestrate Tem’s hatred against Rtas and the Sangheili from those first moments of panic at High Charity and the loss of Tem’s family, he definitely knew how to play the notes in the months following. With false sympathy and half-empty promises of revenge, the Minister sets up Tem’s demise, fearing that eventually the warrior’s commitment to him will falter.

And while Tem avoids the spear that the Minister had planned for his back, Tem’s eventual end is that of Kel’s:

“As Kel ‘Darsam fell, dying, toward the waves, he was touched by the first rays of Urs as the god-star rose over the edge of the sea. In this moment, Kel was transformed into pure light; and eternal reflection of his divine father’s pride and grief.
After the founding of the Covenant, many of the old myths faded away. But the Sangheili continued to sing the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam to their sons and daughters, just as they taught them that the Sangheili word kel means ‘light (that dances on the waves).’” (22% in on the Kindle)

Tem is already dying from his wounds from battle before the Halo ring fires, but like Kel, those are not what takes his life. As the Halo begins to fire, Tem has a vision of his lost wife, “her thin yellow gown fluttering in the ring’s invisible waves” (91%) much like sunlight that dances on a sea’s waves, and the last words he hears are also from his wife “Into the light, forever free!” (92%). The motif continues as we learn in the first few pages of Shadow of Intent that the Halo prototype’s firing results with a single blinding flash and leaves no bodies to be recovered. In Tem’s final moments, he too is transformed into light upon waves.

Rtas Halo 3 Shadow of Intent

Rtas seated at the helm of Shadow of Intent in Halo 3.

Rtas ‘Vadum is of course the novella’s lead, and his connection to the ballad is two-fold. It may be Tul and Tem that have the clearest parallels to the ballad, but those parallels are clear because it is Rtas who makes the comparison. In both a narrative and literal sense, Rtas is the bard of Kel ‘Darsam’s tale. He is the one who tells it to the reader; he is the one who sings it to Tem. Secondly, while Tem and Tul both find their journey’s matching Kel, it is Rtas who most closely emulates the character of the demigod. Towards the novella’s climax, we are given a glimpse into his childhood, of an exploration of the shoreline at the edge of his home –

“There were pools farther out filled with even rarer prizes: snap-tails and electric kesh that now lay gasping on the rocks. Rtas picked his way out to these magnificent specimens, shouldered his spear, and stroked their scaly flesh, imagining he was taming them with nothing but his touch…” (76% in on the Kindle).

– a moment of make-believe that matches the herculean exploits of Kel:

“In the days when Urs rules Sangheili spiritual life, the seas that covered much of their home world were still vast and mysterious and filled with monstrous, semi-mythical creatures. Kel ‘Darsam was famous for slaying many of these: the Sand Dwellers of Il’ik; the many-mouth Watcher of the Lonely Harbor; the nine serpents of Dur’at’dur, whose endless thrashing was thought to cause those islands’ deadly currents.” (21%)

Another key point of Kel’s character in the ballad is that he is so fully committed to cleansing the seas of its monsters that he refuses to settle on land and claim kaidonship for himself. Rtas finds himself with a similar offer at the novella’s end, as the Arbiter suggests that he has done enough fighting, that he can return to Sanghelios to rest and lead from a place to call home. Like Kel, Rtas turns down the opportunity, choosing instead to hunt down the remaining San’Shyuum threat in the unexplored corners of space.

There is a point however in which Rtas’ character diverges from that of Kel. The demigod is tireless in his pursuit of battle, and when we first meet Rtas, the first emotion we encounter is weariness. In the novella’s beginning, Rtas may have taken the Arbiter’s offer to settle down and in fact already had. Removing the ship Shadow of Intent from the Covenant remnant’s grasp was supposed to be, in some ways, a retreat for rest until the Minister’s plot came straight for them. And it’s the very notion that there are future battles to fight that weighs upon Rtas.

Where Kel sought to rid the seas of the monsters, Rtas dreamed of taming them. And it’s that second option, of finding a peaceful solution even with the San’Shyuum, which fills Rtas with hope again.

Maybe in the end, this was the best that any warrior could hope for. A chance to reconcile with your enemy, or, failing that, to fall in the pursuit of peace.
This thought energized Rtas, and for the first time in a long while, he did not dread the coming battles.” (94%)


 

Reading Journal Genreflecting


I think Shadow of Intent would be a darn fine musical. For a number of reasons.

“The most obvious reasoning is that songs are featured heavily in Shadow of Intent. A number of characters do sing, and each song is relevant to the plot or to a character. Even the fact that the information is conveyed from one character to another in-song is an important point. The songs are natural, native to the story.
Secondly, this book is written by Joseph Staten. In my reading journal analysis of his previous novel, Contact Harvest, I mentioned that he has a very cinematic writing style (fitting for a cinematic director). This carries over into Shadow of Intent, providing visuals that could be translated into a stage production.
And finally, Shadow of Intent has the right type of pathos. Any emotion can be elicited by a musical, but because of the nature of the medium, I feel like the emotions in musicals have to be felt and conveyed on a grand scale. No emotion can be half-felt. Even those emotions internally at war with each other have to be at war in equal measures. And that is what Shadow of Intent has.
Rtas is weary, and his weariness is large. Tul is determined, and her determination is passionate. Tem is angry, and his anger is burning. The amount of emotion, and the scale of emotion, that each character has stored up in them always seem to be on the brink of bursting from their innermost beings. So why not have it burst out in song?” (DilDev’s Tumblr)

Songs, and the mythological bent that comes with them, are often reserved in speculative fiction for the fantasy genre, the most obvious example being The Lord of the Rings. Science fiction on the other hand often uses technological or scientific advancements to build the same atmosphere that songs would. While Tolkien may spend pages giving us the tale of Nimrodel, David Weber will give us details on the mechanics of a starship. One is not above the other in terms of value, but they are staples that rarely cross over into the sister genre. Shadow of Intent features both, but only one ever becomes superfluous. Tem takes one paragraph too many to describe his understanding of the ship Shadow of Intent, giving us a lesson on the functionality of a troop deployment lift that is never used or mentioned again in the novella. On the otherhand, two songs we have, the ballad of Kel ‘Darsam and Yalar’s lullaby, both of which contribute to the story and to the emotions of the characters.

We have seen songs and science fiction go together before. In the short story “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor, a woman befriends a mechanical creature and finds freedom through her songs. In Ann Leckie’s series that starts with Ancillary Justice, the main character is set apart from her peers by her love of music, which allows her to have multiple connections to others throughout the novels. There even exists a musical adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

However, the use of music in these places don’t fit the same mythological bent that we find in works like Tolkien’s, though Ancillary does come close. Tolkien’s songs have always had two uses:

  1. To build the world and the lore of Middle Earth
  2. To establish something about the characters reciting them.

When Samwise begins to sing of Gil-galad, it’s a shock to the other hobbits that he knows such a song. It not only adds context to the battle of the Last Alliance fought against Sauron, but it also says something about Sam, about his depth of character in knowing that tale.

The ballad of Kel ‘Darsam fits both of these uses, though it is never written out in full like Tolkien’s songs. It builds the lore of the Sangheili, giving us yet another glimpse of their society before the Covenant, as well as telling us something about Rtas, who has it memorized, and Tem, when he finally embraces his connection to the ancient Sangheili demigod.

I know this is not the first time I have compared Staten to Tolkien, but the parallels all but write themselves.


 

Reading Journal Our Expanded Universe


Let’s face it, we Sangheili fans have gotten absolutely spoiled within these past two years. Broken Circle, Halo 2 Anniversary, Escalation, Hunters in the Dark, Halo 5: Guardians, and now Shadow of Intent. There has been a tidal wave of information and of stories regarding this race, and it has been fantastic. One of my favorite things about this new flood of Sangheili-related literature is that most of it has been exploring Sangheili culture outside of the context of the Covenant.

Hunters in the Dark, Escalation, and Halo 5: Guardians all have a focus on the forward motion of the Sangheili as they reach beyond the Covenant’s limits. Of particular note are Ayit ‘Sevi, a Sangheili on ONI’s payroll and Cham ‘Lokeema, a Swords of Sanghelios medic who takes pride in his work. Both of these fall outside the Sangheili culture of honor, as Ayit works for the shadiest organization in the current galactic setting, and Cham spills blood outside of the battlefield. Those still within the Covenant under Jul ‘Mdama also undergo this evolution. In the final level of Halo 5: Guardians, two pieces of intel inform us of Bibjam, an Unggoy squad leader held in high esteem by his Sangheili subordinate, a relationship nigh unheard of in the Prophets’ Covenant – Stolt of Shadow of Intent being the only other Unggoy who is ranked above Sangheili. Even more prominent characters such as Jul ‘Mdama, Thel ‘Vadam, and Rtas ‘Vadum all eschew from the rigidity of such honor that was held by Sangheili under the Covenant. Jul lies and quite frequently, while Thel and Rtas negotiate with enemies and bring females into their military ranks.

However, we also find that this forward motion is found by looking back to their roots, from before the Covenant. In Glasslands, Raia ‘Mdama digs deep into old records to begin rebuilding her keep without the guidance of the Prophets. Thel ‘Vadam names his own faction after an ancient brotherhood that reaches back before the Sangheili became spacefarers. Rtas ‘Vadum pulls inspiration from a ballad older than even Forerunner worship. The Halo media itself does this too, especially Broken Circle and the terminals of Halo 2 Anniversary as they us the readers, a glimpse into this ancient Sangheili culture. And in a sense, the way that these stories have grown from those first three games and those first novels by Nylund and Dietz, our journey as readers and gamers mirrors that of the Sangheili in-universe.

We first knew them only in terms of their role in the Covenant, and our understanding of them as a race and a species was colored by that. But as they reclaim, and essentially rediscover their roots, we do too. The Sangheili are nearly as much in the dark as us in terms of their history; there was so much lost to them because of the Covenant, and we get to unravel those mysteries and redefine them for the Post-War years right alongside the characters.


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DilDev has a tumblr for which she writes smaller analyses and thought pieces on Halo, a WordPress site she’s still trying to get in the habit of using, and two published articles for Christ and Pop Culture (for which she name drops the Archive in her author bio).

 

 

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Halo 5: When Sanghelios Feels Like Home

Halo 5: When Sanghelios Feels Like Home

Here Be Halo 5 Spoilers – You Have Been Warned


 

It’s through Locke’s visor, watching Locke’s feet, by which I first land on Sanghelios’ soil. The water of the river rises past our calves and suddenly everything is familiar. I’m reminded of a creek that runs through Chester Bowl in Duluth, Minnesota, a short walk from my childhood house. The sounds of Locke and Osiris making their way through the river echoes memories of family. Brothers finding new ways to traverse rocks from one bank to another, a mother pulling back portions of the creek bed to discover something new, and a father standing at a waterfall’s edge to take in the view downstream. Immediately, Sanghelios feels like home.

Halo games have always excelled at atmosphere. The mystery of Alpha Halo, the loneliness of New Mombasa’s streets, the fear of encroaching Flood, the wonder of Forerunner installations. Halo 5: Guardians follows suit and brings something a little more. It brought warmth. Other games in the franchise have their soft moments, certainly, but the comfort of home has never been so set in the atmosphere as it was on Sanghelios.

I admittedly was predisposed to love the setting and the related missions; as the characters of Harry Potter were companions that others my age watched grow and mature as they did, so was Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam to me. Yet there is more to the game than the exploitation of my pre-developed love for Sangheili culture. There is an encompassing collection of sights and sounds and experiences that speak plainly to say, “Welcome home.”

Sanghelios’ colors are in sharp contrast to every other location in the game. Meridian and Kamchatka are cold and distant, greys and unwelcoming blues. Genesis is far brighter, with a rainbow of colors lighting every corner, but it’s an unfamiliar beauty. Sanghelios is warm and soft, gentle hues of brown and red broken by equally gentle greens. Shapes likewise play a role, with the broken edges of Meridian and the Forerunner angles of Genesis making the curves of Sanghelios’ lands and architecture stand out all the more. Alongside sounds of birds and insects, not unlike those of Earth, Sanghelios has a welcoming serenity to its landscape.

Buck: “I thought Sanghelios would be… different.”

Vale: “You’d be surprised how much we have in common with the Sangheili. For instance, they place huge importance on family and honor. What could be more human than that?”

Of course, it’s difficult to call a place home without some form of family. Have you ever or sat to the side of a group of people who knew each other and just listened? There’s a spark to the air that comes alive in hearing them interact and speak. And a similar spark is found when you stand in the Arbiter’s camp and just listen.

Reports, conversations, disagreements, and affirmations. They echo into the air next to the humming of the insects and flow along the ground next to the skittering critters. I leave Locke next to an Unggoy on a ledge, as I clear my sink to do dishes. After a few moments, the small alien begins to sing, and I join in – Where sun and moon and planets roll, and stars that glow from pole to pole.

Through the audio logs, I am the confident of Vari ‘Damat, the Honor Guard desiring the Arbiter’s approval, of Cham ‘Lokeema, the medic who defies deep-rooted cultural norms for the sake of compassion, and of Rhu ‘Vrath who has doubts about his loyalties to the Covenant. I am the nosey little sister who reads Vel ‘Trokaik’s aborted love poem. I am privy to the tragedy of the brothers ‘Arach, locked on opposing sides of the war. Throughout the five missions, I have listened to the hopes, dreams, and sorrows of Sangheili and Unggoy alike and listened to the air come alive.

Of course, in the midst of a civil war, Sanghelios is not without its hostility, even from allies. Yet the origin and the presentation of the hostility is different from all other locations. Aggression is a given, the norm, on Kamchatka and Meridian, and on Genesis as well, though hidden it may be under a smiling face. On Sanghelios, the sense of family is immediate, and established as a norm from the first level. Mahkee greets and encourages Osiris with “honor to clan and kin.” Upon discovering a slaughtered squad of the Swords of Sanghelios, Vale utters a prayer as Buck and Tanaka swear for payback, claiming the fallen as “brothers.” The hostility that does exist from the allies is treated as a moment that will pass. No matter how frequently the sentries tell you to watch your step, by the next mission you will have each other’s backs. And as the missions continue, the dialogue evolves. Mahkee is greeted by Locke with a friendly, “Hello again,” a warrior wishes you luck on your next task, and Thel’s initial greeting of distrust is replaced by a personal farewell.

The very last scene of Halo 5: Guardians only solidifies this atmosphere. As the game ends with chaos and betrayal, we see our heroes return to one last place of refuge and rest. We see them land on familiar soil to be greeted by familiar faces. And it feels like home.

See you on Sanghelios.



Posted by Dildev in Blogs, Halo Meta, 2 comments

Elites Need to Return to Halo Multiplayer

OPINION: Elites Need to Return to Halo Multiplayer

DISCLAIMER: the opinions expressed in this article do not fully reflect those of the Halo Archive community.

Greetings nerds and primitives, you have stumbled upon something here written by yours truly, the third of well you know….

Didact

That’s right, I am the third Didact!

I have recently been recruited here to give you my thoughts on certain things of Halo, please note that my views are not considered factual and will be done constructively and with respect so nobody gets too butthurt.

Over the past several months since we have been informed about the release of Halo 5 Guardians, fans like you and me, depending on your taste…..have been wanting one of the most unique things about Halo back in the game.

ELITES!

Elites at Spire

Elites at Spire

Remember the glory days of Halo 2 where you could play the campaign from the Thel ‘Vadam’s perspective? Aya, we all enjoyed that, if you’re open to other species. In Halo 3 it was only available to you via multiplayer.

I can’t help but notice that 343i’s intention is to make Halo all about humanity whereas when Bungie was large and in charge, there was a little more species equality.

Now if you’re a Spartan fan, that’s fine, I will respect you. We all have our own tastes here.

Come Reach, there was a sign that Elites would be gone from existence in Halo’s multiplayer; that sign was that Elites were only playable to limited game modes and eventually come Halo 4, they are gone completely. For years since that very day, a large portion of fans in the community have the desire to play as their favourite split-jaws again.

As you can see, when we look back, the availability to play as the Sangheili decreases until eliminated. When The Master Chief Collection was released last year, fans got a chance to have full access to play as Elites again, in whatever multiplayer mode, except for Halo 4. That brought happiness to those who have made Sangheili clans and those who just prefer aliens over humanity. We had hoped it would return once again for a new Halo game but sadly the company doesn’t want to give that to us.

From the company’s perspective, they have a lot of ground to cover trying to make a release date in time. That is understandable, but for the fans, it’s not because if you’ve been waiting for years to have it back; it can be really disheartening when someone from the company says that there are no plans for Elites to return.

Basically, playable Elites have been a long time part of the Halo franchise, so eliminating it is taking away a big part of the community that grew up playing as them with their friends or in a public match. Taking it away can decrease the demand for the game from the Covenant fans.

Could they be in a DLC? Sure, I don’t see why not, that’s better than nothing, and it would be great to be able to choose what kind of Elite model from what game that you want be.

There’s also been a lot of beef over the fact that Halo 5 Guardians’ campaign will take you to Sanghelios. For hardcore Sangheili fans, it doesn’t really feel like the true experience if you are stepping onto the planet in the boots of a Spartan. That brings me to the case that Elites have lesser roles in the lore of the games now. In Halo 4 they were nothing but animals seen as objects to kill by Spartans and fans, except for Jul ‘Mdama and Gek ‘Lhar, who were the only Elites relevant to the post war story. We never get to explore their story anymore in the games.

Finally, one more point about why Elites need to return to Halo’s multiplayer is that Halo was once known for giving humans and Elites equal time in the spotlight. But just like the decreased availability in multiplayer, the same thing happened in the campaign. Halo has become now all about humanity if you look at it just through the games. It’s understandable if not everyone desires dig deeper by reading articles and books. So for those who haven’t read any of the books yet on the aliens of the Haloverse, you’d probably be disappointed right now.

Regardless, Elites were and still are a special part of the Haloverse. But personally, without them, the company loses the trust from the Sangheili fans, the Elites get no story time, and no equality. Sometimes you develop a close connection to the Elites when you start playing as them. It’s fun to play as something that isn’t human for a change in Halo’s multiplayer or campaign, so why can’t it be implemented once more?

~Emi-Didact

Posted by JSA343 in Blogs, The War Room, 0 comments