Halo is in a league of its own right now in terms of the subject matters it covers. This exclusive club as it were really only encompasses (on the macro scale at least) Halo and the Bioware developed Mass Effect franchise.
I'm not necessarily discussing the overarching narrative that is character driven, or the genre Halo finds itself within greater science fiction. I'm talking about more subtle themes, ones that are hidden away behind the curtains and every so often peek out. Those brief moments, within Halo 4's narrative, were trying to tell us something very important. That what is lost can be reclaimed; and that the Forerunners if nothing else were long term tacticians.
The Ur-Didact was on to something that I feel is overshadowed by his character in Halo 4. Because he was against our beloved hero John 117, people automatically painted a broad stroke across the Ur-Didact, and thus all his actions were deemed evil as well. Digital synthesis is what can turn the Halo franchise around in the most exciting direction I can think of, because all of the plots, threads and themes that Halo 4 presented were some of the most complex and thought provoking motifs I really have ever experienced. A word of note, this is coming from someone who has studied, published, edited and read more science fiction material than could be deemed healthy for one individual. I say this, because the notional of "Reclaimer" within Halo is (and could be ever more so) deeper than I think we give 343i circal Halo 4 credit for. To me, as a gamer and someone who lives science fiction as if it were my only supply of precious O2, Reclaimers are not only those who are living but those who also still remain. Again, the Forerunners have showed us they are master tacticians on the longest of scales. The Librarian has a plan, everyone plays their part within it.
Let me explain, why the threads Halo 4 brought up concerning digital synthesis is where Halo should steer its narrative ship towards. Trust me, it'll all come full circle.
Like Television Tuned To A Dead Station
"Neuromancer" quote aside, Halo has always been a world bridged by both the physical and digital realms. I wont go into excruciating levels of detail on the place of artificial intelligence in Halo, as I already covered that topic in a previous article.So I'll just jump right into the meat.
The Ur-Didact was, for the longest time attempting to fully bridge the physical realm with the digital. He tried countless times on himself, then his most trusted Promethean warriors to no avail. Some went mad, or turned into abominations. The Ur-Didact himself was left weak and demoralized by the failed experiment. So if he could't passively bridge the two realms, he would instead do what he knew best. Attempt brute force. Enter, The Composer.
The Composer in Halo 4, in essence, is akin to a digital scanner of sorts. One, interestingly enough, which actually works in modern day quantum physics. We are all made of particles, the arrangement of said particles makes up who we are individually. No two arrangements are the same. The Composer was a quantum scanner of sorts, scanning the physical particles and transporting them into a digital storage medium for later use. Of course, this process destroys the original set of particles. It isn't science fiction, it's science fact (Brian Green is a fantastic person.)
So those people composed in Halo 4, would you say they are dead? Well, their original particles are yes. But who they are as an arrangement is still alive and well and still in a sense, them. Now, the Composer also took away free will and forced the digitized arrangements to fight as Knights or Promethean Warriors. Not a very happy prospect to the average Joe, I would think.However, we have also seen that The Domain can store digitally synthesized content, and rearrange it into what was destroyed. Like Cortana.
Halo 4's Reclaimer mission, to me, is the core of Halo's narrative. The Librarian tells John she has been planning, for very long periods of time for something. Implanting "Geas," of the essence of important past individuals into current individuals through genetic alteration. Geas are digital imprints, manipulated into the fabric of genetic coding to pass on traits to others. The dead live on in Halo through digital synthesis and gene manipulation. But the Composer and The Domain open up a very, for lack of a better word, "cool" possibility. One that will have us fans drooling on the floor if 343i ever realizes what they have going.
The Full Circle Journey
John has had everything taken from him. His childhood, his friends, his family, his comrades in arms, both Keys, Johnson and Cortana. However, while Cortana could be argued to have been his greatest friend and companion, I would actually argue that she is not. That honor, would go to Johnson. Avery Jonson, "The Sarge." When I hear Halo, it's him and Chief that I see. Since Halo CE and earlier the two have been kicking ass in outer space. And in Halo 3 we had to see John leave his most trusted companion behind, nothing could be done. John couldn't save Johnson, but someone else could. Mendicant Bias.
At the end of Halo 3, at the beginning of the last mission "Halo," there is a cave with a terminal. If played on legendary you will speak to Mendicant Bias, the Contender Class AI who long ago betrayed the Forerunners to the Gravemind. The terminals throughout Halo are hooked into the Domain, or what is left of it. Mendicant Bias tells John that he will make certain the passage is clear and attempt to the best of his abilities to get John off of the Ark safely. He would have his masters know he has changed, particularly The Librarian I assume.
If the Librarian's plan was so important, so well implemented that even one loose strand could jeopardize it...Mendicant Bias would have certainly knew this. If he had changed, why would he not protect that plan in any manner possible? We know Miranda Keys was important to that plan, as was Cortana and Johnson. Evident that they could operate most Forerunner technology with ease. It could be argued that the entire species of Humanity are Recliamers, but within Halo more importance is placed on some Reclaimers than others. So knowing that the Domain can save and synthesize essences' and that The Ark was hooked up to the Domain, as was all forerunner tech...What evidence do we have then, that it is not capable of digitally recombining the physical form of those who have been digitally synthesized?
So Mendicant Bias saves John, he reaches Requiem as a testament to Mendicant's change. But I think, he could have saved more than just John. As The Ark was was racked by the shockwave from Halo's detonation, as The Flood was dealt a fatal (we shall see) blow, I want to think that Mendicant Bias was intelligent and capable enough to make sure those Reclaimers who held such importance within the Librarians grand plan were saved as well. Keys, Johnson and possibly more across those who perished on Forerunner installations. Quantum physics says it's possible, and Mendicant Bias had access to the Domain over both the Ark and presumably the other installations being that The Ark is directly connected to it. Mendicant Bias, you beautiful sonofabitch...
Oh, I Know What The Ladies Like...
I've been doing this a long, long time. Not these posts, although I hope to keep churning them out. Lord knows I have the content to work with. No, I've been doing science fiction narrative work and game design for most of my childhood and professional life. Classically trained from Commodore 64 and on to Xbox One and PC. I played with little squiggly lines on a giant keyboard, I woke up as the Doom Marine in the 90s and fought through hell, flew like an ace in Star Fox and caught them all in Pokemon. And here I am now, just having finished waking up as the Doom Marine once again to fight like hell.
Why do we step into the shoes of the Doom Marine, loading our last shell into the chamber as we venture into the depths of Hell? Why do we board the Normandy SR1 and SR2 as Commander Shepard, to travel the Galaxy fighting for a way to succeed? Most importantly why do we take control of a man bred for combat and built for war? Fighting alongside amazing characters like Edward Buck, Jacob Keys, Miranda Keyes, Avery Johnson and so many other unforgettable characters in the Halo franchise?
Because it's in our blood, it's our culture. We are a species of story tellers and dreamers, we inhabit our imaginations and love doing it. The Heroes Journey. For everything our characters loose, we loose a little something too. Because for all of us who grew up with Halo, walked the path with these incredible characters we also feel a great loss when their journey comes to an end. But in every good heroes tale, big or small, what is lost is always replaced with greater strength.
Halo however, isn't the typical monomyth. It's got hard science backing it up, saying what is lost can be reclaimed. As with the characters in Halo, we are all Reclaimers and 343i is the most important one. And the ending to this story? Look inside the Domain, The Composer and the laws which govern our universe, brave Reclaimers. Want to write Halo, like Halo? Bring back some familiar faces, along with a deep understanding of character development and world building. Again, come now brave Reclaimers. The fans are waiting...
John walks on an unknown Forerunner Installation, the UNSC Infinity's towering shadow casts down while it hovers miles above the alien landscape. The looming conflict eats at their thoughts, but a hint of hope...Found in a degraded signal sent from outside the galaxy, from The Ark. Perhaps captured during the second raid on The Ark after the war, maybe picked up quite recently.
Who knows, it hasn't been written yet.
John stands before a large Forerunner complex, massive in size. The silver monolith shimmers and morphs, the architecture continually shifting. Inside the structure is a hallway, longer than a hallway has any right to be. At the end, a panel, glowing blue in the shape of a human hand. John places his right hand, equalizing pressure on the panel. A thousand lifetimes of planning for these Reclaimers, too intricate a strategy to not have a backup, nor a protector. John removes his hand, replacing the panel with the lower receiver of his MA5D. He begins to tightly grip the lower barrel, metal begins to deform. An orange glow fills the room. In front of John, human figures begin to take shape...
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
A More Complete Look At The Halo Franchise
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
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