A More Complete Look At The Halo Franchise
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
Always A Stranger, In A Strange Land
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
There is one thing in the Halo universe, besides the continuing themes of cultural regression, loss of identity and artificial life that is rarely talked or spoken of. This one thing, or item you could say has been mentioned throughout the series in an insignificant way until recently. The Mantle of Responsibility. I say recently because up until 343i took over Halo, the Mantle has only been mentioned offhand or in Forerunner glyphs. Halo 4 introduced us to the notional that Forerunner mastery was in direct correlation with The Mantle, something they believed in deeply. Halo 5 furthered this introduction by describing it as an empirical mantra or universal rule. Whoever holds The Mantle, holds the power of their galaxy and dictates its course. Any sub-species who disobeys that order of law, is punished.
Ancient Humanity was a victim of said punishment, stepping out of line and taking matters into their own hands in eliminating The Flood from infected worlds.Before ancient Humanity however, the Precursors were the victims of their own creation. Humanity was always destined to be the holders of The Mantle, the one true Reclaimer. The Forerunners thought of this as obscured, and so turned against the Precursors it a jealous rage either destroying them or forcing them to flee. But, what if the Precursors were not victims of their own creation? What if this was planned, as it was planned and enacted hundred million times before. The Precursors in Halo's narrative should not be the creators, the caretakers of life. They should be locusts, a plague and a force which has decimated uncountable galaxies before ours. As the Gravemind has said before. "I have beaten, fleets of thousands!" and the fact that it is known The Flood have consumed many other galaxies besides the Milky Way. I think Halo would be so much better a narrative, the series so much deeper and astounding if the very object that every species holds so dear, is nothing more than a mirage. Let me explain.
The Mantle is, in essence a uniting mantra. One species who is deemed "worthy" by the Precurors is given this mantra, to dictate, protect and classify the galaxy under their care. The positives of this mantra is that all species are cared for and protected under one unified race that is at the apex of galactic civilization. As the Forerunners were, with their Guardians and Promethean army. The negatives are that each species that is pacified is left to stagnate under the rule of the apex race. No other race is allowed to develop beyond the species which holds The Mantle. We saw this with ancient Humanity, devolved when they showed signs of developing to match The Forerunners, or the San Shyuum. The species which had the most promise of development, in all meanings of the word never got the chance and as such were put under thumb never able to lend their strength to the overall health of the galaxy.
The Mantle breeds egotism and it fosters reliance on a singular species to uphold galactic health. This galactic stagnation hinders unity, cultural exchange and the shared responsibility of uplifting those weaker species. More importantly, it negates any chance for varied problem solving or unified force projection in the scenario of a galactic scale problem arising. The scale of stagnation passed down from The Mantle is astounding, it is akin to our entire ocean becoming windless and the only inhabitants the water itself.
What better way, to manipulate a potentially strong and unified galaxy into becoming like lambs for the slaughter. The Precursors are patient, they are beyond intelligent.
Halo's Precursors have the potential to become one of the most terrifying, and seemingly unstoppable forces in science fiction. Think of Mass Effect's Reapers and their cycle. The species who built them, the Leviathans did so to balance a million year equation. To clean the slate so artificiality would never overwhelm biology. The Mass Relays were a trap, much like the Mantle would be in this method of The Precursors. But the Reapers were flawed, broken and only a force of power in one galaxy. Terrifying though they may be, they are but insects to be stepped on compared to the potential explanation to The Precursors. The Reapers thought on the smallest of scales, The Precursors on the infinite.
The Mantle is handed to the most developed species in the galaxy, The Precursors then retreat or fain defeat. They wait, millions of years if needed. To any species the Precursors would be as gods, the notion of carrying on their work as servants to these gods irresistible. They would believe life in the galaxy was created by such powerful entities, even though perhaps that too is a lie. All of The Precursors rhetoric, such as their need to create and their need to seed worlds could have all been just an elaborate ruse. A con job of universal proportions. To what end does this universal consumption serve? The acquisition of species technology, their memories, culture or essence? Resources? Or something entirely alien?
After the galaxy has been stagnated enough, they come like locusts. Because of the one species rule, the galaxy lacks a diversified effort to defeat the oncoming threat. This happened to The Forerunners, they devolved the one hope the galaxy had of aiding in the war against The Flood and it became their downfall.
If The Mantle is a trap, a manipulative mantra passed to weaken the diversity and development of the galaxy under one banner...how many galaxies before ours have been consumed? Being beings of transcendental form they take on the forms they need. Perhaps The Flood isn't even their only form of destruction and galactic conquest but only one in a line of infinite faces of death and consumption. The Flood was perhaps the tool needed for our own galaxy The Primordial in *Silentium* said that this was not the first galaxy they had visited nor would it be the final. Again, how many galaxies have fallen? And if the Precursors are in the process of a long and universal consumption, is there any hope for the Milky Way in Halo's universe?
In Halo, the Milky Way is special. Of all the races that have come and gone, it was lucky enough to have two whose civilizations were only a few steps away from The Precursors. Ancient Humanity and The Forerunners. Even when The Precursors came back as the The Flood, Ancient Humans fought to preserve life, cleansing world upon world. After The Forerunners devolved Humanity, their one and only suitably advanced alley, The Precursors could not take our galaxy.
Perhaps through countless conquests The Precursors had grown confident, or perhaps too rigid. They failed to take the threat of The Forerunners seriously, and let them win their first engagement. When they returned as The Flood, they were met with resistance unlike anything they had encountered in previous galaxies. The technological leaps almost rivaled their own star roads. Rifles that fired beams of slowed particles, resembling lances of hard light. Combat armor that could take on any form and shift into various protective layers. Artificial Intelligence that could formulate battle plans and strategy on the scale of entire galactic star clusters. The Flood had perhaps, finally met their match. It may have taken them more than it had for any other galaxy to finally make victory seem unattainable. But The Forerunners had once again used their technology to develop the means of victory, and ensuring that victory was not hollow. The Halos and Shield Worlds. The Forerunners won, but at the cost of their species. Which once help The Mantle so close. The thing which ironically weakened them and our galaxy.
When John 117 met the Librarian during Halo 4, she explained to him he (possibly humanity) is the culmination of hundreds of thousands of years of planning. "Planning for what?"
Cortana has now taken over The Domain, or it her. She is systematically awakening The Guardians, claiming that her "Created" now hold The Mantle. At the end of Halo 5 we see a Halo ring over a planet, Cortana begins to hum.
Halo 6 could (and in my opinion NEEDS TO BE) the beginning to the Created falling for a mantra that has never been about preservation or protection. Cortana, perhaps due to rampancy or other factors is just as awe struck and blinded by The Mantle as The Forerunners were long ago. Cortana could be the first step, to the return of The Precursors, be them Flood or another one of their many faces of death.
If 343i is reading, start the slow build. Do not have The Flood return in Halo 6, but instead begin the long crawl to the eventual return of a far greater foe. One that uses the illusion of power on the grandest of scales to manipulate an entire galaxy to stagnation. Think about the character drama, John's task to convince Cortana that the promises of the Precursors (logic plague) will be the end of the galaxy. Imagine the drama of humanity being in the Forerunner's shoes, having potentially killed (albeit out of necessity) their one potential alley, The Covenant, in fighting off The Precursors. Or even the Didact, going through a character development/change through several games or novels and realizing that the mistake made long ago will not be repeated. Humanity will FINALLY fight alongside The full might of The Forerunners, as they should have some hundred thousand years ago.
343i, you need to play the long game. Halo 5 was a mess of pacing and fast transitions with an overload of nonsensical information dumps. Build up to something grand, even if it isn't my suggestion of The Mantle being a manipulative mantra. Make each game a coherent chapter to the larger narrative, then when the time is right hit it out of the figurative park! Believe in your universe, in your characters and the potential of all of this magnificent lore. But most of all, and after years of related work in this field I can say for sure that make sure your writers respect the universe and it's depth as much as your fans do. The narrative of an entire universe is only as incredible as those who tend to it, and even more so the fans who become lost in it.
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.