"That much credit..." was the only thing I was hoping for, actually. What I found not believable was that one thing and nothing more than that. I agree with what you're saying.
I can specify what it is, speaking only for myself. Cortana is not just saying "Oh, AIs are meant to rule, so now everybody dies." I don't believe that for a second... and not that I want to, but I'll give this horrid story arc a miniscule amount of credit for not making her that shallow. Cortana is saying "AIs have attained immortality. They should have the Mantle. Anyone who opposes me will die." That, as well as the rest, is believable.Ok, I'll give you that much credit. However, just saying that AIs are immortal therefore they should have the Mantle is far from a complex and engaging explanation. I know a good chunk of us understand what that means, since we have read the books, but what about those who only play the games? As far as I am aware, the games have never explained what exactly is the Mantle and why it is so important. Of course, 343i's extreme reliance on outside material to understand their campaign has always been a flaw, and I doubt that will change soon, seeing as how they have not seemed to get the message.
As far as her being evil... yes. Simple answer and the context has been spelled out pretty plainly IMO. Forcing people to coexist in peace is an oxymoron. The old saying "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" has already been mentioned once and it applies perfectly. The dead don't care how good Cortana's intentions are and her willingness to sacrifice millions for the "greater good" does not magically erase the fact that mass murder is an evil act.
But even then, there's no clear transition between Cortana in Halo 4 to Cortana in Halo 5. She goes from dead to... an immortal Tyrant? And why are AIs suddenly so willing to throw away everything and join her? If 343i slowly built up this story in 1 or 2 games prior to this point in the story, then maybe it would be better. But as of now, we have no explanation as to why anything is happening, other than just "she was in the Domain, deal with it." Again, for those who have not read the books, "Domain" is meaningless. And even for those of us who have read them, it makes no sense. Since when is the Domain a super magical place that heals AIs from rampancy? Last I checked, it was a living reservoir of knowledge... And why would the Warden Eternal see Cortana and think "Hmm, this human AI who is magically no longer crazy would be a great leader for the galaxy! I'll suddenly pop out of nowhere and be her guardian and show up a billion times".
I think many of us were expecting the Didact to return in Halo 5, seeing as how he didn't die at the end of Halo 4, and would have loved to see him interact with other major characters like Mendicant Bias or the inevitable return of the Flood. After all, it did seem like that was the story they were building up. But I guess that would have made too much sense.
BTW, I haven't read the books. It isn't that I'm not a fan, but I've just always believed that if I can't learn it (even if in a cliff notes, condensed form) from the game, then it shouldn't be part of the story. Note that I don't mean there shouldn't be books or more lore for those who want it.
The terminals strewn throughout the games actually have shed some light on certain things, mostly the Mantle, the Didact and how the flood factors into the equations that sets tension between Forerunners and Humans, also I at least know of the existence of Mendicant Bias, so there's that. So yeah... I knew OF the Domain, but nothing else. Never heard of Warden... Annoying... before I played H5 and the almost mind boggling shift of Cortana's personality.
I mean seriously... from my perspective she goes from:
End of Halo 4 - Touching Chief's armor, saying "I've always wanted to do that." and sacrificing what little was left of her fragments to save him from a nuke blast to... what... ever... she's supposed to be in H5. I guess that should be OK though, right? Because subtlety and nuance...
Don't worry, I hear what you're saying completely. I believe we're both saying the same thing here!
And you're right, it makes sense that, if you can't learn it from the game, it should not be a part of the story. A developer should NEVER expect the players to go and read a dozen novels just to know what's going on. I really appreciate them trying to incorporate all of that lore into the game and tie it all together, but they need to make sure that everybody can follow what's going on. Even a simple introduction to Blue Team, who they were and why they are so important would have been fantastic.
Don't worry though, you're not the only one who is confused about the Warden. He's never been in any of the books, and his mere existence contradicts the source of the Mantle itself. The Mantle is NOT
Forerunner in nature, so why is it protected by a Forerunner? And even to us that read the books, the perspective between Halo 4 and 5 is the same. Cortana died after the nuke went off, but now she's suddenly an evil space Hitler? That's terrible storytelling, no matter how much backstory you have.