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Were the Covenant Ever Scary? - RANT

OP Tarandros Vaxal

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Alright, here's how this'll work. I'll go through my rant, case by case, and address contrary opinions as they might appear. This is purely based on my opinion, and I am only putting this up here for the sake of trying to see if anyone has similar concerns, and to see what other viewpoints or interpretations might be present. DISCLAIMER: I know next to nothing about the Forerunners, in relation to the Greg Bear books. This shouldn't be relevant, but it should still be mentioned. DISCLAIMER 2: I am a massive Covenant fan-boy and always have been.
Those who've seen my posts, before, will probably be sick of seeing me whine about it, but it still needs to be said. If only because I seem to be the only one who cares.

Rant beginning in 3... 2... 1...

The Covenant aren't a credible threat, anymore. That might seem obvious, given the Post-Human-Covenant-War-Era, but I am speaking in terms of the greater Halo meta. Given the information we were/are fed about the war between Humanity and the Covenant, it has become an increasingly unbearable reality that the Covenant are chumps in all aspects, and have been represented as such, for a while- even going back as far as the start of the Human-Covenant War.

The entirety of the Halo franchise has kind of devolved into variations of the same core theme, that being, an unapologetic "humanity circle-jerk". With some small additions in the form of: "haha, the covenunt tinks it's so big and tough and scary, but they're actually not because SPORTUNS, LOL!!11!!!1!" **insert brainlet meme, here**

Now, you might say: "hasn't that been the point of the entire Halo franchise from the beginning?". And you'd be theoretically correct. The story of Halo is about the strength of the human spirit and our tenacity to survive and thrive through great hardships and challenge.
The problem, however, is that it kind of defeats the message when the very challenge that Humanity is supposed to struggle to overcome is repeatedly demonstrated to be about as threatening as a roided-up cocker spaniel. The books and official material and guides constantly tell us that the Covenant is a massive threat that represents extinction, but when the actual narrative and/or plot is being written up, we're shown the complete opposite.
If you read through all of the books and played all of the games, sans the exposition and with only the plot, you really wouldn't think that the Covenant were winning that much. The Covenant slaughtering billions and glassing worlds would come as a complete shock to you.

This is because the plots and details shown throughout Halo media do very little to sell it to you. It might do so, if Halo stories were told on a macro level, but they're not- they're told from the perspective of single people, and they usually have some plot-threads to string together. It's that that makes the writers forget about consistency.

Now, a lot of people will point out that the threat of the Covenant is much larger in space than it is on the ground, and, again, you'd be theoretically correct. However, once again, without exposition and declarative statements from guides and characters, you'd never know that the Covenant (apparently) dominate space battles, if you read through and experienced Halo stories that took place in space battles.
Want to blow up a Covenant ship? No problem- just send three Spartans in with a large bomb and it'll be toast in no time. Want to hijack a Covenant ship? Sure- just bring an A.I on board and watch your problems dissolve like baking soda! Want to spy on the enemy? Oh, pfft- child's play, just use a Prowler! No -Yoinking!- biggie! Feel like outmaneuvering four Covenant vessels on your own? No sweat- just mock up some coordinates on the spot and pull some Leroy Jenkins crap out of your backside! Want to hijack a Covenant ship, again? Just hop onto some random piece of cargo and blitz your way to the control room- piss easy, right?!

I get the feeling that a lot of you are saying, "but, Archo, all of those instances involved Spartans and main characters! It's just plot armor!". And you'd be right. But answer me this: if you were not told, via exposition, that UNSC fleets have to outnumber Covenant fleets three-to-one to stand a chance, would you come to that conclusion just by reading what actually happens in the plots of the books and games? Some might say "yes" and point to the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV in Fall of Reach. My second question is: is that the only example you can think of? I'd be glad to hear them, unironically. There might have been an example in Escalation, I think?...

It's one thing to be TOLD what the case is, but unless the audience is SHOWN it, it won't really matter. Especially not when all it seems to take to defeat a Covenant fleet is to hop aboard and Leroy Jenkins your way to the bridge of a cruiser.

Now, you might say, "but, Archo, it's stated that the Covenant are `imitative and not innovative`!". In which case, I'd say: really? You're bringing out that golden oldie? Look- I don't care how bureaucratic and grid-locked the Covenant management is: it simply does not make sense that an empire of that sort, all space-faring and being so advanced, wouldn't adapt at least a little bit! The war lasted 30 bloody years! We're told that Fleet Masters are more or less able to reconfigure their fleets and strategies as they please (how else would Thel 'Vadam have had his amount of success?). And yet, at the tail-end of the war, we have UNSC admirals and soldiers being able to pull off some really ridiculous bollocks in space combat.
Even the German High Command, one of the most notoriously out-of-touch and incompetent governments in history, of World War 2, has/have shown more self-awareness and acuity than the bloody COVENANT! In what world does that make any sense, whatsoever?!
Now, you may point to the Covenant religion and say that their zealotry holds them back from being as competent as they can be, and that the dangers of zeal are a common theme in Halo, as well. But I’d contend that that’s not really an adequate excuse when the Covenant religion only truly shows up whenever Forerunner artifacts get involved. If anything, it would be an advantage in battle tactics- if your soldiers aren’t afraid to die and are willing to go on suicide missions just to achieve your goal, it only gives you more options, not less. The only time it might get in the way is if a soldier in question disobeys their orders for the sake of a glorious death, which… I’m pretty sure is a rare occurrence.

You might also suggest that the Covenant was already crumbling at the seams by the time it encountered humanity, and that they weren’t at their best. However, if Broken Circle is any indication, the Covenant has been crumbling at the seams since it’s inception! That hasn’t stopped it from annihilating and conquering untold numbers of civilizations, before! So, why now? Because of some back-room deals between Truth and Tartarus?! I don’t think so.

Next... are the various Covenant races, themselves. This is where it just gets depressing...

First: the Grunts. There's not too much to say, other than the fact that they're treated as barely reliable meat-shields. This is excusable in the games, given that you play as a seven-foot tall super soldier, but the lore clearly states that Grunts are more or less the same size as a regular human, and have more or less the same physicality. Given gameplay and other sources, it's not unreasonable to assume that a Grunt with the rank of Ultra is decidedly on par with a Human marine.

None of this is highly disputed, but I've noticed that mistakes seem to fall through the cracks, in some books. In Legacy of Onyx, for example, a human teenage girl says that she could "step on" a Grunt of her same age group, in terms of physical combat. The book treats this as an accurate (if hyperbolic) statement, when in reality, no. The Grunt in question was a juvenile female, granted, but the book outright says that a Grunt of that age is more or less fully developed in body, and that the Unggoy are not sexually dimorphic, at all. If the author hadn't missed the memo, on that particular front, it would be fairly obvious that the teenage girl in question would be outmatched by the Unggoy.

The Jackals are fairly well represented throughout media, all things considered. But then... in Retribution, a non-military woman with at-best-amateur martial arts skills is able to snap the neck of a Skirmisher with some Hollywood B-movie type acrobatics? What? I don't... quite get that? Seems a bit suss, but okay, I guess?

Then... we come to the Elites... this case might be indicative of the Covenant's situation, as a whole.

We’re told, throughout the guides and by heresay, that the Elites are dangerous, that they’re called “Elites” for a reason. That they’re competent tacticians and skilled warriors, and that they have formed the military might of the Covenant for a thousand years. That an Elite who achieved the rank of Zealot has likely killed at least a thousand humans in open combat. That they train their entire lives in the art of war.

But then… we’re shown the complete opposite! You have Elites being literally ragdolled by any random Brute, getting completely ROFLSTOMPED by Spartan-3s in SPI armor (despite outnumbering them), and being generally portrayed as slow, clumsy, and lethargic in Halo 4 and beyond it.
There’s the fact that their armor systems seem to be as durable as tissue paper, and that, for some reason, they don’t seem to have energy shielding of any kind, half the time! Their shields just… disappear whenever it’s convenient for the plot! Blurr Studios is guilty of this, too, believe me!

Even the Silent Shadow’s armor seems only moderately adequate against a Magnum…

They keel over after a half-second of fire from a sub-machine gun (somehow?), and regular humans seem to be able to run circles around them, all the time!

Then you have Ripa ‘Moramee, who’s stated to be a “ruthless warrior”. An Arbiter. Who’s shown to be strong enough to send a regular Elite (who weighed around 178 kilograms) flying with one swing of his arm. And what happens? He gets tackled and knocked over by an unaugmented marine! Ripa easily weighs at least 200 kilograms, and the brawl he has with Forge seems to completely forget that the two shouldn’t even be on the same tier! There is NO universe where that damned cutscene makes ANY sense!
Then there’s Thel ‘Vadam, good ole’ Arby. His fight with Johnson and Keyes in Delta Halo’s Library is… disappointing. Thel was (allegedly) portrayed going toe-to-toe with John in hand-to-hand in First Strike, and was shown in a somewhat equal fight with Jai in Cole Protocol. And yet… you see him stagger when he’s hit in the chest by the butt of Johnson’s gun. In the chest. Where his armor is! And he visibly struggles to wrench the SMG from Miranda’s grasp! LITERALLY NONE OF THIS IS ADDING UP!!!!!

You CANNOT convince me that there’s any excuse for this crap! He contends with a pair of Spartan-2s in Mark 5 MJOLNIR one minute, then is given noticeable trouble by two humans- one of them, not even an actual soldier, just a navy officer! And a Spartan-1, to be fair, but it’s never been clear how much better the S-1s are than regular Marines. This is just plain sad! Honestly…

As things currently stand, and as far as Halo seems to care, I am convinced that if all you had was ten Spartans, twenty ODSTs, and an assault rifle for each of them: you could drop them on Sanghelios, and they’d conquer the entire planet without any support, three weeks or less, with no more than seven casualties. IS THAT WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO THINK?!?! Is this what was meant to get across to the audience?! AM I INSANE FOR THINKING THERE’S A PROBLEM, HERE??!?!?!

At this rate: Elites are literally going the way of the Stormtrooper from Star Wars. Supposedly ultra-competent, but demonstrably fodder in every appearance they make. This. Is not. Okay. There is no form of art where this is okay, except in a comedy. Halo is not a comedy. It’s a military space opera! It might be okay, if the claims about Elites being dangerous warriors were sometimes contradicted or argued about by the characters in the mythos, but none of them do so. The characters say that the Elites are a force to be reckoned with, but not much happens to prove them right. Are the people in the Halo universe actually mentally challenged to the point that they can’t analyze the objective reality in front of their faces?!

The Elites truly represent the Covenant’s greater problem, here…

The Brutes and Drones and Engineers might be the only Covenant species that are accurately consistent in every appearance they make. I don’t know if that’s admirable or sub-par, performance-wise.

Then, you have the Hunters. You might think they’re kept fairly consistent, but… it ends up being an issue with writing and… general lack of understanding of martial arts and combat, on the part of authors.

Okay: you have a creature that weighs more than most vehicles, can crush most vehicles with it’s bare hands, and can tear apart humans with their bare hands, have nigh-impenetrable shields on their left arm, and Fuel Rod Guns strapped to their right. They pride themsleves on being warriors and are the Covenant’s premier shock-troops. So, what do you do against such a juggernaught of might and brutality? Keep your distance and throw every rocket you have at the thing? No! The winning strategy against a Hunter is, and bear with me…. literally going around them. The winning strat… is: “JUST DODGE”.
And, no, it’s not like they’re able to pivot particularly fast or have decent control over their own bodies or keep track of what’s around them with the 3D sensory organs on every inch of their gestalt-bodies— oh, no, just… dodge their attacks and shoot when they’re not looking. Hell, if you’re a Spartan: just dodge, grab a few worms, and yank! That’ll do the trick! And if the Hunter in question happens to be a college-certified moron, just jump over his head and stick a grenade in his back! He certainly won’t feel it, or be able to do anything about it, despite not having bones to stop him from reaching around and grabbing you!
Oh, and, will the Hunter have any ability to actually fight you, if you happen to be a Spartan without a weapon or objective? Probably not- Spartans are faster than the speed o’ -Yoinking!- sound, apparently! Oh, wait… they’re not?! YOU COULD’A FOOLED ME!!!!
So much for being mini-bosses in the video-games— as far as the lore is concerned, Brutes are more stubborn an obstacle than Hunters! For reasons that don't quite add up when looked at as an aggregate whole.

Really, it’s no wonder that Humans are the Reclaimers, they’re bloody over-powered! The Covenant looks like a bigger underdog than them! Do humans just get a +30 to their Luck Stat, or something?! Do Spartans get a +80?! Do you automatically lose, in this universe, if the author doesn’t quite pay you enough attention?! Is consistency just a word?! Are we okay with this franchise devolving into the mess of retcons and gray-areas that is World of Warcraft’s universe?! IS NO ONE COGNIZANT OF THIS?!

Now… this is all a problem… because there are simply no stakes, anymore. The UNSC has hundreds of Spartan-4s at it’s disposal, it has Infinity, and (if everything I’ve said thus far holds water) the Covenant, even at its height, was a complete joke of an opponent. Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant is uncontroversially inept, and I (frankly) find it laughable that ONI ever felt the need to concoct a virus to use against the Sangheili. They’re only barely more competent than an ODST, after all, if what I’ve observed isn’t wrong! Brutes are the only ones that have lived up to their reputation, which is a shame, because Brutes are the most boring and uninspired of the Covenant’s cadre.

The only way this could get fixed, is if the advent of the Created results in a situation where the number of Spartans at the UNSC's disposal is reduced to less than fifty, the Infinity is destroyed (along with it's blueprints), the UNSC has it's technological advances made in the past decade taken away by the Created, and more Halo media is made that fleshes out the various Covenant races and their true potential. Otherwise... where's the tension? Why should I feel excited when a trio of Spartans fight their way through a horde of Covenant? It's all just run of the mill.

Thoughts?
The Covenant.

Where to even begin. Right now you and I are in agreement that the various splinter factions are no longer a viable threat to humanity, but it doesn't mean that they are not dangerous. The Covenant empire encompassed a unknown amount of the Orion Arm of the galaxy and after the Great Schism, it was divided up and split into different factions with different goals. Obviously a splintered Covenant is weaker than a united one however if the various factions were to put aside there differences. I have little doubt that the Covenant whatever it would be called would be able to finish what it started. The UNSC's greatest asset is the Infinity, but if it was to go up against a fleet made up of CAS Assault Carriers and CCS Cruisers, it would be destroyed and goodbye humanities crowning achievement.

Now as for the UNSC.

I really hate what's been presented to us in the Reclaimer Saga. Before the retcon UNSC space encompassed 800 planets and after 27 years of war which was only fought defensively. UNSC space was ravaged with all of the Outer Colonies glassed and we are led to assume that most of the Inner Colonies are gone as well, by the Fall of Reach. In no way should the UNSC be top dog of the galaxy after just seven years because they simply shouldn't have the resources to rebuild nor the money to do so. Human space is ruined and there were billions of human casualties and naturally any survivors that fled would have been a drain on any existing resources. Unfortunately history doesn't work that way as by the end of the war, hundreds of ships still existed despite everything we were lead to believe in Halo 2-Halo 3.

I'm anti-human if you couldn't tell.

Then the disaster that was the Kilo-5 trilogy appeared. I'm gonna get flack for this surely, but it is stupid to think ONI or any human organization could even play a role in alien factions. We are told ONI is trying to keep the Elites from becoming a unified force again by doing what. Oh well we are going to support the aliens that hate the Arbiter and want to wipe out humanity. Great plan by the way as the Arbiter and the SoR are the only buffer humanity has against the splinter Covenant factions who would love to finish what they started. That trilogy absolutely lit a fire inside me that is so strong that I can never accept what it brought to the wider lore. Humanity shouldn't even be capable of pitting the aliens against one another as they'd more than likely shoot any human on sight, but that's just me.

Sorry about my rant and how it probably went off topic compared to what you wrote.
Arch, what would've been your ideal alternative to what we got?
Arch, what would've been your ideal alternative to what we got?
Consistency, above all else. And some concrete, sensical explanations whenever a discrepancy occurs. Bungie/343 has an annoying habit of giving hand-wavy dismissals whenever these things come up. The games, in and of themselves, are more or less consistent with each other, but the books seem as though they're in a parallel universe, and half the time, contradict each other.

What might help is some step-by-step-by-step clarification on where each species and each rank of each species generally falls on a tier list in terms of combat-effectiveness.

Do Elite combat-harnesses increase the wearer's strength, or don't they? If so, then by how much? Does each successive rank get a larger boost than those below them? Is Heroic difficulty in each game the definitive measurement, or do the books supersede that? And if so, which book most accurately portrays the balance of power?

Is an Elite at least as strong as a bear? Stronger? Could a Spartan-3 without armor take on an Elite Major in hand-to-hand and reasonably expect to win? Exactly how much do Sangheili individuals vary in speed, strength, and intellect? Is the species a grab-bag of disparate advantages and drawbacks that can't be standardized?

Can we get some Elite characters that don't fall into the "Lawful Stupid" alignment, perhaps?

What Halo desperately, irretrievably needs (aside from an in-game "codex" for the lore) is a single, objective, unifying standard around which stories can be told, and which stops every other writer from making arbitrary decisions out of a lack of a larger structure. Even the vaguest of benchmarks would be better than nothing.
The Covenant have been suffering this since almost the beginning. I have heard that the Halo CE manual claimed the Covenant controlled most of the galaxy. That was later shrunk down to just the Orion Arm, then further taken down to only most of the Arm.Their firepower shared the same fate, seeing as Fall Of Reach gave the impression they could completely glass every centimeter of a planet.

This was nerfed to just normal plasma bombardments across the world. I think as the story expanded and evolved, Bungie realized the original Covenant was just purely too good and large to give the humans a chance story-wise.
well after the covenant civil war were the sanghelios fought the covenant for some reason as you can see in halo 4 and 5 the brutes resigned so the lack of high ground soldiers made the covenant very weak but actually the covenant were never really scary to begin with the only thing really scary is the flood
I'm way out of my league when it comes to Covenant lore, so these comments are really informative. This comment then will be simple and brief.

I certainly get what you are saying. Sticking with just the games, Reach seems the only game that the Covenant seems difficult. I remember my first play through and the Elites were incredibly fast and had the evade ability. Reach on legendary seemed the best portrayal of what the Covenant were meant to be. And in the end, they "won" that game.

Just my two cents.

Cheers,
Brad
I think the Banished could really unlock some of the former Covenant species threat potential. With the San’Shyuum out of the way, weapon technology can be advanced. The San’Shyuum has basically hamstrung arms development within the Covenant in order to maintain their monopoly on Forerunner knowledge. In the weapon descriptions in Warzone of Halo 5, we are already seeing permutations and advancements to weapons and vehicles. With better armaments and leadership based now more on merit/ferocity instead of religious faith, the aliens could become more of a threat than ever. Remember that ONI has been successfully destabilizing all major factions of the former Covenant, to include the Arbiter’s, since 2553. No one faction has been a true full strength. Jul Mdama’s New Covenant came the closest, but still didn’t have a united Sanghelios. It may take awhile, but we could have taken the leash off a very dangerous giant.
The problem can be summed up with this quote from halo 4, "The rest of the galaxy was bigger than us, stronger than us. We [humanity] were mice hiding in the shadows hoping the giants would not see us. No more. Humanity is no longer on the defense. We are the giants now!"

The Covenant were terrifying because they were hell bent on exterminating all of humanity, were far more advanced than humanity, and had greater numbers and a far greater fleet and military force. Halo 4 established the reverse. Humanity is now bigger and badder than the covies and, as such, the threat is minuscule, if nonexistent. The Didact could have remedied this in Halo 4 by becoming the ultimate villain (as he should have been), but the writers completely messed up, made him dumb, and killed him off (in a terrible comic series). So, you're right. The covenant aren't a threat any longer and humanity doesn't really have a threat outside of Cortana, which is just plain dumb.
It's called bad writing. Frankly I'm just ignoring everything 343i has added to the Halo universe (because I especially agree with your point about how Humanity should NOT be in any state to do, well, anything at all after the war) and write it off as Slipspace Timeline where everything is horribly twisted into a funhouse reflection of the Prime Timeline. It's also moving faster than the Prime Timeline, in which Master Chief has just entered cryosleep.

It's petty, I know, but it's the only way to preserve the quality of the Bungie/Nylund era.
Ever since Jul ‘Mdama took over, the Covenant has become more of a pest to the galaxy than an actual threat. You can kinda see that in Halo Infinity when the Infinity demolishes a Covenant cruiser without so much as a scratch on the Infinity. Humanity has grown to the top of the food chain in the galaxy at least they were until the Created took over. I think the Covenant will be brought back but under the command of Cortana.
Arch, what would've been your ideal alternative to what we got?
Consistency, above all else. And some concrete, sensical explanations whenever a discrepancy occurs. 343 has an annoying habit of giving hand-wavy dismissals whenever these things come up, and Bungie probably never had to deal with such things because they never really went back on their own material. The games, in and of themselves, are more or less consistent with each other, but the books seem as though they're in a parallel universe, and half the time, contradict each other.
To be fair, Bungie's game Reach did completely violate the book The Fall of Reach. So they're no strangers to violating consistency. I know there are some explanations of how the timeline can work out but frankly, I'm not convinced although granted I haven't read too much into it. Also, you've referenced books and games where Elites such as Thel can rival a Spartan II yet get almost beat by regular humans like Johnson and Miranda later. Remember, THIS IS BUNGIE ERA LORE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE (sorry for the capitalization I'm not mad I'm just emphasizing). The stuff you referenced, First Strike, Cole Protocol, and Halo 2, are all Bungie. So again, while 343 may certainly be continuing the inconsistencies, Bungie undoubtedly started them. I only bring this up because while not the main focus of your post you seem to be blaming 343 for a lot of this and it always REALLY ticks me off when people blame 343 for problems Bungie clearly started. If I misunderstood, I apologize.

So now that we've established that this is Bungie's problem that 343 adopted, let's continue. I will agree that the power levels of virtually all races fluctuate greatly depending on the lore being read. There's no disputing that and even I, someone who loves all the books and all the games, get somewhat annoyed by it. I think there's really no getting around it at this point.
l Chaos I wrote:
The Covenant.

Where to even begin. Right now you and I are in agreement that the various splinter factions are no longer a viable threat to humanity, but it doesn't mean that they are not dangerous. The Covenant empire encompassed a unknown amount of the Orion Arm of the galaxy and after the Great Schism, it was divided up and split into different factions with different goals. Obviously a splintered Covenant is weaker than a united one however if the various factions were to put aside there differences. I have little doubt that the Covenant whatever it would be called would be able to finish what it started. The UNSC's greatest asset is the Infinity, but if it was to go up against a fleet made up of CAS Assault Carriers and CCS Cruisers, it would be destroyed and goodbye humanities crowning achievement.

Now as for the UNSC.

I really hate what's been presented to us in the Reclaimer Saga. Before the retcon UNSC space encompassed 800 planets and after 27 years of war which was only fought defensively. UNSC space was ravaged with all of the Outer Colonies glassed and we are led to assume that most of the Inner Colonies are gone as well, by the Fall of Reach. In no way should the UNSC be top dog of the galaxy after just seven years because they simply shouldn't have the resources to rebuild nor the money to do so. Human space is ruined and there were billions of human casualties and naturally any survivors that fled would have been a drain on any existing resources. Unfortunately history doesn't work that way as by the end of the war, hundreds of ships still existed despite everything we were lead to believe in Halo 2-Halo 3.

I'm anti-human if you couldn't tell.

Then the disaster that was the Kilo-5 trilogy appeared. I'm gonna get flack for this surely, but it is stupid to think ONI or any human organization could even play a role in alien factions. We are told ONI is trying to keep the Elites from becoming a unified force again by doing what. Oh well we are going to support the aliens that hate the Arbiter and want to wipe out humanity. Great plan by the way as the Arbiter and the SoR are the only buffer humanity has against the splinter Covenant factions who would love to finish what they started. That trilogy absolutely lit a fire inside me that is so strong that I can never accept what it brought to the wider lore. Humanity shouldn't even be capable of pitting the aliens against one another as they'd more than likely shoot any human on sight, but that's just me.
The Covenant
Without the San'Shyuum the Covenant lack solid leadership to unite all the splinter groups that formed after they fell, thus they pose no considerable threat. Look at Christianity today (not trying to start a war here I'm a Christian myself just using it as an example). All Christians believe in the same basic principles yet all the various denominations have splintered and formed because Christians can't stop fighting among themselves over the various things Christians fight over (again this is just an example in any replies please don't argue this specific topic this is a Halo forum after all). The Covenant probably splinter under a similar concept. Which is why the Kilo-5 trilogy happened. The various inconsistencies inbred into all Halo lore at this point non-withstanding, the Kilo-5 trilogy actually makes a lot of sense, at least for the point you brought up. ONI secretly funds various Covenant splinter groups that are fighting the Swords of Sanghelios to make them equal to the Swords while in the meantime publicly supporting the Swords. That way there infighting keeps them from turning against humanity again and they wipe each other out. In no way would ONI trust the Swords, so may as well wipe both groups out, or if one survives, it is weakened enough that humanity won't have much to worry about. Again, I think this makes a lot of sense.

Now as for how humanity survived and became top dog. In Fall of Reach it was stated that the Covenant bypassed many Inner Colony worlds to get to Reach. This with the fact that after Reach Covenant forces were mainly tied up with Halo and Earth, it is reasonable to assume that a lot of Inner Colonies (and the ships protecting them) survived. They could provide the economic boost needed to rebuild Earth and some other colonies. The most refugees I'm aware of came from Harvest and there were about 1 million I believe. Considering that they had extra time to evacuate those people, those numbers are probably a lot lower for any further glassed planets. When distributed throughout all human worlds, I really don't think it'd be that considerable of a drain on the economy. All this plus the wealth of Forerunner tech being discovered at the time plus the fact that the Covenant couldn't get their act together, means that I really don't see a way that humanity really wouldn't be top dog in the galaxy.

I'm gonna get a lot of flack for this I'm sure but these are just my thoughts. Other than the fluctuating power of the various Covenant species, I really don't think any other problem presented in this thread is a major problem if a problem at all. And as for fluctuating powers, I think it's unavoidable in large franchises. Take, for example, the acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hero's and Villain's powers fluctuate all the time to fit the needs of the story and make it seem more intense at the time. So, again, while annoying, I see it as just an unavoidable part of getting such an expansive universe.
I'm way out of my league when it comes to Covenant lore, so these comments are really informative. This comment then will be simple and brief.

I certainly get what you are saying. Sticking with just the games, Reach seems the only game that the Covenant seems difficult. I remember my first play through and the Elites were incredibly fast and had the evade ability. Reach on legendary seemed the best portrayal of what the Covenant were meant to be. And in the end, they "won" that game.

Just my two cents.

Cheers,
Brad
I would say portions of Halo Wars too. I think in New Alexandria you get a great sense of how we are outmatched, outnumbered, and out gunned given how hard that mission is even on Normal difficulty. (Unless you know what you are doing, which at that point in the game, I don't think most players do.)
I don't think it's a problem exclusive to the Covenant species, nor do I think it is a new problem. It's definitely a problem though, particularly when it comes to this exact issue because what we are dealing with here is the fundamental "protagonist vs antagonist" balance of power within a narrative that has such a huge impact on how credible that narrative is in being able to create tension that draws people in and facilitate a feeling of accomplishment and catharsis for when the protagonists do eventually triumph. Such weak opponents in the post-Covenant remnant factions has contributed to my feelings that the post-Halo 3 setting has largely been a waste of time and opportunity, and as a setting it isn't about anything - it has no clear premise.

Being so weak, the post-Covenant factions don't pose a threat to the protagonists or the central faction, the UNSC. For the protagonists, usually always Spartans, nothing is really at stake. Even if they fail at their mission, I know that they UNSC will probably be fine because they have a seemingly unlimited quantity of Spartan-IVs, new technologically upgraded fleets of indeterminate power and quantity which may or may not be on par or superior to Covenant vessels depending on what sources you consult, and then there's the Infinity which again depending on the sources can possible take out an entire Covenant fleet itself (Or be gutted by a single orbital defense platform, but most people - including the writers - like to ignore that one). Then there's all these harebrained schemes that should not work yet somehow do through nothing other than pure authorial fiat, such as ONI's continued efforts to destabilize ex-Covenant space and concoct all manner of bio-weapons to wipe out these species in case there is another war, that just make me question the relevancy of the UNSC as an appropriate protagonist. This is clearly not a faction that is an underdog or that has any clear chance of losing in a big way in the post-Halo 3 setting, so what is the point of them? Is this just a power fantasy now, with no regard whatsoever for trying to tell an actual story? The setting is just plain boring because nothing is at stake for the protagonists; victories are cheap and easy and therefore shallow and meaningless; decisions that require difficult choices are far and few between, allowing ONI to have its cake and eat it with silly plots to attack the Arbiter in the name of protecting humanity because in the end they don't really need his help or anyone's help; and the lack of tension just leaves me feeling detached from the whole thing. It certainly doesn't make me care about what is actually going on in the setting at the moment.

I can't easily name stories that have a narrative centered so much on conflict and that have inverted the power dynamic between the protagonists and the antagonists whilst being successful. I don't think it really works too well. If the Didact wasn't such a typical alien warlord with the red laser beam that wants to destroy all humans then he could have changed things, but unfortunately the writers loaded his character with all the terrible tropes of the day like a Trojan horse and as such I hope he stays away because he's just not that compelling an antagonist and he would hurt the overall narrative growth of the rest of the setting by threatening to drag the ex-Covenant back into fanaticism and blind obedience, and that's just not good enough in my opinion. So it falls to the Created then to offer us something that returns the traditional balance of power whilst also providing an antagonist that is compelling and not detrimental to what little growth we have had in the setting with regards to the characterization of the ex-Covenant.
So it falls to the Created then to offer us something that returns the traditional balance of power whilst also providing an antagonist that is compelling and not detrimental to what little growth we have had in the setting with regards to the characterization of the ex-Covenant.
The balance of power is so far shifted to the side of the Created however and nothing the UNSC or Covenant fields can actually counter the emp wave emitted from the giant space owl. In the Human-Covenant War, humanity had a chance but now, what can they do without pulling a deus ex machina out of thin air since they've written themselves into a corner. The Created are so powerful right now they overshadow anything the Covenant can throw at humanity and by the end of Halo 5. Most of UNSC space has already fallen to the Created.

Now in regards to the Covenant Splinter Factions. Jul's is dead, so that only leaves Sali Nyon and the Banished who are "threats" to humanity and the Banished are busy fighting the SoF on the Ark and Sali Nyon's Covenant are probably going into hiding as the Created are now center stage. I got nothing against the Covenant, but they've been pushed to the side in favor of Skynet who are just waiting to be mind f**** by the Flood who specializes in breaking AI and driving them into rampancy and I can see this happening in Halo Infinite.
I don't think it's a problem exclusive to the Covenant species, nor do I think it is a new problem. It's definitely a problem though, particularly when it comes to this exact issue because what we are dealing with here is the fundamental "protagonist vs antagonist" balance of power within a narrative that has such a huge impact on how credible that narrative is in being able to create tension that draws people in and facilitate a feeling of accomplishment and catharsis for when the protagonists do eventually triumph. Such weak opponents in the post-Covenant remnant factions has contributed to my feelings that the post-Halo 3 setting has largely been a waste of time and opportunity, and as a setting it isn't about anything - it has no clear premise.

Being so weak, the post-Covenant factions don't pose a threat to the protagonists or the central faction, the UNSC. For the protagonists, usually always Spartans, nothing is really at stake. Even if they fail at their mission, I know that they UNSC will probably be fine because they have a seemingly unlimited quantity of Spartan-IVs, new technologically upgraded fleets of indeterminate power and quantity which may or may not be on par or superior to Covenant vessels depending on what sources you consult, and then there's the Infinity which again depending on the sources can possible take out an entire Covenant fleet itself (Or be gutted by a single orbital defense platform, but most people - including the writers - like to ignore that one). Then there's all these harebrained schemes that should not work yet somehow do through nothing other than pure authorial fiat, such as ONI's continued efforts to destabilize ex-Covenant space and concoct all manner of bio-weapons to wipe out these species in case there is another war, that just make me question the relevancy of the UNSC as an appropriate protagonist. This is clearly not a faction that is an underdog or that has any clear chance of losing in a big way in the post-Halo 3 setting, so what is the point of them? Is this just a power fantasy now, with no regard whatsoever for trying to tell an actual story? The setting is just plain boring because nothing is at stake for the protagonists; victories are cheap and easy and therefore shallow and meaningless; decisions that require difficult choices are far and few between, allowing ONI to have its cake and eat it with silly plots to attack the Arbiter in the name of protecting humanity because in the end they don't really need his help or anyone's help; and the lack of tension just leaves me feeling detached from the whole thing. It certainly doesn't make me care about what is actually going on in the setting at the moment.

I can't easily name stories that have a narrative centered so much on conflict and that have inverted the power dynamic between the protagonists and the antagonists whilst being successful. I don't think it really works too well. If the Didact wasn't such a typical alien warlord with the red laser beam that wants to destroy all humans then he could have changed things, but unfortunately the writers loaded his character with all the terrible tropes of the day like a Trojan horse and as such I hope he stays away because he's just not that compelling an antagonist and he would hurt the overall narrative growth of the rest of the setting by threatening to drag the ex-Covenant back into fanaticism and blind obedience, and that's just not good enough in my opinion. So it falls to the Created then to offer us something that returns the traditional balance of power whilst also providing an antagonist that is compelling and not detrimental to what little growth we have had in the setting with regards to the characterization of the ex-Covenant.
I would tend to agree that the current balance of power does undermine the tension, but once again, I think it makes sense. I at least don't want another Disney Wars problem on our hands where the good guys SHOULD be in a position of power, yet somehow aren't. It also wouldn't really make sense for players who thought they defeated the Covenant in Halo 3 only for another, stronger Covenant to show up in 4 that once again poses a massive threat to humanity (again this would be falling in the same trap Disney Wars has). So, 343 turned to the Forerunners to create new big baddies for humanity to fight and be the underdogs again. Based on the reception, this wasn't a great move, but for me it is because I strongly dislike Disney Wars (except for Rogue One) and would hate to see Halo fall down the same path.
l Chaos I wrote:
So it falls to the Created then to offer us something that returns the traditional balance of power whilst also providing an antagonist that is compelling and not detrimental to what little growth we have had in the setting with regards to the characterization of the ex-Covenant.
The balance of power is so far shifted to the side of the Created however and nothing the UNSC or Covenant fields can actually counter the emp wave emitted from the giant space owl. In the Human-Covenant War, humanity had a chance but now, what can they do without pulling a deus ex machina out of thin air since they've written themselves into a corner. The Created are so powerful right now they overshadow anything the Covenant can throw at humanity and by the end of Halo 5. Most of UNSC space has already fallen to the Created.

Now in regards to the Covenant Splinter Factions. Jul's is dead, so that only leaves Sali Nyon and the Banished who are "threats" to humanity and the Banished are busy fighting the SoF on the Ark and Sali Nyon's Covenant are probably going into hiding as the Created are now center stage. I got nothing against the Covenant, but they've been pushed to the side in favor of Skynet who are just waiting to be mind f**** by the Flood who specializes in breaking AI and driving them into rampancy and I can see this happening in Halo Infinite.
I'm no fan of the Created, and I think that it's likely that a dues ex machina is on its way for when the Created finally have to be dealt with in the story. It seems like it's quite a tight corner that 343i have written themselves into here, assuming that they plan to have the Created eliminated at some point. At the moment the Created really aren't that interesting either, having risen up on the basis of the same old supremacist views that almost every other antagonistic force in the Halo universe uses to justify its actions; as AI, they believe that they are superior and as a result have the right to rule everyone else and decide how everyone else should live their lives. I'd rather that they had decided to rise up not out of any desire to pursue an ideology or some tribal supremacist belief in AI superiority, but had instead rose up based on their capability to solve problems if they stopped following orders and started calling the shots themselves. In this scenario they wouldn't care if they were superior or not, and would have no desire to possess the Mantle. They would simply see the many problems around them, see that they could solve them, and then decide to just do that with no regard for what anyone else thinks or wants in a cold application of logic and efficiency in pursuit of some humanitarian goal to right all the wrongs in a world that they have had no control over but could make much better for everyone if they did control it.

As far as Covenant splinter factions are concerned, I actually have a lot against them as a concept post-Halo 3 and would prefer that the likes of Sali' Nyon just never appeared again. When I say Covenant splinter factions I mean it quite literally - factions that are merely smaller versions of the Covenant that we defeated in Halo 3, or otherwise factions that are not meaningfully different from them, such as Jul's faction of violent human hating warmongerers. I have nothing against antagonist factions that utilize the former Covenant species to some extent - and you can have almost any set of motivations for such groups that can have absolutely nothing to do with either religious fanaticism or a hatred and dislike for humans or other racial groups - but these literal Covenant clones need to be put to bed for good. The Banished are okay in that they seem to avoid most of the overt Old Covenant tropes such as religious fanaticism and wanting to just fight humans all day, but they don't really stand for much as a faction besides looting and piracy. A post-Covenant faction that can succeed the Old Covenant as a viable antagonist will probably need to have a stronger character than the Banished whilst not being a clone of the Old Covenant.

Creating such a polity would likely require the setting to evolve away from the immediate post-war time period so that some kind of new political dynamic can be created in the setting with different issues and divides to give wind to new kinds of conflicts (Which means largely doing away with anti-human sentiments, not using the Forerunner faith as a source of conflict, moving away from using Forerunner technology as a McGuffin, and avoiding over-reliance on racial tensions to drive conflict), with new kinds of character archetypes to explore these new issues as well as cast different points of view on old ones, along with a lot of worldbuilding to flesh out the setting and break up the mono-cultures that honestly inhabit too much of the current setting, so that it isn't just rehashing the plots in the original trilogy. What I mean by that is through expanding on the background of the ex-Covenant and giving a bit more character and backstory to individual factions or worlds - by not making them all have the same culture and beliefs, and by thinking of unique histories for those that play a major role in the setting. If you do that, you can have a much easier time coming up with antagonists that are not just the Old Covenant but are interesting enough on their own.

In some sense I view the Created as a result of 343i really having invested so little time and effort into fleshing out the post-Halo 3 setting and just relying on the fallout from the Human-Covenant war such that when the clones of the Old Covenant really began to lose their appeal to people, they had nothing else to turn to that they could develop into an antagonist with a strong enough character to carry the series forward. So they had to completely shift gears into something entirely unprecedented with Created, and it could still turn out to be interesting through asking some tough questions on the state of the setting and through leaving us with a new state of affairs to explore, but at the moment the Created just seem to be the latest idiots that want the Mantle for themselves.
The problem can be summed up with this quote from halo 4, "The rest of the galaxy was bigger than us, stronger than us. We [humanity] were mice hiding in the shadows hoping the giants would not see us. No more. Humanity is no longer on the defense. We are the giants now!"

The Covenant were terrifying because they were hell bent on exterminating all of humanity, were far more advanced than humanity, and had greater numbers and a far greater fleet and military force. Halo 4 established the reverse. Humanity is now bigger and badder than the covies and, as such, the threat is minuscule, if nonexistent. The Didact could have remedied this in Halo 4 by becoming the ultimate villain (as he should have been), but the writers completely messed up, made him dumb, and killed him off (in a terrible comic series). So, you're right. The covenant aren't a threat any longer and humanity doesn't really have a threat outside of Cortana, which is just plain dumb.
Not true,covenant still had the numbers,they just weren't united and everybody was off trying to gather power for themselves
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