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Were the Covenant Ever Scary? - RANT

OP Archon Vaxal

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I do have to wonder where exactly the writers for the Halo books get their standards for power-levels from.

In Halo: REACH, playing Firefight Classic on Heroic difficulty, so much as going up against four Skirmishers armed with Plasma Pistols is a Herculean task, in and of itself, never mind Officer Elites wielding Concussion Rifles and Plasma Repeaters.

Yet, in Ghosts of Onyx, you see Elites being forced to use Personal Defense Gauntlets?

It's almost as though many writers of the books seem to completely forget that Elites have energy shields- and tough ones, too. And then, well, it's a matter of said writers seeming to think of Combat Harnesses as glorified cardboard.
Where and when exactly was the precedent set that Covenant armor systems get completely gutted by as little as a .22 caliber pea-shooter? Because, even going as far back as Combat Evolved, an Elite without a shield could still take at least three or four bullets to chest. If you got too greedy, and rushed in when an Elite's shield went down, you'd quickly find yourself getting bashed over the head with a Plasma Rifle- especially on Heroic or higher.

Do writers just... pick Easy Difficulty, all the time? Dietz seemed to, when he was writing The Flood...

It makes no sense to me that a person could play and watch the gameplay and come to the conclusion that Covenant armor couldn't defend you from a stiff breeze. Metal is still metal, and kevlar does a hell of a better job with protection, despite being made of reinforced fabric, it seems.

If someone wrote a book, tomorrow, from the perspective of an Elites fighting humanity, how much do you want to bet that, suddenly, Elite armor keeps you safe from everything short of a shotgun? I'm trying to figure out if it's all a matter of plot-armor or not.
Maybe instead of going at it from a "Look at how pathetically weak Sangheili shielding is!" perspective, try looking at it from a more glass half full angle, like "Wow, UNSC weaponry is really powerful and way more advanced than modern day weaponry if it can take down energy shielding that well!" type of thing. That might help alleviate some of your grievances.
It doesn't.

My entire position is: given how "weak" the Covenant seems to be, why on Earth is ONI so paranoid about the Sangheili? Why is the UNSC get in such a tizzy over keeping diplomatic ties with the Swords strong? Why does anyone, ever refer to the Elites as dangerous? There's an immense disconnect between "what the characters in-universe do and say" and "what actually bloody happens".
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Ado Ulamee wrote:
That would be a far better reason I admit, perhaps it happened off screen. Ripa's arrogance and pride knew no bounds. Though perhaps they did it purely just to buy Ripa time. Give their lives to weaken the spartans so 'Moramee can go in for the kill.
I do have to wonder where exactly the writers for the Halo books get their standards for power-levels from.

In Halo: REACH, playing Firefight Classic on Heroic difficulty, so much as going up against four Skirmishers armed with Plasma Pistols is a Herculean task, in and of itself, never mind Officer Elites wielding Concussion Rifles and Plasma Repeaters.

Yet, in Ghosts of Onyx, you see Elites being forced to use Personal Defense Gauntlets?

It's almost as though many writers of the books seem to completely forget that Elites have energy shields- and tough ones, too. And then, well, it's a matter of said writers seeming to think of Combat Harnesses as glorified cardboard.
Where and when exactly was the precedent set that Covenant armor systems get completely gutted by as little as a .22 caliber pea-shooter? Because, even going as far back as Combat Evolved, an Elite without a shield could still take at least three or four bullets to chest. If you got too greedy, and rushed in when an Elite's shield went down, you'd quickly find yourself getting bashed over the head with a Plasma Rifle- especially on Heroic or higher.

Do writers just... pick Easy Difficulty, all the time? Dietz seemed to, when he was writing The Flood...

It makes no sense to me that a person could play and watch the gameplay and come to the conclusion that Covenant armor couldn't defend you from a stiff breeze. Metal is still metal, and kevlar does a hell of a better job with protection, despite being made of reinforced fabric, it seems.

If someone wrote a book, tomorrow, from the perspective of an Elites fighting humanity, how much do you want to bet that, suddenly, Elite armor keeps you safe from everything short of a shotgun? I'm trying to figure out if it's all a matter of plot-armor or not.
Maybe instead of going at it from a "Look at how pathetically weak Sangheili shielding is!" perspective, try looking at it from a more glass half full angle, like "Wow, UNSC weaponry is really powerful and way more advanced than modern day weaponry if it can take down energy shielding that well!" type of thing. That might help alleviate some of your grievances.
It doesn't.

My entire position is: given how "weak" the Covenant seems to be, why on Earth is ONI so paranoid about the Sangheili? Why is the UNSC get in such a tizzy over keeping diplomatic ties with the Swords strong? Why does anyone, ever refer to the Elites as dangerous? There's an immense disconnect between "what the characters in-universe do and say" and "what actually bloody happens".
I'd argue that the Sangheili are far more of a threat to the UEG than ISIS are to modern Earth, and also that modern Earth is far more scared of ISIS than the UNSC/ONI are scared of the Sangheili, so this personally doesn't bother me. I just rationalize that as ONI wouldn't take the threat of species wide extinction seriously and then just ignore anything less. Even the possible deaths of a mere few thousand would give cause to be alarmed.

Unless the statement that the Elites are dangerous soldiers is coming from a Spartan and isn't stated based on any noteworthy individuals or some actual impressive feats and instead is based solely on the fact that they belong to a certain species (in which case I concede that it's just wankheili nonsense), I don't know if the Sangheili are portrayed as so weak that they don't deserve to even be considered dangerous by your average run-of-the-mill marine. Here's an example. In Halo: The Flood, some 200 ODST's go up against some 100 Ghosts all driven by Elites. The ODST's managed to kill 50+ of them and forced the rest to retreat, but doing so cost them 20+ of their own soldiers. The Sangheili still sound pretty dangerous to me, at least in the war era.
I do have to wonder where exactly the writers for the Halo books get their standards for power-levels from.

In Halo: REACH, playing Firefight Classic on Heroic difficulty, so much as going up against four Skirmishers armed with Plasma Pistols is a Herculean task, in and of itself, never mind Officer Elites wielding Concussion Rifles and Plasma Repeaters.

Yet, in Ghosts of Onyx, you see Elites being forced to use Personal Defense Gauntlets?

It's almost as though many writers of the books seem to completely forget that Elites have energy shields- and tough ones, too. And then, well, it's a matter of said writers seeming to think of Combat Harnesses as glorified cardboard.
Where and when exactly was the precedent set that Covenant armor systems get completely gutted by as little as a .22 caliber pea-shooter? Because, even going as far back as Combat Evolved, an Elite without a shield could still take at least three or four bullets to chest. If you got too greedy, and rushed in when an Elite's shield went down, you'd quickly find yourself getting bashed over the head with a Plasma Rifle- especially on Heroic or higher.

Do writers just... pick Easy Difficulty, all the time? Dietz seemed to, when he was writing The Flood...

It makes no sense to me that a person could play and watch the gameplay and come to the conclusion that Covenant armor couldn't defend you from a stiff breeze. Metal is still metal, and kevlar does a hell of a better job with protection, despite being made of reinforced fabric, it seems.

If someone wrote a book, tomorrow, from the perspective of an Elites fighting humanity, how much do you want to bet that, suddenly, Elite armor keeps you safe from everything short of a shotgun? I'm trying to figure out if it's all a matter of plot-armor or not.
Maybe instead of going at it from a "Look at how pathetically weak Sangheili shielding is!" perspective, try looking at it from a more glass half full angle, like "Wow, UNSC weaponry is really powerful and way more advanced than modern day weaponry if it can take down energy shielding that well!" type of thing. That might help alleviate some of your grievances.
It doesn't.

My entire position is: given how "weak" the Covenant seems to be, why on Earth is ONI so paranoid about the Sangheili? Why is the UNSC get in such a tizzy over keeping diplomatic ties with the Swords strong? Why does anyone, ever refer to the Elites as dangerous? There's an immense disconnect between "what the characters in-universe do and say" and "what actually bloody happens".
I'd argue that the Sangheili are far more of a threat to the UEG than ISIS are to modern Earth, and also that modern Earth is far more scared of ISIS than the UNSC/ONI are scared of the Sangheili, so this personally doesn't bother me. I just rationalize that as ONI wouldn't take the threat of species wide extinction seriously and then just ignore anything less. Even the possible deaths of a mere few thousand would give cause to be alarmed.
Unless the statement that the Elites are dangerous soldiers is coming from a Spartan and isn't stated based on any noteworthy individuals or some actual impressive feats and instead is based solely on the fact that they belong to a certain species (in which case I concede that it's just wankheili nonsense), I don't know if the Sangheili are portrayed as so weak that they don't deserve to even be considered dangerous by your average run-of-the-mill marine. Here's an example. In Halo: The Flood, some 200 ODST's go up against some 100 Ghosts all driven by Elites. The ODST's managed to kill 50+ of them and forced the rest to retreat, but doing so cost them 20+ of their own soldiers. The Sangheili still sound pretty dangerous to me, at least in the war era.
Well, there's Tom referring to Elites as "dangerously fast", in Fractures, and a Spartan 2 (I think it was Joshua) off-handedly referencing Elites as "the ones who know how to fight" in Silent Storm. There's John's encounter with a Minor/Major in The Flood (which I've already detailed, in an earlier conversation in this Thread) where he calls them "dangerously strong" and makes a point to stay out of melee range of them. There's Yevgenny stating Elites and Spartans to be relative equals (though I'm not sure how much that counts). Buck and Fireteam Osiris seem to somewhat praise the Swords of Sanghelios when they encounter corpses of fallen Swords, though I'm not sure if that's purely due to them being posthumously courteous or simply keeping to their principles of fraternity.

It's almost as though the Spartans make blanket statements about Elites and never actually make any concrete assessments of where they sit on the totem pole... Spartans seem to just... never actually say anything tangible.

And... I don't know if that example of the ODSTs and Ghosts is really that impressive. I'd look at that and call it a mediocre showing on the Covenant's part, at best.
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Could I get some perspective on this, please?

Now that I've looked over a lot of the munitions and weapons that the UNSC has at it's disposal, I find myself questioning whether or not the Covenant actually had that big of an advantage in space-battles...

For one: Prowlers. They are overpowered, as far as their ability to go undetected goes. Given how successful Operation: Silent Storm was, it is truly mind-boggling that the UNSC didn't retool their entire navy to be able to consistently destroy enemy fleets using Prowler infiltration and guerrilla tactics. It's almost as though humanity wants to waste lives in those barely-useful, big war-ships, when the smarter and far more effective thing to do would be to use war-ships as a distraction tool and simply send in Prowlers to sabotage and plant bombs on Covenant vessels.
It isn't clear whether or not the Covenant learned their lesson about UNSC stealth technology, but given that we see Prowlers routinely avoid detection with staggering ease well into the end of the war, I'm willing to bet that Szatulai's discovery went unfound. Granted, I haven't quite finished reading Silent Storm, yet, but, hey. It's not as though the authors of the Halo books are all that intent on making the Covenant look at all self-aware or proactive.

Given the development of the NOVA bomb, I find it excruciatingly laughable that the UNSC didn't change gears to using Prowlers as their main offensive force. Seeing as though hopping aboard a Covenant ship has never been portrayed as anything approaching "inconvenient", much less "difficult", it seems... blatantly irresponsible that this wasn't tried more often. I also find it odd that they didn't attempt to make more of their vessels stealth-capable or development better ways for Prowlers to utilize more powerful weapons.

TL;DR: The UNSC has no right to have been losing the Covenant war as badly as they allegedly were, when they clearly have a laundry list of advantages. The only discernible reason I can see for why the mythos still insists that the UNSC was losing abysmally, is because if the UNSC were shown to seize on these advantages, then it would force the writers to have the Covenant compensate for it and, you know... win. And by "win" I mean: actually out-perform the UNSC, rather than win-by-default via numbers.

This kind of stuff gives me a headache.
In a war that seems more dependent on ships than anything else, it is odd how the Prowlers, the jack of all trades for UNSC ships, aren't the most common ones. It's possible they were very costly? Granted the whole "Covenant are imitative, not innovative" stuff that was introduced somewhere (First Strike?) seems to be a defining point for Covenant losing badly. I don't think it makes much sense though.

As for your gameplay comment, pretty sure Dietz really did pick easy difficulty. Honestly I don't think there's issue if the opposing side was made weak too (a combination of Legendary and Easy so to speak.) Of course that brings to question why the shields are terrible for both sides.

A lot of this unfortunately chalks up to obvious plot armor.
Bulbaby wrote:
In a war that seems more dependent on ships than anything else, it is odd how the Prowlers, the jack of all trades for UNSC ships, aren't the most common ones. It's possible they were very costly? Granted the whole "Covenant are imitative, not innovative" stuff that was introduced somewhere (First Strike?) seems to be a defining point for Covenant losing badly. I don't think it makes much sense though.

As for your gameplay comment, pretty sure Dietz really did pick easy difficulty. Honestly I don't think there's issue if the opposing side was made weak too (a combination of Legendary and Easy so to speak.) Of course that brings to question why the shields are terrible for both sides.

A lot of this unfortunately chalks up to obvious plot armor.
One has to wonder how much plot armor actually counts for, though. The protagonists always win in Halo, it seems, and whenever a book displays a Covenant perspective it is always in the form of a soft antagonist, and thus, always a show of the Covenant's flaws and why it always seems to lose whenever it actually counts.

If we were given a book series entirely from the perspective of an Elite during the Covenant War, it wouldn't surprise me if suddenly the writing showed off Elites being high-balled. I'd be willing to bet money that Elite shielding would be resistant to everything short of a shotgun at point-blank, when almost every other source depicts Elite shields being non-existent half the time and as durable as dry cardboard the other half.

If we applied power-scaling logic to Halo, the amount of mixed messages would be downright Machiavellian. We know for a fact that an Elite Minor can flip over a Warthog; the typical Elite weighs 178 kilograms, while a Warthog weighs 3000; this means that the Elite must be lifting a little under 17 times his own weight, or at least some of it. A Spartan 2 in full MJOLNIR weighs 450 kilograms, and can just as easily flip a Warthog. Given these calculations: we should see that an Elite should be able to grab and pick up a Spartan off the ground at least as easily as vice-versa. But we don't see anything that would reflect this... most of the time, at least.

We see Silent Shadow Elites grabbing and dislocating the arm of a Spartan-3 in full SPI gear, but on Soeba, John man-handles a Silent Shadow as though it's piss-easy, even though the reduced gravity would lessen his weight just as much as the Elite's, thus making it proportionately insignificant. We can talk about how that just means how much better the 2s are compared to 3s, but in Ghosts of Onyx, we see 3s fight Elites just as effectively, a lot of the time.

It's almost as though the books and the games exist in parallel dimensions...
Bulbaby wrote:
As for your gameplay comment, pretty sure Dietz really did pick easy difficulty.
He almost certainly did. Once MC arrives at the level 343 Guilty Spark in the book, he picks up a shotgun next to a crashed pelican. That specific shotgun will only spawn in the actual game if you play the level on easy. The youtube video "Which Halo Difficulty Is Actually Canon?" by Generalkidd goes a little more in-depth about it.
Bulbaby wrote:
As for your gameplay comment, pretty sure Dietz really did pick easy difficulty.
He almost certainly did. Once MC arrives at the level 343 Guilty Spark in the book, he picks up a shotgun next to a crashed pelican. That specific shotgun will only spawn in the actual game if you play the level on easy. The youtube video "Which Halo Difficulty Is Actually Canon?" by Generalkidd goes a little more in-depth about it.
The question now, is: what difficulty, if any, did other writers use for their work, and in any case, is that a truly valid way to go about things, especially when said work sets precedents for the future?
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?!
No, they're not and they never were.
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?!
No, they're not and they never were.
Thus, we must ask ourselves: should they have been? Were the Covenant always meant to be mooks for the protagonists to roflstomp, or should it have been made a tangible and realistically challenging adversary? If the former: why wasn't more focus put on making the Flood Halo's premier threat? If the latter: why does the Covenant and it's races only have the presence and acuity that the writer of the story cares to give them at any given time?

I will push this issue until it is addressed beyond hand-wavey dismissals. I will make "Stormtrooper Syndrome" a household phrase by the time I'm done. I will shout into the storm for as long as it takes, dammit!
why wasn't more focus put on making the Flood Halo's premier threat?
The flood are the primary threat. All 3 original trilogy games were you just mucking about with the covenant until the flood came and became the big issue. Only in halo 2 was the covenant really the big threat as they were so close to wiping the galaxy clean, and the flood still took the covenant capitol.

The thing is the flood theme is based on uncertainty and uncomfortableness. Its like well written Cthulhu. If they focus too much on them they'd become too common and lose their charm. The forerunner trilogy expanded on them but there is still a lot of murkiness as to the exact nature of them.

The covenant is ultimately just a stepping stone to fill in time for the main threat. A shooter game needs things to shoot.
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?!
No, they're not and they never were.
Thus, we must ask ourselves: should they have been? Were the Covenant always meant to be mooks for the protagonists to roflstomp, or should it have been made a tangible and realistically challenging adversary? If the former: why wasn't more focus put on making the Flood Halo's premier threat? If the latter: why does the Covenant and it's races only have the presence and acuity that the writer of the story cares to give them at any given time?

I will push this issue until it is addressed beyond hand-wavey dismissals. I will make "Stormtrooper Syndrome" a household phrase by the time I'm done. I will shout into the storm for as long as it takes, dammit!
I think the Flood being scary is a good thing, the problem is no Halo game made them fun to fight. The Covenant is just way more entertaining gameplay wise. In Halo 3, for example, the Flood I think damages the quality of the campaign.

The perspective of the Halo universe makes it very tough to make a scary faction in Halo. The first problem is the tone, its very serious in the expanded universe, but the games always seem a bit jokey with marines for example. On top of that, you are almost exclusively playing as a 7ft tall super soldier who mows these things down for gameplay purpose.

If you change both things I believe it's possible. Something along the lines of ODST but with a much darker tone could be scary.
In Halo Reach Covenant were presented as scary,you could even say they won at the end of game.
The Covenant aren't scary now sure.

However we must remember during the games, we're a genetically augmented soldier whose purpose is to mow down hordes of Covenant. As the protagonist, we are going to win and while the books and lore contradict one another. Imagine yourself as a soldier in the UNSC military who has been fighting humans most of your military career and then bomb shell. Aliens appear who say we're an afront to their gods and we are going to be exterminated. Now you and everyone you know are being pitted up against aliens who are bigger and stronger than you.

Halo Wars is a great example.

In the initial cutscene on Harvest, we see the size difference between Elites and Humans. Soldiers are using a destroyed wall as cover as the Elites get closer, before a warthog runs them over. I don't know about you, but seeing Elites up close like that would be pretty damn scary especially when they have shields and you don't. Plasma shredds whatever BDU's the UNSC can field and that Elite is going to shrug off your rounds before the shield drops and hopefully if I am lucky, I wasn't struck by an stray plasma residue.

Then you have the Hunters and the Brutes.

I like to view them as literal walking tanks that are going to shred your line, especially hunters whose armor is made up of the same metal their ships are made up. Imagine you and a squad are pitted up against bond brothers. Chances are that unless we are carrying heavy ordanance, we are screwed as contray to gameplay. The assault rifle and magnum would need tons of concentrated fire just to drop one and that is all the while we are being shot at by the second and we are trying to avoid getting cut in half by that massive shield.

Now what makes the Covenant scary.

Once the shock factor fades away that we are fighting aliens who are more advanced then we are. We gotta remember Spartan's didn't even make up .1% of the total armed forces. They were few in number and could turn the tide of ground engagements as a Spartan was a great moral booster for the weary soldiers. However what really strikes fear into the hearts of every man, woman and child is seeing a Covenant Fleet overhead after turning ours to molten slag and guess what.

It's over.

The Covenant were scary because of the power behind their fleets and once they won. The planet was lost, no questions asked as most of our ordanance was wasted fighting on the ground and whatever we had left. Probably wouldn't be enough to stop our home from being glassed and seeing that hopelessness is truly scary. Halo Evolutions: The Return, seeing the scene where a soldier drops his gun right before being caught in the glassing beams is probably the scariest thing any human would want to come face to face with.

Just my opinion though.
holy.. that texts!! LOL I was 15 minutes reading XD I like your ideas
Just look at the grunts
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