Canon Fodder: Legendary Endings
Welcome back to Canon Fodder, folks! Can you believe that 2021 is almost over?! It’s been quite the journey, hasn’t it? The end of one and the beginning of another, in many ways. Just last week, the Halo Infinite campaign made its way to eager hard drives across several different platform options. Since then, it’s been awesome to watch folks around the world experience the Master Chief’s next big adventure for themselves as they scour the surface of a shattered fragment of Zeta Halo, looking for answers to myriad questions (sometimes literally!).
And speaking of questions, we’ll actually look to touch on a few of them today, but to be clear, we’ll be largely sidestepping most of the larger curiosities at play—partly because we want to make sure everyone has had a chance to discover things for themselves, and partly because we just aren’t ready to mull over every mention and mystery just yet. There is more than enough time to dive into the juicier bits a tad further down the road.
That being said, we’ve still got plenty of things to cover today, as we celebrate another year and another chapter in the Halo universe. Oh! But before we get started, if you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out the official Halo Infinite launch blog, as you might just find some hidden gems from one of Balaho’s best and brightest…
First up, the time immediately preceding the campaign launch was rife with intriguing pieces of content developed in partnership with our awesome marketing teams. In many ways, these types of elements are always first and foremost charged with the task of generating hype and eliciting emotional connections with the overarching themes of the project they are connected to. That being said, there are plenty of little lore nuggets scrupulously scattered about for folks eager enough to look. In case you missed any of the trailers, let’s take a look at the main ones now:
FOREVER WE FIGHT
This piece is centered around the theme of heroism throughout time. No matter what the era or circumstances, humanity always has a penchant for battling back against all odds to ensure their survival. Some of the more notable lore-leaning moments you might notice are elements like an experimental test flight to further prove the viability of the then-fledgling Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine, or a predecessor variant to the Falcon used in CMA search and rescue efforts.
This essentially acts as an extended coda to the aforementioned Forever We Fight trailer, showcasing the Master Chief taking the battle to the Banished on Installation 07, including an encounter with Tovarus, a member of the Hand of Atriox.
UNSC ARCHIVES: UNSPOKEN
Unspoken gives a glimpse into a heroic sacrifice that served as a key element in the collective effort to recover alien technology and reverse engineer personal energy shields.
UNSC ARCHIVES: PROJECT MAGNES
Project MAGNES was spearheaded by a tenacious and brilliant civilian engineer and research scientist—an endeavor that led directly to the development of the Grappleshot.
UNSC ARCHIVES: LIGHTBRINGERS
Lightbringers is a somber—but defiantly hopeful—glimpse into the resilience shown by a group of BXR miners who found themselves trapped amidst a Covenant attack.
As part of the launch festivities, we also dropped a six-episode original audio drama in partnership with Spotify. Halo Infinite: Memory Agent is the story of an ONI operative with a very specific condition: a memory that resets every seven hours. While this would obviously make a lot of normal day-to-day living particularly problematic, this agent doesn’t exactly do “normal”—her situation making her an ideal vehicle to ferry vital intel to key destinations, with the convenience of knowing she’ll never be able to recall the sensitive info in the future.
Her latest mission? Rendezvous with some guy named John-117 to deliver key data elements, the importance of which is largely known only to him.
Halo Infinite: Memory Agent takes place right before the events of the Halo: Shadows of Reach novel. You don’t need to know this to enjoy the audio series itself, but we figured regular readers enjoy those types of timeline confirmations where we’re able to provide them.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, make sure you do so on Spotify right now! For newcomers, it’s a great way to get an overview of how important the Master Chief is to the galaxy, whether you’re a common colonist or a battle-tested soldier. For Halo lore fans, there are a number of elements contained within that might pique your interests. Hope you enjoy.
Now, while I did say that we weren’t diving into specific story-spoiler territory for Halo Infinite, we did want to talk a bit about all of the ancillary storytelling content that you can find in the game’s campaign. If you are a fan of wandering off the golden path of the main narrative, you’ll quickly discover that there are a host of smaller tales waiting to be discovered around the Zeta Halo fragment.
A few of these are found within “main” missions (so keep an extra careful eye out for those!), but most are discovered in the more open exploration parts of the environment. The main goal of these extra elements was to serve as an enhancement for anyone wanting to know more about the immediately-preceding events as well as the various factions in play during the game’s campaign. With that in mind, here’s an overview of what types of story arcs you can discover, in case any particular thread finds your fancy.
UNSC - RECOVERED FILES
There are four of these audio logs, automatically unlocked/discovered at key junctions along the golden path of the campaign narrative. They are essentially journal entries by Dr. Catherine Halsey, each giving a further glimpse into the intentions behind the Weapon’s creation and the urgency faced by the UNSC as they prepare to assault Zeta Halo.
UNSC - INFINITY’S APPROACH
Each Forward Operating Base contains an audio log that gives a glimpse into the harrowing plight of the UNSC Infinity, focusing primarily on the perspective of Captain Thomas Lasky. There are twelve in total and are unlocked in narrative order regardless of what order you tackle the individual FOBs.
UNSC - THE PRISONER
These seven audio logs tell the chilling tale of a UNSC combat medic taken hostage by the Banished to aid in the Harbinger’s release. Some are a bit off the beaten path, but worth the extra exploration to gain an additional glimpse into the ramifications of this new entity’s presence.
UNSC - OUTPOST INTEL
Each of the seven optional Banished outposts in the open environment contain two UNSC datapads (fourteen total), often shedding light on the desperate exploits of scattered UNSC forces trying valiantly to survive and fight back against the Banished.
BANISHED - ESCHARUM’S TESTIMONY
These nine audio logs offer intriguing insight into the mind of Escharum. A Jiralhanae warrior who remembers what it was like before the Brutes were conscripted by the Covenant, he has seen his kind rise up and come to the precipice of their greatest heights, due in no small part by the legendary efforts of his former student, Atriox. The first of these can be found on the Banished dreadnought Ghost of Gbraakon in the game’s opening mission.
BANISHED - ARCHAELOGICAL FINDINGS
During one of the main campaign missions, the Master Chief and the Weapon are tasked with travelling to four different Forerunner beacon towers. Within each one is a Banished audio log that contains a piece of a record from Despondent Pyre, the installation’s monitor—records siphoned and discovered by two curious Banished members, eager to further analyze the data in hopes of extracting greater insight into the ring’s mystery. However, these records hint at dark moments from long ago.
BANISHED - OUTPOST INTEL
Like with the UNSC instances mentioned further up, there are also two Banished-focused datapads at each of the optional seven outposts in the open environment. However, there is actually an additional Banished datapad to be found at Outpost Tremonius, stationed in the shadow of the Mortal Reverie’s wreckage, giving the Banished a total of fifteen audio logs to be discovered.
Scattered across the shattered local fragment of Zeta Halo are thirty-nine Spartan Logs. The logs are divided into five “chapters” and tell the tale of Spartans escaping the Infinity, making ringfall, and organizing a valiant counter-offensive in hopes to give humanity a fighting chance in Chief’s absence during the six months before his discovery by the pilot of Echo-216. To discover them all, you’ll definitely want to explore as much as possible. You’ll also learn about a contingency called the Rubicon Protocol, which may or may not have connections to a certain novel coming out later next year (spoiler: it does).
As you explore the local Zeta fragment, you might come across seven different groups of ancient ring-shaped artifacts. Interfacing with these artifacts will grant you access to records left by Despondent Pyre, who certainly has some information that deep-lore lovers will likely find particularly intriguing as the monitor laments the events described in the logs discovered by the Banished at the beacon towers, as well as reflecting on the nature of the ring itself and the motivations of her makers.
Once discovered, all of the above intel can be explored or tracked within the “DATABASE” tab of your in-game TacMap.
Throughout the Halo Infinite campaign, you’ve likely come across members of the Bloodstars, a special operations cohort within the Banished. Once a part of the Covenant’s Special Warfare Group, the Bloodstars order was reappropriated by the Banished, filling their ranks with deadly warriors renowned for their skill and ruthlessness—most vying to become the next member of the Hand of Atriox and knowing that slaying the Chief is likely a pretty good way to achieve that goal. In-game you see these labeled as “High-Value Targets” (HVTs), and the TARGET section of your TacMap will provide you with more detailed dossier information from Naval Intelligence on exactly why these burgundy brutes are bad news.
The Halo Infinite campaign may have come out just last week, but since mid-November players have had the opportunity to check out the game’s multiplayer suite, meaning they’ve also had time to stare at the respective skyboxes and set pieces and wonder about all that juicy lore just waiting to be uncovered and catalogued! We figure since we aren’t talking a ton about main campaign story stuff just yet, we could take a closer look at some of the storytelling elements within the multiplayer maps to hold you over. Let’s take a little peek, shall we?
Could there be a more appropriate name for a training facility established to forge humanity's next generation of heroes? The Avery J Johnson Academy of Military Science is located on a classified world, its presence kept a secret even from fledgling Created cells through hard-fought information sanitization operations on a dozen former ONI datavaults. It now serves as a rally point for remaining Spartans and a potential staging area for other UNSC forces who evaded discovery and destruction. The Spartans take great pains to conceal its location, reviving many of the Cole Protocol safeguards in hopes of keeping it safe and secure for as long as possible. This tactic was made even more urgent following the defection of the AI Leonidas, who oversaw a network of orbital Spartan training facilities, including Laconia Station.
The dominating feature on this map is the imposing Gorespike cannon, the lead weapon in a network of colossal Banished anti-aerospace emplacements. They stand ready to ambush an encroaching Mulsanne-class UNSC frigate separated from its battle group and driven into its killbox by squadrons of hunter-killer warships in the void above. Spartan ground teams were deployed in a last-ditch effort to cripple or destroy the cannon network control node, with the goal of buying time for the frigate to find cover or evacuate its supplies and personnel.
Speaking of the Mulsanne-class, its unique directed energy weapon—a Brightlance reflex laser—can be witnessed unleashing shield-piercing blasts against the Purveyor of Virtue, a Covenant remnant assault carrier, as the UNSC Panama fights a delaying action to defend a vital power and fuel processing station while supplies are extracted and transported to better-defended redoubts. While the Panama is no match for the carrier in a straight fight, the Purveyor cannot deploy the full measure of its power without annihilating the very prize they were instructed to occupy and exploit.
The result of years of clandestine testing and skunkworks development, the SS-1000 Sabre starfighter was quietly put into limited production and deployed at key UNSC sites after the Covenant War. In the hands of experienced pilots, they could greatly overmatch both Covenant Seraphs and Banished Grievers, giving the UNSC a vital advantage during key engagements both before and after the Created uprising. What Sabre squadrons remain intact carefully guard their fighter complements, fully aware they are priority targets for Banished raiders or lingering Created affiliates.
Axys is a giant in the colonial infrastructure and automation markets, though it rose from humbler origins as a colonial startup only after closely collaborating with the UNSC military during the Insurrection. Axys and its employees now serve as a de-facto corpocracy on several independent worlds, using its interstellar reach and total control over vital water and mineral wealth to puppeteer local governments. Under a plan devised by Dr. Halsey, the UNSC hopes to make use of this connection by infiltrating tertiary Axys facilities to redirect supplies and inject carefully-crafted misinformation which will weaken the corporate-backed independence movements.
The East African Protectorate's plan to quickly rebuild the glassed urban core of Mombasa was both unrealistically ambitious and impossibly expensive, but Project Rebirth investment by the UEG and UNSC prioritized the region for revitalization. Publicly, this was to rehabilitate the vast swathes of nearby territory sterilized in the final days of the war, but in truth was purely to provide a convenient cover for operations at the nearby Voi Excession and exploration of the ever-expanding labyrinth of Forerunner mechanisms branching out from the portal hub. In a vexing success for the UEG, reconstruction progress has proven to be dramatically faster than projected, creating a stark divide between the original citizens and a new wave of workers and researchers recruited from displaced colonist populations.
Crime, graft, violence. Each an all-too-common element of the human urban experience. The rebuilding of New Mombasa and proximity to so many Forerunner secrets is enticing to many opportunists, including insurrectionist factions, renegade Covenant splinter groups, and even Banished-allied human mercenary groups. Spartans assigned to Joint Task Force MARIAH are responsible for the safety and security of the Forerunner portal complex near Voi, as well as the complex extensions which run underneath the city. This included conducting periodic training evaluations in sectors of the city that were known to be staging areas for these criminals and malcontents.
One question that we’ve seen pop up a few times since the campaign launch centers around curiosities with the Banished Skirmishers encountered in Halo Infinite. We actually thought this might be a fun opportunity to pull an entry directly from the upcoming Halo Encyclopedia, which sheds further light on some of the inner workings of the Banished as a faction and sometimes adds even more context and flavor to what you might experience in the game.
"Within the Covenant, the role of skirmisher was held almost exclusively by T’vaoans, a subspecies of Kig-Yar that developed on an asteroid within the Y’Deio system. What the Banished discovered soon after conscripting the Kig-Yar was that the mantle and practice of the skirmisher extended far beyond the T’vaoan legacy, deep into the ancient past of all Kig-Yar. Many Ruuhtians took it upon themselves to powerfully and unambiguously demonstrate this: equipped with extensive battle armor and bearing the technological and aesthetic markings of the traditional skirmisher, the strongest and most skilled Kig-Yar Banished conscripts showed themselves to be every bit as formidable as their Covenant counterparts. Skirmishers can be deployed as shock troops or as guardians of tightly confined choke points, allowing them to outmaneuver or simply overpower most enemy infantry. Under perceptive Banished leaders, the best skirmishers have been granted a level of autonomy and discretion which far exceeds others in their species."
And speaking of the Halo Encyclopedia, for those of you eager to learn more about the places, events, characters, locations, and more encountered on Installation 07 during the Halo Infinite campaign, you are definitely going to want to pick up this monster tome. In case you haven’t heard about it, it’s a 488-page behemoth that covers an epic swath of Halo fiction and lore details across twenty years of evolving fiction. It’s been an absolute labor of love written internally at 343 and crafted alongside our friends at Dark Horse, and we can’t wait for it to get in your hands on March 30 of next year.
Of course, with such a trove of knowledge one must take extra care in securing its contents, which is why the newly-announced Halo Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition will come contained within a Forerunner cylix slipcase.
The enigmatic repository device will also house an exclusive lithograph and special cover for the book itself. This massive hardcover edition is available for pre-order now, so don’t miss it.
Speaking of the Encyclopedia, I find it really hard to talk about it and not find some way to sneak you out some tasty morsel of what you might expect. With that in mind, please feast your eyes on this holiday helping of brand-new visual goodness.
Many of you know that I’m a sucker for Halo’s magnificent alien cultures, and one of my personal favorite examples of such is the novel Halo: Broken Circle by John Shirley. Above is the first official visualization of one of its main characters, a pivotal Sangheili warrior named Ussa ‘Xellus (brought to life by 343’s own David Heidhoff). And yes, for eagle-eyed, old-school lore fans, he is wearing what you think he’s wearing.
This and much more await you in the Halo Encyclopedia, and we’re excited to be able to share it all with you in the near future.
Whew! With that, I think we’re ready to put a bow on our first post-Halo Infinite issue of Canon Fodder (finally!). However, that’s not quite all we’re putting a bow on today. After seven years and over 120+ editions now, this will be the last regular instance penned by yours truly. But do not fret! Or Lumu, for that matter… Canon Fodder isn’t going away, not by any measure. I’ll simply be passing the baton over to the unquestionably up-to-the-task Alex “Haruspis” Wakeford, who you may have heard recently joined our incredible Community Team. Word on the street is that he has done some Halo-related writing in the past too, so that’s convenient. Your favorite fiction feature will be in very good hands and will no doubt keep diving into the universe’s deepest corners and canon curiosities, but this time with a fresh voice and evolved outlook. You could even call it a “spiritual reboot” of sorts.
And as for yours truly, I’m not planning on going anywhere. There are lots of stories to be told in our favorite universe, and I’ll be toiling away behind the scenes continuing to help tell as many as I can. Maybe I’ll come back around for Issue 200 or something, who knows. It has been a genuine honor and pleasure watching this feature grow from a random “let’s see if they’ll let me do this” to a pretty darn regular part of a Halo fiction-fan’s content diet—and it’s you wonderful lore-loving folks that have continued to ensure its place in the rotation.
Your readership and support have been equal parts marvelous and humbling, and I can only wish more of the same for our author on deck. And with a new era of stories upon us—and a new generation of fans joining to experience them—I think the future for Halo fiction-flavored discourse is looking very bright indeed.
Much love. Infinite, even.
Until next time… Live well, play Halo, and show kindness at every opportunity.