I don’t intend this to be a, “I’m leaving the Halo franchise forever!” kind of melodramatic post. It doesn’t feel like I can ever abandon the Halo franchise, but I have come to a point where, like the Chief, I think it’s time for me to put the Halo franchise in cryo for a while. It has been a long time coming. I’m sure many reading wonder why they should care what some relatively small person in the community is taking a break from Halo and, honestly, you shouldn’t. My only real claim to fame is having, at the time of writing, almost 24,000 posts on Halo Waypoint. Yet I’ve somehow acquired a trusted position in the views of some fans throughout the years as a knowledgably person on the Halo lore, so I figured they’d like to know what’s up.
Originally, I was going to make an article detailing why I felt the logic plague as an explanation for Cortana’s behavior in Halo 5 wasn’t satisfactory, but a trial run of some of my ideas on Twitter showed me such an endeavor probably isn’t worth it. Not making any value judgments on anyone, but seeing people admit that such a situation was a bad one while offering something akin to a defense of 343’s choice gave me pause. I understand it. The logic plague among ideas would go a long in making sense of her issues and, hey, it’d involve something from the expanded universe and make that part of Halo relevant to the wider story. Personally, I have disagreements that it would make the whole ordeal tolerable or salvageable. Again, I don’t cast judgment on anyone. If anything, such arguments seem to be ways to cope with an all-around bad deal by going with a solution that at least makes more sense than Cortana just going crazy. It just feels like the community throwing 343 a life-preserver for a choice 343 made without thinking. But, I digress.
This has probably been a long time coming. I’d be a part of the Bungie.net forums for years before 343 entered the scene and I’d seen the earliest schisms between Halo fans when 343 showed up. I stuck around, but the Kilo-Five trilogy’s first book, Glasslands, which released in 2011, was testing. Still, the first book of the Forerunner Trilogy, Cryptum, released soon after so I held on. It has been ups and downs ever since, but Halo 5 helped kill off what optimism I had for the improvement of the franchise, at least for now. By now it’s a familiar story. The game itself failed to convey the deep-sounding and complex story of the ad campaign and other marketing. Blue Team’s first foray into the games was shallow and disappointing. Cortana apparently needing to become evil after her arc ended satisfactorily in Halo 4 and becoming so bad that someone at 343 felt her mocking another character’s (Holly Tanaka) lingering mental illness concerns despite her own journey paralleling mental illness in Halo 4 was a good idea . The list of issues is a big one and I’d rather not bore readers with such well-worn territory. Of course, I’d also chalk up the way 343 has handled the criticism the story faced as another reason for my drifting away. They have been silent for the past year and a half while only offering the lack of Chief and inclusion of expanded universe material as seeming scapegoats for the stories problems at best. At worst, though to be fair this seems to mostly be a Frank O’Connor problem, fans have been insulted for not liking the same (as the subtlety and nuance meme from his TIME Magazine interview attached to Mr. O’Connor can attest). I’m just not sure I want to support a developer where such actions are deemed acceptable by the developers at large.
Since then I’ve just struggled to really find anything interesting about the Halo franchise. Halo: Mythos came and is a nice overview of the universe, but it has pretty much been on my bookshelf ever since. Halo: Fractures had some good short stories, but nothing as gripping as Halo: Evolution’s offerings from years ago. Halo: Escalation ended in what can only be described as a dumpster fire and its Library Edition with 343 commentary where gems like “The Didact became extraneous to Halo 5’s story” and “We killed Black Team because they were on an acceptable to kill list” made me further skeptical of 343’s abilities. I’ve yet to finish Halo: Envoy and I can’t say I’m any closer to doing so anytime soon. Halo Wars 2 piqued my interest, but I’ve yet to pick it up and the story, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t feel like it is going to make up for Halo 5’s in my book.
However, it isn’t 343’s fault entirely for my waning interest in the Halo universe, the community has some of the blame too. Now, I’m not of the opinion that the community is all bad and I’m the only one right about everything (just sometimes). I’ve been to Waypoint, the various Halo reddits, and other Halo sites and everything just seems to be in a malaise. There really haven’t been any stimulating discussions and the things that pass for “theories” now seem to be little more than taking things from the story out of context, or just making things up, and dismissing any counterarguments with, “It’s possible.” Sounds elitist I know, but it has been a change I’ve noticed over the years. Even the criticism for Halo 5’s story, which I’d ordinarily welcome, seems inconsistent and sometimes for weird reasons. They range from the understandable (weapons down missions boring, characters not being particularly interesting) to the debatable (the story can only be understood with expanded universe content) to the downright bizarre (Holly Tanaka being the worst character in all of Halo). I’ve tried to have a distinct voice, but when these sentiments and more are being echoed by people with tens of thousands of YouTube subscribers and connections to 343 along with the general cacophony of the community at large, I know that’s impossible.
Yet perhaps the thing that kinda stings the most if what I feel to be a lack of any advocacy for those on the campaign/story side of the community. As rough as fans of the multiplayer side of Halo have had it for the past few years, there has typically been a steady, if not always popular, stream of responses from that side of 343 (just not where the MCC is concerned for the most part). Ske7th seems to have that side of the community down and his promise to be more transparent with fans is an admirable one. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate what GrimBrotherOne has done for the lore side of the community, his Canon Fodder series and interactions have been well-done. Yet there are many lingering issues people have had with Halo 5’s story that, most likely, he cannot address and so we reach a divide. It doesn’t help the aforementioned Halo YouTube community seems to be in two camps. They either address issues with the story in a way to criticize 343 in a slapdash way rather than see issues with the story panned out. Or, they do offer from actual critical responses, yet don’t go very far lest they step on anyone at 343’s toes. I can understand that to an extent and don’t mean to throw anyone under the bus, though if I had any considerable sway I don’t think my attitude would change all that much. It simply comes down to not feeling like anybody internally or externally represents the concerns of lore fans like myself.
All of that being said I don’t intend to give up the Halo franchise. I’m not sure I ever could. Yet for the time being, rather than get worked up over stuff I cannot control, I’ll just be giving it a break. Sure, Halo: Warfleet and the Atriox comic series is coming, but I’m in no frenzy to get them like I once was with past Halo content. Maybe something with Veta Lopis and the Gammas might break my hiatus, but likely just that. Fallout 4’s Survival Mode has been something occupying my time and giving me satisfaction, so I’ll likely be in the wasteland of the Commonwealth scavenging for 200 year old snack cakes and hoping not to die of an infection rather than respawning on Blood Gulch for the foreseeable future. Maybe one day Halo will catch my interest again, but only time will tell. I’ll still poke my head in the community from time to time and I may just start talking about non-Halo related subjects here. Maybe work on some original fiction if I feel inspired enough. Who knows.
“When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”