Sunday, February 5, 2012

Into the Wild Starry Yonder: Reconnaissance in Bed

I'll just come out and say that I'm sorry that I don't update this as much as I promised or would like, or that you expected. But to be honest, my exploits between Noveria and Virmire were absolutely boring and I'm quite sure that you wouldn't appreciate me trying to make it special or anything. So right now, I'll make a short summarized version of the latter two Mass Effect articles I was going to write.

ME blog header

Summing up my previous article, I had left you all with a detailed piece on my exploits in Mass Effect up to the end of the Noveria mission. The most notable of this was how I intended to finally use Liara T'Soni, the Asari biotic teammate, as more than just a previous love interest. I had finally teamed her up with my long time pal Garrus allowing her to get off the ship, get her out into the galaxy, and fight some Geth. What surprised me after my inclusion of her in the team was not how much a biotic could be helpful as I experienced with Jack in Mass Effect 2, but just how much of a fulfilling experience I got from her. Apart from the fact that she was never knocked out like Garrus was half the time, Liara added a little something to the experience that let me to a place I wasn't intending to go again.

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to start a romantic relationship with the game's sole Human biotic, Kaidan Alenko. Romancing him as my love interest over this new characters course in the trilogy ahead was something I was very interested in considering how new it was to me along with everything else I was doing differently. So I flirted with him, and he flirted back. We were professionals at it and that sweating we both had from under those bright ass lights only helped him become more a video game character, of course. Wanting to romance him made me appreciate him even more than I did when I first started playing this game years ago. His story as a troubled biotic in love with one of his peers and helping protect her just proved that he would be a worthy candidate to share the Normandy's bed with. And when the time came to sacrifice someone on Virmire to set off the nuke, I had already made my decision: Kaidan would be my virtual boyfriend.

Going back to the Citadel and trying convincing the Council to try to let me go after Sovereign in the Terminus Systems to no avail, the only thing that was on my mind was finally being with him. Though, something I feared came back to bite me in the ass and ruin 500+ saves, yet at the same time, made me realize something.

Right before we stepped into the Mu Relay, the door to my quarters opened. I expected a well-toned Navy officer to walk through those doors and hold me in his arms, letting him to do me what I wanted so much. Instead, in walked a petite blue-skinned beauty. I screamed for a good little while, debating to myself whether or not I should, or could, push her away and go into the final battle without a love in my arms. Though as I said, I found out something about how I carry myself as Shepard. I go through the game trying to save those who have no means to do it themselves. Looking back at Therum, where I had rescued Liara, this was just the case. Throughout these games, I almost never picked the supremely confident, emotionally un-scarred, and invulnerable people to love. It was always those who had to throw themselves into the fight to prove themselves so they could grow as a person. Looking at Liara, I see a young woman who's just barely out of her teen years (relatively speaking) who hasn't found her place in the galaxy, and more importantly, could potentially allow herself to be susceptible to criminal and evil influence. I realized that I had always held Liara as something more than just a teammate, but I never knew she was more to me in these games than just a simple love interest.

As much as I wanted to do something different, being with Liara just made sense. We were connected in these games more than I believed and I can't deny the fact that we have amazing programmed chemistry that makes me want to guard her and at the same time, learn from her. So I went along with it and enjoyed seeing Natalie Shepard grow from little more than a personification of myself into a woman of her own. This is the first time in my nearly 15 years of playing video games that I understand how advanced they've become, that the characters we control can evolve from something you wanted or intended. Sure, it might just be a simple button press that I did that caused this, and little more. But its something more special than that and I know that this will only happen ever increasingly in the years to come.

So onto Ilos we went, with Liara and Garrus by my side. Liara again proved her resourcefulness and a positive addition to the story by giving her input while we treaded lightly through the ancient halls. Halls that Prothean scientists once ran through with a furious passion to save not only themselves, but to ensure a future for those who would encounter the Reapers in the centuries to come. I feel as if including her, if only just "head-canon," will greatly influence Liara in the coming events in Mass Effect 2 and the upcoming final installment.

Finishing off this beautiful game with an epic confrontation between the forces of Sovereign and the allied species of the Council, I always allow myself to have some sorrow at the loss of Saren. I've always had the ability to sway him from having to battle him, allowing himself to redeem his character and honor by sacrificing himself to prevent the Reaper from consuming his spirit. To be honest, I even felt bad for the Collector General. While there were hints of evil behind his motives, he was likely just a simple businessman trying to lead his people. Noble in the eyes of his subjects, his single ounce of body language he presented at the end of Mass Effect 2 to allowed me appreciate the complexity of a villain in modern society. It just makes me think that by the end of Mass Effect 3, whether we survive or not, we'll feel quite a bit of sorrow for the entire Reaper species. And to be perfectly honest, I already do. But if the Geth can teach us anything, its that we can write our own destiny and evolve to something we'd ultimately be more proud of. A bit off-topic, eh? :P

Anyways, I finished off the battle with the three-species council surviving to bitch another day, adding another member to their ranks: David Anderson. While I can't stand Udina, and I fear that Anderson isn't much of a politician, he's the only one out of the two that could give us a proper start to our new role in the galaxy. In closing, Shepard always walking off into the sunset (or the staircase to Wards Access) always provides some of the most inspiring moments that after racing across the galaxy tirelessly, she goes back for more. And as some find comfort in knowing Humanity has thrown herself into the forefront of galactic civilization, I find inspiration from a simple blue-tinted world that lets me know that I'm forever stuck with the curse that is being a Paragon from head to toe, attempting to do as much good as I can. So that in the very end, trillions of loyal citizens walk up beside me to defeat the Reapers in our greatest moment.

While I won't promise anything for future Mass Effect articles, I would love to see some comments on here or elsewhere letting me know if you enjoyed my journals on it. Knowing that there are some regular readers out there would really inspire me to go ahead and regularly do these sorts of things. On the other hand, I've already written a longer article on recent personal events that I'll be posting here in the next few days for y'all.

So until then, I'd like to thank you for your continued support of That Dancing Chick and I really hope you enjoyed today's article. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions of any sort, please feel free to let me know!

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All trademarks and material relating to Mass Effect are properties of BioWare and Electronic Arts. Ilos-Prothean screenshot courtesy of the Mass Effect Wiki.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Into the Wild Starry Yonder #1

I consider myself to have five main fandoms/obsessions these days; Halo, Girls' Generation, Battlestar Galactica, and fashion all take up a considerable amount of my daily do-nothing time each day. But unlike those aforementioned four, this one above all makes me question my morality, personality, and behavior towards other people in an everyday setting. No such fandom has ever allowed me to have such an emotional connection to the events surrounding it and makes me obsesses over what I could have done differently or effectively. You probably already figured this one out, but for those who haven't, I'm talking about the wonderful Mass Effect universe imagined by BioWare.

ME blog header

I've always wanted to make a diary/journal of sorts logging my actions and shenanigans across the Milky Way, but a case of "i'm too bored to do it" prohibited me from ever doing it. Now that I have a clear interest in writing about my life, I thought i'd make one of my first posts about something I hold very dear. This will be the first article in a planned three part series chronicling my asskicking in Mass Effect. Each of the three parts will be a bit different in its style and in the following, you'll be reading about my eagerness in the beginning, through my Spectre induction and insta-boredom, and ultimately finishing off on the anti-nipple world of Noveria. Enjoy!

My gaming record up until the early days of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was pretty simple in what you'd see. First person shooters, arcade racers, and platformers dominated our family's gaming collection for many years, mainly because we had no taste at the time and neither me or my brother and sister had any interest in being over involved in a game. Though I'll admit that I've been obsessed with Final Fantasy since childhood, that was the only real game series that I put any significant amount of effort in. Halo, while having a rich and involving expanded universe, never really made me obsess over the gameplay like I would have loved it to. Thankfully that all changed for the better on Christmas 2007 when me and my brother started playing Mass Effect, which we had both vaguely mentioned to our parents about wanting to play. The rest is history and will be explained throughout a Mass Effect 2 article series and probably one for the upcoming finale, but ultimately, this game helped me appreciate the medium even more than I would have if I never played it. Well okay, onto the good stuff.

Going into this playthrough, I knew that I wanted to do a great deal of things differently. Starting off, my character design was going to be more true to what I actually looked like instead of the hottest Shepard I could possibly make. While its not really exact, it does represent me more than I thought it would, apart from limitations within Mass Effect's character creation feature.

Okay, well maybe i've made myself look a tiny bit better than I actually do, but oh well, this is a fantasy universe and I don't want to look bad on Westerlund News.

Apart from appearances, Commander Natalie Shepard's personality throughout my upcoming playthroughs will encounter moderate to severe changes. In the past, I have often played the noble, straight as an arrow, the good guy who always picks the bright blue and top right corner dialogue options; I was never one to act uncivil or in a manner that gave people the wrong impressions about our species. This continued into ME2 for my first (and still only) playthrough of that game, with the only divergences from my typical behavior consisting of always triggering the "Renegade interruptions." Now, knowing full well how Human, Asari, Turian, Salarian, Batarian, Krogan, etc. react to Spectres, I decided to go another route. While the core of my always diplomatic and conscious attitude would stay the same, I figured that being a bit snarky, impulsive, and aggressive towards those who deserved it would be a nice seasoning to my pretty straight-forward Shepard. Needless to say, I'm not going to be winning any Spectre Customer Service awards in the future.

As always, I chose a background that fits my own experiences. As the daughter of a once active-duty U.S. Marine who moved around from Okinawa to California to Virginia, the "Spacer" history featuring two Alliance Navy parents was an attractive option which I expected to really connect to my Shepard with. My action history was pretty easy to pick as well, so considering i've never been rebellious or ever faced a significant event alone, the "War Hero" option was the best fit. With my own history, I always grew up with an idolization of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and especially Marines, and hold them all in a special place within my heart. Including the fact that I may one day seek to become a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, it goes without saying that this is still the only option i'll go with.

Onto the game itself, I went into it knowing that i'm going to try to do as much towards a 100% completion as possible on my first playthrough. My first ME1 experience was finished in just a couple of days, with little of the side missions ever being attempted or even played which took me another 2 playthroughs to get to Level 60. Even on my sixth (and current) time going through this game, I still can't stand the hours i'll take just to complete these all, especially considering most of them are incredibly tedious and contribute little to the story. Though my psuedo-CDO (its 1% better than OCD) probably counters these beliefs with an undeniable urge to get every cent I can out of a game.

With this new attitude I had towards doing things as differently as possible while still holding onto my core ideals, my adventures on the Citadel prior to Spectre induction and rescuing Liara on Therum didn't go as planned. First off, Emily Wong got all the evidence she needed and Khalisa al-kissmyass, Westerlund News got out of C-SEC Academy without getting an exoskeleton-enhanced punch in the head. Things are already starting to get fucked up. And now, there's Harkin, a angry drunk cop that will continue to sit in Chora's Den until Sovereign comes over for a reunion picnic. Because I first went to Wrex in C-SEC Academy instead of him to uncover evidence against Saren, now all he'll do is tell me to fuck off. I could have told him to sober up and get his act together, but because I fangirled at our favorite Krogan Battlemaster, he's going to continue wasting his life there. Shit.

Needless to say, I was happy to get off of the Citadel and out into the galaxy after scavenging up all of the side missions I could from the capital. Getting out into space, I instantly made a tour of all currently available clusters (around a dozen or so), triggering all secondary planet quests and mining every world I come across. It wasn't until I traveled to the Pinnacle Station's system that I encountered my first incredible fail. Thinking this world would have a rag-tag band of mercenaries and pirates, I went down in my Mako thinking I was Betsy Badass with her Turian right hand and the token xenophobic sidekick. Sitting on the rockedge above their secluded base, I easily took out three unsuspecting riflemen with the cannon within a couple seconds. And twenty minutes later, I packed up and left that planet after getting my ass continually kicked by what seemed like an entire platoon of these mercenaries. Starting off at the bottom with Lancer rifles and Onyx armor doesn't feel good...but may the space gods help them when I go back there.

Off to Therum to rescue the cute and super intelligent daughter of Matriarch Benezia, Liara T'Soni, my confidence in destroying such a significant concentration of Geth soldiers on foot was starting to shatter. The final encounter before going into the mines, introducing the Stalkers and fighting a Armature (four legged anti-vehicle model) grew to become a severe pain in my ass after dying three times. I don't necessarily blame the designers or the A.I., but more on my cockiness in trying to take out the lesser enemies. Surprisingly enough, combat inside the Prothean mines was a breeze. I took out the Geth infantry and later the enemy Krogan Battlemaster with ease, much to my surprise. Though this was nothing new in my Mass Effect experience, reintroducing Liara to me made me think that I could make yet another change to a rapidly evolving character.

Lair of the Shadow Broker

Going into this playthrough, I was going to make an effort to pursue a romantic relationship with the Asari scientist Liara T'Soni, who would later become the head of an "underground" information collection agency under the guise of a "Shadow Broker." I figured that having my lover be the leader of such a widespread intelligence group would be a key asset in the coming battles that we'll see in Mass Effect 3. My first romantic interest during the first playthrough I had of ME1 even featured Liara as my pick, but only because I had left Kaidan on Virmire. Needless to say, all encounters after this would feature Liara as my love interest from the start.

Now i've never been one to ever dive into magic or technology, so being a guns-a-blazin' soldier (and later Shock Trooper) has always been my strong suit in Mass Effect. Apart from Kaidan at the start of the game and Wrex during the Siege of the Citadel, i've never really included any biotics in my ground team in ME1. I don't know if it was just because I like seeing bullets and explosions with fierce blitzkrieg-style attacks on the Geth or I didn't want to have to manage and learn my teammate's biotic powers, but I just didn't really care for them. Then came the mission to Noveria and I knew that the easily dispatchable, though numerous Rachni threat we'd encounter would be a worthy opponent. Which led me to decide that bringing Liara alongside my homeboy Garrus would prove to me whether or not she or any biotics could have a place on my team.

Breaking into Synthetic Insights office would be all the evidence I needed to make her a permanent member. These rogue security officers were eliminated in seconds with the combination of my overwhelming trigger happy assault rifle, Garrus' electronics expertise, and Liara's mastery of all things biotics. I knew going into the Hot Labs and ultimately encountering the Asari Commando team would be a breeze. Apart from having to use Unity on Garrus twice (sure, he's a bit fail but God I love him), the encounter with Benezia went better than I expected. With Liara there to add to the conversation with her mother, I knew I had made a great choice to include her not only for the story value on Noveria, but the game as a whole.

One thing that i've always done at this point is release the Rachni Queen into the galaxy. As much shit as I get for this from the Council, Udina, and even my own subordinates, I still regard this as the best possible decision I could have made towards my own future in the galaxy. Mass Effect 3's emphasis on gathering not only individuals but entire species, armies, and fleets proves that the Rachni will prove themselves in this upcoming war to be a wonderful asset to the great civilizations. Saying that, I have always felt a little gullible allowing them to live in freedom, which is why more than anything else is why people think I'm a dumbass. Apart from the unnecessary extinction of their ancestors by the Krogan, this is the best possible decision for any player.

Even now, i've only completed a few non-Citadel based missions so far, accounting for probably less than 25% of the entire game. Going on, I still have a couple dozen side missions and resource/artifact recoveries to go, not to mention the main story missions on Feros, Virmire, Ilos, and finally, the Citadel. This is where I think this new Shepard will difference herself from her predecessors currently inhabiting my hard drive. After Noveria, while getting a sense of what the crew is feeling, it seems as if Kaidan is getting off on the right track of trying to win my heart over for the romance subplot. As I stated before, I was going to go with Liara considering our past and what she'll mean in the future. But now, I want to see what I can do differently. After this conversation between me and Normandy's security officer, I decided to pursue him as my love interest. Plus I want to see what the Council thinks about Spectre-on-Spectre sexy time in Mass Effect 3. So looking at the future, i'll be flirting with Kaidan some more, leaving Ashley to sacrifice herself on Virmire, among other things.

Oh, and I went renegade on Conrad Verner's ass during the final stage of that assignment. Going with the intimidation option and pointing my pistol at his throat showing him how "action" really goes down in the Milky Way. I still don't quite understand how he has/had a wife...

At this point in my playthrough, i've already screwed up quite a bit and I know that my experiences going forward will be radically different. However, I did discover my new found love for Kaidan (partly because of CortanaV's constant Tumblr updates featuring her man) and a brand new element to my team, Liara. Feros, Virmire, and Ilos should be really fun experiences as they always have been, but the repetitive dialogue, copy pasta side missions, and the absurdity of rocky planets will certainly piss me off for the next couple of weeks or so. Either way, I had a real good time writing this article and I hope you enjoyed it just as much. Look for the second part featuring my adventures in annoyance on uncharted worlds and Feros next week! As I leave you, i'd like to share this nice case of GarrusFail at Chora's Den. Enjoy!


All trademarks and material relating to Mass Effect are properties of BioWare and Electronic Arts. Liara screenshot courtesy of the Mass Effect Wiki.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Primordium: These matrices are highly unstable...

I'm going to warn you right now that i'm not going to be sparing any spoilers or other details from you, continue reading at your own risk. See how I love you? :) Note that I really haven't had time to completely and fully digest this, so please mind that I will seem brash and overly forthcoming. Note that this article will both contain a review on Primordium's narration and an analysis of its story, particularly in relation to Halo 4. Now for some formalities:

Halo: Primordium, written by Greg Bear, is the second book in The Forerunner Saga, a prequel trilogy set 100,000 years prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved and much of the Halo franchise. Released on January 3rd, 2011, Primordium follows a Human protagonist from the first book, Chakas, across a broken and deadly Halo ring that escaped the slaughter at the Battle of the Capital. Along with this returning character is his small Florian companion Riser; the two Erde-Tyrenes are joined by two "transplated" Humans: an elderly man cast out by his people and his dominating and ambitious granddaughter. Despite their relatively small stature within the galaxy stage, these four will nonetheless change the fate of the Mantle from crumbling at the feet of corruption, tyranny, and assimilation.

I'll start off my opinion of the book from a narration/storytelling standpoint, as that is what concerned me the most. Even just a third of the way into the book (379 pages in total), Primordium felt very much like just another chapter. The contents of this novel in no way needed to be explained in great detail for as long as it did, more often than not, throughout much of the heart of the story, I found myself bored and only motivated to continue reading for the juicier bits. Those of which were only becoming more frequent towards the end. Otherwise, this novel may even challenge Lord of the Rings for Best Walking Adventure of the 21st century. Don't get me wrong, I love a character-focused story, which is why I loved Cryptum and Glasslands so darn much. But when you have multiple chapters only concerning extremely dull and boring walking, "investigating," and hunting, that's when you'll start not caring if Mendicant Bias releases the life support safeties and sends all biomass into vacuum.

I'm also probably not alone when I say how confused I get at some of the Forerunner action scenes he brings a narration to, even through the simple, un-technobabbly corrupted mind of Chakas or later, Riser. For the past ten years, the most advanced Forerunner tech we encountered would have to be Hard Light (the blue energy bridges, etc.) and the like. Otherwise, all we saw were stoic heavy-metals of lifeless facilities. The elevator/tram/transport scene was a great example of this where I had absolutely no frakkin' idea what was going on.

We honestly have no more of an idea of how these things work than our dear protagonists, yet we're bombarded with details that only the Master Builder could truly comprehend. We got a little of this at the end of Cryptum after some rudimentary technological explanations given by Bornstellar and Didact to the two Humans. Yet, unlike Cryptum, our appreciation of the story or enjoyment of the narrative wasn't aided by these new technologies introduced to the universe, as inanimate (relatively speaking) objects should always do for characters. All I felt it did in Primordium was act as filler for the setting. The imagery provided to the reader by Mr. Bear didn't give us much understanding to what our protagonists were witnessing, so using the most basic equivalents we have on Earth today or at least from what we've visually seen throughout the series served as placeholders. During the aforementioned elevator scene, i'm not afraid to admit that all I imagined was an ancient advanced version of a monorail seen in our cities. More or less, the descriptions we received don't do too great of justice to the brilliance of the Builder class of the Ecumene.

Not everything about the foundation of Primordium wasn't spoiled by filler or incomprehensible detail, a lot of it was great. Content aside, the dialogue was absolutely fantastic and breathed much needed life into the writing. This was especially compounded by the introduction of the "spirits" coded deep within our Human protagonists, ancestral memories implanted by the Librarian into a select number of those from Erde-Tyrene. The concept of a "geas" shines throughout this brand new element of our universe, providing incredibly thought provoking and engaging conversations between the "spirit hosts" (Chakas, etc.) and the spirits themselves, which i'll get to later. Apart from that, even the simple talk between Chakas, Vinnevra, and Gamelpar is interesting, given the three's unique backgrounds as the latter two have no recollection of our "homeworld" and their own life experience. Though the incredibly dull walking scenes could have been saved if they had shared more about themselves at times.

Not playing around now, i'm going to spoil most things for you now...

Halo 4 circle logo small

More important for Halo 4 than anything else was the inclusion of transmission logs now commonplace within the franchise spread throughout the story. A data retrieval/interrogation between an ONI team of intel., science, political, and "strategy" officers and a "composed" Chakas, who would later be revealed as the batshit insane personality behind the waste of a good Spartan Laser, 343 Guilty Spark. I don't believe i've ever had such an "oh shit" reaction from anything in my 9 years of loving this franchise like I did just a few hours ago. Imagine the reaction Luke Skywalker had upon learning that Darth Vader was his father, and you'll understand where i'm coming from. But oh no! I think this is quite a good thing to be honest. Sure, I was hesitant at first to properly accept these words as published information, but I ultimately came to completely love this notion that Guilty Spark is in league with Naval Intelligence.

While i'll get to the implications of this later, i'd just like to thank Greg Bear and 343i for giving this little hint towards Halo 4 in here; one hell of a great surprise. I don't particularly know just how the hell you guys are going to make this work, but i'm nonetheless excited to see how you play with this in the upcoming Reclaimer Trilogy.

Also revealed by 343 Guilty Spark in teasing detail is the revelation that two prominent Forerunners are still very much alive in this universe, maybe even in this same galaxy we're in today. First noted by Guilty Spark in the tenth and final terminal on The Maw in Halo: Anniversary:
"But what I would not give to have earned a single company of Prometheans here right now. They would most certainly restore order with their trademark lethality, although, that would mean he would have to be here, too. And without the Librarian around to temper his rage, well, these Reclaimers might almost prefer the Flood."
- 343 Guilty Spark, September 2552, Installation 04
Shortly after this, a glyph (symbol/mark) depicting the Didact, the Supreme Commander of the Ecumene Fleet and the authority behind the activation of the Halo Array, flashed on screen. Though this doesn't necessarily prove or hint towards his inclusion in the upcoming Halo 4, this may:
"You and I are brothers in many ways...not least in that we faced the Didact before, and face him now, and perhaps ever after."
- 343 Guilty Spark, c. 2553(?), unidentified UNSC Navy vessel
And what would the "Promethean of Prometheans" do without his beautifully gifted wife, The Librarian (also known as the Lady, Lifeshaper, etc. - meh, not surprised that God is a woman). Spoken both highly of in great admiration and with great blasphemy or angst by even some of the same characters, her actions mentioned throughout Primordium seemed even antagonistic in nature just as much as the Primordial or the Master Builder. But in the end, they proved vital to the main character's victory over the tyrannical behavior of Forerunner and construct alike, as well as the all-encompassing evil desired by the Primordial, later revealed to a Gravemind. In this statement by Guilty Spark below, its stated that like her husband, she still occupies this galaxy with a physical and spiritual presence:
"...unified by only one thing: our love for the elusive Lifeshaper. Without her, humans would have been extinguished many times over. Both I and the Didact love her to this day. Some say she is dead, that she died on Earth. But that is demonstrably untrue."
- 343 Guilty Spark, c. 2553(?), unidentified UNSC Navy vessel
Note the use of his shared affection with Didact, as if he has some sort of continued or recent connection with the Promethean commander. Its likely that the married couple has been estranged for sometime given the way Guilty Spark spoke of the two, especially as he continues his search for her.
"I know where to find her."
- 343 Guilty Spark, c. 2553(?), unidentified UNSC Navy vessel
Closing this discussion on Chakas (as 343 Guilty Spark), Didact, and the Librarian, a reference to the pre-reincarnation form of the Didact (Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting) was stated by one of the ONI officers
"Everything the monitor has related ties in with other Forerunner records we have discovered - including the Bornstellar Relation found on Onyx."
- Science Team Leader, c. 2553(?), unidentified UNSC Navy vessel
Marathon logo

The last half of this Primordium canon analysis deals with the revelations concerning the Geas stored within all living beings. As a refresher for those who don't know, "geas" is a term for a generations-long genetic command imposed on an organism or species. Under the influence of a geas, an organism could be given a set of subconscious orders that would be passed on to their children, in some cases lasting several generations. The status of Humans as the "Reclaimers" of the Mantle is directly related to the geas given to us by the Librarian upon birth, with a select few, mainly those particularly native to Erde-Tyrene (only vaguely theorized to be our homeworld) given the memories and spirit of their ancient ancestors. These "spirits" are the sole remnants of the once proud Human colonial empire that defeated the Shaping Sickness (ancient term for the Flood) and defied their Forerunner brothers.

The most notable and influential of these spirits reside in their two descendants Chakas and Riser, carrying the memories of Forthencho, The Lord of Admirals and Yprin Yprikushma, a female scientist and politician, respectively. During the Human-Forerunner War, these two considered themselves fierce rivals throughout the conflict and were ultimately cast down by each other's side. Upon meeting each other on Installation 07 (then, a much larger ring at a diameter of 30,000km), they argued for hours while the two hosts succumbed to their spirits wishes. Though, this is a pretty small fact I want to get out of the way, laying the background for what I have to say next. See, i'm not a soulless bitch who spoils every single detail about the story and makes 343i want to hunt me down (not that they haven't tried).

Throughout Primordium, the concept of the Geas and our status as Reclaimers weighed heavily on my mind from beginning to end. As a more grounded Human story, you couldn't help but think who these people's ancestors were like during the reign of the Human-San 'Shyuum alliance and more interestingly, who will succeed them? I was correctly very rarely with my assumptions of "who became who" in relation to the Geas and ancient spirtis, and i'm going to share my views on both what I thought, what is here, and what may come.

Geas mashup

I'm probably far from the first person to think that dear Chakas would be the ancestor to one of the greatest Spartan's of all, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117. His calm demeanor, selfless attitude, and adaptability are trademarks of these two unique characters. But, as with Battlestar Galactica, Halo has developed its own concept of "All of this has happened before, all of it will happen again." As Chakas more or less ended up as the dear 343 Guilty Spark, it kinda throws that notion of them being related out of the question; not entirely mind you, as spirits probably don't need to be transferred only through hereditary lines. Though if hereditary does have a place within geas placement, one of his sisters may have been imprinted just in case Chakas perished. However, considering the attitude of Forthencho, The Lord of Admirals, I very much doubt that John-117 would even be considered for that particular imprint.

Rather, I believe his mid-aged Florian companion Morning Riser is the true descendant or at least the ancient spirit currently residing in John. Both the fact that his descendant/spirit Yprin Yprikushma led special operations warriors during the war as well as serving as a "morale commander" provides a good basis for a future candidacy as Spartan (selection process for the SPARTAN-II's influenced by Dr. Halsey's geas?).

Chakas was a more tricky one to figure out and only until I was cooking lunch did I finally realize who he was, disregarding his memories being implanted in 343 Guilty Spark. I firmly believe that his role or spirit would be carried on by us within Noble Six during Halo: Reach. In that game, he suddenly showed up in Noble Team (taken in by the Tudejsa on Installation 07) and walked for days to get back to Noble Team (weeks of tracking down Riser). While not specifically stated in the novel, its likely that Riser took over for Chakas as Vinnevra's friend and guardian in a similar fashion that Noble Six handed off the guardianship of Cortana to John-117. This line of thought ultimately led me to believe that Gamelpar asked Chakas to protect his granddaughter Vinnevra in the same way that Halsey, an equally elderly woman, gave Cortana away to Six before her seclusion on Reach. So if you take anything from that, Chakas is Noble Six, Riser is John-117, and Vinnevra is almost certainly our blue A.I. companion Cortana.

For those with no knowledge of Vinnevra, she was a young Tudesja girl living in a small village when she discovered and took care of Chakas after landing on the rogue Halo. Convincing her and her grandfather to join him in searching for Riser, she didn't just have a geas, but like the other two, an ancient spirit residing inside her. Though her's wouldn't come out due to unknown circumstances, it was triggered by a beacon to the Palace of Pain and allowed her to guide the fellow travelers on their way. Much like how Cortana has complex emotions due to prolonged exposure to mass amounts of data, and of course, telling us a way out of tricky spots.

My suspicions are confirmed for the spirit lineage of Riser and Vinnevra to John-117 and Catherine Halsey (passed onto Cortana), respectively at the very end of the novel when 343 Guilty Spark takes control of a UNSC warship (the Infinity from Glasslands?) after supplanting the "defunct" shipboard A.I.:
"One of you almost certainly carries Vinnevra and Riser's old spirits within. Only the Lifeshaper can find them and coax my friends back to life. And after a hundred thousand years of exploration and study...I know where to find her."
- 343 Guilty Spark, c. 2553(?), unidentified UNSC Navy vessel
I won't go any further. Even though I spoiled some key details concerning the future of the Halo universe, I still very much kept most of the story a hidden treat from you. That, and I really can't comprehend everything I read in Primordium at this moment, another read of it will have to remedy that.

In closing, I would say that Primordium more than lived up to what I expected it to mainly be: a teaser for Halo 4. From the start, I knew that this could have been a standalone novel within the franchise, and despite its shortcomings, it wasn't all too bad of a read. Though too much filler, fluff, and imagery that requires a PhD from the University of the Master Builders to comprehend really sets back this novel for us plain folk who don't know too much about the Forerunners and the times they lived in. This story could have been just as great if it were a few chapters shorter and a part of a more expansive second book that included the viewpoints of Chakas, Riser (he gets his own chapter however), and the Didact.

The "more grounded" aspect was respectable and I appreciated it, but it was grounded in a way that discouraged enthusiasm while reading. As I stated before, my only real motivation to continue reading this was to get to the juicier bits of Primordium and when I encountered them, more often than not, they were met with the same feeling a haunted house family has with not understanding just to get the fuck out.

tl;dr, the story, characters, and dialogue were absolutely fantastic, I can't stress this bit enough. If you have any sort of need for a Halo 4 tease, this is for you. If you're just looking for a casual read however, there are much better science fiction adventures out there at the moment for you to pick up. You may as well skip this one and just read a synopsis on Halopedian or HBO if your truly interested. All in all, it wasn't great or what I expected, but its far from anything terrible.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this, especially the canon analysis bit. I'll admit that this was quite fun to write and much more rewarding (and time consuming) than the normal touchy-feely emotional articles I normally write. I'll be posting this over on the HBO forums as well if you've like to have a discussion about it there, or you can post below in the comments section if you'd prefer. And please, do not hesistate to correct me on any detail I overlooked or wrote in error on the canon section and especially let me know about the writing itself. Thank you and have a great day!


All trademarks and material relating to Halo are properties of Microsoft, Microsoft Studios, and 343 Industries. The Marathon symbol is property of Bungie, Inc.. The cover art for Halo: Cryptum and Halo: Primordium were drawn by Nicolas "Sparth" Bouvier. The Halsey concept art was drawn by Isaac Hannaford. Master Chief, Cortana, and Noble Six renders were retrieved from, in addition to the description of "Geas."