This will be an overview of what I think were the strengths and weaknesses of Halo 5: Guardians from the perspective of the story and the lore. I won’t be going over single player or multiplayer gameplay unfortunately because I don’t have that much interest in those things when it comes to Halo. Now that it’s been a few weeks since release my opinions and feelings towards the game have more or less fully formed, so I feel confident in finally writing them down. Please note that this overview will contain a large number of story spoilers.
Halo 5: Guardians released last week, and I’m still gathering my thoughts on it. Possibly the most surprising reveal in its campaign was the return of a character that we all thought was dead: Cortana. With her return there has been a lot of confusion as to how she has been able to circumvent her physical obliteration in Halo 4 as well as her impending death due to late stage Rampancy.
Indeed, I think the Mantle is a deeply flawed and even perverse philosophy. How though? It sounds so idealistic and noble, right? One species taking up guardianship of the galaxy, sacrificing its own interests and shepherding the lesser species to the ends of preventing wars of genocide and enslavement; what is so bad about this?
Well, besides the obvious issue of it being too idealistic in expecting the ruling species to be entirely selfless, I think it’s a racist ideology that is going to ironically exasperate the problems that it was intended to solve and I believe that it has already done so. Additionally, I believe that it gets free pass from fans simply because it is humans who are the special snowflakes of the galaxy intended for this role, which in my opinion introduces an element of self-insertion into the equation and makes it more difficult to challenge.
This is part two of my Rtas article, where I’ll go over the aspects of his character that I think he possesses, and that are important in defining him; that make him stand out similar to the Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam.
If one is quite observant of how this webspace looks, then it probably goes without saying that this character is my favourite in the Halo setting. However I’ve never really put into words the exact reasons for why that is, so I’ve decided that I would finally take a crack at doing that and see how it turns out.
I’ve chosen to split this into two parts – part one will basically be a history profile of his character that will give a brief run down of the “where”, “what” and “how” of his character and his actions, in order to give some context to this. It can also serve as a reminder for those who are not as clear on the facts as they used to be, and as an informer for those who are just new to all this.
Part two will be a breakdown and analysis of his character in relation to the setting, and where I suppose I’ll go over my reasons for being an Rtas fan
Rtas was born on September 21st, 2487CE1, on Sanghelios in the state of Vadum. His subsequent childhood and adolescent years are entirely unknown however what is known is that he graduated from the top War Collage in the Iruiru region of Yermo with honours2, giving what was perhaps an early glimpse of his level of high tactical competence and intelligence that was demonstrated during the Great Schism several decades later.
The Great Schism was a major interstellar civil war within the Unified Covenant Hegemony beginning on November the 3rd of 2552  and lasting until at least 2559 . It was fought between two primary factions; the Separatists, principally lead by and composed of Sangheili; and the Loyalists, principally lead by the Prophets and composed mostly of Jiralhanae. The conflict was waged all across Covenant space and beyond, from Earth all the way back to High Charity and Sanghelios . It involved much of the Covenant’s military strength being re-purposed from the war with humanity as both sides scrambled for control of ships, industries, strategic locations and armies in response to the outbreak of war.
The Great Schism is one of the most important events in the narrative, marking the end of an old era of fiction and the beginning of an entirely new one. It marks the breakdown of old preconceived character archetypes, motivations and stories, introducing the potential for an entirely new and much more complex set of stories and characters as the Covenant is broken into differing factions with competing objectives; the abandonment of the war against humanity and the redrawing of lines of allegiance; the re-evaluation of the status quo by many characters in the narrative. All of this has been more or less fully realized now under 343i’s tenure of the Halo fiction, most recently with the comic series Halo: Escalations.
It is also an important event for the UNSC and the series’ primary protagonist Master Chief who, without the outbreak of the Schism, would have faced certain defeat at the hands of a unified Covenant who at the height of their power in Halo 2 had already discerned the location of Earth, humanity’s last world of importance, whilst maintaining a fully intact war machine that had already laid waste to everything that humanity had to counter it.
However, why did such a monumental change in the story’s direction occur? The Covenant was a vast empire that exercised control over much of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy. It had existed for 3400 years prior to its collapse in 2552 , enduring through many smaller civil wars and wars with external powers. What was the issue it faced in its final age that it could not overcome like so many before it?
The answer, it seems, is not as obvious as it looks at first glance. The Prophet of Truth can definitely be attributed to being the cause of the outbreak of the Great Schism, but that only begs the question of why the Prophet of Truth acted as a catalyst for the Schism in the first place. Something deeper had occurred within the Covenant that forced Truth’s hand, and it seems linked to the Sangheili. Specifically, it seems to be suggested in the narrative that some kind of ideological rift was forming between the Sangheili and the Prophets post-2525 that was slowly beginning to place stress upon the Covenant’s fragile state of unity; a rift that threatened to completely tear the Covenant apart if it grew out of control.
What was the nature of the ideological rift? It appears to have been religious in nature, where a difference in interpretations between the Prophets and the Sangheili began to lead to the formation of cracks in the union and the degradation of the faith that the Sangheili possessed. What was the cause? The specific difference in interpretation comes from many different factors as opposed to just one. At their core, the Sangheili and the Prophets possessed very different, almost mutually exclusive, mindsets. This would seem to have lead to the issue of humanity’s extermination being somewhat of a point of contention for many Sangheili. Beyond this, the alteration of long standing Covenant doctrine to disallow the inclusion of humanity into Covenant ranks would surely have been another point of contention. It also seems that the Great Journey possessed some degree of inherent implausibility to the Sangheili that set them somewhat at odds with the Prophets at all times. Finally, the social conditions that the Covenant had emerged from preceding the war with humanity did not set a very good stage for a sudden war of extinction. These factors saw a steady decline in Sangheili faith, loyalty and hence reliability as the Covenant lived through its final decades, and the steady increase in those who were no longer willing to accept blindly what the Prophets instructed.