Mantle’s End – What the Forerunners did AFTER Halo (and where they are now…)

“And those who made the rings? What happened to the Forerunners?”

One hundred thousand years ago, a great and terrible civilisation achieved technological dominance. They appointed themselves as the galaxy’s rulers, imposing a chastening peace over their protectorates for countless millennia.

This they did in the name of the Mantle. Their duty: to preserve diversity and serve as guardians of life in all its forms.

And then, one day, they vanished.

They were the Forerunners, and this is what they did next… Continue reading

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Rise of Atriox, Issue #5 – Review

“Brute chief, Jovus, believes himself the most dangerous brute in the galaxy. But Atriox’s fearsome legend has reached even the most distant UNSC outpost. When the two brutes come face to face, their clash shapes the future of the Banished.”

Well, here we are… the final issue of Halo: Rise of Atriox has released, heralding not only the end of this anthology series but also the conclusion of the Halo Wars 2 ‘period’ of fiction – which has spanned the last year.

It’s a bittersweet moment because we’re facing another Great Lore Drought this year, the likes of which have not occurred since 2013, and it’s sad to see this series end…

But it was an end worth waiting for, as this final issue truly consolidates Rise of Atriox as the best Halo comic series since 2009/10’s Helljumper and Blood Line.

Rise of Atriox is a triumphant crescendo of important lessons having been learned from the last couple of years of Halo’s storytelling in the comic format; the result is a truly delightful origin story for a character and faction I find myself only wanting to see more of. Continue reading

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Star Wars IX Needs its Forgotten Skywalker (or, ‘Why Shmi Skywalker Deserves Better’)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

A Queen in-disguise, a Jedi Knight, a heroic droid, and a hapless Gungan fled to a desert planet under the light of twin suns in search of a way to repair their starship, where they happened upon a slave boy with a great and terrible destiny.

Befriending these strangers, he took them to his home and gave them shelter from a storm, where they met the boy’s mother. She, too, was a slave, and had come from nothing, and had no great destiny to fulfil beyond the breaking of her heart in order to see her boy find his place in a galaxy that would never know her name.

A kindly farmer fell in love with her and freed her from her chains, and she knew happiness for a time; but still there remained a deep and empty hole in her heart as she looked to the sky and thought of the great deeds her son – who must have grown to be so strong and wise and kind – would be doing as he walked among the stars.

While she was happy with her new life and loved her newfound family, she hoped that, one day, she would feel the warmth of her son’s hand in hers again – even if she had to wait until her last breath left her body under the setting suns.

Her name was Shmi.

The first Skywalker. Continue reading

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The Last Jedi – Thinking Outside the (Mystery) Box

Rian Johnson pulls off a magic trick with The Last Jedi, revealing that JJ Abrams’ purposefully empty ‘mystery box’ is actually Pandora’s box, and that it’s been open the whole time… and all the evils our heroes must face have already been unleashed.

But, of course, hope still remains.

In the time that The Last Jedi has been in cinemas, I’ve been to watch it four times…

The experience of watching a Star Wars film in the cinema is a novelty that never fades, it always feels momentous. I’m still laughing at all the jokes; I’m still realising, in the aftermath of certain scenes, that I’ve been holding my breath; I still reach the credits with a ridiculous grin on my face – trying, in vain, to articulate coherent thoughts to the person I watched the film with…

What can I say? I loved the film. I daresay it even ranks in my top three of the Star Wars saga. It just clicks with me because Rian Johnson’s vision for the delivery of this film speaks to a lot of my own storytelling sensibilities.

One of those is a storytelling technique that is of central importance to how The Last Jedi deals with the big questions set up by The Force Awakens, one that the Star Wars films have never really dabbled with before – what we will refer to as ‘narrative substitution’.

(Deflector shields for spoilers are down.)

Continue reading

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Rise of Atriox, Issue #4 – Review

“Atriox and his Banished forces are seemingly interrupted while assaulting a Covenant base by a warship led by the Shipmaster Let ‘Volir. With the Banished forces pushed back, Let ‘Volir is able to capture Atriox. But before the Shipmaster can claim victory, Atriox presents him with an offer and reveals that he has other plans for ‘Volir, his ship, and its crew.”

After one or two short delays from 343, moving this issue from its planned November release to December, the penultimate issue of Rise of Atriox is finally here.

And I loved it. On top of being another solid addition to the major events we see in Rise of Atriox, it also serves as a strong spiritual successor to the Hunting Party story in Halo: Tales From Slipspace anthology.

Issue #1 illustrated the pointless and visceral violence that Atriox endured and the person that forged him into; Issue #2 expanded on the moment Atriox defied the Covenant, igniting the spark of revolution after killing the Executioner; Issue #3 gave us more of a lighthearted adventure with Atriox, playing with some typical comic book tropes in order to paint a picture of Atriox’s heroism in the eyes of his followers in the formative years of the Banished.

Issue #4 delves into how Let ‘Volir joined Atriox, illustrating how Atriox is as much a warrior of words as he is of action (that action being, as depicted in the image below, the bear hug he’s offering Let – apparently that’s how one joins the Banished!) Continue reading

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Star Wars: Battlefront II – A Narrative Appraisal, Part 1

Yup, I’m going to bat for this game!

The loot box controversy has understandably dominated the narrative surrounding the release of Battlefront II, feeding into the wider issue in the gaming industry as a whole which has been building up for some time now. The unfortunate consequence is that discussion about the story and campaign has been… largely sidelined, which is a real shame because I feel there is a lot to love here.

I’m always somewhat intimidated when it comes to writing about Star Wars because I often wonder what exactly I have to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by countless others. However, this is a unique occasion where I do have a lot to say about this story – the epic tragedy of Inferno Squad – that has gone unsaid.

Having read Christie Golden’s Inferno Squad novel, providing a more complete contextual picture of these characters, I wanted to write a narrative appraisal encompassing both works (as the novel really is an essential component of the game).

So this will be the first of three articles exploring and analysing the campaign of Battlefront II, which will go as follows:

Part 1 – Context (Inferno Squad and Operation: Cinder)

Part 2 – The Tragedy of Inferno Squad (main campaign)

Part 3 – Resurrection (story DLC)

Oh, and deflector shields for spoilers are down! Continue reading

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Celebrating 16 Years of Halo With 16 Obscure Lore Facts

Sixteen years…

It occurs to me that Halo has been in my life longer than it hasn’t. I was seven when Halo 1 released and I’m twenty-three now. This series has been alongside me throughout the most formative years of my life.

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, I simply cannot imagine what it would be like not to carry these stories – these countless hours replaying the campaigns, indulging in the multiplayer, custom games, and Forge, lining up the camera for the perfect shot in Theatre – with me. Not only that, but Halo has been integral to my development as a writer too. Since starting this blog over four years ago, I’ve written over a hundred articles – from crackpot theories to novel-length analyses of whole games.

This is a series that I’ve lived and breathed. From the moment I stepped out of the escape pod onto the surface of Installation 04, looking up at the edges of that curved metallic band in the sky that looped over my head and back around to hold the ground beneath my feet, I was enraptured. There was nothing like it.

There still isn’t.

So, to celebrate Halo’s sixteenth birthday (though Halo sort of has two birthdays, since The Fall of Reach released about two weeks before Halo 1), I thought I’d reach into the depths of the Domain to draw up a list of my sixteen favourite super obscure lore facts.

Continue reading

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