A detailed look at the fiction of Microsoft and Ensemble’s Halo Wars…
It would be unfair to suggest that there hasn’t been an exceptional amount of skepticism directed toward Ensemble Studios’ Halo Wars over the past few months – and there’s likely not been more weight placed on a single Halo title to succeed than since the franchise’s first release in 2001.
With Bungie’s trilogy masterpiece complete and Halo 3: ODST rounding off the series with style, Microsoft and their new Halo Studio are now at full stride, preparing to further their ambitions with the franchise. Halo Wars represents the first fruits of this effort and if Ensemble Studios fails in this regard, it could certainly bode dismally for the new studio’s future efforts.
Not only has the development cycle for Halo Wars been inordinately protracted, with a handful of release schedules missed, but the sales strategy for the game has generated severe resentment amongst many hardcore Halo fans. The publisher has required players who want Bungie’s Mythic Map Pack for Halo 3 to purchase an $80 collector’s edition of Ensemble’s title (the XBLM release date for the map pack is still yet to even be announced). This decision amplifies not only concern about the possibility of similar marketing cross-pollination between completely different games in the future, but even more so, it has generated concern about the overall quality of Ensemble’s product — the first Halo title made outside of Bungie’s studio. The question at hand in that regard is: “shouldn’t the game generate sales on its own merit, rather than having to resort to leaning on Halo 3’s still-existing massive fanbase?”
In the weeks preceding its launch, Halo Wars has been lauded by Ensemble and journalists alike as a grand story for hardcore Halo fans. Being cut from this cloth ourselves, we at Ascendant Justice seriously wondered if their words would be proven accurate or if they would in the end be nothing more than a marketing facade – or perhaps the result of said journalists’ lack of knowledge regarding Halo’s fiction. The little that we had seen, although amazingly rendered through Blur Studios’ computer-generated cinematics, was a bit disjointed and confusing within Halo’s existing fiction. We knew the Flood were involved, but to what extent? How would this be reconciled with the Halo trilogy, which prides itself (with its fans’ support) on being the preeminent introductor of the Flood – and Halo Wars takes place twenty years before the chronology of Halo: CE.
And so we have it: a crucible, much like the one witnessed in Arthur Miller’s time-honored tale. How will Halo Wars perform beneath a torrent of skepticism and imbedded frustration? Will it be worth its weight, proving to the masses that Halo fiction can be properly executed outside of Bungie’s four walls, or will its failure pave the way for further defacing of the franchise at the hands of a disconnected publisher?
These are the questions that permeated in our minds just a few days prior, when we – Cocopjojo and Vociferous – plunged headlong into the campaign cooperatively…
Important Note: The following is an extensive look at all of the events found in the game’s campaign and the prefacing fiction provided by supplemental works, including Halo Wars: Genesis. For those who have an interest in experiencing Halo Wars’ story firsthand, we seriously recommend that you play through the campaign prior to reading this piece.