In our last article, we went over the events of Halo 5: Guardians, in which Cortana returned and, with control of the Domain and of the Guardians, began to subjugate the galaxy and establish her rule, arguing that "Created" artificial intelligences (AI) like herself deserved to hold the Mantle of Responsibility.
In this one (it's the final one until Halo Infinite!), we'll go over the plot of Halo Wars 2, which sees the return of the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire, who were once thought to be lost forever following the Battle of the Etran Harborage. However, they have arrived at a place far away from anywhere else in the galaxy: The Ark. And there, they would encounter a brand new force that, if unchecked, could pose a threat to the entire universe.
Prelude: The Banished come into power
During the years of the Human-Covenant War and prior to the Great Schism, the Covenant utilized squads of Jiralhanae warriors for suicidal missions, encouraging the soldiers to throw their lives away for the chance at being a part of the Great Journey. Atriox, a Jiralhanae that managed to survive his missions, grew weary and angry at having to watch his own kind manipulated in this way.
Atriox's defiance inspired other Jiralhanae to his cause, leading to the formation of the Banished.
His hatred of the Covenant would grow and fester for years, until he finally made the decision that enough was enough. In defiance, Atriox threw down his weapon in front of his Sangheili commander, signalling that he would no longer do the bidding of the San'Shyuum prophets. Enraged, the Sangheili moved to execute him, but Atriox caught his strike in his hand and killed the warrior with his own Energy Sword. As the other Sangheili present prepared to kill him, though, the Jiralhanae who had witnessed Atriox's defiance became inspired by his actions and defended him from the Sangheili. After all of the Covenant soldiers lied dead, Atriox and the Jiralhanae who had sided with him formed the Banished faction.
For many years, the Banished conducted hit-and-run operations on both the Covenant and the UNSC, amassing various amaments and an army made up of many different species. For the most part, the Banished stuck to the fringes of Covenant space, allowing them to survive and thrive while the empire was focused on trying to eliminate humanity.
November 25, 2558 CE (Current Era): The Banished arrive at The Ark
As Cortana's Guardians attacked Earth in late 2558, the UNSC disabled the portal to The Ark on Earth to prevent the Created from getting access to the installation. A month later, the now-stranded UNSC research stations on The Ark were attacked by the Banished, who had acquired coordinates to The Ark through unknown means and had travelled there with slipspace in the faction's flagship, a CAS-class assault carrier called the Enduring Conviction. Though the UNSC security forces there put up a resistance, they were severely outmatched and outgunned by the Banished, and nearly all of the humans at the installation were wiped out within a day. What few survivors there were went into hiding, and their fate is unknown.
March 28, 2559 CE: The UNSC Spirit of Fire arrives at The Ark
In late March in 2559, almost six months after the Banished's arrival at The Ark, the UNSC Spirit of Fire was mysteriously transported to the installation with a slipspace portal with an unknown origin. After over two decades of being in cryostasis, the crew was awoken immediately by a security procedure that the ship's AI, Serina, had put in place before she terminated herself to avoid rampancy. After detecting a UNSC signal coming from the installation, Captain Cutter ordered the Spartan-IIs of Red Team to conduct a reconnaissance mission, hoping to discover information about how the war against the Covenant had gone as well as find out what The Ark was.
Spartan Red Team escapes the wrath of the Banished by the skin of their teeth, but Alice is left behind.
The Spartans touch down on The Ark and discover signs of the battle that had occurred months before, putting them on high alert. Upon following the signal to an abandoned research station, they discover Isabel, a logisitical AI that survived the Banished's initial attack on The Ark. She warns them to leave immediately, but the Spartans choose to retrieve her and continue searching the structure. Suddenly, a massive Jiralhanae comes out of the shadows — Atriox — and begins brawling with the three Spartans head on. Though the Spartans score a few hits, Atriox ultimately knocks Douglas-042 unconscious, prompting the Spartans to retreat from him and return to their recon Warthog. As they flee, Banished forces pursue, and Red Team requests that the Spirit of Fire launch missiles on their position in an attempt to ward off the enemy. This artillery strike was somewhat successful, but it had not completely thrown the Banished off their tail. After reaching a light bridge, Alice-130 activated it and chose to hold off the remaining pursuers while the other two Spartans of Red Team drove across it, evacuating by Pelican.
On the Spirit of Fire, Isabel meets Captain Cutter and explains what The Ark is and what has happened since the Spirit of Fire was last in contact with the rest of the UNSC, and she also implores him to retreat, as she feels the Banished are unstoppable and has watched them kill all of her friends. However, Cutter and the crew of the ship resolve to stand up to the Banished and fight, as if they somehow are able to use The Ark to fire the Halo rings, the universe would be cleansed of all life.
Fighting the Banished on all fronts
After making the decision to fight the Banished instead of run from them, Captain Cutter ordered Spartan Jerome and a force of Marines to assault a Banished base and halt the salavage operations happening near it. They did so, clearing space for a forward-operating base for the UNSC. Though the Banished made several attempts to destroy it, the Spirit of Fire's ground forces held the location and forced Atriox's right-hand man, Decimus, to retreat. In the aftermath of the battle, the UNSC discovered a piece of data that pointed towards The Ark's Cartographer. Isabel informed everyone that the Cartographer was an extensive catalog of The Ark's terrain, locations, and systems, and that the crew should move to take it from the Banished.
Professor Anders discovered that the Banished were using portals to transport their forces around The Ark.
The Spirit of Fire's troops began the push for the Cartographer, battling through Banished lines and taking note of the fact that The Ark's Sentinels were hostile to both themselves and the Banished. Eventually, the UNSC reached the Cartographer and tried to enter it by deactivating its shields, but a massive army of Sentinels was deployed by The Ark's systems to stop them. Thankfully, Professor Ellen Anders and Isabel had been working on an EMP weapon to deploy against the Sentinels, and when they used it here, it was extremely effective, disabling the Forerunner security. Professor Anders then realized after evaluating the Cartographer's data that the Banished were utilizing portals to transport their forces.
Meanwhile, Spartan Alice had managed to escape from the Banished following the initial reconnaissance mission, and reestablished contact with Captain Cutter. Cutter ordered her to free Marine prisoners from the Banished and begin conducting hit-and-run operations against them all over the installation.
The Enduring Conviction enters the fray
Spartans Jerome, Douglas (who had recovered from his injuries) and a large force of infantry and armored vehicles began an assault on the control system for The Ark's portal network, aiming to cut off the Banished's access to the system, eliminating one of their biggest advantages. This attack was successful, and though Atriox's second-in-command Decimus attempted to kill all of the soldiers in a last stand, he met his end. Following this, Atriox chose to use the Banished's assault carrier, the Enduring Conviction, to attack the Spirit of Fire directly.
Professor Anders had come up with a plan to launch a Halo ring that was found in The Ark's foundry, de-arm its firing mechanism, and attach a comms beacon to it so that when the Forerunners' automated systems moved it into position to replace Installation 04, nearby UNSC personnel might pick up the signal. Unfortunately, though, the threat of the assault carrier meant that the plan had to be put on hold. Severely outmatched and outgunned, Captain Cutter knew that the Spirit of Fire couldn't win in a one-on-one fight with the Enduring Conviction. Thankfully, Isabel came up with an idea: use a Forerunner particle cannon located on The Ark to knock out the vessel's shields, and then board the ship, take over its systems, and use its weapons to damage The Ark, causing armies of Forerunner Sentinels to destroy it.
Isabel's hatred of the Banished fueled her drive to bring about the destruction of the Enduring Conviction.
Alice linked back up with the rest of Red Team, and after successfully capturing, defending, and firing the particle cannon enough to destroy the ship's shields, Jerome and Isabel boarded the ship through its gravity lift while the UNSC forces pulled back. Jerome then battled his way through several Banished soldiers before eventually finding a place to insert her into the Enduring Conviction's network. After gaining access to the ship's plasma projector system, Isabel fired it continuously, fueled by her desire for vengeance against the Banished, who had killed all of her friends. As Isabel predicted, The Ark's Sentinel armies responded to the threat. The Forerunner constructs suicidally crashed themselves into the vessel en-masse to the point where they completely cut it in half, destroying it. As the Enduring Conviction fell apart, Jerome and Isabel managed to escape and return to the Spirit of Fire.
The battle for Installation 09
With the Enduring Conviction defeated, Professor Anders was finally able to complete her plan to launch the Halo ring that was discovered on The Ark, known as Installation 09. However, the Banished were able to reach it first by hi-jacking access portals that The Ark's Sentinels were using to teleport to the ring so they could protect it. The Banished then formed a vehicular blockade around this access point to prevent the UNSC from using it. However, thanks to the firepower of a Scarab that Douglas managed to board and capture, the UNSC was able to break through, deploying their own forces on the surface of the Halo ring. As the UNSC, Banished, and Sentinels engaged in a viscious three-way war for the installation, Professor Anders was able to hack into and control a deadly Retriever Sentinel, which she used to disable a shield that the Banished placed around the ring's Control Room. Then, she got to work disabling the firing system and installing the comms beacon while the UNSC defended her position.
Professor Anders swiftly killed the Banished forces on the ring by jettisoning the land they were standing on into space.
The Banished continued to intensify their... Assault on the Control Room (get it?), but fortunately for the UNSC, they were able to ward off the attacks long enough for Professor Anders to successfully disarm the ring's firing mechanism and install a comms beacon. Then, after gaining control of the ring's other systems, she shot the pieces of land that the Banished forces were standing on into the vacuum of space, killing all of them instantly. Their mission complete, the Spirit of Fire's personnel began to evacuate and return to the ship, intending to continue the war over The Ark with Atriox and his Banished. Unfortunately, Professor Anders was unable to reach the evacuation craft before Installation 09 was launched into slipspace by The Ark's systems.
Despite the loss of Professor Anders, Captain Cutter and the rest of the Spirit of Fire resolved to keep the fight up against the Banished. Atriox, meanwhile, brooded over his recent defeats in anger, no doubt planning a way to strike back at the humans. And perhaps most worrying of all, Installation 09 was forcibly ripped out of slipspace by one of Cortana's Guardians, leaving Professor Anders' fate uncertain...
Your thoughts... and an author's note
What do you think of the plot of Halo Wars 2? Do you think it will end up tying into Halo Infinite in an interesting way? Let me know what you think.
I also wanted to take a moment to clarify that this is, for now, the final Halo timeline article being written until Halo Infinite comes out. The plot of Halo Wars 2 marks where the major story beats of the franchise have stopped for now, so until Halo Infinite arrives, there won't be any more story for me to summarize.
I hope this series has been helpful to you, and I look forward to continuing it come Holiday 2020. Until then, though, I'll be taking a nap in a cryo pod.
Wake me when you need me.
Great Halo games
All the greatest Halo games are available now on Xbox and are heading to PC too throughout 2019 and beyond.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection ($30 at Microsoft)
The Master Chief Collection is a fantastic game that lets you experience the entirety of Master Chief's saga in one convenient package.
Halo Wars 2 ($40 at Microsoft)
Halo Wars 2 is arguably the best real-time strategy title on Xbox One, offering players a wealth of incredibly satisfying, Halo-themed content.
Halo 5: Guardians ($20 at Microsoft)
Halo 5: Guardians is the latest Halo first-person shooter title, and it's got plenty of good content within that most players will have a good time with.
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