Halo timeline: The Fall of Reach and the Pillar of Autumn's escape

A snapshot of the final cutscene of Halo: Reach.
A snapshot of the final cutscene of Halo: Reach. (Image credit: Windows Central)

In the last article, we saw how the UNSC Spirit of Fire and her crew was able to prevent the Covenant from winning the war early.

Complete Halo timeline series

In this article, we're going to fast forward to the war's latter stages, in which the events of Halo: Reach on PC, which just released on Steam and the Windows 10 Store, take place. Though the UNSC believed that the planet Reach was impenetrable, the Covenant would soon teach them just how wrong they were.

July 2552 CE (Current Era): The Covenant prepare to invade

The stealth drives of the SDV-class heavy frigates were instrumental.

The stealth drives of the SDV-class heavy frigates were instrumental.

Using information gained from a tracking device, the Covenant learned of Reach's location and its defense network, which consisted of several Orbital Mass Accelerator Cannon platforms (MACs) and a small home fleet. Opting for stealth, a fleet of several SDV-class heavy corvettes and a CSO-class supercarrier was sent to the system in order to lay the groundwork for the full invasion.

Using cloaking technology, the corvettes snuck past UNSC sensors and began covertly sending down troops. A series of stealth pylons were then constructed on the ground, which allowed the supercarrier to move in-atmosphere similarly undetected. The supercarrier then ferried its own forces to the surface, as well as anti-aircraft emplacements. Their final action was a covert attack on the UNSC's communications network.

The UNSC counterattack

Noticing that communications were down, Spartan NOBLE Team was sent to investigate. Expecting to find a human rebellion, they instead discovered the Covenant's attack force; as NOBLE defeated them and got the relay operational, WINTER CONTINGENCY was declared and Reach immediately put out a call for help to all UNSC vessels. Reinforcements were coming, but not until August 15, almost a month away.

Caught red-handed, the Covenant began engaging the defenders openly. The UNSC armies on the planet were able to successfully destroy the anti-aircraft defenses, which allowed UNSC frigates to move in and lend heavy air support. However, it was now that the CSO-class supercarrier, the Long Night of Solace, revealed itself, completely decimating a UNSC frigate. With its cover blown, it retreated to the edge of the system, outside of the range of planetary defenses.

Using Sabre fighters and the UNSC frigate Savannah, NOBLE was able to capture a Covenant SDV-class heavy corvette, the Ardent Prayer. Removing the Savannah's slipspace drive and bringing it with them on the corvette, the Spartans flew the vessel close to the Long Night of Solace and overloaded the slipspace drive, causing a massive explosion that vaporized the supercarrier's midsection. However, the detonation device jammed, which forced NOBLE-5, or Jorge, to activate it manually, sacrificing himself.

August 2552 CE: The beginning of the end

Halo: Reach artwork.

Covenant ground teams began to pressure the battle-weary military on Reach. (Image credit: Bungie/Microsoft)

Though the destruction of the supercarrier was a victory, it was short-lived, as the first wave of the full invasion force arrived soon after and slipped past the planetary defenses while the UNSC was dealing with the electromagnetic pulse from the slipspace explosion. These ships began to engage Reach's home fleet and bolster the Covenant's ground presence, and since they were in-atmosphere, the Orbital MACs couldn't risk firing on them without friendly casualties.

NOBLE Team would continue to fight the Covenant everywhere they could, though this would ultimately cost NOBLE-2, or Kat, her life. Afterwards, NOBLE-6 was tasked with delivering a fragment of the artificial intelligence Cortana to the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. Meanwhile, the planetary defense network and the recent UNSC reinforcements prepared for the inevitable final wave.

August 30 2552 CE: All hope is lost

Three Covenant fleets — 315 vessels in total — arrived at the edge of the Reach system, opening fire on the Orbital MACs and the 152 UNSC ships that had amassed to guard them. The three repair stations present took the Covenant fleet's opening salvo, allowing the defenders a chance to launch an attack. Between the various MAC rounds, missiles, and other ordnance, the defenders destroyed roughly a third of the opposing force. However, with the repair stations destroyed, they now had a clear shot at the defenses.

The Covenant fired, destroying the majority of the UNSC forces and crippling the defense platforms. With a hole in the defensive line created, dropships began to rapidly deploy to the surface, annihilating the already exhausted UNSC ground forces. As Covenant warships began to glass the planet, NOBLE-6 was able to deliver the Cortana fragment to the docked Pillar of Autumn successfully. Staying behind to man an anti-aircraft gun in order to give the Autumn cover as it escaped, he would ultimately die on Reach.

The Pillar of Autumn, lead by its captain, Jacob Keyes, was able to take advantage of the distracted Covenant ships and flee Reach, Master Chief and the now-complete Cortana in tow. And what they discovered after their randomized slipspace jump would lead to the biggest discovery in UNSC history...

Your thoughts

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.