Top 5 Favorite Enemy Factions in “Doctor Who”

     It has been a while since I’ve written anything on “Doctor Who” so I decided to explore my favorite enemy factions the Doctor has faced. I’ll be pulling from some enemies who have appeared in both classic and modern who and will not be choosing individual entities like The Master, Davros or The Great Intelligence. My primary focus with this list is focusing on civilizations and exploring their appeal to me. It feels wonderful to write about all of this again as I enjoy both eras of “Doctor Who” and for me one of the greatest draws has always been the alien civilizations that have been created through the years and how sometimes they are used to reflect aspects of humanity or the Doctor in their missions. I have not read any of the “Doctor Who” books or listened to any of the audiodramas and am just pulling from episodes I have seen from both Classic and Modern “Doctor Who.” For popular enemies who did not make this list I’ll give a shout-out to the Sontarans and Cybermen who have unique cultures but at least in the case of Cybermen are often used by other people as minions. The Time Lords also did not make this list as more often than not they act largely as corrupt humans when they are antagonists. So without further ado, here is my list.

BBC - Doctor Who - The Weeping Angels are back

5th) The Weeping Angels

     First up, in 5th place are the Weeping Angels. They first appeared in “Blink,” during the Russel T. Davies era of the show and were created by Stephen Moffat. There initial introduction presented them as the compassionate assassins. The basic deal with the angels is the they transport you back into the past and feed off your potential energy that was left behind. Beyond their need to eat they aren’t that complex and we haven’t seen any hierarchy among them. It is for this reason that they are not higher on the list. They function as a monster faction but are unique monsters as they appear as statues when you look at them. Later episodes like “Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” played them primarily up as the monsters simply wishing to feed and didn’t even use the time travel aspect, though there was a return to the time travel assassin nature once more in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” If they are to be brought up again I hope we see more complexity in their culture as they continue to be a fascinating threat, even if later episodes after “Blink” did dumb them down immensely. They have faced off against the 10th and 11th Doctor thus far in the show so there are still stories that could be told in future iterations or even Anniversary events where multiple Doctors could be present.

Doctor Who' Rogues Gallery: The Silence | Anglophenia | BBC America

4th) The Silence

The Silence are an enemy who has so far only faced the 11th Doctor. Originally created as genetically engineered priests made to take confessions for the Papal Mainframe a faction of them broke off and sought to end the Doctor in order to save the universe. This faction is creepy and a great threat as anyone who interacts with them forgets them when they stop looking at them. These enemies were created by Stephen Moffat and have so far only appeared during his era of modern “Doctor Who.” Unlike the angels who got dumbed down, this faction never reached the height of fear in their first introduction in “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” but did remain a consistent complex threat. In Series 6 the Kavorian Faction shows up at the beginning and end and each time brings tensions as the heroes mark how when they see with tally on their skin. This is a faction I still see promise in, as they did fight with the Doctor in the terrible final “The Time of the Doctor” so there is more that could be done with them as either friend or foe. The fact that you forget them when you look away still leaves them ripe for story, and who knows how their culture could change over time and how they might find identity outside of the one placed upon them by the Papal Mainframe.

3rd) The Daleks

The Daleks are one of the most common and popular enemies in “Doctor Who.” This is a faction dedicated to the destruction of anyone who isn’t them and are mutants from Skaro created by the mad scientist Davros. The Daleks have been in countless episodes of “Doctor Who” and first appeared facing off against the 1st Doctor and have even faced off against the most recent 13th Doctor too. Over the years the most interesting things that have been done with are Civil Wars for leadership such as the Emperor Dalek, Supreme Dalek and Davros as the many leaders of factions and have even had moments of humanity in the modern era. I highly recommend “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek” as great examples of the Dalek’s potential for exploration beyond their drive to exterminate. The reason they aren’t higher on the list is due to the fact that they we got complex political machinations for power grabs the Daleks never grow beyond their superiority. They have individual episodes of complexity but as a faction are unable to get beyond power grabs and their original design. Still, they are popular and have continued to be used through Classic and Modern “Doctor Who” that I suspect we may get that complexity in the future.

2nd) The Zygons

The Zygons are a group of survivors. First introduced during Tom Baker’s run as the 4th Doctor these aliens first sought to conquer Earth after learning their planet was destroyed. These metamorphic aliens are able to shapeshift and infiltrate societies and their technology is all organic. They failed in their initial invasion and wouldn’t appear again until the 50th Anniversary Special “The Day of the Doctor.” It is in “The Day of the Doctor” where they are attempting to invade again until the Doctors (War, 10 and 11) forces a peace with Earth and they take human form and part of human society. This is until a faction wants to live as Zygons again and we get “The Zygon Invasion” and  the “The Zygon Inversion.” The 12th Doctor once again forces a peace (and gives the best Doctor speech on the horrors of war, Capaldi is one of my favorite Doctors and is amazing) but I’m curious where things are going to go from here. The Zygons are refugees whose culture has been subsumed by humanity and they cannot even be themselves to a degree from all that they see. I hope that is explored further as they are a species without a home and easily one of the craftiest factions the Doctor has faced and the faction that has now forced humanity to face it’s propensity for war twice that we know of. They have such a cool design and it is when their organic technology and diversity of thought is on display that really makes them stand out to me. They almost made my number 1 but didn’t because they are so often presented in the human shifted form and sadly have been forced to live in that form now for most of their time since returning to the show. They were also used as joke in “The Day of the Doctor” which also hurt where I placed them on the list.

1st) The Ice Warriors 

The Ice Warriors like the Zygons is a species of survivors. They were once a huge empire but when we meet them for the first time during the 2nd Doctor, they are introduced as the last of their species as their home planet Mars is now dead. Like the Zygons those thawed out of the ice try to conquer Earth and are stopped. We do not see them again until the modern era and the 11th Doctor’s “Cold War” where we see an ice warrior out of it’s mechanical suit held hostage on a Russian submarine. This species is dangerous in combat and in “Cold War” takes out any threat against it until the Doctor eventually reasons with it and it is rescued by a remaining Ice Warrior ship. We see them once more in “Empress on Mars” where like “Cold War” they are facing off against humans. Their Empress does not trust and it takes a lot of death, before there is finally peace. Unlike the Zygons who are forced to look like humans the Ice Warriors always stay as they are when peace is formed and there is so much more power in that as they are a unique culture. This culture is one built around a hierarchy, honor and an Empress as the leader. I have yet to watch a bad story with them and the episodes they appear in are some of my favorite of “Doctor Who.” I hope to see them in more stories as the complexity of diplomacy and finding peace has been illustrated beautifully with them twice.

That is my list. If you have one of your own I’d love to read them in the comments. This was fun to do as it has been quite some time since I’ve written about “Doctor Who.”

Halo 3: A Great Ending to an Amazing Trilogy that Builds on the Prior Games

Halo 3 - GameSpot

  “Halo 3” brings a finality to the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant and Flood and explores Master Chief and Cortana’s relationship further as we are given a game that has the apocalyptic proportions of the first game and plays tribute to the first game in a lot of the missions you play. This is one of my favorite games as it is a story with stakes and the variety of gameplay and combat is the best it has ever been in this Franchise outside of “Reach.” I still prefer the first game in some ways simply due to the difficulty and Master Chief not being the immortal superhero he is in later games but this is very much a favorite game that I highly recommend.

The game was developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Studios in 2007.

The story picks up where “Halo 2” left off as The Prophet of Truth has landed on Earth and initiated his plans and Master Chief must work with the Arbiter to investigate and stop his plans upon the planet. All the while he is haunted by visions of Cortana.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is the best it has ever been. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori continue to capture the epic nature of this space Opera as Master Chief, The UNSC, the Arbiter and the Elites and Cortana race to save the Universe from the Flood, the Covenant and Guilty Spark.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is the smoothest it has ever been. The vehicles drive better than they ever have. Enemies are challenging and smart and mission variety is fantastic. My favorite missions were dealing with

The Universe – The Haloverse is an amazing sci. fi. universe and all the elements of what I love about it are on display. We have the Covenant Civil War, the Forerunner mythology with the Ark and the Halos, Gravemind and heroes from past games. This is a game that finishes a lot of these stories and completes it a beautiful way.

The Stakes – The stakes are high from the get-go and rise from there. You have Truth and Covenant forces in Africa digging in and actively attacking UNSC forces. This soon rises when Truth and his forces escape into a mysterious portal and the Flood arrives on the scene. From here we arrive on the Ark where a Halo is created and we have the challenge of using it while not bringing about the end of all life as Guilty Spark once again tries to end all life like Truth was doing as all along Gravemind consumes and seeks to survive. The Flood are a flood and once they arrive on the scene they never stop growing and being around as a threat.

The Arbiter and the Elites/Sangheili – The Arbiter is back and works with UNSC and Master Chief until the Elite’s Shipmaster arrives with a fleet to help against the Covenant and the Flood. Both are fantastic characters and give us the tension between humanity and the Elites. We also see that the fleet that came to help doesn’t even know if their homeworld is safe as stopping the Covenant and Flood have been their only priority. This leads them going home with the Arbiter as the implied leader leading the Sangheili into a new destiny no longer controlled by the Covenant.

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind isn’t the final boss but he is up there as it races against time to stop Truth from activating the Rings on the Ark and even makes a temporary alliance with the Arbiter and Master Chief once more to make sure that happens. For much of the game it is seeking to consume and control Cortana but fails as Master Chief gets to her in time. From here we see it defeated at High Charity and make a final stand against them on the new Halo Ring as it seeks to stop the Ring from activating and destroying it. It fails but never stops being a terror throughout the game. The new Flood forms are also more of a challenge too as there are some that can only be hurt in certain areas and the quantity and variety has grown since the first 2 games.

The Prophet of Truth – After betraying the Prophet of Mercy last game Truth is flying high this game. He is successful in most of what he sets out to do (even activating the Ark for “The Great Plan”) and kills Lieutenant Commander Amanda Keyes. He never stops believing in his faith and the challenges he sets against you are some of the funnest missions in the game. When the Arbiter got revenge against him it was really rewarding. Truth was a magnificent bastard and a great villain.

The Ark – The Ark is a forerunner installation that made the rings and could activate them. It has a really cool design like a twisted star and exploring it was a lot of fun. The mystery surrounding it is fascinating too as Guilty Spark even admits that it’s creators hid the existence of the Ark from it.

The Cost – The cost is real in this game. The Elites destroy half of Africa when to stop the Flood infection. Most of the UNSC fleet is destroyed by the Covenant in the initial battle and in the end Lieutenant Commander Amanda Keyes and Sargent Major Avery Johnson are both killed over the course of saving the world. Keyes is killed by Truth and the Covenant while Johnson is killed by Guilty Spark. I felt those deaths as we really got to know those 2 characters over the past games. In the end their sacrifices help save the Universe. There are also all those consumed by the Flood who perished and Cortana and Master Chief are Missing In Action in an unknown part of the Universe.

The Cons:

Cortana and Master Chief Moments – Master Chief and Cortana have a real strange relationship from 2 and through 3, at least as it is presented in game. It is almost romantic but Cortana says things to him that sound like things his kidnapper and maker Dr. Halsey would have said to him. Dr. Halsey is part of her program (Thank you “Reach” for telling us that) so in a way they have both been scarred and wronged by her and both follow the programming she put upon them but that element isn’t really delved into. Master Chief is effectivly a super hero who can’t get hurt and Cortana is the one you are saving and after the one with you and the Arbiter who is saving the Universe. The Dr. Halsey but romantic elements are my biggest issue with the writing, which stands out even more as Cortana is the narrator who starts the game and Master Chief’s last words when they are trapped alone at the end of the game is to wake him up if she needs him. The weird romantic chemistry doesn’t go away. I wish them being survivors of Dr. Halsey and trauma had been explored more as that I think connects them more than anything else, but we don’t know that about Master Chief in-game so all we’re left with are the strange romantic elements. The other issue is how Master Chief continues to be untouchable and unkillable as the game starts out with him falling from the sky and waking up fine. This was an issue in 2 that 3 continues and really the whole romantic element between Chief and Cortana started in 2 so that is where my problems with 3 really come from.

Rating “Halo 3” versus the original is tough as 3 takes a lot of the best parts of 1 and builds on them. We have a variety of missions and gameplay. The lore is delved into where there wasn’t much lore in the first game. Really the biggest issue with 3 is how Master Chief is a super hero so it is hard for me to feel he is ever at risk. This game has the narrative flow of the first game and all of the missions are really fun and challenging. For me the only reason I would not rate it above 1, even though the graphics and gameplay are improved is the fact that 1 did it first and the problems from “Halo 2” in regards to Master Chief and Cortana do carry over where they didn’t exist in 1. This is still a fitting end for the series and the Master Chief and Cortana story as it ends how it begins. A Spartan in stasis to be awoken once more when the universe needs saving.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10 One of my favorite games in this Franchise.

 

 

Halo 2: Anniversary – Great Lore Caught in the Center of a Trilogy

Halo 2: Anniversary PC | Halo: The Master Chief Collection - YouTube

  “Halo 2” is another of the “Halo Series” I played back in High School but didn’t have the chance to beat until I bought the “Master Chief Collection” when it came out for PC. This game improves on the gameplay from the first game and adds a ton of lore (a lot of which is to explain the events of the first game) and overall it is good. The things that bring it down are some of the cliche story elements, some of the added story from “Halo 5” and the fact that it is clearly the middle of a Trilogy storywise so the ending isn’t as complete as it could be. Either way, if you enjoyed the first game and are invested in the lore like me this one is well worth your time.

The game was Published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Bungie, Blur Studio and Certain Affinity.

The story follows Master Chief who has returned to Earth when the Prophet of Regret of the Covenant attacks Earth. At the same time Thel ‘Vadam the Elite Commander who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo is made into the Arbiter as he begins to learn more about the internal politics of the Covenant and the truth behind the faith they follow.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematics – Blur Studio has created some of the best looking cinematics I have seen in any game. The Anniversary edition gives us movie level quality between missions and crafts some fantastic drama that fully captures the unique design of the Covenant species, the epicness of the ships and the personalities within the individual characters on screen.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack once again captures the epic nature of the events you are taking place in. This time it does some in a hard rock fashion, which I thought would be distracting but still work really well and gave an apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes. The sounds from Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the original game with Kazuma Jinnouchi using it in the new edition is simply handled beautifully.

The Gameplay – The gameplay does nothing but improve upon the first game. Vehicles are easier and actually fun to control. You can dual wield guns and you have the energy sword that is absolutely deadly, fantastic and fun.

The Covenant – The Covenant story is the most compelling part of “Halo 2.” Within the game we get to see the power struggle between the Prophets (Regret attacks Earth early in order to bring about the Great Journey and become a God) ends in failure and Truth lets Mercy be devoured by the Flood on their Capital of High Charity when the Flood invade. He also starts the Civil War by blaming the Elite’s for Regret’s death and being a major reason for the Brutes ascending to Honor Guards. This Civil War is what dominates the narrative and the historical records we get from the Terminals are fascinating as the Prophets go into how they came to dominate different species and brought them into the Covenant.

Tartarus and the Brutes -Tartarus and the Brutes are the new antagonist in the game as we see them become the new Honor Guard in the Covenant. They are large, gorilla-like aliens that take a lot of hits and can go into Berserk mode when enraged. Their leader Tartarus is clever too as he uses the Arbiter to get Guilty Spark to the Prophets and nearly succeeds in achieving Truth’s goals. They are a fantastic threat and were really fun to fight. After “Halo Wars 2” and the Banished faction it was really cool to see their origin in the Covenant and the Brute’s rise to power in this game.

The Prophets – The Prophets are one of the fascinating antagonists of the game. Regret acts quickly and ends up defeated by Master Chief and consumed by Gravemind and the Flood. Mercy is attempting to keep Harmony among the different species that make up the Covenant and Truth is ego and power and only sees others as means to an end. In the end he outmaneuvers the others, causes a Covenant Civil War and is on his way to Earth to activate the Ark and bring about “The Great Journey” which he believes will bring about his ascension to Godhood. This game made me appreciate the Prophets as antagonists.

File:H2A - Gravemind.png

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind is this lovecraftian horror made up of all the minds it has consumed. It is ancient and extremely intelligent as it uses Master Chief and the Arbiter as weapons against High Charity to weaken it’s defenses enough for it to invade. At the end of the game he has control over Cortana as well giving him control of the Forerunner technology, the Covenant (The Prophet Regret and probably Mercy at this point) and Cortana for humanity. It is extremely creepy and scary and the design for this being is nightmare fuel.

Attack on High Charity – One of the funnest parts of the game is the Attack on High Charity. Gravemind warps the two of them to the Capitol City of the Covenant as they seek to stop Tartarus from activating the Halo Ring and the Prophet of Truth from reaching the Ark. Tartarus is stopped but the Prophet of Truth escapes and in the chaos and destabilization of the Capitol City the Flood take hold and you witness their consuming of the installation over the course of both missions. It is horrifying as you witness a Civil War in real time when Truth blames the Elites for Regret’s death and call for their annihilation and of course the horror as the Flood arrive and consume. This whole segment is really fun to play and keeps the stakes high in a way the original game kept consistent throughout.

Betrayals – This is a game full of betrayals. Regret betrays Truth and Mercy when he attacks earth Early who in turn betray him. Tartarus and the Prophets betray the Arbiter have her gets them Guilty Spark and the Prophets betrays the Elites. On top of this Gravemind uses and betrays the Arbiter and Master Chief, though I doubt they ever trusted the creature at any point.

Thel ‘Vadam the Arbiter – Keith David is absolutely amazing voice the Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam. Vadam was the Elite who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo in the first game and is punished for it, being made the Arbiter which the Covenant have turned into their enforcer to send on impossible missions. His arc is realizing that all he learned about was a lie and in turn becomes a leader among his people when the Covenant turns on them. He is also the first to reach out to humanity after he defeats Tartarus and prevents the newly discovered Halo from being activated. This a character with self-hatred who finds his dignity once more and never stops fighting or caring about his people.

File:H2A-Arbiter&Co.jpg

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief and Cortana are at the point where they can nearly predict what the other will do. They are the perfect fighting team so this game works hard to seperate them as in the end the only way to save the world is for Master Chief to get onto the Prophet of Truth’s ship while Cortana stays behind on the Covenant homeworld of High Charity as it is consumed by the Flood and she is captured by Gravemind.

Sargent Avery Johnson and Commander Miranda Keyes – Sargent Johnson and Commander Keyes are alright. Sargent Johnson has the “devil may care’ attitude and somehow survived the first game (2 only addresses as classified, which is lazy). Commander Keyes’s father Captain Keyes is the Captain consumed by the Flood in the first game and here she carries on his legacy in the fight against the Flood and Covenant. Like Cortana and Master Chief they never get out of the tropes but they were compelling enough to keep me involved.

The Cons:

Damsels to be Saved – Commander Avery is captured by the Brute leader Tartarus and it is up to Master Chief and Sargent Johnson to save her. Cortana is captured by Gravemind at the end of the game too. This is a shame as before this both characters have a lot of agency and drive the action. It is only turned around at the end the Bowser equivalents of the game capture them.

A Story Caught in the Middle of a Series – One of the biggest things that goes against the narrative and wonderful story we are given is the fact that it ends on a Cliffhanger so things can be concluded in “Halo 3.” Gravemind has captured Cortana and High Charity, The Prophet of Truth is going to the Ark on Earth (with Master Chief on board) and plans to activate the Halos to end the Universe and the Arbiter teams up with Johnson and Keyes. These are huge hanging threads which leaves the game feeling incomplete, unlike the first “Halo.”

The Added Content from “Halo 5” – There is an added scene at the beginning of the Arbiter talking to new Spartan who is hunting for Master Chief and it sets up the game as him recounting the story. I wasn’t a big fan of this as it took away of the stakes of the narrative of any major character being at risk. At this point the Arbiter and Master Chief are both confirmed alive at the beginning of the game. This hurt the stakes immediately.

Master Chief Rides a Bomb – Master Chief becomes God Level at this point and I was no longer afraid of him ever being truly at risk. He rode a disarmed bomb and destoryed a Covenant carrier and landed safely on an UNSC. The first “Halo” had nothing like this so within the game it still felt like Master Chief could get hurt or experience pain. After this act of insanity that he walks away from untouched he ceased having any kind of vulnerability.

The greatest parts of this game are the stories that come out of the Covenant. The Civil War that arises where we have Arbiter and the Elites with Hunters and Grunts on their side facing against the Prophets, Brutes, Jackals and Drones. The politics and how compalling Thel ‘Vadam’s arc is is what made the story work. The human story when Master Chief isn’t doing the impossible is fine but it never elevates itself. The characters are never as complex as the heroes and villains that make up the races of the Covenant and that is why I can’t rate the game higher. As an experience it is very well done and I still highly recommend it, especially the “Anniversary Edition.” This is a beautiful, fun and compelling game and I look forward to when “Halo 3” is released on PC within the “Mater Chief Collection.”

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 The human story never reaches the height of the Covenant story and the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger setting up “Halo 3” and the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant brings it down from feeling complete and from being rated higher.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – Still A Great Space Opera and Introduction to an Awesome Universe

Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary HD Wallpaper | Combat evolved ...

“Halo” is a game that I played multiple times growing up, but never had the chance to complete until now. I remember playing it at friend’s houses in High School and College and each time found myself fully drawn and involved in whatever mission we’d do or if we’d start from the beginning. This is game is an epic space opera and the simple mystery and story serves it so well. The gameplay also holds up after all these years and the A.I. being strategic leads to some wonderful challenges during the missions. Without going into spoilers, this is a game that has been out for years and is one I highly recommend. I bought the “Master Chief Collection” on Steam and the Anniversary version of “Halo” gives you the fascinating option of tabbing between the original graphics that look like they are from an N64 in quality to the more beautiful modern graphics today. If you are a fan of shooters and science fiction games I’d say this one is well worth a buy.

The original “Halo” was made in 2001 with Microsoft releasing the “Anniversary” version in 2011. The “Anniversary edition was developed by 343 Industries and Saberinteractive, with Bungie, Gearbox Interactive and Westlake Interactive developing the original game with the publisher being Microsoft Studious and Macsoft.

The story follows Master Chief when he is awoken from cryosleep when the retreating United Nations Space Command (UNSC) ship Pillar of Autumn stumbles upon a mysterious Halo. From here Master Chief and Cortana must uncover the mysteries surrounding the Halo and what the enemy Covenant forces are seeking upon it.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay still holds up to this day. The enemies react and think strategically, with Elites jumping and dodging and the grunts who follow them panicking. There are also the Hunters who can only be hurt by being shot in the back and Flood who have multiple weapons and attack in hordes. You can use Covenant weapons and vehicles and the play very different from UNSC vehicles and weapons. The mission progression forces you to learn and get good with all of these things and rewards you for well done tactics against them. The game is so much fun.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack one of the best in any videogame. It has this gothic operatic feel to it that gives you the stakes and how epic the war to save humanity is. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori truly created a beautiful masterpiece. I’ve used this soundtrack in the past for creative writing it inspires so.

The Universe – This a fantastic universe we are introduced to. We have humanity on the run but still fighting against the larger Covenant forces that are seeking to wipe them out. Along with this we get the mystery of the Halo and with it the Forerunners and the Flood and hints at a greater world that we are a part of. I’m a huge fan of this universe and finally finishing the game that started it all showed me where it all began.

The Covenant – The Covenant as they are presented in this game are an Alliance of aliens seeking to annihilate humanity. They have advanced technology and are seeking power to end the war. I loved fighting them. The Elites have cloaked units, can ride vehicles and command Jackels (snipers) and Grunts (the main ground soldiers) against you as well as fielding large creatures called the Hunters who travel in packs of 2. When the Flood are released they are in the same boat as you as the Flood overwhelm both the Human and Covenant forces on the Halo.

The Flood – The Flood are a parasitic species who turn their hosts into zombies and seek to consume all life. They are so creepy and I loved their horror movie introduction and the fact that they send so many at you with such a variety of weapons that you need to always be moving in order not to get overwhelmed. This game is full of apocoylptic threats to Humanity…from the Covenant, to Guilty Spark and the purpose of the Halos and the most horrifying unending Flood.

The Mystery of the Halo – The Halo function a lot like the Reapers in “Mass Effect.” They are there to wipe out all organic life so that the Flood will not win as all it takes is one flood in order to spread and when they spread they cannot stop…so the Forerunner plan was to starve them and ending all life was the way to do so. We see this all through Master Chief and Cortana’s eyes as they learn about the truth of the Halo along with us. This was great storytelling and part of what makes the game work so well.

343 Guilty Spark – Guilty Spark is an A.I. who in has lost all contact with the other Halos. You get the idea it’s gone a little made in the time it has been and all it really has is the program and activating the Halo if the Flood ever becomes free. Guilty Spark is very matter of fact even while doing devastating experiments and even has nostalgia at the time before during the Forerunners, which you can listen to at Terminals. It really is a fascinating character and I liked the twist that in the end it was the main antagonist, not the Flood or Covenant who had been the main threats through most of the game.

The Rising Stakes and Ending – This movie has consistent rising stakes and in the end all the people Master Chief was trying to protect are destroyed by the Covenant, Flood or when Master Chief and Cortana destroy the Halo. The universe is saved but it costs everything. I felt that and the game handles the rising stakes so well. You begin saving squads to bring the fight to the Covenant but then your Squad releases the Flood and eventually they consume your boss Captain Keyes and most of the UNSC forces. Even at the end the dropship coming to save you is shot down by Covenant Banshees leaving you to make a last minute escape out of the Pillar of Autumn before you blow up the core and prevent Guilty Spark from activating the Halo.

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief is alright. I appreciate how sassy Cortana is to him but I don’t know his motivation beyond the mission or why he was in cryosleep. They care about the crew and their fellow soldiers but I feel like the relationship could have been developed further. These were two minds that needed to depend fully on one another to destroy the Halo and stop Guilty Spark from destroying all life in the Universe. Again, they weren’t bad but the relationship was pretty basic compared to Jack and BT in “Titanfall 2.”

The Cons:

Defining Enemy Leadership – We have the Flood and the Covenant but in the first game we don’t really learn much about who are what they are or who leads them. We know both are aliens and the Flood are all about consuming everything but Guilty Spark has way more definition and clear goals than either forces. I know this gets rectified in 2 but if Halo 2 had never been made and this is how the world had ended the game would feel underwritten here. They all still feel like a threat and the stakes continue to rise, but I wanted more world building in this game. We see everything through Master Chief’s eyes but besides Cortana and Guilty Spark not many people answer his questions or give him information beyond the mission.

This is one of my favorite games and it does still hold up after all these years. If you are a fan of first-person shooters, epic science fiction space operas and want an introduction to one of my favorite science fiction universes you should check out this game. This game is a classic and was Microsoft’s way of selling their game systems for good reason. I look forward to beating the rest of the series.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great introduction to this fantastic universe.

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition – A Classic “Halo” Game in the Style of an RTS

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition - Free Full Download | CODEX PC Games

        “Halo Wars” is a solid game in the Halo Franchise. It has all the pros (fun combat, beautiful graphics and a basic hero narrative) and the cons (The heroes aren’t very interesting or deep) of the first “Halo: Combat Evolved.” I really enjoyed the game though. Playing through this campaign and owning of “The Definitive Edition” on Steam gave the graphics at their best and revealed how the combat should be played. My first time playing this game was on the XBox 360 and it sucked, controllers are not good for micromanaging units and it made the whole game go slow. Coming back to it years later and playing it on PC, the experience was so much better. This game was truly made for the PC.

     The game was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios.

The basic story follows the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) Ship Spirit of Fire as they investigate Covenant attacks as they reunite their forces and follow the Covenant as the Covenant uncovers Forerunner Artifacts that could change the direction of the war, that is already going terrible for humanity and the UNSC. Within the Halo Franchise timeline, the game takes place before the original “Halo: Combat Evolved.”

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Graphics and Cinematics – “Halo Wars” is a game that looks beautiful. The cinematics are the quality you see in the Franchise after the original and it does a good job of tying it to the present of those games. Each cinematic is like a movie and in “The Definitive Edition” the details of the units and structures look at least on par with “Starcraft II.” The cinematics tie this to the main Halo Franchise by showing the military hierarchy of the UNSC (with a Captain leading things in this case), the use of A.I. (Serena) to guide UNSC forces and introduction of an Arbiter who is under the command of the Prophet of Regret, one of the Covenant leaders.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is a lot of fun. Resource production is fast which allows you to get a variety of units out quickly, and the A.I. is an intelligent foe and will usually use tactics against you. The variety of missions in the campaign was also a plus. It pushes you to explore all aspects of unit creation and a variety of maps that each provide unique challenges. Like “Starcraft” and “Starcraft II” it knows how to make use of the base game and provide a good time.

The Campaign – The campaign is good a mystery on figuring out what the Covenant are up to. It does a great job raising stakes as each time humans are freed from a planet or we discover where the Covenant have moved a new enemy or weapon appears. Getting the Flood of the UNSC was a especially fun mission and having them as an ongoing threat while dealing with the Covenant as an effective threat was truly enjoyable. There end goal is to activate a powerful Forerunner Fleet in a hidden Shield World. At this point everyone knows what it as stake as ships like this would end humanity quickly. This leads to some amazing missions and battles in the final standoff against Covenant and Flood forces as the UNSC seeks to activate the portal and destroy the Shield World and with it the Forerunner Fleet.

Okay:

The Characters – The characters are okay. Cutter has some good conversations with the A.I. Serena and Anders at least makes the game interesting by being so blinded by wanting to explore Forerunner Artifacts in the middle of a war. Forge even works for the role he plays. None of them were good or even complex though and the Covenant characters don’t receive any development at all.

The Cons:

Lack of Complex Characters or Character Relationships – In the Halo Franchise you usually don’t see complex characters in humanity. They are almost always just badass soldiers and scientists fighting an alien foe that wants to end all things. It is very cut and dry. Thankfully the introduction of the Arbiter in “Halo 2” helped make the Covenant complex as he is a complex character who gets a ton of great development and the game also adds Covenant politics, which develops them as an enemy further. The same goes for “The Banished” characters you meet later in “Halo Wars 2.” Sadly this is more true to the first game and human stories. The Arbiter of this story who gets killed off is just following orders to annihilate humanity and all the humans are just in their roles as soldier or scientist with no greater complex motivation. If there had been even one complex character it would have the potential to make this game great. Sadly this is not the case.

Lack of Playable Flood – The Flood should have been playable. There were enough assets in game that they would have been fun to at least play in Multiplayer. They would have been the Zerg to the Covenant who are Protosslike and the UNSC who are obvious Terrans. This was a major missed opportunity to improve the game and give more choice.

I would have loved a Covenant Campaign in “Halo Wars.” This is game takes place when the Covenant is at their height so there is so much potential there to play politics as a Prophet, or learn the backstory of this Arbiter. Sadly we don’t get any of that, but the overall reveal of the Forerunners and their technology is really cool and that alone makes the game good outside of the great gameplay. I also am a fan of RTS games and had wanted to see a Halo game in this form since the original “Halo: Combat Evolved.” I saw so much potential in the variety of units there could be in the UNSC and the Covenant, and on that the game did not disappoint.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good but not a favorite game. I also would advise to only play it on a PC.

 

 

 

 

Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare – The Ongoing War

   “Halo Wars 2” is one of my favorite games. I have always had a soft spot for RTS (Real-time Strategy) games and this one is one of the best. Besides “Starcraft 2” it is the one I always come back to, especially if it means playing with friends. I’m a huge fan of the Halo Games (1-3, Reach and the first “Halo Wars”) and this game delivers on that lore you get in the Halo Universe. Before I get into spoilers, if you are a fan of RTS games you will probably love this one. The balance is really good between the two factions, the campaign variety is a lot of fun and the story is solidly good. It has also has quite a few fun multiplayer options that give it great replay value. I’ll be reviewing the game up to all that has been released so far (The initial game was released on February 21, 2017), which is currently up to the DLC “Rise of the Nightmare.” I’ll be giving individual scores to campaigns (Base Game, Operation: Spearkbreaker and Awakening of the Nightmare) before my overall assessment of the game itself.

The game was created by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly and produced by Microsoft Game Studios.

This is a game that picks up where “Halo Wars 1” left off following the crew of The Spirit of Fire after they crossed through the portal at the end of the second game. The story follows them as they face off against a new threat for Ex-Covenant Soldiers known as “The Banished.” They are lead by Atriox, a powerful Brute leader who is seeking to take control of The Ark, something so powerful that with control, they would easily capture the Galaxy.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Universe – I am a huge fan of this Universe. I’ve never been the biggest fan of humanity since we don’t really see a diversity of opinion in the games and it is more of a Space Marine defending everything, which is a fun survival game to play, but isn’t compelling as Space Politics. The Universe has so much Space Politics in the Aliens of the Covenant and this game leans in on all of that. We get more lore for the UNSC with the crew of The Spirit of Fire being followed and we get a whole new faction in “The Banished.” Each faction has new heroes we meet and it is great to see them all interact. This Universe clearly isn’t done yet, as you’ll see from the campaign, things are left pretty open so I’m curious to see if “The Banished” are going to be incorporated into “Halo 6.” I love their heroes so it would be cool to see them become a permanent part of the Halo Universe beyond “Halo Wars 2.”

Gameplay and Multiplayer – Multiplayer is a lot of fun. As part of there are weekly and daily missions where you unlock playing cards you can use in Firefight and other multiplayer modes, there is standard multi-player as well and in all of them you have the many Commanders with some being Halo Wars 2 originals like YapYap, Atriox and Isabel and some who are carryover characters from the first Halo Wars like the Arbiter you fight in “Halo Wars 1.” Within standard gameplay you have hero powers you unlock as you progress in the game, like the first “Halo Wars.” Each commander has unique special units and powers as well, which leads to a greater variety of choices and replayability. When you are in a game and you and your friend are co-oping against a great opponent there are some amazing moments of synergy that can be created.

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Halo Wars 2 Main Campaign – The main campaign is fun. It is here we meet Atriox and his “Banished” as well as the new A.I. Isabel, who was with other human’s on the arc before Atriox’s arrival. The story follow Captain Cutter working with Isabel and the Spartans on the ground as they work to push back Atriox’s forces and prevent them from activating a Halo Ring. Captain Cutter, Anders and the UNSC are successful but the final shot is of Atriox watching a map of the Ark, showing us how clearly his forces still own it, even after all the setbacks he’s faced since the UNSC arrival. There is great mission variety and you learn a lot about “The Banished” pretty quick and how they were a Covenant Suicide Squad until Atriox rebelled and proceeded to conquer and recruit through the galaxy.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. Really good for developing the lore but doesn’t feel like a whole story. We have some great arcs like Isabel’s completed, and the gameplay is fun. But besides that it is mostly Atriox’s forces being slowly broken down and his big plan being prevented.

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Operation: Spearbreaker – This DLC follows a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers called Sunray 1-1, as they uncover and stop the plot of a “Banished” Hunter leader named Colony. These missions were easier than the hardest in the base campaign and also not as fun. You are primarily investigating with your troops until you uncover the Forerunner Ship that Colony is trying to activate, than it becomes all out war and becomes more enjoyable as Colony sends all of it’s forces at you. This one is fun but easily the weakest of all the content. I couldn’t tell you the personality of anyone in Sunray and the only interesting character is Colony, but we don’t really get to know it, beyond it being a very smart and clever Hunter.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Solidly enjoyable, but not replayable.

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Awakening the Nightmare – I was a fan of the “Covenant” in Halo Franchise, at least in regards to being a fan of the aliens who made up the Covenant. I was Team Arbiter the moment he was playable in “Halo 2” and “Halo 3” and I’ve wanted to play as the alien factions in Halo Universe for as long I’ve played “Halo” which for me dates all the way back to High School. In “Halo Wars 1” the “Covenant” don’t have a campaign and sadly for much of “Halo Wars 2” they didn’t either, until “Awakening the Nightmare.” For me this was something I’d been waiting for a long time and I was not disappointed. This was challenging gameplay and a really fun story as you have two Brute Brothers (Pavium and Voridus). They are investigating remains of the battle from “Installation 00” from the ending of the “Human-Covenant War” for technology. Voridus being stupid awakens the Flood in his investigation of the dead Covenant ship High Charity after he shuts down the Forerunner Defenses. From here he and his brother Voridus must reactivate the Sentinels and stop the Flood and a Proto-Gravemind from taking over the Ark. Pavium is the smart one who had warned him the first place and holds the line as they end up facing off against The Flood together before a final victory. It is an awesome fight and Pavium is one one of my favorite commanders in multiplayer and Halo Lore. I really hope we see these two brothers again as “The Banished” really need a win against the UNSC, and this mission showed that even against overwhelming odds they are Atriox’s survivors and warriors for a reason.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and finally a “Banished” campaign.

Okay:

Story Consequences – We have had 2 DLCs released as well as the base game but it feels like nothing has happened. Atroix’s forces have continued to lose ground and the UNSC continues to become more powerful but there hasn’t been any real major change. I want to see where this story goes and have characters change in a way that either builds on the Universe further (more than the existence of “The Banished” already does) and leads to some sort of ending. I’m good with that being a peace treaty or something that has Atriox winning for once, but it feels like we have been given so much game but things haven’t changed very much at all beyond status quo of “The Banished” losing ground. What happened to Anders and “The Halo?” Do the Flood exist elsewhere in the Galaxy as a faction? (I’d love them to be playable, even if it was only multiplayer, there should be enough game assets to do so). I put this as okay because I still enjoyed my time with the characters and the campaigns are fun. I’m still holding out for a major “Banished” win and them becoming a major part of the Halo Games moving forward. This story has the potential to not be a repeat of “Halo Wars 1” and not repeating “Halo 1-3.”

The Cons:

Microsoft Issues – To buy the full game it is expensive. The DLC, even when sold discounted isn’t cheap. Some Commanders on their own are nearly $10 and each new DLC, even if it includes commanders usually starts at $20. Given how expensive the base game was for so long that always rubbed me the wrong way. I also wasn’t a fan with how I continue to have issues with connecting online because of the Microsoft Server. It makes me miss the days of old Battle.net and games where you didn’t have to log onto a 3rd Party Account to play a game. Whenever you have to log on you are beholden the problems of whatever is hosting you be it Steam or Microsoft. So yeah the price and Microsoft bugs are major cons that keep the game from being great.

“Halo Wars 2” is one of my favorite games and if you love the Halo Universe, you will probably love it too. I play it on PC and I think that is the way any RTS should be played. Controllers were not made for playing RTS games and I have no idea how anyone does it. I can’t wait to see where Microsoft takes this game and Universe. There is still so much potential there and so much more story to explore. This is a really good game and I continue to play multiplayer with my friends as this wonderful game continues to inspire my passion for the rich lore of the Halo Universe. In the end the pros outway the cons for me and I expect I’ll probably always be coming back to this game. If they release another expansion for this game and give us more “Banished” content, you can expect to see that review on the blog. Their existence got me back into this amazing universe and I’m looking forward to all the stories that can be told.

 

Final Score: 8.8 / 10