The most recent batch of Halo media consisted of six books (“Mortal Dictata”, “Broken Circle”, “New Blood”, “Hunters in the Dark”, “Saint’s Testimony” and “Last Light”, one video series (“Halo: Nightfall”) and two PC ports of mobile games. At this point, I just need to watch the Fall of Reach animated series and then I will be ready for Halo 5.
Even though “New Blood” and “Saint’s Testimony” were pretty short, that’s still a lot of reading and it does kind of blur together. Fortunately, either I’m getting more used to reading Halo books or the writing is getting better, because there weren’t any real duds in this most recent batch. I don’t know how many of them are exactly essential to understanding future games, but you could honestly get by with reading Mortal Dictata and Last Light. Hunters in the Dark was pretty good – I was surprised to see Peter David’s name on the cover of a videogame tie-in novel – so that one is probably worth reading as well.
Only read Broken Circle if you really want some more Deep Lore revolving around the Covenant’s early days, and New Blood is the novelization that Halo 3:ODST really didn’t need.
If I was surprised to see Peter David credited on a Halo novel, imagine my utter astonishment in seeing a producer credit for Ridley Scott on Halo: Nightfall, and then seeing Mike Colter – Luke Cage from the Netflix Marvel series – as the lead actor. Apparently Microsoft decided to spend a dollar or two on this, and it turned out really quite well.
I have to say, though, that the various gun designs in the Halo universe look pretty silly when made into props that actors have to actually point at things and make pew pew noises. They have no sights, for one. I think the in-universe explanation is that they don’t need sights because they’re tied into armor HUDs etc, but they still just look like big plastic toys.
As a side benefit of watching Nightfall through the “Halo Channel” Windows 10 app, I got some unlocked cosmetic bits for multiplayer in the Master Chief Collection and in Halo 5. I’m unlikely to ever use any of them because I rarely DO multiplayer, but I’m always impressed with the way Microsoft links one thing to another.
Anyway. Moving on to Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike, two ports of games that were originally released for Windows Phone, where I originally bought them – and where I quickly came to the conclusion that the controls were just not really well suited for my huge thumbs on a relatively small screen. Thankfully, the PC versions let me use a gamepad.
Both of them are top-down twin-stick shooters with campaigns consisting of a few dozen over-in-five-minutes missions, which doesn’t sound particularly impressive when I put it like that, but I was impressed with how much they felt like proper Halo games. I’ll chalk most of that up to the soundtrack and effects – they just SOUND right.
There’s not really any point to playing these for the story – they’re presented explicitly as combat training simulations, so I doubt they’re considered canon in any sense – but I had a lot of fun with both of them. They’re worth playing on their own merits, with the caveat that both of them have some dodgy mobile monetization built-in, in the form of being able to buy power-ups with in-game currency earned through completing missions… OR by just making a small monetary transaction. It’s not mandatory to complete the games, mind you, but gosh it’s helpful if you want to go for gold stars on every level.
I didn’t bother with gold stars on Spartan Assault – the silver and bronze stars I was getting were just fine – but Spartan Strike won’t unlock its final batch of missions unless you get golds on all missions in the first four batches, and I would have been very vexed with Microsoft about this sort of thing in a non-free-to-play game, if it weren’t for some more of that lovely corporate synergy that I mentioned earlier.
Basically, when I logged in to my Xbox Live account in Strike, it looked at my achievements in the Xbox One Halo games and cheerfully handed me a massive stack of currency for each of the campaigns I’d completed in the Master Chief Collection. That was enough to buy the score booster power-up for every mission, which lead to a streak of gold medals with very little effort.
Look on my cheevos, ye mighty, and despair.
Anyway! On to The Fall of Reach series and then Halo 5: Guardians. There are a few books between Halo 5 and Halo Wars 2, and unfortunately our local library has none of them available. I am not sure I’m quite ready to start BUYING Halo novels. I think that might be a rabbit hole there’s no clawing my way back out of.