Back to the Ark – The Power of Halo Wars 2’s Setting

WARNING – Contains minor spoilers for the opening of Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2 is here, and with it comes the long-awaited continuation of the story of the UNSC Spirit of Fire and her crew. Awoken from cryo-sleep nearly 30 years after the events of Halo Wars, Captain Cutter and his fellow soldiers have returned to a galaxy which has changed enormously since they left Shield World 0459 and were declared “lost with all hands”. The Human-Covenant War has come to an end, the Flood have been eradicated, the Didact almost wiped out all life on Earth, a new Covenant threat has emerged and Cortana has raised an army of Created to establish a new galactic order and, apparently, peace.

What humanity didn’t know was that, whilst all this took place, a whole new diabolical threat had been amassing – The Banished. General Atriox and his army of Banished warriors turned against the Covenant after being used as cannon fodder and ended up becoming something else entirely. Now the Covenant is gone and all record of this sect have been lost, nobody knew what was going to hit them when The Banished invaded the Ark and set up camp there with a formidable force of ferocious warlords.

Without a clue what sort of world they’ve returned to, the Spirit of Fire’s crew is then thrown feet-first into hell (pun intended) as the colossal Lesser Ark comes into view and the new Banished threat emerges. This crew has no knowledge of Halo, the Ark, the state of the war with the Covenant, and could well have been all that remained of the UNSC, but without fear they put boots on the ground to investigate, discovering Isabel and through her, the knowledge to more-or-less bring them up to speed on the last 28 years.

Now knowing that they are standing on an installation with the power to eradicate all life in the galaxy, and are up against a force that even the Covenant couldn’t put down at the height of their power, the Spirit of Fire is faced with a terrible choice. Severely out-manned and technologically inferior to the magnitude of thirty years, do they flee and attempt to find a way home, or face this monstrosity head-on before the Banished realise the power they hold? Of course, there was only one choice, and it is the conviction that drives their decision to stand and fight which defines the heroes of Halo Wars 2.

Why is the setting such a powerful tool in Halo Wars 2? The return to such a significant location, with a brand new threat on the horizon (literally) is a massive leap for storytelling in the Halo universe. The Ark is one of the most dangerous installations in the galaxy, and Halo Wars 2 puts one of the most dangerous and bloodthirsty foes we’ve ever seen right on its doorstep. Up against this behemoth of an enemy? A single support ship with no Slipspace drive, a crew already decimated by their conflict in Halo Wars, and 28 years of missed technological advancements…

The beauty of Halo Wars 2’s story premise is that it gets to again show us what fans have been calling for since Halo’s inception – a game that shows the struggles and determination of the everyday soldiers – the Marines, officers and commanders of the UNSC. This is a true underdog story of ordinary heroes and their courage in the face of all odds, and the setting allows for a truly contrasting experience to the superhero-saves-the-day stories we’ve grown accustomed to through the visor of the Master Chief.

They may have gone MIA in the midst of a war for the survival of their species, but compared to the state of the galaxy they’ve returned to in 2559, it looks like the Spirit of Fire and her crew were just getting started….

“Let’s see what kind of galaxy we woke up to…”

What do you think of the setting in Halo Wars 2? What’s your favourite Halo setting?

Let us know on the forums or discuss on Discord!