Why Installation 07 is the perfect setting for Halo Infinite

“It was known as Installation 07. It has become a sacred tomb for millions, though some may still live. I do not know.”

It’s been known since 2018, but we have finally received concrete confirmation: Halo Infinite is set on Installation 07, ‘Zeta Halo.’

While this is a brand-new Halo ring for the games, fans of the expanded universe will no doubt be well-acquainted with it from Greg Bear’s masterful Forerunner Saga.

Let’s delve into the known history of Installation 07, and explore why it’s the perfect setting for Halo Infinite – and the next ten years of Halo.artofcropAs I’ve always seen it, each Halo ring brings something momentous to the story. To use a Halo ring in the mainline games is to bring about a kind of turning point and introduce something brand-new to the universe.

Installation 04 (‘Alpha Halo’) was obviously our introduction to the Halo mythos in 2001, establishing many of the enduring conventions of the series.

Installation 05 (‘Delta Halo’) introduced us to the Gravemind, and served as the battleground for the onset of the Great Schism, the sundering of the Covenant, which led to the alliance between humanity and the Sangheili.

Installation 03 (‘Gamma Halo’) brought in the Composer, the horrific device used to extract human essences to be placed in war machines – the Promethean Knights – in the reawakened Didact’s conquest for the Mantle.

And now, at long last, we’re heading to Installation 07 – ‘Zeta Halo.’

In order to understand the significance of this ring and the potential it represents for the next ten years of Halo, we must first explore its backstory…

(If you’re already familiar with this, then feel free to skip past the next two chapters!)


THIS CURSED WHEEL

ins07
Installation 07, depicted in Halo: Fractures. (Notice anything?)

Installation 07 stands out among the other Halo rings because it’s actually thousands of years older than the rest of them.

Originally, the Forerunners created twelve Halo rings, commissioned by their Builder rate, following the war with ancient humanity where – in the aftermath of this bloody conflict – they learned about the Flood.

This was, in-part, the Builders’ answer to the question of how to deal with the parasite should it one day return to their shores (which eventually, of course, it did).

The original twelve Halos were three times larger than the final seven that we’re familiar with, spanning 30,000 kilometres in diameter. They were also incapable of firing in all directions, instead their primary weapon fired a cone-shaped field.

These rings were part of what’s known as the ‘senescent array’ (senescent meaning ‘the state of being old’); the final seven that were used to silence the galaxy were part of the ‘neoteric array.’

So, if Installation 07 was originally part of this older array of Halo rings, how did it come to be part of the final seven?inf56Like the other Halos, Installation 07 doubled up as a preserve for biological specimens that the Librarian and her Lifeworkers had collected from across the galaxy.

The primary species held here, on this specific ring?

Humans.

Over one-hundred-and-twenty sub-species of devolved humans, numbering in what must’ve been the thousands.

This group of humans were known as the Tudejsa, meaning ‘the people,’ and they were largely let to their own devices – even building cities on the ring.

But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation– er, Flood attacked.

You see, humanity had been spared from total genocide by the Forerunners because they had been led to believe that they had discovered a cure for the Flood.

The humans threw one-third of their population, who had been genetically altered, at the parasite, causing it to retreat outside the galaxy. It seemed that the humans had found a cure, but destroyed all traces of it when they fell to the Forerunners – to deny it to their adversaries.

In reality, this was all part of the Flood’s elaborate trolling effort, to ensure that humanity was preserved and to give the Forerunners a hope to cling to with this supposed cure, before dropping the demoralising bombshell that it was never real.primordiumcoverAs a consequence, the Master Builder sanctioned horrific experiments on the resident human population. They were subjected to the Flood in pursuit of this alleged cure.

These brutal experiments took place in Flood research facilities on the ring, in what the humans called the Palace of Pain (you might’ve heard this come up a lot recently), under the control of Mendicant Bias, who had betrayed the Forerunners to the Flood.

This was also home to a creature that Mendicant had freed from its ancient prison on the old human capital world of Charum Hakkor.

The humans called it the Timeless One. The Didact named it the Primordial.

It named itself the last Precursor, the last of those who created us all.

We have since come to know it as the Gravemind.


UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

primordiumMendicant Bias had been tasked with the interrogation of this entity, only for it to subvert the AI with the Logic Plague – the Flood’s means of affecting (but was not limited to) non-biological intelligences.

We see the dialogues between these two characters in the Terminals scattered throughout Halo 3. Their ‘discussion’ lasted for 43 years and culminated in the Primordial convincing Mendicant that the Forerunners’ violence inflicted upon the galaxy by claiming the Mantle had doomed it to stagnation.

The Flood was their answer, representing the next cosmic stage of evolution.

“our appearance ushered in the beginning of the third great stage of evolution. The first {~} condensation of particles was the result of the inevitable action of strong nuclear force and the creation of stars {~} inevitable action of gravity; so to the self-replicating chemical processes that dictate all disparate {~} In time, we too shall affect change on a universal scale.” [Halo 3, Terminal 3]

Convinced of the Forerunners’ corruption, Mendicant then dedicated all their resources – fleets, weapons, information, and the Halo ring – to the Flood.

The rogue AI later brought Installation 07 to the Forerunner capital, Maethrillian, where the other eleven Halos were gathered for the Master Builder’s trial, after he fired a Halo ring on the San’Shyuum homeworld to put down an uprising.

This was a crime against the Mantle which almost wiped out their entire species, killing every San’Shyuum on the planet and scarring it for millennia. It is part of the reason why the Prophets are as frail as we see them in the games, as the only San’Shyuum left were those who the Librarian had already rescued to be preserved on the Ark.

And this crime was met in kind by Mendicant successfully firing Installation 07, wiping out every Forerunner that hadn’t managed to escape during the cataclysmic battle that preceded this cosmic devastation.

Despite Mendicant’s success, Installation 07 took heavy damage and retreated into a slipspace portal – this was just the beginning of the horror show to come.maethrillian1There are protocols and safeguards in the Halos’ automated systems beyond even the authority of Mendicant Bias – and the Forerunners themselves.

As the Forerunner fleet scrambled to destroy the five Halos that Mendicant was charging to fire on Maethrillian, the rings’ automated defense systems returned fire on the Forerunners, registering their own creators as a threat (a slyly engineered parallel to the Forerunners doing the same to their own creators).

Another of these safeguards put Installation 07 on a self-destructive collision course with a planet – a “wolf-faced moon,” as the humans called it.

“But, if something were to go wrong with one of the Halos, if our tools were ever turned against us… long plans, indeed.” [343 Guilty Spark, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – Terminal 3]

Mendicant Bias appealed to the ‘spirits’ in the Tudejsa, the mental patterns of the ancient humans who had been – as part of another twisted experiment in pursuit of the Flood cure – gathered by the Composer at the end of the Human-Forerunner war and stored in the flesh of their descendants, promising them vengeance against the Forerunners.

The old human spirits agreed to help, which had their devolved hosts ‘melded’ with Flood-infected Forerunners in order to interface with the controls. The goal was to reorient the ring so that the planet would pass through the empty centre of the Halo.

One of the humans inducted into this course of action was Chakas, whose body would be so thoroughly ravaged by its connection to the Flood and the ring that the only way to save him was to extract his mind with the Composer and place it in a mechanical body.

Chakas would, years later, go on to become 343 Guilty Spark.11-03-2020_20-18-23-r5gqrcviIt was at this point that Bornstellar (who had grown into his role as the IsoDidact) arrived with his own fleet, shutting down Mendicant Bias and retaking the Halo.

Due to the immense tidal stresses from the planet’s gravity as the reoriented ring passed it, Installation 07 had to be massively reduced in size. Two-thirds of its superstructure was shed, which brought it down to 10,000 kilometres in diameter (the size of the other six Halos that form the final ‘neoteric array’).

Mendicant’s core on the ring was taken offline, Chakas was saved by the IsoDidact, and together they confronted the Primordial in its stasis chamber.

What followed is perhaps best conveyed by the Primordial itself.

“It was long ago decided. Forerunners will never bear the Mantle.”

“Decided how?”

“Through long study. The decision is final. Humans will replace you. Humans will be tested next.”

Was the Primordial giving me a message of hope? Doom for our enemies… ascendency and triumph for humanity?

“Is that to be our punishment?” the Didact asked, his tone subdued – dangerous.

“It is the way of those who seek out the truth of the Mantle. Humans will rise again in arrogance and defiance. The Flood will return when they are ripe – and bring them unity.”

“But most humans are immune,” the Didact said. Then he seemed to understand, and lowered his great head between his shoulders like a bull about to charge. “Can the Flood choose to infect, or not to infect?”

The wide, flat head canted to one side, as if savoring some demonic irony.

“No immunity. Judgment. Timing.”

“Then why turn Mendicant Bias against its creators, and encourage the Master Builder to torture humans? Why allow this cruelty? Are you the fount of all misery?” the Didact cried out.

The Captive’s strange, ticking voice continued. “Misery is sweetness,” it said, as if confiding a secret. “Forerunners will fail as you have failed before. Humans will rise. Whether they will also fail has not been decided.”

“How can you control any of this? You’re stuck here – the last of your kind!”

“The last of this kind.”

The head leaned forward, crimping the torso and front limbs until one leg actually separated and fell away, shooting out a cloud of fine dust. The Captive was decaying from within. What sort of cage was this? The misty blue light seemed to vibrate and a high, singing sound reverberated through the hemisphere, shaping razor-sharp nodes of dissonance.

But the Captive still managed to speak.

“We are the Flood. There is no difference. Until all space and time are rolled up and life is crushed in the folds… no end to war, grief, or pain. In a hundred and one thousand [years]… unity again, and wisdom. Until then – sweetness.” [Halo: Primordium, p. 364-5]

gravyHumans will rise again, in arrogance and defiance, and they will be ‘tested’ for the Mantle.

The Flood, too, shall return – to bring them “unity.”

In a fit of rage, the IsoDidact executed the Primordial. He accelerated the stasis chamber to subject the creature to the passing of a billion years in mere seconds, causing it to decay into dust.

This, too, was part of the Primordial’s plan, securing its immortality, as it had merged its consciousness with the Flood, and went on to become the Gravemind.

The remaining Flood on Installation 07 were contained, including ten Proto-Graveminds which were placed into stasis and watched over by individual Monitors (yes, this ring had more than one), and a perpetual fog cover was placed over it.

At the command of the Didact, who rarely commanded his wife about anything, those processed by the Composer, those who remained on the fog-shrouded wheel, along with the remains of all the other Flood victims and the deactivated Graveminds – of which ten had already formed – and the last of the functioning monitors keeping perpetual watch – all on the wheel and the wheel itself were sent through a portal for one last time, never to be used in that same way again.

It was known as Installation 07.

It has become a sacred tomb for millions, though some may still live.

I do not know. [Halo: Primordium, p. 373-4]

A sacred tomb for the millions of lives lost then, and the site of the UNSC’s greatest defeat at the hands of the Banished now…2020-07-23 (129)100,000 years later…

Following the events of Halo 3, ONI analysed the data recovered from the Ark’s Citadel and, almost a year later, managed to locate Installation 07.

In 2555, some three hundred personnel were stationed on the ring, where they learned much had changed in this time – the hologram on the Ark was out of date.

The fog cover was gone, the Monitors had either vanished or refused to reveal themselves, and the location of key facilities (such as the Library) remained unknown due to the differences in configuration of this installation after its forced restructuring.

Now, in 2560, the Master Chief has been recovered from the debris of a calamitous battle which shattered part of the ring.

War Chief Escharum wiped out the UNSC forces in the system, bringing it under the control of the Banished.

And it is here that the story of Halo Infinite begins…


WHY INSTALLATION 07 IS THE PERFECT SETTING FOR HALO INFINITE

2020-07-23 (3)Here’s the thing about the last two thousand words you just read.

None of it really matters.

You will be able to jump into Halo Infinite knowing none of what I just outlined because that’s not what the story is about.

Halo Infinite is about the Master Chief returning to fight the Banished on a Halo ring, contrasted by a narrower character story going on with the Pilot – and, presumably, Cortana. That, really, is all the player needs to grasp.

The ‘spiritual reboot’ approach is meant to recapture and evoke those broad emotions you felt when playing Halo 1. But a lot of those almost twenty-year-old ideas can now be realised through next-generation technology to offer the kind of breadth that has previously existed only in our imaginations for what the Halo world could be.

“We’ve approached this whole thing as a love letter to Halo. We really want people to feel the way they did when they first played Halo: Combat Evolved. Everyone remembers when they first crashed onto the mysterious Halo ring and how they felt as they looked around that world.

That’s the feeling and emotion we want players to experience again. Capturing that has been our goal ever since we started this. We want Halo Infinite to feel different, new, and fresh… but we really want to bring back that sense of wonder, mystery, and hope.” [Paul Crocker, Gamesradar – ‘Halo Infinite: Inside 343’s attempt to build “the most ambitious Halo game ever made”‘ (27/07/2020)]

2020-07-23 (134)At the same time, it is a very interesting decision to set the game on this particular Halo ring.

They could have chosen a Halo that we’ve never seen before and know nothing about (Installation 01, 02, 06); they could have returned us to a ring that was established in a previous game (Installation 05 in Halo 2, Installation 03 in Halo 4, or Installation 09 in Halo Wars 2)…

But they didn’t.

They chose this ring. Installation 07. Zeta Halo.

They chose the ring with the most loaded backstory, with a wellspring of established lore, detailed in perhaps the most esoteric novel of the entire series.

This opens up so many doors for the next ten years of storytelling in Halo, as 343 has the latitude to draw from this lore while also attaching it to the broadly iconic aesthetic of a Halo ring and organically whet the appetite of the fanbase for greater interest and investment in more complex stories.

They can now naturally build this up, rather than facing the dilemma of having to reset those expectations every three-or-so years.

Look at where Destiny 2 is now compared to where that series began with its avalanche of proper nouns, oblique storytelling, and half-drawn characters. Bungie committed to giving players reasons to care about the story as it unfolded; just look at the scale of the lore community for Destiny – it’s one of the game’s primary avenues of investment.2020-07-23 (191)As I mentioned when detailing the backstory of this particular ring, it’s thousands of years older than the other Halos.

Those of us who are intimately familiar with the lore should not just be asking what stuff from Primordium we might see come to fruition, but also what new things there are that 343 might surprise us with.

We have little knowledge of the time period in which these rings were built. Our perspective on these events has been locked to the limited perspective of a handful of characters.

The Ur-Didact was locked in his first exile on Earth after the rejection of his Shield World plan, putting him almost entirely out of the picture for that entire period.

The Librarian was concerned with humanity and the Conservation Measure, doing what she could to preserve life in the galaxy, and trying to keep the Lifeworkers in the political ‘game’ as the Master Builder seized ever-more power (she was moved to propose a voyage outside the galaxy to seek the origins of the Flood in order to achieve this).

Beyond them, devolved humans and a twelve-year-old Forerunner – all of whom were only just learning about the ancient history of their people – are our eyes in the story of the Forerunner Saga.

People really overstate how those books answered a lot of questions, when, in reality, almost a decade later, we’ve barely got a foot in half the doors they opened for Halo.infiniteconceptInstallation 07 represents everything that 343 wants to accomplish with Halo Infinite, in how it relates to the past, present, and the immense potential for the future of Halo.

It’s a realisation of 343’s own goals with Halo 4’s Spartan Ops mode, too, with episodic adventures taking place after the main campaign to keep players invested in the ongoing story. Frank O’Connor has previously remarked on these goals:

We have the Spartan Ops story mapped out, at least loosely, for a few years. The first season is very rigid at this point and we know where this story goes. If it’s successful, if people enjoy it, we have a narrative arc that can last for years, with a known beginning, a middle and an end. [Frank O’Connor, The Guardian – ‘E3 2012: Frank O’Connor on Halo 4 – “Spartan Ops could run for years”‘ (04/06/2012)]

In this regard, this experiment of Halo 4’s was well ahead of its time, but the technology just wasn’t there yet to facilitate those ambitions. Today, however, it’s become standard in the industry – and it’s still evolving, just look at how Fortnite and Destiny 2 are pioneering new kinds of ‘live events.’

For the first time, 343 is able to actively structure the sustain strategy of a Halo game around that premise. Unbound from past limitations where story would be delivered roughly every few years with a new game, there’s a new frontier for storytelling – not just for Halo, but this method of narrative delivery is still relatively young.

As a platform for the next decade, I have no doubt that we are going to see things like the Palaces of Pain, the ruins of old humanity, the Primordial’s stasis chamber (which was originally going to be a map in Halo 4), the ten Proto-Graveminds (a powder keg connected to the Primordial’s prophecy, perhaps?)…

If not at launch, then at some point. That’s the exciting thing for me right now: it feels like anything could happen (I’m persevering to avoid a “the possibilities are infinite!” pun).

And I’m sure that Installation 07 will be used to bring us brand-new things, things which put those of us who are deeply invested in the expanded universe on the same page as somebody who’s playing Halo for the first time.

We don’t have long until we find out!


GALLERY

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4 thoughts on “Why Installation 07 is the perfect setting for Halo Infinite

  1. I definitely like the new never before heard or seen possible ideas that could come from Installation 07, but I do hope we get some call backs to Primordium, if it is going to be a open world concept have an area we can’t access for awhile that is shrouded in fog with the vague shape of a containment facility. With a terminal or data pad of an ancient human author making mention of “a palace of pain” that we can find in campaign.

    1. The plot twist will be that the entirety of Primordium took place on the bit of the Halo ring that got blown up before Infinite starts XD

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