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Shield and Sword: The Graveyard
Date: 5/15/13 9:11 pm

Thought this was dead, didn't you? Me too!

Shield and Sword was a project that cobbled my daydreams of what Halo 4 could be down into an understandable stream of text and art. The real Halo 4 has since arrived and of course, was vastly different... Well actually, there's quite a few similarities, especially if you blur your eyes a bit! Exploring a Shield World, meeting an enemy of machine-warriors, encountering an actual Forerunner, and in a way, being taken away from Cortana, your dearest friend are all elements both share.

The Shield and Sword for Halo 5 will actually attempt to be a sequel to both my own version of Halo 4 and 343i's. As such, there may be some things from the original S&S that will be 're-introduced' or slightly 'revised' to bring the two into a cohesive foundation for this new story.

Though there are no sketches from me for this round, I could see going back and illustrating a collected version of this project when my schedule allowed it someday. The Flood vehicles will definitely require some sketches in the near future...


The soundtrack opens with the classic cosmic strings that pull and sway with those notes that have begun every main Halo title. A star field is disturbed as Halo 4-style UNSC frigates and cruisers disconnect from the black of the void and pass over an arid colony world below.

"2561 - Ithica II"

Hazy dust storms swirl the distant view as the camera pans down on a ship-graveyard, a paris-class UNSC frigate lying prominently dead across the sand, half-dismantled and gutted, contrasting with the new age in orbit above. For the art direction of this area, think of Boneyard mixed with Burial Mounds.

Taken from a screenshot FyreWulff posted here a while back.

A man in his sixties smokes a cigar as he sits on an old army crate near the lower hull of the frigate's cargo elevator. A shadow covers him and he looks up to see who's casting it.

"Well, you're a big guy aren't ya? Looking for work?"

Inside one of the ships, we see from over the shoulder of the 'Big Guy' our smoker pushing his way through a hallway of debris and recovered junk. A few Unggoys waddle past.

"Don't mind them. I know Earth may not like seeing the rest of the galaxy on every street corner, but out here, we need all the help we can get to make a new living. Doesn't matter what side of the old war you were on."

Cut midway through that dialogue to see beyond the ship graveyard a cluster of dwellings. Not an impressive city, but a community huddled together around a space tether out of necessity. Back inside...

"Recovering ruins from that war is what we're after. There's a lot that the UNSC had to abandon in those thirty years. It wasn't any good to them, and now half of its outdated or costs too much to repair when they can just build a fancy new one. But there's still a lot we can fix up to sale."

The two men are black silhouettes in front of a torn-open bulkhead. We see what they're looking at and what the smoker is describing: Covenant-war-era UNSC weapons and equipment, even a Warthog in disrepair. The big guy wonders over to a crate in the corner as the smoker finishes his spiel.

"Ah, I see you have an eye for this. ODST armor. Hell, you think that's nifty, I got a MJOLNIR mark VI over at site B. Belonged to one of the Spartans - the original ones, the real ones. Not these little kids walking around in their parents' clothes you see everywhere today. A lot of demand for MJOLNIR tech around the outer colonies..."

Cut to a large city, high skyscrapers and spiraling highways, partially glassed and now reclaimed by green foliage on the edge of an invading desert.

"Lots of folk out there who still feel the UNSC abandoned them when the brass had to sacrifice whole systems to the squid-heads and apes to buy Earth and the rest more time. Morale was good for a while when they won the war... but with all the treaties and pacts they're making these days with the Sangheili, a lot of people think they need to be thinking about how to protect themselves this time around."

Back to the cargo hold, close in on the smoker. You can see a faded, stretched Helljumper tattoo on the side of his neck.

"And that's where we come in," he says with a smile.

As the big guy starts to load equipment onto a Spade outside (with a few Unggoys trying to balance more crates precariously atop the rest), the wind and sand are picking up. The big guy, already wearing a long army-green jacket, wraps a pale-orange rag around his neck and head to help combat the conditions.

In orbit, the UNSC fleet come to a halt in front of a sensor buoy. A captain on one of the bridges stands patiently with his hands behind his back. A screen nearby shows an anomalous shape moving towards them in slipspace. They're waiting for something.

A slipspace portal opens in the black and slowly, a Halo ringworld starts to come through - one side first, like a great arch rising up out of a purple sea. And then we see the Captain's eyes widen: not only is a Halo arriving from god-knows-where - but it's in fragments. Huge megalithic arcs of metal and continents spin out from the portal before it collapses. The fleet breaks off, splitting up to avoid the massive structures coming towards them.

We see one slow cruiser rotate and begin to boost away, but the Halo fragment is deceptive in its size - at least from this perspective. What seems like a sliver of metal in one moment is now the size of a country and the spacecraft doesn't have enough time to accelerate away from its expanse. A broken atmosphere and the mountain range below it consumes the cruiser.

An Unggoy wandering from the graveyard looks up curiously at lights in the blue sky.

A UNSC destroyer leads a host of other regrouping ships in an attempt to break up the larger pieces of the ringworld or at the least direct as many shards away from Ithica as possible.

Where they fail can be seen from below. The curious Unggoy shrieks and runs back to the rest of the scavenger crew as a hundred shooting stars being to fall to the surface.

The Smoker's cig falls out of his mouth as he gapes at the lights coming closer and closer. One meteor hits a sleeping ship nearby, a plume of sand and debris exploding upwards in reaction. The scavengers are then distracted by another, much larger fragment hitting the mountains in the distance like a bomb. The ground shakes below them as the shockwave reaches them.

The multi-species crew starts to yell and scream in disorder, some even running off in a clueless direction. The Smoker hops in the seat of the Spade to hear an emergency signal being broadcast across the radio channels. Sirens rear up from the city by the tether a mile away.

"What the hell are they talking about?" asks the Smoker to no one in particular, though the Big Guy hears him, turns and comes close. We can hear strange garbled messages on the radio, though its hard to make out anything clear in the chaos. The Smoker helps enunciate.

"...They're saying something came with these meteors--" he starts to say but is cut off my an excruciating scream in the distance. The Big Buy looks up to the top of the nearby Frigate's hull. There's something up there... Something not human, nor Covenant. The camera pulls in close to the man's squinting eyes - blue, aging, eyes beneath dirty-blond eyebrows.

The player picks up the controller to a HUD-less screen as the Big Guy's arms reach out in front of your eyes to grab a gun from the back of the Spade. It's an old shotgun - the perfect weapon for...

More screams from inside the exposed ribs of the frigate, drawing the player inside (and if he's an idiot, the Smoker can yell at the Big Guy to find the rest of the crew inside). A few Unggoy are hiding in shadows, quivering (hilariously, of course). Deeper into the shadows of the metal... until the Big Guy/player hears a scream from behind - the Smoker. If the player wishes to go back and investigate, he will find nothing. No Smoker, no body (and no keys to the Spade if you're wondering.... at least yet).

More screams are heard inside the ruins - even some understandable cries of help. A hatch can be smacked open with the melee button. The flashlight of the shotgun automatically turns on in the darkness beyond. Walking the frigate's corridors is an interesting experience: it goes from pitch black to blazing white light from gaps in the ceiling. Strange footsteps, Unggoy yelps, and crates being knocked over as you continue to explore. There's a few dead ends here and there, but all paths tend to lead back to one main corridor - the one most exposed to the outside and thus what feels the safest.

Approaching the end of this corridor is the door to the cargo bay from the opening cutscene - but before you reach it, something comes out of the shadows: a Flood form, a type never seen before, an infection form attached to an undiscovered species. Being the first enemy of the game, it's terrifying but not intimidating. The shotgun should make quick work of the Flood once you've adjusted to the aiming of a new game. Another melee will take down the door to the cargo bay.
Inside, a short cutscene: the Big Guy pulls on some of the ODST armor on the crate he had examined before: a helmet, shoulder pad, glove, and a set of boots. He also picks up a pistol and a bandolier of grenades. For the player, he/she now has a rudimentary HUD and a health bar. The elements of the game are slowly starting to come together.

Leaving the cargo bay through another door, you find yourself in a hangar that has been invaded by sand. And guess what's hiding in the sand? More Flood, emerging randomly from below the ground (not random in numbers, but random in spawning locations). The pistol will work well with these new combat forms from afar; the shotgun will be perfect for close quarters. The atmosphere (still no in-game music, but plenty of strange screams and sounds) and the increasing number of enemies, combined with that feeling that you're not quite up to snuff in terms of equipment, should push the player into a bit of a frenzied quick pace. Of course that tends to happen whenever the Flood is involved.

You should now notice two to three different combat forms, plus an Unggoy-carrier form from time to time. Killing forms only means that that particular manifestation has been beaten - its remains will gather together farther away in an attempt to make what is probably the scariest of Flood forms - the hodgepodge form, made of stringing different species together, but they still need an infection form to act as a brain to activate.

Through a few more corridors and rooms, the player should find access to a cargo lift shaft. It's dark where you are, but you can see daylight lighting up the pipes and cables down below. The Flood are coming behind you, so there's only one real way out of here, a la jumping out of the cruiser in Keyes.

The daylight is comforting as you wander out from beneath the shadow of the frigate into an open area of dunes and a road leading to other salvage sites in the ship graveyard. Looking up, you'll notice UNSC Pelicans and an Albatross heading towards the tether-city. Another angle reveals a massive plume of destruction like a mushroom-cloud a number of miles away, likely where a larger shard of the ringworld crashed into the planet.

But there isn't that much time to take in the view as a small army of Flood are gathering behind you, pushing towards a defendable area of shipping crates. Once you reach that area, six ODST drop pods slam into the dirt nearby, spring boarding a squad Helljumpers to your aid, along with a new mix of the main theme of "Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" from the ODST track Finale.

"What the hell are you supposed to be?" asks their Sergeant towards the Big Guy. Though one or two ODSTs may fall and be transformed into familiar human-forms, your force should be enough to keep the waves at bay, like some of the encounters at the end of Sacred Icon.

The Flood keep coming, but eventually two Warthog troop-transports show up yelling to get aboard. You can either ride or drive, but either way you'll find yourself funneled into a natural path between steep dunes (acting as natural player-boundaries). Now this is when it gets fun!

Not only are Flood abound, Flood-vehicles are coming from behind and in front of you, and over the sides of the dunes. These are not merely Flood-controlled vehicles, but Flood-consumed vehicles. These are special hybrids of our machines and blobs of Flood-brains. It's easy to see the vehicle underneath, but they take on their own design in a sense, like the Flood-cruiser concepts in the Art of Halo 3.

But not to worry, this level isn't just about showing off new things, it's also showing off just how far up the numbers have gone! Two Scorpions rolls down the dunes to your right, and Wolverine rolls up from behind on your left to help you.

The dune-canyon soon empties out into a bigger area with a few ponds, some salvaged Longswords and Broadswords, and a number of palm trees - an oasis of sorts. The vehicle fight explodes out into this area, evolving into a large scale battle, with two Hornets coming in to provide air support. Frigates can be seen way up in the sky trying to intercept incoming Flood pods.

You can either see this battle to its end and enjoy a moment of reprieve or keep pushing. On the other side of the oasis is a dismantled cruiser - Site B. Another squad of ODSTs are waiting near a gutted airlock, reporting of civilians trapped inside. Walking past them should trigger a line of "Is that... him?

Under Cover of Night begins to play...

Inside we witness civilian scavengers being infected by the Flood and more infantry battles. A.I. on the Flood has evolved, when sensing greater numbers, they will form up as a group and rush you in the vein of The Library, but alone, the new combat forms utilize actual strategy and deception to try and take you out. Isolated, they'll retreat and advance, use cover and flank. Some will break off in the group attacks and loop back behind you. If you're not paying attention, when you think you're safe, you'll actually be the most vulnerable if they try to pull that. The Flood are also aware of light and shadows - keeping to the later when out of initiated combat. Some of the lesser forms like the popcorn-carriers and others will still wander off and do they're creepy standing-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-till-they-see-you routine.

Some of the unrecognizable Flood forms will take cues from the Pure forms from Halo 3 and also one version will be strangely familiar - something very akin to the Promethean Knights of Halo 4. Those will even launch flying infection forms from their backs. This is actually not in imitation of the Knights, but the reverse; the Prometheans were designed to mirror the Flood and fight back with the same strategies, hence the swarming of the robot-dogs we all love...

You'll eventually reach the engine room of this Marathon-cruiser. It's design will overall share many of the Halcyon-class layout we all know and love from The Maw, but will have a few of its own deviations to better suit the level design and distinguish the cruiser classes. On one side of the engine room is a battle in progress between Flood, civilians, and marines; on the opposite side of the room is a stockpile of scavenged materials, including rockets, sniper rifles, and more. You'll also notice a special container labeled MJOLNIR.

Stairwells and ramps will lead you to upper levels so that this fight can become a challenge of vertically. We all know if you get the high ground, you can take out even the strongest Sith, so...
During the fight you'll hear marine chatter. "He's here? Where? Get me to him!"

Clearing the engine room ends the level and triggers a cutscene. An ODST is making sure one of the Flood forms is dead with a shotgun blast as we see the Big Guy breaking open crates in the stockpile area in the background. We cut close to him as he starts to pull on a layer of black under-armor. A sergeant is running up the ramp towards the Big Guy, hesitantly slowing down as he gets close.

"It is you, isn't it? They were right. But... what the hell are you doing here?"

Over the Big Guy's shoulder we see his huge arms pick up an old, pitted Mark VI helmet. A slower, more solemn version of the cello strings of The Last Spartan begins to play.

"Re-enlisting," says the Master Chief.

Halo 2 concept art by Zoe Brawley.

Next: Mission Two - "City On the Edge of Forever"

Messages In This Thread

Shield and Sword: The GraveyardLeviathan5/15/13 9:11 pm
     This is how it should be.Nikko B2015/15/13 9:24 pm
           TrueZackDark5/15/13 9:43 pm
                 Very true.robofin1175/16/13 12:50 am
     Giggity *NM*ZackDark5/15/13 9:41 pm
     Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/16/13 10:23 pm
           ^Thumbs up, would read again. *NM*ZackDark5/16/13 11:35 pm
           Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/17/13 10:16 am
           Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 12:19 pm
                 Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/17/13 12:55 pm
                       Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 2:32 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 6:17 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Postmortem5/17/13 6:29 pm
                                         Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 6:32 pm
                                         Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 7:34 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Mr Daax5/17/13 7:32 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*Leviathan5/17/13 7:34 pm
                                   Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*breitzen5/17/13 7:40 pm
                             Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/18/13 11:54 pm
                       Re: Devil's advocate? I guess? *lengthy*General Vagueness5/18/13 11:28 pm
                 THIS partMacGyver105/17/13 1:37 pm
                       Re: THIS partTDSpiral5/17/13 9:54 pm
     Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:25 pm
           Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardPostmortem5/16/13 10:34 pm
                 Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:59 pm
                       Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardPostmortem5/16/13 11:17 pm
                             Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/17/13 10:19 am
                                   Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardLeviathan5/17/13 11:32 am
           Re: Shield and Sword: The Graveyardscarab5/17/13 8:54 pm
     Re: Shield and Sword: The GraveyardGeneral Vagueness5/16/13 10:31 pm
           Nay!ZackDark5/16/13 11:39 pm

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