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|Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as hell*|
|Posted By: Leviathan <email@example.com>||Date: 5/16/12 12:26 a.m.|
Shield and Sword is an exploration of daydreams concerning what Halo 4 might have in store for us. It is story exploration and game design practice, and another excuse to doodle Halo in my sketchbook. It’s not necessarily what Halo 4 SHOULD be, but more of a ‘what if…?’. If it jumpstarts any of your own ideas or daydreams as the clock slowly ticks away till November, then its goal has been reached!
And the closer we get, the more outdated this story will become – but hopefully I can still explore nuggets and threads of concepts that still might be relevant to our hype-induced brain-wonderment. :)
Last mission, I explored a big open area on the interior surface of a Shield World, the first outdoor mission of Shield and Sword. The end of it saw Master Chief and Cortana escaping into a cave from an army of Sentinels as they recovered valuable weapons and vehicles from the ruins of Forward Unto Dawn…
Mission Three: The Broken Chord
The opening cinematic begins with a still shot of this setting, with its streams and waterfalls washing down into the basin. A time stamp shows that a day or more has passed since we last played, then headlights come through the cascades underneath the series of arches on the left. Master Chief is taking a Mongoose towards us, curving down the path and then veering off to our left, out of sight.
Through a small passageway we find a wide open cave. In the center is Hub Access Station 42, a hard-connection to the information network that weaves throughout the Shield World. Around it lie a stockpile of ammunition and vehicles – the flotsam and jetsam of the Forward Unto Dawn.
---Click the image (and a number of the other images below) to see a larger size.---
Master Chief parks the Mongoose and hops off as Cortana’s avatar appears by the Hub Access.
Master Chief: “That’s the last of it.”
Cortana: “Good, who knows what we may need to get out of here alive. And at least for now, I’ve made this whole junction point disappear from Sentinel surveillance. We have a place of strength to strike out from.”
The Spartan begins checking weapons in a crate.
Master Chief: “Not used to having somewhere to fall back to.”
Cortana: “… Or sitting still. But no worries, I’ve already got a new job for you.”
Master Chief loads a rifle.
Master Chief: “I’m listening.”
Fade to black...
We fade back in to the Chief standing on the edge of a cliff, a Warthog parked behind him, with the shot taken from above, letting us look straight down into a lakebed far below the Spartan’s feet. Master Chief looks out across the lake, and the camera cuts to over his shoulder. We see what he’s looking at:
Across the lake, on the other side of this canyon, lies a great forest surrounded by mountains. The shards of the inner-sun have reconfigured and the light is dim, almost red.
Cortana: “The entrance to the Resonance Control, the main communications station for the Shield World, is somewhere out there in that forest. I don’t yet know why, but it’s blocking any long range communication, like our beacon. You’ll need to get inside and manually open up the locks to let me override the system.”
After the panorama shot, Chief heads back to the Warthog and starts pulling out weapons and a backpack.
Master Chief: “But I left you behind.”
Cortana: “You still have one of my substrings to help you. I needed my core to remain in the Hub. Only from here can I keep our hovering friends from getting nosey. Once you unlock the system, I’ll be able to broadcast our beacon through the Resonance from anywhere on the installation – “
A shadow passes over the Chief. A Sentinel Enforcers and a wave of Sentinel Snipers are right on top of him. Master Chief rolls away from the Hog to avoid a volley and begins returning fire.
Master Chief: “I thought you were keeping them busy…”
Cortana: “Well, I never said there wouldn’t be a few that slip by… Besides, I’m sure you can handle it.”
The Spartan looks down. The cliff edge has become unstable from the blasts. He falls as the rocks give way. His thrusters pop out and fire to slow him down, but it all happens too fast. He smacks the water as the screen goes black.
We fade back in to a shot under water, dark and murky. Then four lights flash on – the Master Chief’s helmet-mounted flashlights – and the Spartan begins wading across the bottom of the lake floor towards the camera.
Resurfaced on the other side of the lake, looking at the edge of the forest, the player takes control...
As the player heads up the beach and into the woods…
Cortana: “The entrance to the communications station is nearby… It’s strange. I know it’s here somewhere, but when try to ping the entrance, the system reroutes me to a dozen other facilities across the installation. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact location without more time. We’re going to have to rely on your eyes.”
Master Chief: “Sounds like they don’t want us to find this place.”
Cortana: “I’m still trying to figure out why the Sentinels don’t want us here on this planet at all. We’ve never ran into hostility like this before without a meddling light bulb leading the march. You’re a Reclaimer – shouldn’t they be welcoming us?”
Deeper into the pine forest, the sky deepens red, the trees become black silhouettes against it.
At first, you see lights through the trees. Then nearby you hear the familiar sounds whizzing by: Sentinels are searching for you.
Cortana: “Keep on the move, John, and try and avoid their patrols.”
Like the open grasslands in the last mission, and the zero g battles in the first level, Shield and Sword attempts to make each level (at least most them) unique in some way – some special gameplay style that only that level specializes at.
This area is about mood and stealth – avoiding the lights in an thick woodland maze. With the high density of trees and the size of the woods, you can’t really see very far. The similarity of environment and lack of reference points makes the woods a labyrinth and the entrance to the Resonance Control is your only way out.
If a Sentinel finds you and is able to track you for long, more Sentinels are drawn to its rallying call across the forest, and eventually an Enforcer will come down from above the trees to try and whisk you away and you know… smash you to bits.
If you’re lost for a very long time, Cortana will give you some tips to nudge you in the right direction.
Besides the entrance to the Resonance Control, you can discover another Terminal in this forest, like that which was seen on the map from the last level.
There’s different kinds of Terminals in Shield and Sword: text, audio, and visual variants. The Terminals are scraps of history, data on the world, and also intercepted messages from across the void. The Terminal’s physical housings are actually identical to the Hub Access Station that Cortana is using as a home base, as depicted near the beginning of the article.
This specific Terminal in Broken Chord, is an audio transmission from the Shipmaster Rtas (Half Jaw) to the Arbiter, discussing the current status of the Holy Rings. The UNSC is in control of three, the Sangheilli hold one, and the others remain undiscovered so far - at least this was the case until recently. The UNSC has lost contact with one of their Rings. And no intel, no reports have sighted it, even behind Reconciled lines…
Back to the main gameplay, you’ll eventually stumble upon this clearing in your search, and the solution to this labyrinth. A number of rocks lie in the center, surrounding a small pond. You can see a hint of a glowing light in the center of the pond, under the surface. Wading in reveals a hard light control at the bottom of the pool. Activating it opens up the rock floor below you, and again, along with the water, you fall.
A grav lift catches you and pulls you gently down to the floor of a massive cave where Forerunner architecture naturally blends in and then protrudes out of the rock walls. Little waterfalls empty into grey pools.
Master Chief: “Something tells me this isn’t the front door…”
Progressing through these massive rooms leads you to another, longer grav lift descent and another door. Tthrough it, you enter a vertical tunnel leading down. Hard light steps appear before you, granting you a spiral path as you descend deeper into the Resonance Control.
But about a third of the way down, the lights go out. They come back red after a moment, with a number of the light-steps blinking out of existence. Oh and you’re floating, too. :)
Cortana: “They’ve disabled the gravity! This tunnel must go right through the crust to the outer surface of the planet…”
She begins to technobabble on in the classic Cortana style... until Master Chief reminds her of the situation.
Master Chief: “Cortana, they’re trying to catch us off-guard.”
A number of Sentinels (of various types) come flying towards you from below. But directions are relative now – what was a vertical descent is now more of a horizontal flight. And the hard-light stairs still active? They can act as shields for you from the oncoming predators as you progress down the tunnel.
Not as a epic as your first zero-g battle, but it should be an interesting twist on a playspace. And the Sentinels are en masse here. In fact, it’s the last batch of Sentinels you will fight before the enemies you face start to shift…
Past the opposition, you’re funneled into a smaller, darker tunnel, with a hundred tiny lights scrolling about its walls - a data core for the station. Perhaps it’s akin to Hal 9000’s data core in 2001, except in a cylindrical arrangement.
At the bottom of the tunnel is a large room. It’s similar to a circular auditorium, with large steps (or seats) leading from the outside walls (where a number of locked doors are) down to a central stage. A number of consoles and hard-light controls are installed around the stage's perimeter.
This image should help describe this room and the layout of the Resonance Control so far:
A small control panel right inside the hatch from which you entered on the ceiling of the Apex Station lets you reactivate the gravity (the hatch seals off the tunnel behind you and you fall twenty feet to the floor). After the room is recalibrated, another hard-light control in the central ring opens up.
Cortana: “Step into the ring and activate the controls.”
Activating it unlocks the seals of the Resonance Control, and Cortana’s appears projected life-size in the ring. Data and symbols whirl about her.
Cortana: “You did it, John. It’ quite amazing… the installations – the Shield Worlds AND the Halos – they can communicate to with each other superluminally. I can patch you into a Halo’s Control Room with but of modicum of delay… Now let’s see…”
Distorted projections begin to appear around the Chief,
Master Chief: “I see someone.”
Cortana: “ I know… The installation in the closest range, a Halo – there. Something’s monitoring the systems. Something not Forerunner… I think it’s…”
Cortana’s projection distorts and winks out. Static fills the stage, and then…
A growling voice: “Who’s there? State your name, rank, species, and intent!”
An Elite Major fades into the ring.
Elite: “A Spartan? What do you want?”
The player can start to see behind the Elite speaker is another, more distorted Elite speaking to a Grunt. As the grunt waddles off, this Elite notices what’s happening.
Shipmaster Rtas: “You have no idea who you are speaking with, do you Major? That is the Great Demon, the Master Chief.” (Is that acknowledgement or rivalry in his voice?)
Rtas takes control of the conversation, and the Elite Major fades away.
Master Chief: ”Shipmaster.” (resting his weapon on his shoulder)
Shipmaster: “Spartan… you’ve been gone a long time. We all believed you were dead.”
Master Chief: “Just sleeping.”
Shipmaster: “... Where have you been?”
Master Chief: “Drifting. We’ve found a Shield World and need extraction.”
Shipmaster: “A Shield World? We did not know there were any more left… The humans will be pleased to hear of you… but this is most unsettling.”
Master Chief: “Why?”
Shipmaster: “The Halos… they have become the greatest arms race in galactic history. Discovering them, conquering them, controlling them… it’s the goal of every major faction in the galaxy. The UNSC holds three… well, now two. We hold one. We believe the Reconciled now hold one as well...
"If I know your human history, it is reminiscent of your Cold War. Another installation means another threat to be wagered against us all.”
Master Chief: “The Reconciled?”
Shipmaster: “The remnants of the Covenant, reformed under new management as the Reconciled.”
Master Chief: “New management?”
Shipmaster: “Yes, they claim a true Forerunner god has made contact with them, and --"
Cortana: “But If they have their own ring, they could be monitoring this network. They could be tracking us this very instant…”
Shipmaster is surprised at first by Cortana’s appearance but then recalls her distress beacon from all those years ago... An affirmation of purpose appears in his eyes and as he nods, he says:
Shipmaster: “Then we will beat them to it. We will send word to the UNSC, but I will lead a vanguard of Sangheili immediately to you. We can be there in a day – Spartan?”
Master Chief: “What?”
Shipmaster: “Is there supposed to be someone behind you?”
Master Chief turns and ducks as a Forerunner Proto-Warrior lances out with a spear of light, distorting the projections as it slices through them before they shut off completely. Their blue light gone, the room is again black and red.
Master Chief returns fire as the Proto-Warrior waves a hard-light shield in front of him, deflecting the bullets back at the Spartan.
As Chief backs up against the stairs, two more Proto-Warriors arrive from locked doors at the top of the auditorium in front of him. Three vs. One.
End of Cutscene
And the player resumes control just in time for a fight...
The Forerunner Proto-Warriors look like living Sentinels. Their arms form into projectile weapons and hard-light lances for close-proximity melees. They are fast, smart, and accurate. They are the heart and soul of Shield And Sword’s gameplay. They are the Elites of Halo CE.
--- This design is based heavily on one of Bungie's unused concepts. ---
And you have to face to three in this room. Upon killing one, they don’t fall to the ground a ragdoll – they are teleported away using the Shield World’s network, much like Guilty Spark used on his Halo ring.
Upon killing all three:
Master Chief: “Was that… a Forerunner?”
Cortana: “They’re looking for me John… I don’t know how, but they‘re tracking my signal from the Resonance to the Hub Station. I can feel them searching, using the teleportation network and drawing nearer and nearer. You need to get out of there, fast.”
The player finds his way through one of the now unlocked doors that a Proto-Warrior had come through, and reaches a few ramps that leads back into the spiral-light tunnel above. The gravity is still active though, so this time you’re battling up the spiral staircase as Proto-Warriors teleport in to stop you. It’s sort of like a classic knight battling his way up a castle tower!
Cortana: “I’m doing everything I can for you, but something…. Some one is locking down the Resonance Control. But I think I can reroute you to another exit...
Back in the caves, Cortana leads you down through a different path than the one you came in, as seen in the map above. The caves begin to follow an underground river, and eventually you reach the top of a small waterfall where another brigade of Warriors is waiting for you.
This waterfall is the river’s escape from these caves, and yours too. Leaping down from its peak, you reach another forested valley now under the cover of night. Starting into this area, you’ll be ambushed again by Proto-Warriors teleporting in around you, with additional Sentinels aiding them. It’s your first real chance to combat the Forerunner Warriors out in the open, among the trees and rocks, Flawless Cowboy style!
Defeating this batch of enemies is the end of the level. Cortana will throw up a waypoint on your HUD near a small Forerunner door set into the side of the mountain. Reaching it begins the end cinematic.
Master Chief is moving quickly through a dark Forerunner corridor, eventually reaching another outdoors area, thick again with foliage.
Cortana: "They’re still looking for me, John, even with all your bullets distracting them. If they reach me, John, they’ll extract me and… We should have never have split up."
Master Chief looks up to see Sentinel Inspectors and Guardians searching the valleys.
Master Chief: "Cortana, I’m on my way."
Cortana: "You’re miles away from the Hub Station and you have no backup, no vehicle--"
Master Chief is running full-sprint through the woods now, dust kicking up behind him, branches smacking out of existence. A Spartan full-speed is a sight to behold, and the music begins ramping up.
Master Chief: "I don’t need a vehicle."
End of Mission
Next time on Shield and Sword, we tackle a legion of Proto-Warriors in a race through a ravine full of vehicle battles, and while it starts off as one against a hundred, 'reinforcements are on the spoke'…
|Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as hell*||Leviathan||5/16/12 12:26 a.m.|
|"Just Sleeping"||kanbo||5/16/12 12:43 a.m.|
|Re: "Just Sleeping"||Leviathan||5/16/12 3:11 a.m.|
|Re: "Just Sleeping"||Archilen||5/16/12 3:45 a.m.|
|Space-bikes, Blue Team, and more rambles...||Leviathan||5/16/12 4:54 p.m.|
|Very cool.:) *NM*||The Lionheart||5/16/12 1:05 a.m.|
|Oh Dizzamn!||padraig08||5/16/12 1:16 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Quirel||5/16/12 1:30 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Leviathan||5/16/12 3:32 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Quantum||5/16/12 1:53 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||uberfoop||5/16/12 2:11 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Leviathan||5/16/12 3:56 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||uberfoop||5/16/12 2:18 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Leviathan||5/16/12 3:03 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||uberfoop||5/16/12 3:23 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Leviathan||5/16/12 3:47 a.m.|
|Dude.||Gravemind||5/16/12 3:23 a.m.|
|Re: Dude.||BlueNinja||5/16/12 4:01 a.m.|
|Re: Dude.||Leviathan||5/16/12 4:58 p.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Archilen||5/16/12 3:34 a.m.|
|I will buy your game.||BlueNinja||5/16/12 4:00 a.m.|
|Re: I will buy your game.||Leviathan||5/16/12 5:01 p.m.|
|a joy to read *NM*||kidtsunami||5/16/12 4:50 a.m.|
|Re:I am reminded of||Revenant1988||5/16/12 8:45 a.m.|
|Re:I am reminded of||Leviathan||5/16/12 5:03 p.m.|
|Always Awesome! *NM*||ChrisTheeCrappy||5/16/12 8:57 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||CaneCutter||5/16/12 9:21 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||Leviathan||5/16/12 5:04 p.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||CaneCutter||5/16/12 8:25 p.m.|
|If this is hell, sign me up *NM*||ZackDark||5/16/12 10:09 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||bluerunner||5/16/12 11:02 a.m.|
|Re: Shield and Sword - The Broken Chord *long as h||PerseusSpartacus||5/17/12 1:30 a.m.|
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