In my last post, I described how John had went through the first stages of the Hero’s journey, initiating his “Quest”. Here in the second, or middle stage is where the bulk of the Halo 4 campaign takes place. Like in the first section, some of these stages fit better than others, and some require a little prodding to fit into the description of the stages, but I believe they all more or less follow the formula. Remember that not every Hero’s journey is the same, and not every stage is perfectly followed.
The Road of Trials
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
This stage of John’s journey encompasses the missions “Requiem”, “Forerunner”, “Infinity”, and most of “Reclaimer”. I will say that I haven’t memorized the Campaign yet, so my recollection of some of this may be fuzzy. Feel free to refresh my memory in the comments. These examples may have been deliberately placed in the game, or it may be an example of lazy Campaign design. In either case, they are there to be pointed out.
In the level “Requiem”, there are two separate instances of a trial triangle. At the beginning of the mission, you travel through the wreckage of the Dawn and other Covenant ships. Next, you make your way through scenery that is fairly generic Green grass and rocks. Finnally you reach the Forerunner Structure. The next instance is when you have to activate the Cartographer. To do this you must trigger two power cores, one on either side of the room. The third trigger is the pedestal where you insert Cortana, although we use this one twice. The three points also form an actual triangle in the room.
The triangle in “Forerunner” is more clear cut than those described in “Requiem”. Here, we must clear the signal to reach Infinity. to accomplish this we have to deactivate two beacons placed on either side of a central satellite The third activation is when John places his hands on the pillars and releases the Didact. There is a similarity here between this example and the Cartographer on on “Requiem” In both instances, two secondary objectives were combined with the final main one to create a trial triangle.
The mission “Infinity” gives us many objectives. The first point of the triangle is the search for the other UNSC, and the following march to the evac. The search, the defence at the gate, and the clearing of the evac zone form another triangle within the mission The second point of the main triangle is the Scorpion run to the Infinity. The Third is the Mantis run on the Infinity.
The Triangle in “Reclaimer” is quite vague. I see it as the taking down of the Particle Cannons. You take out two of them using the target locator, and the third and fourth inside the Forerunner Structure. Sound familiar? The first two objectives are the same, the third is similar, but different. There is another mini example of a triangle in the three shielded power cores that must be taken out to allow the Mammoth to proceed.
The Meeting With the Goddess
This is the point when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely.
I think this one will be quite obvious to anyone who has played the campaign. It was this step of the journey that got me thinking about how Halo 4 might relate to this pattern. Obviously here we are talking about the librarian. The goddess does not need to be a female, but really simply a higher power of love for the character. In Halo 4 however, it is a female. She perhaps doesn’t love John like a human mother might, but it was certainly her that brought him to where he is. She made him for all intents and purposes and here she gives him something that will let him survive his upcoming battle.
Woman as Temptress
In this step, the hero faces those temptations, often of a physical or pleasurable nature, that may lead him or her to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
Here, the focus is less on a woman or lust, and more simply on temptation. John faces the temptation of giving in, giving up and following orders, and the source of the temptation is Captain Del Rio. When he decides to leave Requiem to go back to Earth, the easy thing for John to do would have been to do what He has always done and what comes most naturally to him: follow orders.
Atonement with the Father
In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power.
In disobeying Del Rio, we come to the climax of John’s journey. Here is what this game was about. Are you a man, or a machine? The UNSC is the incredible power in John’s life, and it is personified in Captain Del Rio. Never before in his life has John directly disobeyed a commanding officer, even when to do so may have been better in the long run. He has disagreed with them in the past (see Major Silva) but never disobeyed orders. In doing so, John demonstrates to us that he is not a machine at heart, even if he doesn’t know that yet.
When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfilment before the hero begins the return.
John is a super soldier, and doesn’t get a lot of relaxation time. There is an example of this respite included in the game however. Remember when I mentioned in the first article that UNSC ships and bases are John’s “happy place”? Well, here we have a cargo bay full of people who love the Chief are encouraging him and cheering him on. Through these people, John sees that he still is part of the UNSC, and the confrontation he just had with Del Rio wasn’t about the force as a whole, but rather that part of it that held John back. A great way the game designers let you feel this period of rest is that, to my knowledge, you only leave when you decide to. One can wander around, listening to each S-IV for as long as needed. You can even share a laugh with Conan.
The Ultimate Boon
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
The unfortunate part about the structure of the journey is that most of the last part of the campaign are crammed into this one step. Everything from “Shutdown”, “Composer”, and “Midnight” are contained here. I think this is because 343 wrote a story about John, and the whole Didact thing was filler, a means to get John were he needed to be. In these missions, John uses the gift given to him by the Librarian, and foils the Didact’s plan to compose humanity. This gift of the Librarian may be the referred to boon, because neither the Composer nor the Didact fit that bill. I wonder if someone will find a way to replicate John’s advancement, and use it on the rest of humanity? I also wonder if what the librarian did contained more than just the immunity to the Composer.
Stay tuned for the final stage of the journey, “Return”, which contains the ending cutscenes from the game.
See you on Infinity,