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Halo: Epitaph – Book Review


Halo Epitaph Book Review
Halo Epitaph Book Review

It only seems like yesterday that I was rocked by the events of Halo 3, a truly epic trilogy that came to a surprisingly satisfying end. However, with the exit of Bungie from Microsoft, Xbox Game Studios formed 343 Industries to carry on the story. Admittedly, I was worried.

Instead, I’m not afraid to say I bloody loved Halo 4. Digging deeper into the Halo lore paid off, and one character in particular stole the show. Nope, not the Master Chief or Cortana, but instead the Forerunner’s mightiest Warrior, The Didact. This legendary figure was awoken from his Cryptum, a colossal stasis chamber which he also used as a method of transportation. 

After an epic battle [Spoiler Alert], The Didact was defeated by the Master Chief and fell victim (quite literally) to his own fearsome technology. The Composer was a device that was capable of transferring organic matter into digital code, and thus could build an army of Prometheans to battle the Flood. 

Such was the effectiveness of The Didact, I originally thought he was going to be the main adversary across the second trilogy of Halo games (or Reclaimer Saga). Sadly, this was not to be the case. However, I’m delighted to say that’s exactly where the Halo: Epitaph book from Titan Books comes in.

Set immediately after that epic encounter, Epitaph picks up the action as the Didact finds himself battle worn, isolated and yet somehow alive. Only a thin spire interrupts the endless desert wasteland which he finds himself in, and provides him with a meagre offering of purpose.

Things start off slow, and shrouded in mystery. Many questions are posed early on as the reader, just like the Didact, is challenged into figuring out what exactly is happening. Interestingly, the narrator is unknown, rather than the story being told from a first person point of view, given Epitaph is a very personal story for the Didact.

It’s evident something very serious has happened to the Didact and refreshing to see a more vulnerable side to the character be explored. He’s portrayed very differently to before, where previously he was much more menacing, one dimensional and seemingly unstoppable. He is a shadow of his former self, and the visceral language used not only describes his physical mutation, but also the extensive mental and emotional injuries he has sustained. This is effective as it will have you wondering just how the Didact survived, and at what cost.

The author, Kelly Gay, does a wonderful job of not only showing off unseen facets of the character, but exploring his long and complicated history. Like any of us, relationships, events and beliefs have shaped him to be who he is, but in Epitaph the Didact is gifted with hindsight, as his once stalwart beliefs are fundamentally challenged. Not only this, but his journey through the Domain makes him ask questions of himself, and his actions. Many characters return from both the main games and the Didact’s personal past, telling a story that in ways is contained, but also very much affects the world the former warrior was cast from.

This is told through the use of flashbacks, as well as fragmented memories. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to keep track of the sequence of events, but this definitely slows down the pace of the storytelling which, whilst intentional, may not be to everyone’s liking.

There’s quite a bit of back and forth in terms of physical travel too in Halo: Epitaph, and admittedly not an awful lot of action for a Halo story. However, in a tale such as this less is definitely more, as a greater proportion of time is given to providing deep insights into what makes the tragically underused character tick. The Didact is more complex than you may have thought.

He has a strong supporting cast around him, albeit with one glaring omission. Again, for me this choice works well and allows space for the story to be told. Gay balances this with linking the narrative to the events in the main games very well indeed, it all slots together neatly as far as I could tell. These reference points also help to make it much easier to place the events in the timeline, given they are taking place on a different plane of existence most of the time.

Despite not matching the breakneck pace of the games, Halo: Epitaph is a fitting tribute to one of the best characters from the Reclaimer Saga. This is exactly how an extended universe should link into its core series. So much so that as soon as I finished the last chapter, I immediately went to boot up Halo 4 again. 

Huge thanks go out to Titan Books for providing a copy of Halo: Epitaph for review. Want to read the book for yourself? Expect to pay £9.99 from Titan Books direct.

Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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