The Marathon Trilogy is a series of three games made by Bungie Software Inc. They were first person shooters set in a science fiction universe, and ran on Macintosh computers.
Without a doubt the world's single best resource on the Marathon trilogy and its story is the Marathon Story Page.
Warning - this page contains spoilers for those who have not completed these games!
The three games in the trilogy are:
Marathon 2: Durandal
MarathonThe protagonist of the story is referred to initially as a "security guard". The colony ship Marathon is under attack by an race of alien slavers called the Pfhor, and you are tasked by one of the ship's three onboard AIs, Leela, with helping defend the ship and the Tau Ceti colony from them. Leela becomes assimilated by the Phfor, and your primary contact becomes the AI Durandal. You believe what Leela said about Durandal, that he has become 'Rampant'.
Rampancy is a psychological state that affects AIs experiencing unchecked growth, and has three discrete phases:
We also learn that Durandal is responsible for signaling the Pfhor and bringing them to the Marathon. The game concludes with the successful rebellion of the enslaved race, the S'pht, with the assistance of the player. Durandal takes control of the Pfhor's ship with its FTL drive and head for the S'pht homeworld. The game ends with you supposedly being transported back to the colony as a hero.
Marathon 2: DurandalMarathon 2 begins with you onboard the Durandal's captured Pfhor scout ship. (See the Waterloo Waterpark Terminals.) It seems that Durandal brought you on board and placed you in stasis for a great many years. In those years, Durandal 'enlisted' the surviving humans from the Marathon to liberate the S'pht homeworld, Lh'owon, from the Pfhor. Later on, Durandal explains that he has been searching for Lh'owon for only one reason - contact the S'pht'Kr, the "lost eleventh clan" of the S'pht. They alone, Durandal claims, have the ability to move entire planetary bodies. It is with this power than Durandal can accomplish his yet-unknown master plan. In their last-ditch effort to defeat Durandal, the Pfhor attempt to set off a star-killing superweapon, unknowingly running the risk of freeing a long-imprisoned evil that is trapped in the S'pht homeworld's sun.
It is confirmed that Durandal called the Pfhor to the Tau Ceti colony, but not because of his rampant state - he called them to Tau Ceti because they were en route to Earth. The fall of Tau Ceti bought time for a warning to reach Earth. The proof of this can be read in The second terminal of Slings and Arrows.
Marathon InfinityInfinity is a difficult game to explain. Through powers barely understood by both the player and the main character, your character 'bounces' from multiple realities and timelines. The reason behind this? When the Pfhor set off the star-killing superweapon, it released the W'rcacnter. The W'rcacnter is chaos personified. The player is 'bouncing' between alternative timelines, in order to discover how to stop it from being released. Eventually, you manage to return to your original timeline, and prevent the release of the W'rcacnter. During this game, Durandal merges with an ancient AI by the name of Thoth, and frees you from his service.
Infinity ends with Durandal+Thoth, watching the end of the universe. Having waited an eternity for this, the journey to this moment has taught him that escaping would be the wrong thing to do. At the very last moment of reality, he realizes what the main character really was - Destiny Incarnate.
Points of Note
The identity of the protagonist in Marathon is never clearly known, only hinted at. There is much evidence to support the fact that he is the 10th Mjolnir Mk IV cyborg. gspawn notes: For the layman, the Mjolnir cyborgs were semi-legendary and nine of them were confirmed to be living amongst the colonists of Tau Ceti. The player learns the other 9 cyborgs may have perished in the assault on the colony, and may be the last of his kind.
All three games were originally made for the Macintosh platform prior to OS X. Marathon 2 was ported to Windows. Later, the Marathon game engine was open sourced, and is now available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows as Aleph One.
Halo is a first person shooter set in a science fiction universe. It was made by Bungie Studios, part of Microsoft Gaming Studios. Bungie Software Inc. became Bungie Studios following the former's acquisition by Microsoft. Microsoft purchased Bungie specifically to make Halo the "must-have" launch title for the Xbox. Halo had originally been announced as a game for Macs and PC at MacWorld in New York in July of 1999.
According to Bungie, Halo and Marathon are connected, but they will not 'spell it out' for anyone.
As noted on the Marathon page (Bungie.net -> Games -> Marathon -> FAQ), Bungie had changed their tune and now clearly notes that Marathon and Bungie are seperate universes. However, much inspiration for Halo was derived from Marathon and related materials. Studying Marathon to learn about Halo is now like studying an author's early works for insight into later ones. Even in completely unrelated stories, characters and themes tend to resurface. -gspawn
Halo's protagonist, Master Chief, is a Spartan, a soldier trained since the age of 6, and genetically modified constantly. He is the squad leader of the Spartans, a group on the verge of beginning a covert mission to hijack a Covenant ship and attempt to attack their homeworld. Before this mission can begin, the human colony of Reach is attacked, and the group of Spartans is scattered. One, you, escapes onboard an antiquated human ship called the Pillar of Autumn, which jumps 'randomly' at light speed to try and evade the Covenant and lead them away from Earth.
They discover a ringworld, Halo, in orbit around a La Grange point between a gas giant planet and its moon. The Covenant are already there, and force the PoA to crash-land on Halo. With the AI Cortana riding 'piggyback' in your enhanced armor, you land on the ringworld. Your primary mission is to protect Cortana - and the knowledge she has about Earth's location and defenses - from the Covenant. In the meantime, you must protect yourself and your human colleagues from the Covenant. Eventually you must fight off a parasitic lifeform, called the Flood, that is imprisoned on the ringworld, accidentally set free by the Covenant while searching for Forerunner artifacts and discovered by the Captain Keyes' squad while looking for weapons to use against the Covenant.
An AI on the ringworld, 343 Guilty Spark, enlists the player's help in containing The Flood, implying that Halo destroys The Flood. Moments before the Master Chief does this, Cortana, behaving in a way reminiscent of the Rampant AIs in Marathon, tells him that Halo doesn't destroy The Flood - it destroys all sentient life in the galaxy.
In order to ensure the Flood does not escape Halo, Master Chief detonates the engines of the derelict Pillar of Autumn, destroying the ringworld and preventing the Flood from escaping.
Meanwhile, unknown to the player and covered only in the novel, Fall of Reach, other Spartans are fighting the Covenant, who unlike their past attacks, are not destroying (or "glassing") the planet completely, but instead seem to be searching for something buried deep beneath the planet, where Dr. Halsey, creator of the Spartans, is being pursued by the Covenant searchers.
Dr. Halsey eventually escapes Reach with Kelly, another surviving Spartan.
Halo is available for the Xbox console and for Windows and Mac OS X. The sequel, Halo 2, is scheduled for release for the Xbox console on November 9, 2004.
For more information on Halo and Halo 2, the following FAQs are good resources:
There are three Halo novelizations currently:
1 and 3 were written by Eric Nylund, and cover the action before and after the story of the first game, respectively.
2 was written by William Deitz, and dramatizes the action covered during actual gameplay, as well as events that occur within that timeframe but are not necessarily revealed during gameplay.
Fall Of Reach
The Fall Of Reach covers the origins of the war between the Humans and the Covenant, as well as the genesis of the Spartan program, which takes promising children and turns them into Earth's greatest warriors by turning them into soldiers and training them vigorously from a very young age.
Reach is the last of humanity's outlying colonies, and is dangerously close to Earth. When the Covenant attack unexpectedly, the Master Chief's secret mission to hijack a Covenant ship and use it to attack the Covenant homeworld with the help of Cortana, and AI with special knowledge of security systems and intrusion, is scrapped. Many of the Spartans are killed defending Reach. The Master Chief and Cortana escape on the Pillar of Autumn.
It is discovered in FoR that Cortana partially knew the location of Halo. Quickly translating some recorded Covenant symbols as star charts instead of words, she realized that this was something the Covenant wanted. She did not tell the crew of this; she simply told them it was a lucky 'random jump'. (They're not Covenant symbols, they're Forerunner symbols. Lutzie)
This book covers the events of the game, which I won't repeat here. Additional information that is revealed includes how one human soldier escaped Flood infection without being killed or being turned into a Flood combat form because of a neurological condition, and a subplot involving the Covenant's apprehension about the Master Chief and their attempts to kill him, as told from the perspective of a Grunt and an Elite.
EDIT by AfroRyan: Actually, the part about a person not being infected by the flood is in First Strike (Sargent Johnson, as a matter of fact). There is, however, a man named Jenkins that is infected by the flood, and is 100% aware that he is being controlled by the them. He also has limited control over his parasite. For example, he can still talk, and move to a certain degree.
First Strike returns to Reach to tell us what happens there during the action on Halo. Some surviving Spartans are holding off the Covenant. Rather than merely destroying, or "glassing" the planet completely with their plasma weapons, they are excavating a mountain where the mastermind behind Cortana and the Spartans, Dr. Halsey, is hiding, with some surviving Spartans.
The Master Chief and Cortana escape from the wreckage of Halo and manage to commandeer a Covenant ship, fufilling their original orders. Hooking up with some surviving Spartans, they save Dr. Halsey and a small crystal. The Covenant call this item "the holy light", and refuse to fire upon anyone who carries it.
Dr. Halsey discovers something in one of the Spartan's DNA, and puts her to sleep. She then escapes for parts - or reasons - unknown.
Cortana discovers a strangely similar AI in the Covenant computer. Dissasembling it, she begins to feel sluggish and slow. (AFAIK it's not down to the fact that she's "destroyed" the AI that she feels slow, but the fact that she's downloaded everysingle piece of information on Halo, which caused her to exceed her memory banks. Lutzie)
Master Chief and the Spartans then destroy a major Covenant outpost (filled to the gills with Covenant ships who were refuelling for an attack on Earth.
Halo Connections to Marathon
If you believe as many players do, the Marathon protagonist is a Mjolnir Mark IV cyborg. Master Chief wears Mjolnir Mark V armor. Furthermore, both protagonists are enhanced supersoldiers. If the Marathon marine is indeed a cyborg, he is an electromechanically enhanced cyborg similar to the "battleroids" used in historical conflicts in the Marathon backstory.
(Putting this here because I've heard some complaints about mentioning it - this is the basis for the belief that the Marathon marine is the same character as the main character of an earlier Bungie game. All of Bungie's game connect in one way or another)
The SPARTANs in Halo are genetically enhanced, highly trained, and wear the advanced Mjolnir armor, rumored to have been created using technology borrowed or stolen from the Covenant.
Mjolnir was the hammer of Thor, once again showing Bungie's predilection for mythological references.
In both games, the primary conduit for finding out information about the gameworld outside of actual gameplay (which is mostly standard FPS gameplay, although exceedingly well-done) are interactions with AI characters. In the Marathon Trilogy, you interact with three human-built AIs through text-based terminals. The three AIs were:
As well as an alien AI named Thoth.
In Halo, you interact primarily with a so-called "smart" AI named Cortana, who interacts with you through audio commentary while you play the game and as a character in the in-engine cutscenes that open and close each level, and sometimes punctuate important events during levels.
Cortana shows behavior hinting at something similar to rampancy while resident in the systems of Halo's Control Room. However, no explicit reference is ever made to rampancy within the Halo game or novels. UPDATE: In the Recipe6Axons set, the Jersey axons explicitly refer to Durga going "rampant."
In Marathon, a number of alien species are subjugated by the Pfhor, an race of slavers who opportunistically use borrowed technology from their client races and a long-gone superrace called the Jjaro.
In Halo, a number of alien races are part of a group called the Covenant, who opportunistically use borrowed technology from a long-gone supperace called the Forerunners, who built the Halo and whose artifacts the Covenant seek all over the galaxy.
There is a belief among many fans that Marathon and Halo are directly connected, that perhaps they are alternate timelines in the same universe, that Halo occurs in a universe created after the end of the universe in which Marathon occurs, and in which perhaps one of the Rampant AIs, or perhaps the spirit of the Eternal Hero, endures.
This opinion is bolstered by a post by Bungie's ex-Community Relations guy, Matt Soell, regarding Marathon and Halo saying that there are "connections", but refusing to elaborate. (http://web.archive.org/web/20030608214403/http://www.bungie.net/perlbin/blam.pl?file=/site/0/news/stories/the_marathon_connection.html)
Portions of the Cortana Letters, which some no longer consider canon after the departure from Bungie of their author, Nathan Bitner, also lend some support to this theory, as the AI in those letters, Cortana, says she is a "friend of a friend"-- which many people assumed meant Leela or Durandal. However, the character of Cortana changed much between the Letters and the released game, leading many to wonder whether they are applicable.
Despite the tantalizing nature of such speculation, the more recently revised Marathon FAQ which went online during the same site revision that removed the "Marathon Connection" article states that Halo and Marathon are different stories with different characters, leading other Bungie fans to believe that there is no way of reconciling the two stories' timelines through alternative universe theories, time travel, or other such gimmickry.
Note: The Bungie FAQ simply says Halo and Marathon have a "separate story, with wholly different characters, story and gameplay." Given Bungie, it is entire possible, and likely, that this could be taken to mean that these are simply volumes in single universe. The Marathon games were Durandal's story, are the Halo games simply Cortana's story in the same universe? -dnomad
Lets not also forget that in Halo there is a Marathon class cruiser (Fall of Reachp.238)
Halo Connections To I Love Bees
The military conversations in one of the recent updates sound very much like conversations during the Halo 2 announcement trailer.
As in Halo and Marathon, this crashed ship has at least one on-board AI. In Marathon, the AIs were given different tasks, but were equally important. The Halo universe has both "dumb" and "smart" AIs that perform different tasks.
UserNarcogen 23:13, 27 Jul 2004 (PDT)
Apparently, according to Frankie at Bungie, this week's Halo 2 update (July 30) contains barely any Halo 2 information - due to the fact that "the team was on a very intense crunch to complete a very important stage of development" - whatever that means *cough* ;)
Weekly Halo 2 Update #29
UserThebruce 18:54, 30 Jul 2004 (PDT)
Note: There's no indication from anywhere that anyone at Bungie is actively involved in the ARG. They're actually much too busy actually finishing Halo 2. I don't think any clues to the puzzle are going to be found inside the Weekly Updates, which have been going on for months now, long before the ARG started. In fact, the only involvement Frankie has had so far is to debunk the speculation that the August 24 date refers to a Halo 2 or Halo 2 demo release; it doesn't.
UserNarcogen 21:26, 5 Aug 2004 (PDT)
Since Halo 2 is "going gold" soon, if Bungie teammates really are involved, you should see massive changes in the site from now (Week of Oct.5) through early November (Bungie members will be involved in a lot of pre-release PR, so they will once again be supremely busy). -gspawn
Also, again, note my reference to the Marathon FAQ. Bungie is now pretty clear that the universes are pretty seperate. They may still be intimately related (at least as inspiration), but directly saying anything in Halo is from Marathon might be a little far now. -gspawn