A Covenant Hunter, Grunts, Brute, and Jackal as they appear in Halo 3.
|First appearance||Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)|
The Covenant is a fictional militaristic and theocratic alliance of alien races who serve as one of the main antagonistic forces of the Halo science-fiction video game series. They are composed of a variety of diverse species, united under the religious worship of the Forerunners and their belief that the Halos will provide a path to salvation. Seen as technologically superior to humans, they are fighting a war of attrition against the human United Nations Space Command; the Hierarchs declared humanity an affront to the Forerunners and ordered their destruction.
The Covenant were first introduced in Halo: Combat Evolved as the protagonist Master Chief and the AI Cortana are escaping from the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn in orbit over Halo; the Covenant disable the ship and board it via landing craft. On Halo, the player encounters the Covenant in force all over the ring, and they are the primary enemies until the Covenant release the Flood from stasis. To develop a distinctive look for the various races of the Covenant, Bungie artists drew inspiration from reptilian, ursine, and avian characteristics. A Covenant design scheme of purples and reflective surfaces was made to separate the aliens from human architecture.
The Covenant's society and internal workings are elaborated on in Halo 2, with much of the game's single-player campaign taking place from the perspective of a Covenant Elite, the Arbiter. The Arbiter and two other Covenant characters, N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham, are playable in Halo 3's four player co-op; however, only the Arbiter is present during cutscenes and single player mode.
- 1 Game development
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Technology
- 4 Species
- 5 Critical impact
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Like most of the other characters and species in the Halo universe, the Covenant were slowly developed during the initial concept phase and refined as Halo: Combat Evolved progressed. To design the various races of the Covenant, Bungie's artists looked at live animals and movies for inspiration; as a result, the species within the Covenant bear simian, reptilian, avian and ursine characteristics.
During the course of development of Halo, the designers decided upon three "schools" of architecture, for each of the races represented — the humans, Covenant, and Forerunners. For the Covenant, the team decided on "sleek and shiny", with reflective surfaces, organic shapes, and use of purples. According to art director Marcus Lehto, the principle designs for the race came from environmental artist Paul Russell.
Like the character designs, Covenant technology, architecture, and design continually changed throughout development, occasionally for practical reasons as well as aesthetics. According to Eric Arroyo, the Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation, which plays a major role in Halo: Combat Evolved, was to be boarded by the player by a long ramp. However due to technical considerations of having a fully textured ship so close to the player, the designers came up with a "gravity lift", which allowed the ship to be farther away (thus not requiring as much processing power for detail) as well as adding a "visually interesting" component of Covenant technology.
The art team also spent a large amount of time on Covenant weaponry, in order to make them suitably alien yet still recognizable to players. At the same time, the designers wanted all aspects of Covenant technology, especially the vehicles, to act plausibly. Bungie ended up looking at movies and other media for inspiration on almost every aspect of the race.
The events in the primary story arc of the Halo series occur during the "Ninth Age of Reclamation." The Covenant's organization of time and dates is not elaborated on in detail in the game or during any of the novelizations; Joseph Staten, in an interview on halo.bungie.org, stated explicitly that the Covenant's date system is split into seven epochs, split into the following Ages: Abandonment, Conflict, Discovery, Reconciliation, Conversion, Doubt, and Reclamation. The Ninth Age of Reclamation takes place during the events of the war between the humans and the Covenant, beginning with the rise of the Prophets Truth, Mercy and Regret to become the leaders of the Covenant.
Contact Harvest and The Fall of Reach
Humanity and the Covenant first meet at the human colony Harvest, as described in the novels Halo: Contact Harvest and Halo: The Fall of Reach, but the books present different accounts of first contact. In 2001's The Fall of Reach, a lone Covenant ship "glassed" Harvest, bombarding its surface with plasma, turning the surface into molten glass and presumably killing all its inhabitants. The lone ship, broadcasting the Covenant edict, "Your destruction is the will of the Gods... and we are their instrument", destroys the UNSC ship Argo, as well as several other human ships before being destroyed itself. The 2007 book Contact Harvest describes a lengthy ground engagement between human militia and Covenant, with a substantial number of colonists evacuating the world.
The Covenant's superior technology allow them to annihilate the human Outer Colonies within four years; the Covenant begin to destroy the Inner Colonies in short order as well. However their efforts are stymied by the Cole Protocol, which stops UNSC ships from directly or indirectly traveling to inhabited human worlds (forcing them to make several random trips before actually returning to a human colony) and upon imminent risk of capture, the ship's AI is erased with the rest of the navigational database, and the ship self-destructs. In 2552, the Covenant assault the human colony Sigma Octanus IV in an effort to recover an ancient artifact with Forerunner glyphs on it, but are repelled by a UNSC battlegroup. Victorious, the Iroquois departs the system; unbeknownst to its crew or the UNSC, a Covenant transmitter attaches to the Iroquois and reveals the location of Reach, Earth's best defended colony, to the Covenant. A massive Covenant fleet arrives at Reach and lays waste to much of the planet.
Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo: The Flood and Halo: First Strike
The Covenant's first appearance in the video games is in 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved, which picks up towards the end of The Fall of Reach. A sizable detachment of Covenant follow the human vessel Pillar of Autumn from Reach to Installation 04, a relic of the Forerunner that the Covenant view as sacred. Wary of accidentally damaging the ring, the Covenant are forced to fight the humans on foot. At some point, the Covenant accidentally release the Flood, a virulent parasite, from stasis; the Flood infect many human and Covenant, and even take control of Covenant vessels in attempts to escape the ring. The Covenant know of the Flood from their religious texts, and recognize the threat of the parasite. They send in a strike team to retake the damaged cruiser Truth and Reconciliation and divert their attention to stopping the Flood. Meanwhile, the Master Chief detonates the Pillar of Autumn's engines, destroying the ring and most of the Covenant armada, the Fleet of Particular Justice, led by the soon-to-be Arbiter. Most of what transpired in the game was written in the book Halo: The Flood, in which certain details not in the game was also added, such as the ODSTs and what happened with the damaged Covenant Cruiser.
Halo: First Strike describes the Battle of Reach from the Spartan team's perspective, and also of the immediate events following the destruction of the first Halo. Later, the Master Chief and his fellow SPARTAN-IIs, recovered from the remains of Reach, destroyed the Unyielding Heirophant and a Covenant Armada estimated at over 500 ships strong  that was to attack Earth.
The Covenant return as both antagonists and allies in 2004's Halo 2. At the start of the game, the Covenant High Prophet Regret arrives at Earth with a small escort fleet. Not knowing Earth was the human homeworld, the Covenant are obliterated. With his fleet gone, Regret jumps to Delta Halo, inadvertently carrying the human ship In Amber Clad. The Master Chief is sent to assassinate Regret, killing the Prophet before a massive Covenant fleet and the mobile city of High Charity arrive at the ring.
At the same time, the Covenant is experiencing stress. The death of Regret leads to the remaining Prophets transferring the Brutes into the position of their Honor Guards, a job the Elites had previously held, claiming that Elites could no longer guarantee their safety. This sudden displacement severely angers the Elites, who had been in such a position since the founding of the Covenant, and they threaten to resign from the High Council; the Prophets give the Brutes carte blanche to murder the Elites, sparking a civil war. The Elites join their former enemies, humanity, in stopping the firing of Delta Halo; Truth, the last High Prophet after Mercy is assimilated by parasitic Flood, leaves High Charity for Earth.
In Halo 2, the central component of the Covenant's beliefs is revealed to be the "Great Journey", a spiritual equivalent of the rapture and the ultimate goal of the Covenant. The Covenant believe that their forebears, the Forerunners, used the Sacred Rings to cleanse the universe of all that was unworthy, and led them to salvation. The Covenant wish to wipe out humanity and the Flood, and follow the Forerunners to their mysterious destination. The Covenant's execution of the Great Journey consists of the activation of at least one Halo installation, the "divine wind" of which will sweep all those who are worthy on the path to the beyond.
By the events of Halo 3, the Elites have split completely from the Covenant, though most of the Grunts and Hunters have folded back into the Covenant, driven by fear of the Brutes. High Charity is taken over by the Flood, while Truth and what little remains of the Covenant empire excavate the artifact believed to be the Ark on Earth. Truth activates the artifact, creating a slipspace portal to the real Ark; the Elites' ships arrive on Earth in time to stop the Flood from infesting the planet. The Elites decide that their fight with Truth lies through the slipspace portal, and together with human marines the Elites engage the Prophet's ships and stop Truth from firing the Halo network. At the conclusion of the game, humanity's war with the Covenant ends; the Arbiter leads his Elites to their homeworld after paying respects to the dead.
The Covenant were featured in Halo 4 (2012), in the form of a splinter group led by Sangheili Jul 'Mdama. This faction still follows the ideology of the old Covenant religion and seeks to find a powerful weapon on Requiem, the fictional planet on which the majority of Halo 4 is set.
Technologically, the Covenant are described in Halo: The Flood and First Strike to be adaptive rather than innovative — most of the Covenant's technology is based on Forerunner artifacts rather than the Covenant's own research. Both the games and books note that since the Covenant has not researched the technologies they rely upon, they are incapable of utilizing them to their full potential. UNSC artificial intelligence units (Cortana in particular) boost the efficiency and output of much of the Covenant's weaponry when given access to it, and likewise shown to easily infiltrate and overcome Covenant computer systems.
As revealed in Halo: First Strike, Covenant weapons are based on Forerunner technology. Plasma weapons are built around a battery that generates plasma and discharges it at a target. Frank O'Connor, Bungie' former Public Relations head, hinted that there may be something more to the Covenant's weaponry, saying: "The actual technology is not plasma as we know it, but something far more dangerous, arcane, and destructive." A few of the Covenant's weapons are not plasma-based, including the Needler, which instead shoots razor-sharp pink needles capable of homing at organic foes. The Needler was featured in an Electronic Gaming Monthly article discussing the practicality and historical basis for fictional weaponry; a weapons expert noted parallels between the Needler and ancient Amazons painting their daggers pink as a psychological weapon.
Covenant society is a caste system composed of many races, some of which were forcibly incorporated. Each race is required to provide a specific number of battle-ready troops in order to remain within the Covenant. The races are identified by their common UNSC designation.
Prophets (Covenant: San 'Shyuum) are the highest ranking species forming the Covenant, originally from a planet once inhabited by the Forerunners. They form the Covenant's political and spiritual leadership, and have absolute control over day-to-day operations. The primary executors of the Covenant's will is a theocratic triumvirate of Hierarchs, the Prophets of Truth, Mercy and Regret (Formerly known as the Minister Fortitude, Vice Minister Tranquillity, and the Philologist (a hermit generally dwelling within the Forerunner Dreadnought in High Charity)). Together, they form the core of power for the Covenant government. There are also lower-ranked Prophets who are responsible for individual aspects of Covenant culture, society, and military operations. While only making a very minor appearance, these lower Prophets are discussed in the series' novelizations.
Prior to the formation of the Covenant, the Prophets faced utter defeat by the Elites. It was not until the discovery of Forerunner artifacts on the Prophet home world that the two sides were able to form a peace treaty, thus laying the foundation for the Covenant. Since then the Prophets have put considerable effort into extending their own lifespans, as well as breeding to preserve specific genetic traits. These eugenics effort involve declaring many individuals unable to breed, not from unfitness, but because their traits are already too common. After their home world was destroyed, the majority of the Prophet population began to reside within High Charity and its surrounding fleet. After the outbreak of the Flood within High Charity as well as the Elites' turning against the Prophets, their population has dwindled to near-extinction levels.
The Prophets were primarily designed by Shi Kai Wang and Eric Arroyo. Originally, the Prophets were designed in a more unified way, with their gravity thrones fused with the Prophet's organic structures. The characters were also designed to be feeble, yet sinister. The three Prophet Hierarchs were each individually designed.
- Main article: Elite (Halo)
The Elites (Covenant: Sangheili, their name for themselves as a species) were originally the core of the Covenant military before their eventual replacement by the Brutes. Standing 8' 6", the Elites are excellent soldiers, very loyal to the Prophets, brilliant tacticians, and disciplined, aggressive fighters. Faster, stronger, and tougher than any human (with the exception of the MJOLNIR-equipped SPARTAN IIs and SPARTAN IIIs) they fight in relatively small numbers but often lead squads of Grunts. All Elites, regardless of profession or rank, are fairly capable fighters. The most skilled swordsmen are forbidden to marry, instead being encouraged to breed as often as possible so as to preserve their "swordsman genes". Elites wear armor of varying color, which signifies their rank and relative strength, and some wear camouflage armor which helps them disappear into their surroundings.
One of the Elites' standout features is a four-part lower jaw. Early in Halo: Combat Evolved's game development, and in the E3 2000 promotional video, the Elites had more simple jaws and carried shields instead of the personal shields they came to use.
Resembling rhino-skinned gorillas, the Brutes (Covenant: Jiralhanae) are first introduced in the novel Halo: First Strike, and later as an enemy in Halo 2. Brutes stand 9' tall, possess immense strength, and have incredible endurance, putting them on the same level as the Elites. Brutes are organized tribally and are led by their chieftain; Tartarus is the first example of this, though numerous other chieftains are seen in Halo 3. Halo 3 also introduces a color-based ranking system for the Brutes, much like that of the Elites.
The Brutes have a long-standing rivalry with the Elites, due in great part to the Brutes' unquestioning loyalty to the Covenant religion and, in turn, the Prophets. This animosity eventually culminates into civil war between the two sides and splits the Covenant in two. Simultaneously, the Brutes fill the void of the Elites' departure from the Covenant, assuming leadership roles within the Covenant military and becoming the sole protectors of the Prophets. Prior to their new position in the Covenant, the Brutes primarily acted as occupying muscle, and thus were rarely seen by humans prior to Halo 2 except on Harvest.
Grunts (Covenant: Unggoy) serve as the primary infantry of the Covenant's military forces, yet are the lowest creatures in the caste system. In addition to their role in the Covenant military as (primarily) cannon fodder, Grunts are used for labor, and on rare occasions exceptionally intelligent Grunts may be trained as Deacons, helping to see that the Covenant's religious doctrine is followed. Grunts do not breathe the same atmosphere as humans and the rest of the Covenant species. In order to survive in oxygen-based environments, they must wear an apparatus allowing them to breathe methane gases, which can be shot or knocked off their backs in Halo 3. Standing at approximately five feet tall, cowardly, and possessing little in the way of armor or relative endurance, a single Grunt is rarely a match for either the Master Chief or any standard Marine, instead relying on numbers to overwhelm opposition. If not being led by either an Elite or a Brute, Grunts will often panic and retreat at the sight of an enemy. Grunts, like the Elites, come in a variety of different colors, indicating rank.
Though not a significant threat to the player on their own, Grunts rarely fight by themselves. When in large groups and emboldened by a higher-ranking unit, such as an Elite, they can overwhelm any opponent with massed fire or through sheer numbers. The Covenant views Grunts as disposable in nature.
Jackals (Covenant: Kig-Yar) were originally recruited as replacements for the Grunts, though their temperament, and lack in numbers made such a transition impossible. They are higher in status, if not necessarily rank, than the Grunts. They have superior senses compared to both humans and other Covenant races, resulting in their role as either scouts or snipers for the Covenant. Some Jackals in Halo: Combat Evolved wear armor that masks their features.
The Jackals have a two-sex gender system of male and female, and each sex can be distinguished by the differences in their heads. Males possess spiky protrusions, similar in appearance to an Iguana, the color of which change with their mood making their feelings easy to read for one familiar with their society. Unlike the males, Jackal females have no cranial plumage, but do have thick brown calluses on the top and backs of their heads. It is known that many Jackal ships are commanded by females, with ownership of the ships being kept in a clan through matrilineal descent.
When deployed as ground troops, Jackals are commonly equipped with arm-mounted energy shields (more formally known as Point Defense Gauntlets) and a plasma pistol. Their shields are more than capable of deflecting ballistic projectile weapons and Covenant needler rounds, but their strength fades considerably under sustained fire from plasma-based weaponry. Like other shields in the game, their arm-shields will recharge after a short period of inactivity. The shield color varies, and range from green to blue to orange, the latter being much tougher and indicating a higher rank. Jackals can also utilize the overcharge capacity (a supercharged plasma burst that depletes any shield instantly) of their plasma pistols. Jackals usually create defensive, dug-in positions with their large shields, using them to block all attacks while firing from a small hole on the side. In this position, only powerful attacks or explosives will dislodge a Jackal from their position, after which they tend to be easily killed. Jackals may also be employed as snipers, using high energy beam rifles to kill their targets from great distances.
Traditional Jackal culture is based on piracy, raiding others for what they need. As they filled up their own world, revealed in the Bestiarum to be a fictional satellite of the extrasolar planet HD 69830 d, differences between clans lessened and they united to turn towards piracy against other species. When the Covenant absorbed the Jackals, they accepted the Covenant cause grudgingly, paying only occasional lip service to the Covenant religion. Jackal-commanded ships often act as scouts for the Covenant, discovering new worlds and species to bring into the Covenant hegemony, which will overlook their occasional looting behavior of said worlds and species provided that the Jackals do not take or harm Forerunner artifacts, which must be turned over directly to the Prophets. In this sense, they are somewhat like privateers. As such, they interact with the Covenant leadership through the Ministry of Concert and express their dissent about something by limiting access to their services.
Hunters (Covenant: Lekgolo) are incredibly dangerous foes, deployed more like equipment for demolition or heavy defense than soldiers. They are always seen working in pairs with a "bond brother". The Hunters' massive size, near-impenetrable armor, large shields, and arm-mounted fuel rod gun make them walking tanks in combat.
Each Hunter entity is actually a conglomerate colony of sentient orange symbiotic eels, held together by their armor. This grouping allows the normally unintelligent eels to work together, dramatically increasing their overall intelligence and strength. Hunters that fight in pairs (as all Hunters encountered in the game do) are considered to be "bonded"; that is, both hunters are actually part of a single colony that is too large to fit inside a single suit of armor and thus must occupy two suits. Individual eels are seen used in Contact Harvest to "map" the insides of Forerunner technology where normal workers could not reach. The eels' fondness for burrowing through Forerunner architecture is the reason for their introduction into the Covenant; after the Covenant failed to destroy the eels for their desecration of sacred relics, the Arbiter of the time suggested "taming" the Hunters instead. Hunters do not take part in Covenant activity outside of battle, as they only remain within the Covenant so as to utilize its space travel technology.
Engineers (Forerunner: Huragok) are the scientific engineering backbone of the Covenant and its economy. The name Huragok was given to them by the Forerunners themselves, indicating their Forerunner connection; most Engineers are found residing within Forerunner facilities, and, as indicated in Halo 3's Beastiarum, were created by the Forerunners. Despite this connection, they have been unhelpful in divulging the secrets of their creators, as they are more concerned with an item's repair than its function or purpose. Parent Huragok fill their offspring with an arrangement of gases and name them accordingly, such as Far Too Heavy or Easy To Adjust or Lighter Than Some.
Engineers float via air sacs and their tentacles are able to split into many fine cilia, with which they are able to manipulate machinery. Their motivations are unknown, but they appear to draw no distinction between friend and foe, preferring to spend their time inspecting or repairing technology. They will, however, utter a high pitched keening sound when a Forerunner artifact is under any sort of threat. Their vocal range is limited to screeches and small chirps, which they only use to alert or add emphasis. Their actual language is communicated in sign, using their tentacles to make words. With practice, others can learn to read Engineer signing and duplicate their language using their own fingers as analogs for the Engineers' tentacles. Additionally, an Engineer's float-bladders will pulsate differently depending on an Engineer's mood. While their language can be learned, it seems that few other members of the Covenant have the patience or need to do so, as the Engineers typically carry out their tasks of examining and maintaining technology of any sort without external direction. Engineers can repair themselves or others of their kind assuming there is no significant damage, allowing them to theoretically extend their lives indefinitely.
[[Image:Halo Drone.jpg|thumb||A Drone]] Drones (Covenant: Yanme'e) are the only insectoid race within the Covenant. Drones first appear in Halo 2 as new additions to the Covenant fighting force, though Contact Harvest explains the Drones are previously used as mechanics when Engineers are not available.
The Drones, like the Grunts, are a conquered race that was forced into service by the Covenant. They strictly follow Covenant religion and obey unquestioningly, but do not take part in social norms due to a difficulty in communication with other species. They view the Prophets as their "queens", a remnant of their former hive lifestyle.
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