Looking back, Halo has always had a soft spot for Greek mythology, the most obvious reference being the name of the SPARTAN program itself, but it goes far deeper than that. Station Delphi, Tartarus, and there is even the UNSC Minotaur! A lot of these references occur in the extended canon but it is easy to see Halo has a close relationship with the pantheon of Greece.
That’s why I found it so interesting when the team hunting Chief was named Osiris, after the Egyptian god. As far as I know this is the first reference to Egyptian mythology in any of the official Halo games or canon, so I wanted to learn more about Osiris and speculate a bit on how he relates to the Halo universe and Halo 5’s story.
So the first thing you need to know is Osiris is the god of the dead. Sounds scary, right? That’s actually not the case. While we might think of death as a scary thing, ancient Egyptians saw it as a chance at a second life, and Osiris was the one who provided it to them.
Upon their death Egyptians believed that entry into the Kingdom of Osiris was decided by a panel of forty-two (nice Hitchhikers reference, ancient Egypt!) divine judges. If the judges decided you were not worthy, you were thrown to a devourer and died for real!
How does this tie into the story of Halo 5? The obvious interpretation is that Locke is looking to kill Chief, no messing around here. I can tell you that in ancient Egypt if Osiris is looking for you it probably means you won’t be alive for much longer. However let’s go a little deeper…
I mentioned before that Osiris seemed like a scary guy, but the Egyptian’s view of death is slightly different from our own. They saw death as an opportunity for eternal life provided by Osiris as a blessing, and they worshiped him in hopes of attaining a spot in his kingdom forever. This is the perspective on Osiris I find the most interesting as it pertains to the story of the Master Chief.
The Chief has done incredible things and has attained a certain “immortality” in his own universe. John 117 will live on in the hearts and minds of people across the universe for the things he has done. At this point it wouldn’t matter if Master Chief died in battle or of old age, his actions will live forever. You could say he has already received the blessing of Osiris, he just hasn’t made that final journey to his kingdom, if you know what I mean. I think this is sort of how ONI views the Chief, he has already done all he can for the universe, and his latest shenanigans seem to have brought about a new threat that could rival the Covenant.
This ties into the second part of the Osiris mythology: judgment. In ancient Egypt you had to live your life according to the rules of the Ma’at, but in halo 5 judgment refers to the actions of the Chief: is he a hero, or a villain? Did he save the universe, or has he doomed it? It seems obvious to us that the Chief is the hero in all this, or at the very least he can’t be the villain, but Locke has a very different perspective on him. I think this is the core of the Halo 5 campaign story, and the key to the relationship between Chief and Locke.
We already know that the Halo 5 campaign is not as linear as Halo 4, I think it would be really interesting if they incorporated non-linear storytelling as well. Allow the player to see things from Locke’s perspective, but still make choices in the game that affect the outcome. We know what happened to the Chief, so I imagine that ONI will presented a very distorted view of him and it will be up to Locke to determine what the real truth is. Perhaps finding terminals and other information hidden in different levels could reveal more about what really happened not only to the player, but to Locke and the team as well. This, in turn, could completely change how the confrontation between Master Chief and Locke plays out.
EDIT [06/29/15] – I recently released a video that covers some of the subject material I went over here as well as expanding on how Halo could utilize non-linear story telling.