Sunday, March 28, 2010

Halo Encyclopedia - The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe Review

In late October of 2009, the Halo Encyclopedia - The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe, was published and I found and snagged my copy in early November. At that moment, I held in my hands the first true official compilation of all the details for this great sci-fi universe, and yes, I was quite excited. For the Halo universe is rich and vast, with a large amount of history, detail, and science, and I was quite anxious to read through this wealth of knowledge and to answer some long standing questions I've had.

The encyclopedia is broken up into eleven chapters, which cover everything from a timeline, to the cultures of the universe, to the Human-Covenant War, technology, and weapons. Generally speaking, it's quite in-depth and encompasses most of the content seen up until it's publication. This is a very important point, because this is supposed to be the "Definitive Guide" to all things Halo, except that it's not. In truth, this "definitive" claim became quite false only about a month later with the publication of Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, and the encyclopedia barely touches on Halo 3: ODST, which was released prior to publication.

I must confess that I found this greatly disappointing, as so much of what I was looking for in the Halo Encyclopedia - The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe simply isn't there. There's no mention of what happened to Cortana while she was held by the Gravemind, no mention of how the Arbiter, Miranda, and Johnson arrived back on Earth before the Master Chief, heck, speaking of Johnson, there wasn't even any mention of him being a Spartan. Ironically, the Orion Project is mentioned a few times, but the encyclopedia itself shows different dates for this and other events, depending on whether you're looking at the timeline or other chapters, which is rather sloppy.

What the encyclopedia does do is bring together the last 8 years of Halo-lore scattered across games, novels, comics, etc. and place it all in one compilation, so if you have a Halo related question, instead of flipping through a novel to find some obscure piece of info you'll hopefully be able to reference it quickly here instead.

It took me months to read through all 352 pages, not because of the wealth of information present, but because the book contained next to no new information _provided_ and I pretty much already new it all and thus lost interest quickly pouring through it. The details on the cultures, the characters, the weapons, these are all things those who've already played the games and read the novels will already know. In fact, once I completed the encyclopedia, the only new things I learned was a few details on cryo sleep and a few tid-bits about various colony worlds. That's it. Don't ask me if the Forerunners are truly alive or dead, the encyclopedia says both at different points. Don't ask me what year Cole's huge battle which cost him two thirds of his fleet took place, 'cause again, the encyclopedia contradicts itself in different sections. Oh, and apparently the I Love Bees alternate reality game is now canon. The story aspects are covered in full in the encyclopedia, so that means it's official; it really happened. And yes, that leaves me shaking my head. At least Red vs. Blue isn't in here.

The encyclopedia does feature exceptional artwork all throughout, both in-game shots and traditional art. In fact I'd say it's biggest selling point is simply how great it looks all through, and I can't complain about how nice it looks on the cocktail table in my living room, but is this alone worth the $46.00 price of admission. Nope, it sure isn't.

Had I not read all the Halo novels and already been so well versed in Halo lore, the Halo Encyclopedia - The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe would actually have enlightened me about a whole lot of things, but as it stands, merely being a collection of past knowledge that in several instances contradicts itself, the encyclopedia is far less informative and a large disappointment.

Honestly, you're money is better spent on the novels, or on Halo: Legends, all of which contain detailed and full information that will show you more of what this epic universe has to offer.

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