Halo’s Human vs Covenant War Explained: Full Story

HaloThe war between man and covenant was a brutal conflict that brought humanity to the brink of extermination. The first one Halo game released for Xbox in 2001, introducing players to the Master Chief and an alien covenant that threatened to wipe out the human race. A phenomenal success, the first-person shooter inspired many sequels and tie-ins. It now serves as the inspiration for a Paramount TV+ series.

Led by their prophets, the Covenant is an alliance of different races who are driven by religious zeal to follow in the footsteps of an ancient race called the Forerunners. The prophets assured them that human beings are only good for extermination, and they will do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal. To make matters worse, for much of the conflict, the Pact’s true motives remained a mystery, meaning Earth’s UNSC – United Nations Space Command – was always in the background. Fortunately, humanity had champions; Spartans, notably the Master Chief, John-117.


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Of course, the Paramount TV+ adaptation may not follow quite the same Halo chronology. Yet the Halo the trailers have made it clear that the show is getting closer to the original source material, so viewers might want to understand how the war between man and covenant unfolded in the games and novels. Here is a complete history of the war between humans and covenants.

Humanity’s first contact with the Alliance

Harvesting Halo Contacts

The beginning of the war between humans and Covenant began in 2524, with the first contact between humans and Covenant. The story is told in Joseph Staten’s novel “Contact Harvest”. A Covenant mission ship came across an unmanned human freighter that had fallen out of slipspace after its slipspace drive malfunctioned; to the surprise of the Covenant, their systems identified what appeared to be thousands of Forerunner artifacts and an Oracle on the nearby farming planet Harvest. It didn’t take long for the Covenant to arrive in Harvest in force, and an early attempt to negotiate a peace treaty quickly fell apart. The Covenant was initially repelled, but returned in force to glaze the planet a few months later. In the aftermath, three new prophets took command of the Covenant – the Prophets of Truth, Regret, and Mercy – and they declared that mankind must be destroyed. Analysis of Harvest’s signals had proven that the human race was the heir to the Forerunners; humans could have broken the Covenant, and the prophets could not risk this truth being revealed.

Early battles between humanity and the Covenant


The Covenant used devices called Luminaries – originally designed to detect Forerunner artifacts – to locate human worlds. They launched a series of attacks on the colony worlds, with the UNSC forces essentially executing a combat retreat; the Spartans were their only effective weapons against the Covenant, quickly dubbed “demonsby religious fanatics. The Covenant had a terrifying advantage; because their goal was nothing less than the extermination of all human beings, they rarely needed to engage in ground battles, instead contenting themselves with bombing Colonial worlds from space and glazing them in. The UNSC responded by giving Admiral Preston Cole command of a massive fleet and entrusting him with the recapture of Harvest.He was successful and began harassing Covenant forces across the Outer Colonies.

Admiral Cole understood that the greatest risk to humanity lay in the possibility of the Covenant discovering a major inhabited world – or, even worse, even Earth. To this end, the Admiral will eventually write the so-called “Cole Protocol– an order that the navigational logs of any ship that encountered the Covenant were to be erased, so that the Covenant could gain nothing from any envelope. Teams of Spartans enforced Cole Protocol, sent to civilian worlds or Insurgency bases to ensure key locations Unfortunately, after another battle at Harvest – the one that saw the Covenant unearth an ancient Forerunner artifact – Cole realized that all his efforts had failed: the Covenant had discovered the location of an important world colony, Arcadia.

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The fall of Arcadia and the advance of the Covenant

Halo Wars Spartans

The Covenant attacked Arcadia in force, convinced that the colony world – inhabited by some three million people – possessed Forerunner relics. Fortunately for the colonists, this meant the Covenant chose not to glaze the planet, and UNSC reinforcements soon engaged the Covenant in a series of ground battles. In a sense, both sides achieved their goal in Arcadia; the Covenant managed to gain access to the old Forerunner star maps, while the UNSC managed to evacuate most of the colonists. The fall of Arcadia led the Covenant to a Forerunner Shield World, a potential military installation that would massively boost their power, but luckily the UNSC pursued the Covenant to this Shield World and destroyed it. This story is told in the Halo Wars game, and marks a turning point in the Human-Covenant war – because humanity has finally begun to understand the artifacts the Covenant has been after.

By 2534, it was clear that humanity was in deep trouble. The UNSC responded by crafting draconian laws governing space travel – leading to another wave of insurgent uprisings, with many insurgents refusing to believe the Covenant really existed. Finally, in 2536, the Alliance broke into the inner colonies, bringing a wave of defeats over the next two decades. One world after another fell, with humanity desperately trying to repel the Covenant, but failing. This culminated in the fabled Fall of Reach in 2552, with a ship – the Pillar of Autumn, containing the Spartan Master Chief John-117 – escaping at coordinates retrieved from a Forerunner artifact. Although the humans didn’t realize it, they had discovered the location of a Halo Ring.

The final year of the war between humans and alliances is told in the first three Halo games

Halo Combat Evolved

The Pillar of Autumn had stumbled upon a Halo Ring in August 2552 after escaping the Fall of Reach, and Spartan Master Chief John-117 discovered the facility’s true purpose; destroy potential food sources for the parasitic infestation known as the Deluge by wiping out all life in the area of ​​the galaxy around the ring. This story is told in the first Halo game, with the Covenant attempting to activate the Halo Ring because they believed it would allow them to ascend to another plane of existence. The Master Chief succeeded in destroying the facility, and he and other UNSC survivors escaped by capturing a Covenant flagship, Ascendant Justice – as told in Eric Nyland’s novel “Halo: First Strike “.

The destruction of this Halo ring led to an escalation of the conflict – the Covenant even launching an attack on Earth. But the discovery of more Halo rings led to a flood infestation on the Alliance capital, High Charity, nearly wiping out the Prophets. Meanwhile, the Master Chief’s continued crusade has begun to tear them apart, with Elites and Brutes turning on each other; the elites eventually left the Alliance, siding with humanity against the religious leaders who had deceived them. Things came to a head when the Prophet of Truth attempted to activate all of the Halo Rings (or Halo Array) across the galaxy, but he too was defeated by the Master Chief. And so the greatest war in human history came to an abrupt end, when the greatest force – the Covenant – collapsed. The end would have been very different without the Master Chief, the hero of the Halo Games.

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