343 Games revealed loads of new footage for Halo Infinite at the July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase, complete with gameplay and a brand-new villain with a flair for dramatic speeches. This new baddie doesn't seem to have any connection to the Covenant, Guardians, Prometheans, or any of the other mainline antagonists. Instead, Halo Infinite's villain is from The Banished tribe, previously the villains in 2017's Halo Wars 2.
Who are The Banished? Do they all give off Planet of the Apes vibes? This is everything we know about the group and its leaders.
Who are The Banished in Halo Infinite?
Remember the brute enemies that have been around since Halo 2? They're the daunting, huge foes who acted as the Covenant's shock troopers in the original series. They received a huge lore expansion in the expanded Halo universe. Now this species, known as the Jiralhanae, has oodles of backstory.
The Jiralhanae are structured like tribes, with Chieftans as their highest-ranking officers. This made them ripe for indoctrination by a more advanced race, the Sangheili, better known as Covenant Elites.
After an extended battle, the Elites subjugated the Jiralhanae, folding them into the Covenant. The initial conflict created tension between the two races and a deep hatred from Jiralhanae directed at Elites. Given their animalistic nature, most Jiralhanae found it quite difficult to resist the Covenant's far superior technology.
The Jiralhanae remained subservient to the Covenant for years, regularly abused and mistreated by their Elite overlords. When the Human-Covenant war rolled around, a few rebel Jiralhanae decided to split off from the Covenant. This splinter faction was led by a Jiralhanae named Atriox.
In their earliest days, The Banished performed clandestine raids on the Covenant, all while growing their ranks using any Covenant that wished to defect.
The Banished took center stage as the villain group of 2017's Halo Wars 2. In the game, Atriox set his sights on Installation 00 (or the Ark), a forerunner artifact that can be used to control every Halo ring in existence. Atriox attempted to colonize the Ark with Banished forces in an attempt for the group to further strengthen the group.
Their nefarious schemes were halted by a USNC group, but Atriox himself escaped capture. In retaliation, Atriox flooded the Ark. That's the last we've seen of the group's founder.
In Halo Infinite, the Banished are back in town and they've got a new head honcho, Escharum, who leads the group on this specific Halo Ring. Their new War Chief has successfully aided The Banished in capturing a Halo Ring and USNC bigshot, Master Chief is forced to play defense. They plan to expand their reign even further. Atriox is currently nowhere to be seen, and it's unknown if he'll return.
However, given a June 2020 teaser narrated by War Chief Escharum, Atriox might be presumed deceased. In it, he says "We are his will. We are his legacy. We are The Banished." "Will", "legacy", and concluding on "The Banished" all seem to imply that Atriox himself is no longer with the group.
Is Halo Wars 2 necessary to understand The Banished in Halo Infinite?
The Banished debuted in Halo Wars 2 and it's currently where you can find the bulk of their story. Naturally, it could be assumed that you would need to play the tactic based spin-off to understand their role in Halo Infinite. Nope.
In an interview with IGN, Halo developers Chris Lee and Paul Crocker stated “We don’t want a game where players have to do homework to enjoy this game," You won't need to play anything other than Halo Infinite to understand The Banished and their motivations. It can be assumed that "alleviating gamer homework" is why they traded out Atriox for Escharum. Were Atriox to be included, it might imply that you needed to play Halo Wars 2.
Why did they add the Banished? Crocker says it's because “Because they’re super cool and everyone likes them,” Fair enough.
Who is War Chief Escharum in Halo Infinite?
War Chief Escharum is the Banished's new leader. He debuted in the trailer shown at the Xbox Games Showcase, not much is know about him past that. We know that he has been with The Banished for quite some time. According to Crocker, he's "connected to The Banished in a fundamental way,”
Escharum could be one of The Banished's founding members, who joined Atriox's cause at the start. If so, this would provide a way to give exposition regarding The Banished without making Halo Wars 2 necessary. “This is my last fight, a true test of legends,” Escharum in the demo. His words imply that defending the Halo ring will be his last stand. Given his appearance, this further implies he's been around for some time and he's ready to find a resting place.
Escharum lastly mentions a plan to use an unknown entity called "The Harbinger." While we weren't given any clues past the name, some fans have jumped to assuming Cortana and The Created to be the mysterious "Harbinger." One person supported this theory using Halo 5 achievement called "Harbinger" that requires the player to safely escort the blue team to Cortana during Mission 14 Legendary. Either way, we'll see how the villain plays out when Halo Infinite launches.
Halo Infinite will launch in late 2020 for Xbox One and Series X.