> I would’ve had Noble Team be entirely composed of Spartan IIs. I would’ve had the majority of the missions be set before the Fall of Reach as so we can care about the characters (as well as not making the timeline of the battle confusing). And the last 4 missions or so would be set on Reach (where sadly the majority of the team would die).
I like the idea of the game beginning away from Reach, but I probably wouldn’t set more than the first one or two missions elsewhere.
My biggest problem with Reach is how it starts. It’s ridiculously tepid. The Covenant are just sort of… there, somehow. And everyone just sort of says, “Oh, Covenant are here, that sucks.” It makes the Covenant seem more like a band of pirates who managed to sneak in the back door. Luckily things pick up fast enough that the rest of the game truly feels like a war, but that start to the story is among the worst I’ve ever seen. We’re supposed to take the planet Reach seriously when they let Covenant approach and land, on a populated continent no less, totally undetected, and then continue to have no idea they have Covenant walking around on the ground? The first mission just makes the UNSC and Covenant both look terrible.
Perhaps a better way to handle it, while changing the game’s story very little, would have the first mission be about intercepting a human ship lost on the edges of Reach’s space. The story would be that the Covenant advance strike team, with their cloaked carrier, arrived in the system out of range of the planet’s detection, but were seen by a human vessel before they could engage their cloak. The ship fails to report in and Reach fears the worst, sending Noble team to investigate.
Noble finds the ship drifting, the cloaked carrier now long on its way to Reach. When they board, they’re ambushed by a Covenant team left behind to scavenge the on-board computers. Mission ends with destroying heavily guarded Covenant phantoms in the docking bay. We can have some kind of dialogue with the team wondering how the Covenant got out there, how this small force disabled the human vessel, etc. As Noble reports what they found, they learn that Covenant landing parties are being spotted all over the planet, and no one has any idea where they’re coming from. The game continues on from there more or less as it was, foiling Covenant as they try to take footholds on the planet until the carrier disengages cloak shortly before the rest of the fleet arrives.
This makes the cloaked ship more of an actual plot point instead of what seemed to me like messy writing trying to make excuses for the Covenant to be there mysteriously (for whatever reason they needed that mysterious 5 minutes in the beginning of the first mission). And more importantly it allows the UNSC on Reach to immediately see that Covenant are landing on their planet. The fact that they were taken by surprise, that there are too many for them to counter, and the fact that they don’t know where the cloaked carrier is then all lend to making the Covenant look like the threat they are, instead of the whole situation making humanity look blind and incompetent.
I really love playing through Reach’s story overall, but the greatness of the rest of the game just makes the beginning all the more frustrating for its (imo) poor storytelling.