Alright, since I played through the campaign of CEA, half of my posts have been about the new Proto-Gravemind, so I guess it's no secret this was one of the highlights of Anniversary for me. I figured I'd put all my thoughts on it in one place. Being fans of a franchise-based universe means that inevitably new artists are going to get ahold of content that you're fond of and add their own interpretation to the mix. Sometimes the new look is better, sometimes its different, sometimes it's worse. In this case, I'd say that 343i hit it out of the ballpark. The new appearance of the Proto-Gravemind is most certainly new, and in my opinion, far better than any other Flood form seen in any Halo game to date. It better expresses the varied nature of the Gravemind as an individual composed of all the different beings it's absorbed. In fact, I was surprised upon switching back to find the original Keyes blob so bland. And it's not because I didn't remember what it had looked like. I consider myself very familiar with it. It's simply the fact that standing in the face of the newer graphics, it really does look underdone. I spent a lot of time looking at every feature of the new brain form, from the tendrils snaking their way inside of Keyes' chest, to the various faces and forms that can be seen trapped within it. Every bit of detail is so well done and adds a new look and feel to the Flood, one that is in my opinion far superior to all those that have come before. I applaud the artists who worked on this particular creature for a job well done. But, being who I am and being a part of the fan base that I am, some detailed analysis is of course inevitable. When I first saw the Proto-Gravemind, I did a literal in-game double take upon seeing the large vertebrae coursing its way up to the ceiling. My initial thought: "What kind of creature would have been absorbed with vertebra as large as a man's chest?" After looking at it more and seeing how the bones diminish as they ascend up one of the root tendrils, I decided it wasn't from an absorbed creature, and was grown out of the Flood's biomass. That would mean that a spinal column exists somewhere within the Flood's genetic code. But then why haven't we seen it before? The only spinal columns so far have been seen in infected combat forms and is especially visible in the carrier forms in H3 (and likely in CEA, although I haven't had a chance to view one up close yet). In fact, I've always been curious what would be revealed about the original host of the carrier forms if the vertebrae could be counted. We would then at least know if the carrier form model was based on an infected human or not. But the appearance of a spinal column in the Proto-Gravemind might mean that the one visible on the carrier forms was not originally present upon infection, and grew there after the hosts' conversion to the Flood. The question still remains as to why. I just recently started playing Starcraft II. In it, you can do research into the Zerg lifeform within your lab (my favorite in-universe part of the game), which reveals interesting parts about the alien's lifecycle. You can find out that the reason the Zerg have infinitely varying forms is because the creature's cells are constantly fighting not just foreign bodies, but themselves as well. The Zerg cells are constantly mutating, but only the strongest mutations can survive in a hostile cellular environment. Therefore only the best mutations survive to manifest as unique physical features. The spinal column in the new Proto-Gravemind reminded me a lot of the Zerg, but this is not how the Flood biology works, so the question remains as to why the Flood would need a backbone. I'm still thinking it over. Perhaps its as simple an answer as the Gravemind requires a backbone to support its own massive weight. Perhaps it really was an absorbed creature from the Covenant ship possessive of a truly ridiculous anatomy. But maybe it means more. Perhaps the FSC carries within it the genetic makeup of another creature, or was even initially based on it? This of course leads back to the Precursor theories. I'm not going to throw out any more than the speculative thought that this could indicate a connection, since there's not much to go off of. Needless to say, while the backbone may just be artistic license, it could hold potentially vast implications about the Flood. Another thing that interested me was the fact that the majority of the faces present in the Proto-Gravemind were visible, and barely distorted by the Flood infection. This of course also goes back to artistry, to create a sense of horror in the viewer at seeing human forms so disturbingly distorted. But canonically speaking, could there also be a point to this? I'm not going to put out much speculation, but I think there's a possibility that it might have something to do with the last line spoken in the Keyes' terminal. In it, Keyes says "You will not have me" and the Gravemind responds "We already do". To me, this is indicative of more than just Keyes' physical absorption into the Flood... I think it also speaks of his mind. That the Flood already possessed all his memories and sense of self, meaning that the sifting through of his memories was either a process undertaken for amusement, or of necessity. But then the question becomes, why would it be necessary for the Flood to sort through its collective memories? Wouldn't every one be a unique experience for the Gravemind to base its near omnipotent understanding of the universe on? This is of course contrary to some of the smaller details present in the novel The Flood, but it's an interesting thought nonetheless. These are all just random thoughts that have gone through my head since seeing the new brain form. Perhaps they're a bit ridiculous, perhaps not. Either way, I'm glad that such simple elements of CEA have caused me to take such a deep look at one of my favorite fictional life forms. tl;dr CEA Flood = BEST FLOOD EVAR. 343i, just make sure you stay a step ahead of the fans with canon and fictional relevance. We don't like things to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Even if some don't think certain aspects of the universe are important, others do.
Keyes' Proto-Gravemind Rampant Speculation
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