Most games have a backstory, some semblance of canonical lore that molds whatever tale its writers are trying to tell. Halo 4 is no different. When 343 Industries produces the first post Bungie installment of the series, it’ll have the job of encapsulating over one billion years of Halo history: the lives of characters, the reign of civilizations, the creation of life — the universe — itself.

One billion years. It’s a head-spinning amount of time. Fortunately, the next issue of Xbox World Magazine has constructed the ultimate compendium of Halo knowledge, for anyone looking to brush up on the basics before suiting up with Master Chief yet again.

The expansive timeline (reprinted through CVG) weighs in at a heavy 4,000 words, so you might want to set aside more than a lunch break before devouring it. But it covers everything, from the Precursors’ seeding of the Milky Way to the galactic saga of humans and Forerunners, to the war between The Covenant and humanity that comprises each video game in the series (starting, chronologically, with Halo Wars and ending after the events of Halo 3). Perhaps most importantly, however, it offers insight into how 343 Industries is honoring the Halo cosmology — and how the carving of the timeline in stone could shape the game we play this November.

The fact is pointed out that when Bungie was making Halo, the canon was treated as, well, adaptable, with the developer editing as they saw fit to accommodate their new creations. Works contributed with the Microsoft seal of approval in the form of books, comics, and animated films were sometimes given the royal runaround when it came time to turn out a new game; look no further than Eric Nyland’s Fall of Reach novel, published 9 years ahead of Halo: Reach’s 2010 debut.

Halo 4 Timeline Bungie Forerunner

Bungie's early Forerunner concept art

With 343 having no intention to rift the script, the challenge lies in reconciling plans for new armor designs and weapons (Chief does, after all, resume action after a lengthy post-Halo 3 cryosleep sporting new duds), customizable multiplayer loadouts (some having originated in the Reach prequel), and new vehicle technologies with the new story tropes of Halo 4 — the game furthest along in the chronological pecking order.

It’s a tall task considering 343 is on record desiring “dramatic innovations” for Halo, and the ability to construct the next trilogy with its own vision. However, everything we’ve seen since last month’s Halo 4 information barrage – even including the aforementioned, more controversial elements – is culled directly out of points that make sense within the timeline. Fans of one of the last decade’s landmark series should rest easy knowing that wherever 343 decides to take Master Chief and his 900 pounds of armor, it’s intrinsically tied to a stunningly rich legacy.

Ranters, how do think 343 will use the backstory of the Halo series to explain Halo 4’s next chapter?

Halo 4 releases exclusively for the Xbox 360 on November 6, 2012.

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Source: Xbox World Magazine [via CVG]