The Marathon Trilogy is a series of three science fiction First-Person Shooter computer games from Bungie Software originally released for the Apple Macintosh and subsequently ported to other platforms.
- 1 Background
- 2 Games in the series
- 3 Characters
- 4 "Frog blast the vent core!"
- 5 Trivia
- 6 External Links
- 7 Sources
The first game, Marathon (1994), was followed by two sequels: Marathon 2: Durandal (1995) and Marathon Infinity (1996). Marathon 2 was also released for Windows 95. You can also download all three games via H.B.O.'s download page. Please be aware that the link doesn't provide the serial numbers needed for the game to run on.
Games in the series
Marathon was released for the Apple Macintosh and was one of the earliest first-person shooters to appear on the Macintosh. Unlike some other similar games of that era (for example, id Software's DOOM) Marathon and its sequels, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity were notable for their intricate plots.
Set in the year 2794 A.D., the game placed the player as a cyborg Security Officer aboard the human starship UESC (Unified Earth Space Council) Marathon, orbiting the colony on the planet Tau Ceti IV. Throughout the game, the player attempts to defend the ship and its inhabitants from a race of alien slavers called the Pfhor. As he fights against the invaders, he witnesses the three shipboard AIs' interactions, and discovers that all is not as it seems aboard the Marathon.
Marathon 2: Durandal
Marathon 2: Durandal was the sequel to Marathon. In addition to being released for the Apple Macintosh, a Windows 95 version was also released.
Marathon 2 begins 17 years after the first game ends, as the player's ship arrives at the ruined S'pht homeworld Lh'owon. Durandal sends the player and an army of ex-colonists to search the ruins of Lh'owon for information which would give Durandal an advantage against the Pfhor, who are planning a new assault on humanity. Among the new characters in this adventure are Durandal's evil counterpart Tycho, a Lh'owon-native species known as F'lickta, an ancient and mysterious race of advanced aliens called the Jjaro, and the long-lost S'pht'Kr clan.
The game engine itself underwent several changes from its first incarnation. Although most of these changes were "under-the-hood", a few were visible to the user. The Marathon 2 engine offered preformance gains on some machines, in addition to support for higher resolutions, higher color depths, and better quality sound. The enhanced engine also allowed the loading of maps from external files, allowing for users to (later) create and play their own maps.
On August 1st, 2007, Marathon 2: Durandal was released on Xbox Live Arcade by Freeverse. Multiplayer gameplay modes include Co-Op, King of the Hill, Kill the Man with the Ball, Tag, and an all new Survival. 
Marathon Infinity included more levels than Marathon 2, which were larger, scarier, and part of a more intricate plot. The game's code changed little since Marathon 2, and many levels can be played unmodified in both games. Marathon Infinity was only released for the Apple Macintosh. The most dramatic improvement in the game was the inclusion of Bungie's own level-creating software, Forge, and their physics editor, Anvil. Forge and Anvil allowed a new generation of players to create their own levels using the same tools as the Bungie developers themselves. In Forge, distance was measured in World Units, which are roughly equivalent to 2 metres (6 or 7 feet). Another improvement was the ability to include separate monster, weapons, and physics definitions for each level, a feature heavily used by Double Aught, who designed the Marathon Infinity levels.
Marathon Infinity begins as the Pfhor destroy Lh'owon using a Jjaro-derived doomsday weapon known as the Trih'Xeem (early nova). Unfortunately, the weapon also releases a powerful chaotic being which threatens to destroy the entire galaxy. Because of the chaos, or by means of some Jjaro tech of his own, the Marathon Cyborg is transported back and forward in time and through his own dreams, finding himself jumping between timelines and fighting for various sides in a desperate attempt to prevent the chaotic being's release.
After multiple instances of "jumps", the player (seemingly the only being who realizes he is being transported between possible realities) activates the ancient Jjaro Station, preventing the chaotic entity's release. The ending screen of Infinity leaves the story's resolution open-ended, taking place billions of years after the events of Marathon Infinity.
Despite the player’s being teleported to a Jjaro station by Durandal and left with a grim message in the beginning of Infinity, both Durandal and Earth did survive in the original timeline as can be seen at the end of Marathon 2.
Halo and Marathon
Halo shares many features with Marathon and could almost be considered Marathon 4 (though Bungie claims that it is set in a different universe). Common features include the Marathon logo embedded in the Halo logo, Hunters, and SPNKr (also known as Lazyboy) rocket launchers, not to mention other similarities to other weapons. Halo plays very much like a modern, high end version of Marathon (although has far fewer puzzles). Bungie often recycles components, famous phrases, the Marathon symbol, and jokes from its games.
The Pfhor are an extraterrestrial ancient spacefaring race of alien slavers seeking to control the galaxy and perform numerous evil deeds. The Pfhor are bipedal, somewhat taller than humans, have three red eyes and green skin, and come in a variety of classes and flavors. In Marathon, the three eyes are arranged in a triangle, pointing down, making the unmasked Pfhor look a little clownish, but the later games shifted the "arrow" to point up, with the third eye in a more "enlightened" position in the middle of the forehead.
- The most basic variety is the Fighter, a lightly armored pfhor wielding a shock staff that is used as a melee weapon. The orange and blue Fighters wield a staff with a slightly greener crystal, and these staffs have the additional ability of launching projectiles. Fighters are divided into two classes: Melee (wielding a normal staff) and Projectile (wielding the greener staff). A Melee minor has green armour and a Major has a purple armour. A Projectile minor has an orange armour and a Projectile major has blue armour. The Super Fighter wears a black armour and attacks more costantly. The majors and the Super Fighters always attack at least twice, but the super fighter can attack up to four times.
- Troopers are heavily armored and pack automatic rifle/grenade launcher combo weapons. Troopers are also divided into minor (green) and major (purple), but not in orange or blue, although some custom marathon scenarios use the blue variety and the Super variety is also used towards the end of the games because they are harder enemies.
- Hunters are the Pfhor assault troops. They wear very heavy armor and have shoulder-mounted energy cannons. Their minors wear brown armour, are weaker than majors and also fire more slowly. Majors wear green armour, are harder to kill and fire faster than minors. A Mother Of All Hunters (MOAH) wears a blue armour and is a very uncommon kind of hunter. Being stronger than a Juggernaut tank, they are extremelly hard to kill. They fire their cannon in massive burst and are very dangerous in enclosed spaces. The Super variety wear black armour and are twice as strong as a MOAH, are used in custom scenarios but not in the official game. When this variety is killed, they make an explosion similar to the one left by Juggernauts, killing anything close to it.
- Enforcers are the Pfhor MPs. They wear strange cloaks and possess handheld alien weapons (these are the only enemy weapons the player can wield in Marathon, being somewhat like an SMG in M1 and more like a directional flamethrower in M2/MI). They come in two different types, with blue/orange enforcers being tougher and faster than green/blue ones.
- The Juggernaut (aka The Big Floaty Thing What Kicks Our Asses) is the Pfhor tank. These flying armored weapons platforms are like a mix of a tank and an attack helicopter, only bigger and badder. They fire dual homing rockets ("Warpedoes") as well as enforcer weapon (n-cannon) bursts. They come in two flavors: Bad and Worse (Grey and Brown).
Exceedingly tough, monochrome-colored versions of all of the Pfhor (except for Juggernauts) appear in the Vidmaster Challenge stages, a series of skill challenges hidden at the end of Marathon: Infinity.
The Pfhor also utilize the "Conditioned Ranks," or enslaved soldiers, who are forced to fight for the empire. Conquered races make up the majority of the conditioned ranks. However, only the S'pht and Hulks appear in-game.
The S'pht are a race of alien cyborgs, cybernetically enhanced by the Jjaro to terraform Lh'owon. They were enslaved by the Pfhor c. 1810 A.D., and liberated en masse by Durandal and the unenslaved and technologically superior S'pht'Kr clan in 2811 A.D. The S'pht consist of extremely complex brains carried in floating cybernetic bodies, with (possibly just Pfhor-enslaved S'pht) long flowing cloaks. They are armed with a built-in energy pulse weapon and some carry cloaking devices.
Known to the Marathon's crew as "Hulks," these creatures stand over ten feet tall. Slow-moving, they are nevertheless deadly at close range due to their heavy crushing strikes. They appear only in two levels in Marathon, both times on BOB-heavy levels, leading some to believe that the Pfhor use them only to gather prisoners.
Wasps are large flying insects which appear to be used to distract, confuse and injure any humans who offer resistance. Although able to spit a corrosive compound at their enemies, they are easily killed and pose little threat. It is not clear whether they are merely pests that infest Pfhor ships or are controlled by the Pfhor.
Lookers are large, floating beetle-like creatures who run at the player or the BOBs and explode violently, dealing a considerable amount of damage. As they often inhabit tight corridors, it can be difficult to escape these explosions. It is not clear whether they are merely pests that infest Pfhor ships or are controlled by the Pfhor.
Flick'ta are native creatures of Lh'owon, living in sewers, water pools, and lava. They are ancestors of the S'pht and often harass Pfhor forces. Flick'ta have a simplified digestive system, absorbing nutrients from the sludge they live in, and are extremely irritable. Entering their home turf unarmed is not recommended. They take on various colors and properties depending on their surroundings-blue Flick'ta in water (who have powerful melee attacks, but no projectile attacks), red Flick'ta in lava (who melee weakly, but can throw lava) and green Flick'ta in sewers (who strike powerfully and throw damaging sewage). Flick'ta allow their eggs to develop in their large mouth-like orifices located on the front of their abdomen.
Little is known about the Jjaro, an extremely advanced species which appear to have vanished from our galaxy millions of years ago (they are not seen in-game), leaving much of their technology to fall into the hands of the Pfhor. The Jjaro are known to have possessed high-quality cyborg technology (such as that used to create the S'pht), a star-destroying weapon known as the Trih'Xeem, the ability to move entire planets by warping space around them (as used by the S'pht'Kr), some sort of time manipulation technology, and various ways of dealing with the Wrk'ncacnter. Only two individuals, Yrro and Pthia, are ever named.
The Jjaro were first used in an earlier Bungie game, Pathways Into Darkness.
The human characters in the game are all referred to as "BOBs" (which stands for "Born On Board"). They wear different-colored suits, but all have the same face in-game. In Marathon, most are harmless and generally ignore the player (and occasionally announce "They're everywhere!"); in Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon Infinity they carry pistols and fight for Durandal with the player. If the player attacks them often enough, they will consider him a traitor and eventually return fire.
A few, called simulacrums (or "assimilated BOBs"), are actually android bombs; upon seeing the player's character, they will run directly towards him, usually shouting things like "I'm out of ammo!", "Thank God it's you!" or the infamous "Frog blast the vent core!" (see below). When close enough (according to Durandal, less than 3 metres) they will explode and inflict severe damage to anyone nearby. This is especially problematic on levels where a certain number of BOBs must be protected to succeed.
There are other differences between human Bobs and Simulacrums: apparently the assimilated Bobs have red pupils, only two toes, no genitalia and malformed teeth (though these differences do not appear in-game). Also, assimilated Bobs will run directly towards you - whereas humans will run erratically, and assimilated Bobs never shoot at anyone.
The character portrayed by the player is known only as The Marine or The Cyborg. In many ways, he bears resemblances to John-117: He is a two-meter cyborg who wears green battle armor (though the armor is just perfectly normal, vacuum-enabled, armor he pulls out of a shuttlecraft locker, his superhuman prowess originating from his transformation into a MJOLNIR battleroid centuries before, in spite of which he looks quite normal among other humans) who never speaks in-game. At the start of Marathon, he appears to believe that he is merely a human, although a talented, dangerous and powerful one. However, persistent references to "nine MJOLNIR Mark IV cyborgs" throughout the game has led many fans to believe that the Cyborg is in fact the tenth member of this group. However, the cyborg himself does not come to realize this until Marathon Infinity, when he starts having surreal flashbacks, trips into his own mind, and spontaneous, bizarre dreams as a side-effect of Jjaro technology employed in his cybernetic enhancements.
It has been speculated, probably incorrectly, that the Cyborg's mind is that of an AI in a human's body (though during one point in "Infinity", the player does very likely upload Durandal's core matrix into his own brain before merging it with Thoth). In Infinity, he seems to be undergoing a sort of rampancy. (The three chapters of Infinity are called Despair, Rage, and Envy, which would seem to parallel the three stages of rampancy- Melancholy, Anger and Jealousy.) Since rampancy is defined as "an artificial intelligence's coming to realize that it is not real", this may show that the player is not, in fact, human. Alternately, it may symbolize the entirely human marine wresting control of his own destiny from the AIs that he has been serving for the last three games, and unlocking mastery over the latent powers of the Jjaro cybernetics that were integrated into him so long ago.
The Cyborg's mind and personality, unlike the Chief's, are mostly left up to the player to speculate on. Although Durandal describes him as "a magnificent killing machine" and asks if being allowed to kill more Pfhor will "make you happy", the AI is more likely being malicious than accurate. While the Cyborg does not seem to be a mindless psychopath, he is clearly comfortable enduring and quite capable of carrying out violent acts on a scale unimaginable to any normal person. However, in the third game of the series, he seems to lose any sense of morality he may previously have possessed, working for the indisputably evil Tycho and killing BOBs on Tycho's orders in a desperate attempt to keep the Wrk'ncacnter trapped in Lh'owon's sun. In Infinity, we are given greater access to his mind and feelings. He seems to recognize some sort of guilt or weariness for the atrocities he has committed, and appears to believe that he has been forced to do what he has done. Ironically, this seems accurate. All three games consist chiefly of doing what various people tell him to do - only once does he act of his own initiative, and this is in the Marathon manual, which is not an entirely reliable source. But sometimes the manual can be useful, but in this case we cant rely totally on it.
The ship's command AI, Leela, was the Cyborg's first 'master', guiding and helping him through the original attack on the UESC Marathon. Although she does seem to care about the cyborg's well-being, she is rather cold, and does not show high levels of emotion at any point (being a computer, and not having gone rampant). Although she manages the Marathon through the events of the first game, she is captured and dissected by the second Pfhor fleet that arrives at Tau Ceti after the player has already been kidnapped by Durandal.
The ship's function-control AI, Durandal, is the plot focus of all three games. Indeed, it could be argued that he, not the Cyborg, is the main character of the series. He undergoes rampancy over the course of the first game, have been purposely brought to that state by Dr. Bernhard Strauss as an attempt to achieve "stable rampancy". By the beginning of the sequel, he is meta-stable, and guides the player through the whole game. Although he is very sarcastic, with a cruel sense of humor, and seems to despise humans, he is not predominantly evil, and is never seen to abuse the cyborg or other humans without some ulterior motive. For instance, while it was in fact Durandal that secretly detected and then intentionally made the Pfhor aware of humanity's presence in order to hijack a Pfhor space-folding FTL ship -knowing full well that they would likely destroy the human colony and the Marathon, killing or enslaving every human being in the solar system before he could gain control of a Pfhor spacecraft- he considered his actions to be in humanity's long-term interest because an ambush set up by him (even with Alpha Centauri's humans as patsies) would be better than the Pfhor stumbling on humanity's home in the Sol system later on.
The ship's science AI, Tycho, features only briefly in the first two games. It seems that he was captured and conditioned by the Pfhor. By the events of Marathon Infinity, Tycho seems to have lapsed into a permanent Anger stage of rampancy. He kidnaps the cyborg and uses him as a tool to take control of a Pfhor fleet as the first stage of the game. He seems, however, to have been rampant as early as Marathon, proclaiming floridly to the cyborg, "I AM TYCHO! I SHALL DESTROY DURANDAL!" Cruel and bitterly sarcastic, Tycho is probably the least sympathetic character in the game.
An ancient AI, created by the Jjaro and given to the S'pht'Kr, Thoth is an enigmatic, powerful being. Although he only ever speaks in strangely written, choppy free-verse poetry which is hard to decipher, he has very definite goals. He seems to care little for the wars between the S'pht, the Pfhor and the humans, serving only to keep the Wrk'ncacnter imprisoned. In one of the potential realities created by the waking of the Wrk'ncacnter, he merges with Durandal, creating a strange hybrid.
The W'rkncacnter are a race of immortal "chaotic beings" dating from prior to the dawn of time. Said to corrupt and warp the very space around them, the W'rkncacnter caused Yrro and Pthia to flee their home and come to Lh'owon. When the W'rkncacnter followed the pair, Pthia was killed. Yrro, in a rage, flung the W'rkncacnter into Lh'owon's sun. This is the main plot point of Marathon Infinity, as it struggles for release, attempting to destroy the cyborg, the Pfhor, the S'pht and everything around it.
The W'rkncacnter also figured previously in Pathways Into Darkness. Referred to as "The Dreaming God", it is a nearly two kilometer long comatose hulk which, floating through space after a cataclysmic battle for untold aons, slammed into what is now Earth's Yucatan Peninsula. There it lay for tens of millions of years until it began to dream (twisting the surrounding earth into inconcievable nightmares in a gradually increasing radius, a radius which had just touched the surface by our times), to stir, and to awaken.
"Frog blast the vent core!"
This is a phrase synonymous with the Marathon series. Explosive Bob "simulacrums" occasionally shout the phrase, trying to blend in with the regular BOBs and explode around a large amount of humans. Since they are only piecing together random words, their nonsense gives them away. Doug Zartman, who performed the BOB voices, was instructed during recording to improvise a random phrase, and this is what he came up with. It is very popular to say in the text chat of a network game of Marathon; meant more as a joke than anything; the sheer randomness of this phrase means it can be used at any time.
- Interestingly enough, the music for Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity was performed by a band called "Power of Seven".
- Marathon is actually a territory in ancient Greece, thus going with Bungie's theme of ancient Greek references in their games, such as Master Chief being a Spartan.
- The Marathon logo appears on the planet Master Chief's ship approaches in the Legendary ending of Halo 3.
- In every Halo game (except Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary), the Marathon logo can be seen on the difficulty shields.
- In Halo 2 and 3 the Marathon logo is a selectable logo for your character
- marathon.bungie.org, a general Marathon news site which is still regularly updated as of 2007
- Download the Trilogy for Classic MacOS, or the Aleph One-converted versions for OS X and Windows
- Marathon Open Source Project, the official website for Aleph One which also posts news updates on other Marathon fan projects
- The Traxus Project - Wiki site (pre-dating this one) dedicated to all things Marathon.
- GURPS Marathon - A fan-made Marathon roleplaying sourcebook based on GURPS.
- Marathon's Story Site - An essential reference if you're lost in Marathon's plot.