While many have understandably given up hope of ever seeing Half-Life 2: Episode 3 come to fruition, a group of fans is determined to give Valve’s signature series a fitting end. Under the name Project Borealis, the team has released a progress update detailing their work on the story, physics, art, and music.
The gaming community is no stranger to sequels that take seemingly forever to arrive—Duke Nukem Forever, Diablo III, and Kingdom Hearts III come to mind—but the most high-profile of the titles has undoubtedly been Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Over the ten years following the debut of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 in 2007’s Orange Box, fans speculated wildly and clung to every potential bit of news that could bring the game’s release closer to a reality. However, a post by ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw revealing the unfinished narrative for the game in August confirmed everyone’s worst fear: the official game is no longer in development.
Unwilling to let the dream die, Project Borealis have made some major headway into the game’s production. “The team’s goals at this stage is to make the base experience as close as possible to the original,” they reveal in their post, which has apparently entailed “poring over HL:2 speed runs and documentation to make sure we get every mechanic right so that players who use those features feel right at home, even in a new engine.” However, work in other areas has not fallen by the wayside.
Regarding the story, the team have taken Laidlaw’s treatise and “broken it down into critical plot points and then added more as needed to fill the gaps,” in search of a narrative that is “true to the lore and feel of the Half Life universe.” Also available for fans to sample are a selection of original music tracks and screenshots of newly-created and refurbished assets and textures. Some elements, like the towering Striders, are mostly complete, while other creatures like a fearsome-looking “Arctic” Headcrab only have concept art at this point.
While Project Borealis is a fascinating and massive undertaking, it isn’t even the first fan recreation of a Half-Life game. After Valve debuted the Source engine in 2004 with Half-Life 2, a team of fans remade the first installment under the title Black Mesa. Early footage and demos of the project were so impressive that Valve themselves aided the team in their development, which has now lasted for well over a decade—and will continue into next year.
Half-Life 2: Episode Three as it was originally intended may never see the light of day, but Project Borealis is hard at work trying to give fans the game they deserve. No release date is in sight, but the devs are “eagerly looking forward to bringing you more updates” in the next year.