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The Vortigaunts (taxonomic designation: Xenotherium subservilia, or "Subservient Alien Beast"), formerly known as Alien Slaves or Xen Slaves, and affectionately known as "Vorts" by their allies, are a sapient alien species found throughout the Half-Life Series.
Long before the Black Mesa Incident, the Vortigaunts' homeworld was invaded by the Combine, forcing the survivors of the invasion to flee to Xen. When the Black Mesa Incident occurred, their master, a being known as the Nihilanth, viewed the rift that opened as a chance to escape, and directed the Vortigaunts to invade Earth.
In appearance, Vortigaunts are somewhat humanoid, with two legs and two arms and an additional third arm protruding from the chest. This extra limb is a feature also found in other bipedal, sapient species from Xen, including the Alien Grunt and the Nihilanth. This similarity, along with other shared features such as red eyes and digitigrade legs, is strongly suggestive of a common ancestry with other intelligent Xen life forms. Apparently, this third arm is used for feeding, as both Vortigaunts and Alien Grunts are often seen bending over slain victims, feeding on them.
Vortigaunts have mottled green-brown skin, sharp teeth, and clawed hands. Vortigaunts have a slightly hunched posture, and their faces are dominated by a large eye with a maroon Sclera and a Heterochromic red-yellow iris with a yellow pupil, surrounded by three smaller eyes.
Intelligence and culture
Vortigaunts are very intelligent and social creatures. Throughout the Half-Life series, they can be seen in pairs or groups, and are capable of developing intelligent strategies. When faced with a superior enemy, Vortigaunts will often retreat, and if possible, group together with other Vortigaunts to form a stronger force.
Brief glimpses into the Vortigaunt culture can be gained by occasional speeches given by them in Half-Life 2, and in scenes during the original Half-Life. In the original game, Vortigaunts were enslaved by the Nihilanth and used as workers and drone soldiers. Based on comments by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt, it seems that the species has endured slavery for many generations ("We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable!" as he says) and enforced servitude appears to have formed the bedrock of Vortigaunt history and culture up to the events of the first Half-Life. In Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts make occasional references to their species' culture.
Communication and the "Vortessence"
Vortigaunts possess their own native form of communication, which, in Half-Life 2, is referred to as "flux shifting". According to the Vortigaunts, flux shifting cannot be understood by "those whose Vortal inputs are impaired", which may suggest that inaudible components are involved, perhaps explaining why they are incomprehensible to humans. A possible example of flux shifting occurs during the aftermath of the first Hunter attack in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, when the Vortigaunt that saves Alyx calls out over an immense distance to communicate with their kin, using two short but apparently highly descriptive calls. The subtitles refer to their native language as "Vortigese".
By the beginning of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts have learned to speak at least one human language, which, in the English language version of the game, is predictably English (in some international versions of Half-Life 2, Vortigaunts speak the appropriate language for the country of the game's release, e.g.: in the French language version of the game, the Vortigaunts speak French). However, when speaking English, Vortigaunts use archaic words and syntax, tending to use outdated, even Shakespearean phrases.
Vortigaunts believe in a binding life-force which they call the "Vortessence". Due to their use of this force, which remains untapped by humans ("We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it.", as said by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt), the Vortigaunt species can communicate with one another telepathically. They believe Vortessence is the fabric of the universe, made of "vortal cords", of which everything is woven (and therefore everything is connected). The Vortigaunts are able to read and control this force for their electrical powers, nearly hive-mind telepathy and, likely, their ability to take power from objects. They can use their powers coupled with "the extract" of Antlion larvae to heal the critically injured (however, it is shown in Episode Two that they cannot do this alone).
It has been hinted that death is not permanent for a Vortigaunt, and that they might have the ability to "reincarnate" into a new body after death ("What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness." as said by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt).
Behavior and skills
Half-Life and its Expansions
In Half-Life, Vortigaunts are common enemies in both Black Mesa and Xen. While they usually attack aggressively, they often become timid when injured, preferring to run away rather than risk further combat and possible death. There is one area in Xen that houses a small number of peaceful Vortigaunts. However, if one is attacked they will become aggressive. Vortigaunts have two modes of attack: an energy attack in which they fire powerful green lightning-like energy arcs that require a vulnerable period of "charging-up" before being unleashed, and when close to opponents, a rapid and powerful claw attack. Significantly, in Half-Life all of the Vortigaunts wear green collars and wristbands. Later events reveal these to be a means by which they are enslaved and controlled by a remote master, the Nihilanth. Vortigaunts often act as support for Alien Grunts, making the Vortigaunts more likely to be able to use their attack, as the player is usually concentrating on killing the tougher Grunts. Throughout the game, the Vortigaunts can be heard taunting the player with what sounds like the word "die", and shouting a word that could be perceived as "Gordon" when the player approaches. Vortigaunts have the ability to use Healing Showers on Xen. When attacked in their passive state, they may run to a healing shower and heal up before engaging in a fight.
Half-Life 2 and its Episodes
In Half-Life 2, their electrical attack is far more devastating, as it tends to kill whatever it hits immediately and knocks the target back a considerable distance. Only objects with significant mass can resist being knocked back, such as the Strider (which appears to be fully immune to the arc) and Antlion Guards. These attacks occur twice during the singleplayer game: when Gordon's view is restricted by rubble and when the Vortigaunt extracts Bugbait from the Antlion Guard. It is also suggested that Vortigaunts can siphon an opponent's life-force with their energy arc attack, as they are heard saying phrases like "Give over your essence!" or "Empower us!" during some of their attacks in Half-Life 2. In the Half-Life expansion Decay, the player plays as a Vortigaunt in a bonus mission, and the arc attack does indeed 'steal' life-force from enemies.
The arc attack is revealed fully in Episode Two, where a group of Vortigaunts use it to defend an underground outpost from a massive Antlion attack. It is shown to be powerful enough to kill Antlions and Zombies, causing a shock wave strong enough to knock over other nearby foes. Freeman's Vortigaunt companion uses this ability to aid him in his attempt to raid an Antlion nest.
The Vortigaunts can now recharge Freeman's HEV Suit, if he stands near them, the Vortigaunts in Half-Life 2 can recharge HEV Suit to 30 percent power with their blue electrical arcs. In Episode Two, the Vortigaunt can recharge the suit to 15 percent and they use small green balls (3-4 percent per ball). This also applies for Half-Life 2 and Episode One after May 26, 2010, update. But instead of giving 15 percent, they give 30 percent.
Vortigaunts first appear in the chapter Anomalous Materials, during the Resonance Cascade. Several Vortigaunts teleport in from the ceiling of the test chamber, disappearing as they near the floor (one will remain if the Crystal is removed from the Anti-Mass Spectrometer). A few moments later, when Gordon Freeman is briefly teleported to Xen, he appears in a dark room, with four Vortigaunts standing in a half-circle around him. However, they do not attack him. Later on, in Unforeseen Consequences, they can be found as standard enemies, and remain so for the rest of the game.
Vortigaunts first appear in the Introduction, when Adrian Shephard blacks out and regains consciousness. He also observes a Vortigaunt killing a fellow HECU marine and is helpless to assist due to his condition. Later, in Welcome To Black Mesa, a Vortigaunt is found dead and on his back, with a Combat Knife stuck in him. Afterwards, Vortigaunts appear throughout the rest of the game as standard enemies.
Vortigaunts are relatively common enemies in Blue Shift and Barney Calhoun regularly encounters them as he fights to escape Black Mesa.
In the official co-op expansion Half-Life: Decay, Vortigaunts are common enemies in the game. Players who manage to obtain an A rank on all of the regular missions may unlock a bonus mission titled Xen Attacks, where both players play as Vortigaunts. Although short on story, the mission gives some unique insight into the Vortigaunts' role in the Black Mesa Incident. The players control "Drone Subjects" X-8973 and R-4913, two Vortigaunts sent to Earth by the Nihilanth. Both Vortigaunts are able to regain health by damaging objects or enemies.
In Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman meets up with the Vortigaunts again. This time, however, they are eager to assist in overthrowing the Combine. In the time between the two games, the Vortigaunts have been freed from their former master, and most remaining on Earth have joined the human Resistance against the Combine. The game also reveals that the Vortigaunts are capable of using their electrical attack productively, in the form of a blue energy stream that can recharge batteries, power electronic circuits, fuse objects together and even power up Gordon's HEV Suit. The Vortigaunts credit Gordon Freeman with their freedom, and hold him in high esteem as "The Free-man" (as it was Freeman who slew the Nihilanth and freed the Vortigaunts).
However, not all Vortigaunts have been freed. In the first chapter of Half-Life 2, Point Insertion, it is possible to catch a brief glimpse of a Vortigaunt working under the Combine. Wearing a collar and armbands similar to those worn in Half-Life, the Vortigaunt is shown slowly and meticulously using a push-broom to sweep dirt and garbage in the City 17 Trainstation while being watched by a Metrocop. When exploring Nova Prospekt, the player comes across a dead Vortigaunt, wearing collar and armbands, sitting in a restraining chair. Interestingly, this occurs in block A7 about which Overwatch had directed shortly before: "De-service all political conscripts in block A7 - prohibit external contact." It appears that the Vortigaunt had died during electrical torture by the Combine, which would explain Alyx Vance's comments that the Resistance's only knowledge of Nova Prospekt is through telepathic communications from Vortigaunts taken there for torture or interrogation.
In the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode One, a group of Vortigaunts free Gordon from the G-Man and save Alyx from certain death after the explosion of the Citadel's Dark Fusion Reactor, teleporting both of them to the relative safety of the center of City 17, just outside the Citadel - revealing the Vortigaunts may be more powerful than previously speculated, even to the point of challenging the G-Man.
The purple color of the Vortigaunts at the beginning appears to be a side effect of the filters and lighting used in that scene. The supporting evidence is that during the explosion where Alyx is rescued, the Vortigaunts appear purple-colored and semi-translucent although the rest of the scene is unfiltered and lit with realistic lighting.
Vortigaunts play a much larger role in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. After a Hunter mortally wounds Alyx and traps Freeman under a collapsed building, a Vortigaunt saves Alyx from being eaten by an Antlion. The Vortigaunt then stabilizes Alyx's condition and carries her to an underground Resistance outpost, where, with the help of three more Vortigaunts, they beat back a heavy Antlion incursion. A Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman on a quest to harvest the miraculous larval extract of the Antlions to save Alyx's life. The Vortigaunt proves a valuable companion; he kick-starts generators by giving them an electric jolt, his lightning attack damages and knocks over nearby Antlions, and he also charges up Freeman's HEV Suit on occasion. Eventually, Freeman is able to access the Nectarium, where the Vortigaunt harvests a small quantity of the larval extract. Both Gordon and the Vortigaunt travel back to the outpost and begin a ritual to heal Alyx.
It is at this point the G-Man reestablishes contact with Freeman. He states "...but I had to wait until your... 'friends' [laughs slightly] were otherwise occupied...", suggesting up until then the Vortigaunts had somehow been keeping the G-Man at bay. He also refers to Half-Life when he says "There was a time when their only experience with humanity was a crowbar coming at them down a steel corridor" The Vortigaunts are unaware of the intrusion, and they never mention the G-Man, nor the service they rendered Freeman and Alyx at the beginning of Episode One.
The Vortigaunt then accompanies Freeman and Alyx a little further on before heading back, mentioning that he and his cohorts are occupied with searching for Combine Advisor pods. Another Vortigaunt, given the name Uriah by Arne Magnusson, aids Freeman briefly later on in the Episode at White Forest.
For gameplay purposes, if Gordon strays too far from Alyx during the course of Episode Two to some specific places where she cannot reach, the screen briefly shows the text 'The Freeman must proceed with the Alyx Vance, else our struggle is doomed to failure. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to an endless Vortal Loop.' Then the game reloads (Referencing that those who continue to leave Alyx will keep reloading the game).
- Vortigaunts are the same as in the Half-Life 2 series and are only enemies in co-op servers.
- Vortigaunts have a four-second reaction before they attack players.
- At point blank, they will usually run instead of clawing a player. This only applies to versions of the game including the May 26, 2010, update.
- The All-Knowing Vortigaunt (Resistance member)
- R-4913 (Nihilanth slave)
- Sweepy (Resistance member)
- Uriah (Resistance scientist)
- The Victory Mine Vortigaunt (Resistance member)
- The Vortigaunt Shepherd (Resistance member)
- X-8973 (Nihilanth slave)
This is a list of all the sentences said by the Vortigaunts during Half-Life 2, as well as some from both Episodes, most notably the All-Knowing Vortigaunt.
- "All in one and one in all."
- "All we have is yours."
- "Calm yourself!"
- "Comes a man? It is! The Freeman!"
- "Communion of the Vortessence. And that other: a deeper mystery. No deeper than the void itself."
- "There is no distance between us. No false veil of time or space may intervene."
- "We are a tapestry woven of Vortessence. It is the same for you if only you would see it."
- "Could you but see the eyes inside your own, the minds in your mind, you would see how much we share."
- "Far distant eyes look out through yours."
- "For a brief time you joined with us. You are one. Between the worlds."
- "How many are there in you? Whose hopes and dreams do you encompass?"
- "How often have we slipped our yoke, only to find it choking us again."
- "If you are truly the Freeman, we salute you."
- "Is this the Freeman we see before our eyes?"
- "Let this war end in either total victory or our extinction. No further compromise shall we allow."
- "No pit is complete without a Freeman coming out of it."
- "Node and nexus, feed upon this life!"
- "Our cause seems hopeless."
- "Our life is worthless unless spent on freedom."
- "Our purpose is mutual."
- "Perhaps we will serve you better here."
- "Something secret steers us both. We shall not name it."
- "That sharp spur of hope has not dulled to this day. For once the lesser master lay defeated, we knew the greater must also fall in time."
- "The Combine will pay in kind for their depravity."
- "The way ahead is dark for the moment."
- "There is more to the Freeman than meets the eye."
- "This is more than anyone can bear, but we will persevere."
- "Undeserving of consciousness."
- "Unity of purpose, the shattering of common shackles, a single road we tread."
- "We are still here."
- "We are there still, in observance of your final stroke."
- "We are you, Freeman. And you are us."
- "We bear witness to the bright eternity of the Nihilanth's demise. You leap, you fall, we see you flash beyond the barriers."
- "We call you sib, although your mind and meaning are a mystery to us."
- "We cannot forget those whose cords you cut. Forgiveness is not ours to bestow."
- "We cannot read the Freeman's optical buds."
- "We dedicate ourselves to your purpose."
- "We deem this company inviolable."
- "We fear we have failed you."
- "We have dreamed of this moment."
- "We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable!"
- "We have lost all dear to us."
- "We have survived darker times."
- "We have survived worse across the ages."
- "We know you."
- "We never dreamed to meet you in corporeal form."
- "We remember the Freeman. We are coterminous."
- "We see you still in Black Mesa. Clearly we see you in the Nihilanth's chamber."
- "We serve the same mystery."
- "We take our stand beside you, here, upon this miserable rock."
- "We will put aside Black Mesa... for now."
- "What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness."
- "While our own lay scattered at your feet, you severed the vortal cord that bound the Nihilanth to life, and to us."
- "With you beside us, a talisman of victory, the day of freedom draws nigh."
- "You have brought us grief and jubilation beyond measure."
- "You humans, always in the qualidity."
- "You must remember us from Black Mesa."
- "Your bright face obscures your darker mask."
- "Your companionship is greatly belabored."
- "Your mind is opaque."
- "Your song we sing and shall sing for eternity. No matter the consequences of this struggle."
- "Almost vortal, this bond between you."
- "The Freeman is an invaluable companion."
- "Our bonds are of nature and require no gratitude."
- "Our finest poet describes it thus: Gallum galla gilla ma."
- "We are mindful of the words of our greatest philosopher: companum gannennen vorgenot!"
- "Ah ghurrrr..."
- "Chur lung gong chella gurr...
- "Churr galing chur alla gung..."
- "Ga la lung..."
- "Lung gah..."
Behind the scenes
- In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman was originally to win the Vortigaunts over as allies on Xen, then lead them to outright rebellion. This plan proved impractical but was reused for Half-Life 2, although Vortigaunts are benign when first met at the start of the Half-Life chapter Interloper until a Controller forces them to attack.
- In the playable Half-Life 2 Beta, Vortigaunts have a voice closer to that of their Half-Life voice and sound very similar to that of Yoda in Star Wars.
- Friendly fire was also originally to be authorized on Half-Life 2's Citizens and Vortigaunts, like with the Black Mesa Personnel in Half-Life. The feature can be experienced in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta; upon being hit, Vortigaunts will answer with statements such as, "You have given me no choice but to eliminate you", "Let me return your gift", "This pains me" or "Now, I unmake you", although they do not fight back. This is also heard in the final version when attacking Metrocops just after Alyx and Gordon are separated at Black Mesa East. Furthermore, Joe was originally to say, "Hey, stop that! The Vorts are on our side now!" if the player would harm the nearby Vortigaunt in the boxcar.
- In the playable Half-Life 2 Beta files, a texture of a burned Vortigaunt body can be found, suggesting that burned Vortigaunt corpses were also to be seen, along with Citizens', during the course of the game.
- City 17 was originally to be filled with "Vorti-Cells", Combine devices used as stations siphoning power from trapped Vortigaunts.
- If you use the console to create a Vortigaunt with a weapon (npc_create_equipment weaponname) the weapon will be held in the middle of their stomach going right through them. This can be experienced in some mods as well, most notably the Garry's Mod.
- The Panther Eye, an enemy cut from Half-Life, is very similar to the original Vortigaunt. Also, as shown in some mods, panther eye has a very similar arc attack as vortigaunts.
- Towards the end of Half-Life (in the chapter Interloper), there are many Vortigaunts working. Although they are aware of Gordon's presence (they sometimes even outright stare at him), they are not attacking him, possibly as a way to rebel against the Nihilanth. Later on, they resume their normal behavior in the presence of Alien Controllers.
- It is interesting to note that despite the Vortigaunts' entity name being
alien_slavein Half-Life and its expansions, the entity name
monster_vortigauntwill also spawn them. The game files refer to them as
islave, though it is unknown why. However, given the fact that they were enslaved by the Nihilanth, the developers may have chosen to use these names.
- The smoother, shinier and slug-like Vortigaunt appearance originally introduced in Half-Life 2: Episode Two have been added into Half-Life 2 and its Episodes in The Orange Box as part of a retcon.
- Despite being part of the Resistance, some Citizens still distrust the Vortigaunts, as can be heard in a rebel safe house during Episode One or in Episode Two (by spawning a Citizen).
- The Vortigaunt's appearance and attack style are very similar to that of the Imp, from the Doom series.
- Many Vortigaunt lines seem to refer to the actual player of the game, i.e., "Far distant eyes look out through yours." It should be noted that these lines could just as easily refer to the G-man, or whoever his "employers" may be.
- In Episode Two, when climbing out of a deep pit with water at the bottom, Victory Mine Vortigaunt says, "No pit is complete without a Freeman coming out of it." This line is identical to one of the lines stated by The All-Knowing Vortigaunt.
- In Half-Life: Blue Shift, there is a bug after Barney Calhoun activates the Xen triangulation device, if the player touches a Vortigaunt during their dying animation, they will kill the player instantly.
- The Vortigaunts in Half-Life 2 have a slower recharge time before they can fire their arc, however they can attack enemies with their claws like in Half-Life, and foot stomp a Headcrab at point blank range, they appear to be more aggressive (on par level in Half-Life). However, in Episode Two, their recharge time is near instant, and a green energy ball can be seen on their hand when they fire their arc. Their arcs are much lighter in color compared to the Vortigaunts in Half-Life 2, they have a faster attack rate and some special instant kill attack, also unlike the Vortigaunts in Half-Life 2, they can strafe while charging the arc that otherwise cannot be done in Half-Life 2. However, the Vortigaunts cannot attack enemies with their claws like normal, or stomp on the Headcrabs when at close range. But when surrounded by Antlions, the Vortigaunts can use a larger, more powerful shock wave that can kill all Antlions within the range, these Vortigaunts appear to be slightly less aggressive.
- Although they run away from grenades in Half-Life, they will only run after the grenade has stopped moving and has landed.
Half-Life and its expansions
Half-Life 2 and its episodes
List of appearances
- Half-Life: Day One (First appearance)
- Half-Life: Uplink (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Blue Shift
- Half-Life: Decay
- Half-Life 2 (First identified as Vortigaunt)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Source Particle Benchmark (Game files only) (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- Black Mesa (Non-canonical appearance)
Half-Life Wiki has more images related to Vortigaunt.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Half-Life 2
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode One
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Half-Life
- ↑ The Half-Life 2: Episode Two chapter This Vortal Coil.
- ↑ The Half-Life chapter Anomalous Materials.
- ↑ The Half-Life 2 chapter Nova Prospekt.
- ↑ The Half-Life 2 chapter Dark Energy.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Playable Half-Life 2 Beta
- ↑ Half-Life 2 Beta - Vortigaunt on YouTube
- ↑ Playable Half-Life 2 Beta files
|Creatures||Alien Aircraft · Alien Controller · Alien Grunt · Barnacle · Boid · Bullsquid · Chumtoad · Gargantua · Headcrab · Houndeye · Ichthyosaur · Leech · Nihilanth · Protozoan · Snark · Tentacle · Vortigaunt|
|Headcrabs||Headcrab · Fast Headcrab · Gonarch · Lamarr · Poison Headcrab · Standard Headcrab · Headcrab Shell|
|Zombies||Zombie · Fast Zombie · Gonome · Poison Zombie · Standard Zombie · Zombine|
|Vortigaunts||Vortigaunt · Vortigese · All-Knowing Vortigaunt · R-4913 and X-8973 · Sweepy · Uriah · Victory Mine Vortigaunt · Vortigaunt Camp · Vortigaunt Shepherd|
|Flora and minerals||Crystal · Fungus · Healing Pool · Light Stalk · Trampoline · Tree|
|Weapons||Ceiling Turret · Hivehand · Sentry Cannon · Snark · Snark Mine|
|Technology||Healing Shower · Thumper|
|Creatures (cut)||Archer · Charger · Fast Walker · Flocking Floater · Kingpin · Mr. Friendly · Panther Eye · Sand Barnacle · Snapbug · Stukabat|
|Weapons (cut)||Black Hole Gun|