It isn’t often that I feel compelled to review an individual component of Guild Wars 2’s content. Despite Halloween, Wintersday and the notorious Karka event all being solid editions to the already existing content, none quite feel as far reaching as the Super Adventure Box.
The Super Adventure Box feels like a company flexing its creative muscle, irrespective of risk or consequence as to whether or not the content is truly fitting in the Guild Wars universe. 8 bit graphical styles are of the moment, with the success of Minecraft a testament to players willing to sacrifice pioneering graphics for something functional, yet stylish.
ArenaNet have never been averse to taking risks, or being all too aware that graphics aren’t everything, which is why Super Adventure Box is ArenaNet’s finest creation. Where Fractals changed the dynamic of how we play dungeons (with a healthy dose of controversy) Super Adventure Box redefines how we’re willing to accept jumping puzzles, but also how content within the genre itself is delivered, defined and presented.
In many respects, the Super Adventure Box is a bizarre yet appropriate fit for a game that’s holding firm on the high level of content it is willing to deliver, all for free. I have no doubt that the 8 bit graphical style of the Super Adventure Box and its loosely tied lore will put many purists into a state of frenzy, but I also remain confident that the masses will readily embrace its originality and quirky nature.
Having played MMOG’s almost exclusively since the launch of Ultima Online, I have never laughed, smiled or been more excited to continuing playing update content like I have Super Adventure Box. As the first world of what will inevitably be many and with three levels that can be completed relatively quickly with experience, this isn’t about how long the content lasts but the feeling and fun it provides you as it’s played.
The love and care that ArenaNet have gone to in order to create and animate original art assets, with nods and winks to gaming classics along the way deserves nothing but praise. Streetfighter (top marks to those who identify why) Zelda, Mario and Golden Axe are just a few of the reference points that shine through. Underneath it all however are three polished and accomplished levels that present challenging encounters for individuals or parties. The rewards might not reach the heights of Ascended items, but they become secondary anyway once you actually enter the Box.
It would be a real shame for players to enter the Box, blitz through the content and then ask “Is that it?” without stepping back and realising what ArenaNet have created; an 8bit styled world within a world, complete with unique levels, encounters, bosses and player progression (through items). The possibility to enhance this further, to widen the levels and scale those outwards is an exciting prospect.
The routes through levels are relatively linear at present although a variety of secrets (using shovels bombs) or following secret routes, adds a dose of variety with healthy bauble rewards. When it comes to difficulty, it’s also relatively forgiving in terms of pathing and jumping, but still challenging. With a limited amount of hearts and the knowledge that you require Continue Coins should you fail, this also leaves players a little nervy even when fighting the simplest of creatures, but all in a good way.
Perhaps I’m not the only one, but an attack of Gumba Syndrome would regularly strike every time I encountered a spider. As one of the simplest enemies in the Box, which have a very basic spin attack, I’m embarrassed to say I died far too often against the eight legged terrors. Ironic considering the content I’ve cleared in the real Tyria and all too reminiscent of Mario and the nightmare Gumbas who slowly work their way towards you.
What I find most exciting about the Box (as acknowledge by ArenaNet), is depending on how accepting the community is, will determine whether or not future worlds are developed and expanded upon. There is inevitably a risk that a world within a world will create a split in the player base (in many ways similarly to fractals) but I feel this is a negative view of the subject. Layering content in the way that ArenaNet are (PvE, WvW, sPvP, Dungeons, Fractals, the Box) adds choices and game play options never known in the genre. Where rewards are mirrored or unique (8 bit weapons versus fractal weapons in a box versus fractal comparison) play preference can truly begin to take centre stage.
The worst part about the Box is the fact that the content is only here until the end of April which will be a real shame for the many who want to jump into the strange world for something reminiscent of platformers past, content that is unquestionably abstract in comparison to that we experience daily. ArenaNet should be incredibly proud of what they’ve crafted; I just hope the community ‘get it’. It would be a real shame for it to receive anything less than pixelated praise.