Chungking Espresso

Sandbox Skull, an achievement that’s cooler than its expansion

Posted in Gaming by Simon Ferrari on March 10, 2009

I’ve been wanting to do a series of these kinda posts for awhile but never found the time. It’s a bit like a micro-version of Tom Cross’s Diamond in the Rough, without the grammar or the thoughtfulness. The idea is that a lot of the time a game is lesser than the sum of its parts. My “Blank, a blank that’s cooler than it’s blank” series will be my perversion of the New Games Journalism model of pointing to particular modes of play or design that I find more interesting than a holistic review of the piece. My previous post on Primrose was the first of these.


Anyhow, I recently purchased the Halo Wars Limited Edition disc. I didn’t do this to play Halo Wars (though I guess I will at some point), but to grab the three new Mythic maps earlier than everybody else who doesn’t have 70 dollars to drop on Halo Wars LE. The maps are definitively O-K; I’ve played them a lot more than any previous expansion maps (excepting the exceptional Rat’s Nest), and working up in rank early on in their release has afforded me the opportunity to play with some Bungie employees (which is always exciting and scary). You can read about the maps elsewhere. A lot of the playlist is heavy on SWAT mode (easy headshot kills) and even has a Grifball court. For me, the most unique experience I derived from the map pack was my attempt to get the hidden skull on the Sandbox map.

The skull is nestled against a wall of the level geometry far outside the allowed space of play. To get to it, you have to enter Forge and try to build your way over to the skull. Going outside the bounds of play means that a few plucky Guardian towers will start shooting insta-kill sniper shots at you. One easy method of attaining the skull is to try to fling teleporter pods at the skull like a shot-putter. I chose the harder method: building a system of tunnels out to the skull and then running the Master Chief through them. Since it’s a desert, the terrain shifts constantly with the sand dunes. This means that there will be holes in the tunnel that the Guardian lasers can shoot through. The whole experience took about 2 hours, but by the end I’d constructed a fairly wild series of tubes on the edge of the playable map. Running through it, I could hear the constant bombardment of the Guardian lasers against the ceiling.

What I’d done is, I’d built a bunker. Red v Blue remediation of Downfall, anyone?

To my mind, this experience is new proof that achievements can contribute objectively to the value of a game. I can’t find this kind of meta-game anywhere else in the Halo series, or anywhere else for that matter.

PS: With the achievements I’ve gotten so far on the Mythic Map pack, I’ve officially reached over a 60% completion rate on my 360 games. This has been a goal of mine for awhile. I wonder whether my next goal should be 65%, or 70?


One Response

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  1. deckard47 said, on March 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    This sounds really sweet. Strangely, although I love spending way too much time in some games, this is not something I’d ever do. I’d probably build half of your bunker and then get distracted by a Thing somewhere else. Really though, I hope that this kind of thing gets done more often. Making achievements into more than just things that happen when you move across a room (in Silent Hill: Homecoming, I swear that I unlock new achievements for breathing, they’re so thickly lade down). Anyway, you should go on Live so we can play Halo! Also I’m seriously trying to pick up L4D 360, for the Live play. Soon.

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