Column: Achieving the Impossible

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Full disclosure, I am a sucker for that little ‘bloop’ sound that happens when you get an achievement. I get excited when I hear it, and then saddened when it is just a friend logging on. But just because I’m conditioned to the sound, I am generally not a fan of the achievements themselves. Far too often they are simply there to make the player play longer, or they are so insanely difficult that it is not worth anyone’s time in the first place. Or, conversely, you get them for doing something as simple as starting the game.

The worst kind of achievements, when it comes to single player, are the ones that make you grind for hours and hours, whether that be by killing an arbitrarily huge number of enemies, or playing the game several times through, because the difficulty achievements do not stack. In fact, the reason I finally got around to writing this, after mulling it over in my head, was because I wanted to go back and get that last achievement for Diablo 3, where you have to get one of each class (six in total) to the highest level (70). It took me ages, but I got there in the end.

Achievements should not be time consuming, or at least solely there to extend game time. I can’t really fault a developer for wanting people to play their game longer, but to me it is just a cheap tactic to use instead of, I don’t know, actually making the game enjoyable enough to want to keep playing. The same for difficulty cheevies, where finishing on HARD does not get easy or medium, so you have to play the game three times. Obviously they should not go up (finishing on easy should not unlock hard), but the games that don’t unlock the lower achievements too are just frustrating. Again, this isn’t a huge issue if the game is incredibly well made and has lots of replay value, but in most games these days it is a linear, by-the-books affair which leaves much to be desired.

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“37 Hidden” means I have 100% for 37 games. Go me.

Achievements set aside from single player, though, is where things for me get entirely uncalled for. It is well know that you can’t depend on others in multiplayer games, and in that vein I have come to terms with the fact I will never get the final two achievements in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; the first for earning every bonus in a multiplayer game, and the other for performing every sync bonus, with a partner, in a multiplayer game. For all of its faults, Mass Effect 3 was one of only a few that did multiplayer achievements right — because the gave you the choice of multiplayer OR doing a side mission in single player, with the achievement unlocking upon completion of either. But back to my earlier point, Mass Effect 3 had surprisingly good multiplayer, which meant either was enjoyable, and feasible to unlock.

Even achievements which are not difficult can be annoying, however. Earning  achievements for stupid things, like finishing levels, is just ridiculous. I mean, no shit you are going to finish a level, or else you won’t be even playing the game. I don’t necessarily mean finishing an act, or a certain section of a game, but I mean ‘finish level 1-1’, ‘finish level 1-2’ etc. I don’t mind the achievements for side missions, as they are things that players will go out of their way to finish. One of my best memories was me messing around in GTA IV, doing a wheelie, and all of a sudden I got a cheevie for doing a long wheelie. I didn’t know that was something I should be attempting, and such the surprise that came with that friendly ‘bloop’ made me enjoy the game that much more.

Overall, achievements can be enjoyable when used in interesting ways. Too many, or too often, and they lose all their appeal, but when they are spaced nicely, I find them to be incredibly awarding. It is at those moments that I really feel like I have achieved something.

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