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Have you ever gone through Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3′s grueling arcade mode, beat Shao Kahn after he brutalized you physically and mentally for hours but your friends refused to believe you because you had no proof? How about beating Ocarina of Time without picking up a single heart container? Thanks to the advent of achievements, we can not only show off our particular dedications to any conceivable game, (On PS3 or 360 of course…sorry Wii owners.) but we are also rewarded with points that, more or less, solidify our accomplishments. Ever since, gamers have had the opportunity and the resolve to…well, game harder. Some goals were trivial, some felt like real achievements, and then some cause fits of uncontrollable rage.
Game companies have definitely had their share of fun with the achievements, offering gamers compensation for a few hours of extra play. (Depending on the game, a few hours may be very generous.) Some games are relatively simple to get 100% on, such as Dead Space, whose most daunting task asks for completion of the hardest difficulty. Left 4 Dead also features accessible achievements, until you start hitting anything involving expert mode. Gears of War features a healthy dose of both online versus and campaign achievements, but hold your breath – I’ll hit on Seriously later. Nothing says “play me” more than easy achievements for those who love to see and hear that achievement unlocked message…or the equally satisfying “you have earned a trophy.”
Not all games have been kind to gamers in the achievement department. There are a handful of games that will not yield its last achievement as if someone’s life was at stake. Growing up playing several RPGs, I knew there were bound to be truly horrific tasks for 360/PS3 RPGs…and I was right. One annoying goal was from Final Fantasy 13 called Treasure Hunter. What made this so bad was the fact that you had to get every item in the game at least once, including items that, if missed, could not be found again. Also, there was no way to record what you had in game, so you had to record what was refined and what wasn’t. The biggest offender of making impossible achievements for RPG’s from what I’ve seen is Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope. To complete the game’s achievements, you must collect 100% of the game’s battle trophies, which serve as mini-achievements built into each of the 9 main characters. The requirements for these trophies are varied, ranging from fighting 3000 battles (extremely time-consuming) to dealing a set number of damage, or even jumping a set distance. (It’s a non-trivial amount, by the way) Every 10% of battle trophies earned is a 10 point achievement, so having all 900 trophies gets you a whooping 100 gamerscore…and a non-refundable investment of 200+ hours. (I have about 130 hours on the game and only have about 300 trophies) I could get 100 gamerscore by just playing Samurai Warriors 2 for not even an hour for the same results. Ridiculous achievements like this separate regular gamers from the hardcore bunch.
Possibly the hardest achievement of all comes from Gears 3′s Seriously 3.0. The Gears trilogy has had a Seriously achievement for each game that got progressively harder. In the first one, the player had to amass 10000 kills online…in 4 on 4 match ups. In Gears 2, the player had to reach a kill count of 100000 between all game modes, so it almost felt more approachable, but 90000 more kills is no laughing matter.
Gears 3 took it’s predecessors’ Seriously achievements, spit on them, and gave us the mother all of achievements. Instead of just getting kills, the player must obtain medals of given challenges. (Think Call of Duty challenges…except they’re all mandatory) What really makes this achievement virtually impossible are the sheer numbers that one must reach to perform some of the challenges. For starters, you have to get 6000 kills with each of the five starter weapons, so get ready for all the sawed-off hatemail you’ll receive. Here’s another popular one – you have to play 3000 matches of all six game modes for a grand total of 18000 matches, which is a perfect chance to get the first kill 3000 times and 4000 head shots. There’s no way to do it normally that won’t take upwards from easily a year, so this must be grinded heavily for. I’ve been a gearhead since the first one, and this achievement is beyond ludicrous. Yet, does not having this achievement invalidate that I’m down with Gears? By no means would it, but that’s where I’ve drawn the line.
When it comes down it, achievements/trophies are just personal missions we undertake to prove how strongly we play certain games. We pick up the achievements on our own pace, for example, I’m good at hack n’ slash games so I made an effort to max out my gamerscore on Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. For other people, all it may take to get them to do something they normally wouldn’t is to mutter, even quietly “…there’s an achievement for it” and that’s where achievements truly shine. Developers get gamers to fully experience their games through the tiny incentives, and it seems to work. However, this is not to say that for every game someone plays, he or she should be playing it solely for the achievements, but rather that they genuinely want to. Hopefully, these incentives survive to see the next generation consoles, because it will encourage gaming for casual and hardcore gamers alike.