This weekend, I spent a large chunk of time achievement hunting. Now, you’re probably either wanting specifics to see how good I am, snorting in derision or a little lost.
For those who are lost, most video games come with “achievements” now, essentially a little virtual merit badge the game will give you when you meet the conditions for it; “Finish Mission 1” or “Get 10 kills with the pistol”, to give common examples. They’re almost ubiquitous because they’re useful for developers and fun for players.
For the people making the games, they’re a handy method of tracking how well parts of the game turned out. As a made up example, if 78% of players have the achievement for completing mission 1, 70% have it for mission 2 but only 34% for mission 3, you know that for whatever reason, a lot of people gave up during mission 3.
And for players, they’re a fun way to challenge yourself, compete against friends and discover new ways to play. Some games have a huge amount, Payday 2 has over 400 for example. As a co-op game though, the restrictions can be fun as you’re doing them with a group; camaraderie through (self-inflicted!) adversity. Some players care a lot and will try to get perfect games; i.e. get every achievement possible, while others don’t care at all and consider trying for them a waste of time.
The game I was achieving greatness in was Dishonored, a game where you play as a magical assassin in a fantasy steampunkish city ravaged by a plague. As a magical assassin, you have an array of powers he can use to slip past guards and take out the conspiritors who framed him for murder. If murdering people for framing you for murder is too ironic for you, there’s a non-lethal approach to every target. In fact, the game reacts to how you play; the more guards, bystanders and targets that you kill, the higher the chaos in the city rises and the worse the plague gets.
It’s an excellent game, one of my favourites. I love the amount of freedom it gives you within levels. Let’s say you have to get past a guard in a corridor; theres so many ways to approach the problem.
- Wait for him to turn around, sprint up and shank him in the back.
- Don’t bother waiting, shoot him in the head with a pistol and sprint away before anyone alerted by the shot gets there.
- Same, but use the silent crossbow instead so noone else hears.
- Not keen on murdering someone just for being in the way? Shoot him with a tranquilizer dart and wander past while he naps.
- Don’t want to waste ammo? Observe his pattern and you can probably figure out a path through by careful use of hiding spots.
- That seems too risky? Maybe you don’t need to go through this corridor at all, backtrack a bit and there’s likely an alternate route overhead or through a sewer.
- Remembered you have magic powers? Just teleport past him.
- Not flashy enough? Possess his body and walk his body through the security checkpoint. Once you’re past his buddies, unpossess him and move off while he’s too nauseous to spot you.
That’s not an exhaustive list.
The first time through I played it loud and deadly, as most of the powers aid in being lethal. It was an absolute blast being a terrifying, teleporting murder machine who left no guard standing and I got all the combat-related achievements as well as the general completion ones in that run.
Second time around I had a much better handle on the mechanics and was pretty good at the game, so I challenged myself. I not only went for a pacifist (no kills at all) run, but the ghost (complete stealth) run, where no enemy is even allowed to see you for the entire game. To make it even more tricky, I decided that I would also go for the achievement where you don’t use any of the powers except the one you start with. It was a pretty tough challenge that took a while to do with many restarts, but the game’s well-designed enough that it was perfectly possible.
Last week, I’d returned to the game to ghost the game’s 2 story DLCs. With those done, this weekend I went through the list of achievements I had yet to get in Dishonored and specifically went for them. A few were mission specific and 2 required actions on both mission 2 and 7, so I planned a run starting there. The whole 5 mission stretch went by fast, you can really speedrun the game if you know exactly what you’re doing, but I still found myself in areas I hadn’t visited in my previous 2 playthroughs using powers I’d previously ignored. It was good to learn new things in a game I thought I’d mastered and not having to care about being seen was welcome after the previous effort of careful stealthing!
As you might infer, I’m on the side that achievements are good and fun, but as with all things the truth is in the middle. There’s a sizable chunk of achievements in Dishonored that relate to the challenge DLC. They’re actually tough to get and would need a lot of practice on each challenge to pull off. As much as I adore the main game, the challenge mode left me cold. As I didn’t find it fun, I doubt I will ever put in the time to complete it and so will never get those achievements. Similarly, I missed the “never spotted” achievement for the 2nd story DLC (which are even better than the main game, by the way) because I was spotted, once, in mission 2 of 4. It’s my own fault, the mission complete screen does tell you if you have been seen but I didn’t notice and kept going instead of restarting. After finishing the whole thing ghosting except for one instance, I’ll probably not spend 4 hours to repeat what I’ve already done in the exact same way, just for a virtual badge.
Because, at the end of the day, I do these things because I think it’ll be fun, not for validation from a computer program.