In this instalment of Achievements Anonymous, Lee walks us through time-effective methods of earning Achievements and Trophies.
Looking at modern release schedules, it is obvious that there are a lot of games out there. It’s currently August, which is supposed to be one of the quiet times of the year, but we’ve seen the release of Sleeping Dogs, Darksiders II, plus we have Borderlands 2 coming in September.
Quite frankly, we are knee-deep in quality games, all begging for our attention; as well as the contents of our collective wallets. If that wasn’t enough, there comes a time when our free time is decreased by other, more important life priorities. For the completionist, like myself, this means it is important for us to make the most of the time we have with our favoured pastime, and make those dwindling sessions count.
As I regularly say, this isn’t about rushing through games at breakneck speed; this column is about complete enjoyment of our games. We don’t always have the time to finish games multiple times to see and unlock everything, so it makes absolute sense to play each game like it’s the last time we play it. Which could be true if you frequently rent or trade in games.
With that said, this is my proven method for efficient Achievement/Trophy hunting:
Step One: Keep track of your collection
As our game collections increase every month, I feel it’s always important to keep track of what games are in our libraries, plus what games you’ve finished or haven’t even touched yet. Back in the day I used to keep a spreadsheet to keep track of my extensive collection, but these days there are a number of websites that can do this for you:
A brilliant site that will allow you to keep track of every game you own, for any system. Just sign up, add your games, and use its various functions to keep track of your collection, and even prioritise your games. You can look at my Backloggery page here as an example (although I am currently in the process of refreshing my collection, so it’s a little bare). This site is also great for it’s “Fortune Cookie” feature, that will randomly pick one of your games for you to play; perfect if you’re like me and can’t decide what to play next.
These two sites are almost identical, and allow you to manually track your Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 game collection, plus manually keep track of your Achievements. However, the best feature of these sites are their incredibly useful Achievement Guides and Forums for each game.
Unfortunately, this is site is only available for Xbox 360 users, which is shame as it’s another great site for keeping track of your games. Once you set up an account with TA, they’ll scan your Xbox 360 profile and add all of your games and Achievements automatically. The site will also scan every day for new Achievements as well.
Step Two: Check Achievement/Trophy lists – Go Hardcore or Go Home
Once you’ve picked what game you’re going to play, then it makes sense to take a look at what Achievements there are. These lists can be found at most FAQ/guide websites, but I prefer to use the aforementioned Xbox360Achievements, PS3Trophies or TrueAchievements.
One thing you are really going to need to look at, is if there are Achievements/Trophies attached to finishing the game on different difficulty levels. What you are looking for, is information on whether difficulty Achievements/Trophies “stack” for the game you are playing; that is to say, if you finish the game on the hardest difficulty, you’ll get the difficulty Achievements/Trophies for the easier difficulty levels. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find that Japanese-developed games don’t tend to stack difficulties (Shadows of the Damned and Deadly Premonition are examples of this). For those games where difficulty Achievements do stack, nine times out of ten it makes sense to play the game on the hardest difficulty setting, thus saving you oodles of time.
Step Three: Consult a Map
That would be an Achievement/Trophy Roadmap. It’s not always clear from Achievement/Trophy lists at what point in a game you can earn a particular Achievement, neither is it clear if anything can be missed. There is nothing worse than finishing a game, only to find out you’ve missed a Trophy or Achievement and have to play the game all over again to get that one thing!
That’s where Roadmaps come in. Both Xbox360Achievements and PS3Trophies have user-submitted Roadmaps, detailing how difficult a game is, what Achievements/Trophies are missable and in what order you are likely to be able to earn them. Thanks to dedicated gamers on both of these sites, the path to efficient Achievement hunting has been made simpler.
Step Four: Playing Well With Others
A lot more games released these days contain a large multiplayer component, and many of them have Achievements tied in to these online modes. I tend to leave these until last, as most of the time the skills I have learned in completely finishing the single player mode of a game, transfer well to its multiplayer portion.
There are few things more fun than playing online multiplayer, although most of the time the experience can turn sour thanks to the growing number of idiots that populate the interweb. Because of this, I prefer to play online with friends.
Failing that, I also rely on TrueAchievement’s brilliant Session system for finding like-minded players to compete with. It’s a calendar-based system where you can set up an appointment, choose how many players and what game you want to play (or even what Achievements you want to work towards), then wait for other users to sign up to the session. Most of the users there are pleasant people to play with, which is far more preferable than dealing with irritating 13-year old bigots.
Step Five: Don’t Waste Your Time
Finally, don’t be afraid to ignore some of the more difficult games and Achievements out there, especially if they are time consuming. There is no way I will be spending the 30-50 hours+ to get Grand Theft Auto IV’s “Wanted” Achievement (Get to the highest level in multiplayer); even I feel that’s a waste of time. It’s also looking unlikely that I’ll ever get all 12 Achievements in Ikaruga, because, as much as I love that game, it is ball-bustingly hard.
In situations like these, it’s up to you to decide whether a game’s developers are valuing your free time, and that the Achievements you need are worth the time and effort. Once again, enjoy your time with a game and if you don’t, just put the damn thing down and move on to something you do like.
Do you have any suggestions on games you’d like me to cover in future Achievements Anonymous? Drop me a line in the comments, or on Twitter. I’ll be back in two weeks with another column.