Video Game News, Reviews and Reflection! New Articles Released Randomly Every Week!
So I have been replaying Borderlands for a week or so now, starting up a new character to play with RedGuinness and his girlfriend of five years (who happens to be my sister, so if the two of them could stop being so bloody cutesy on the headset, I’d much appreciate it). Now Borderlands is one of my favorite games of all time. It is a game that does not take itself seriously in the slightest; it has over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek characters and entities, humor aplenty, nerd references galore, a wonderful artistic style and a sequel that, in my probably-less-humble-than-it-deserves-to-be opinion, manages to far surpass the original by keeping everything that made its predecessor wonderful and only changing parts that could use a touch of improvement. I even love the developer, Gearbox Software. I mean, who wouldn’t love them after pulling fan service shenanigans like using their mascot character to deliver a marriage proposal or, on a much more somber note, to deliver a eulogy for a fan who lost his battle with cancer (and then following through with their promise to immortalize him in the Borderlands games).
Now before I continue, I have a confession to make to everyone: I am a tiny little bit of an achievement whore. Not in a way that makes me a better gamer, nor requires any kind of real challenge to be met, nor any perseverance to be demonstrated, but the kind who after a playthrough of a game will go online to find out how to up his gamer score… if it’s not too hard (I still only have one achievement in DOA 4 and it’s been how many years?). If it is too hard, I’ll just start working on achievements in other games to get my gamer jollies off that way. So really, I’m the worst kind of achievement whore. But once in the bluest of moons, I will come across a game that I feel I should complete to its utmost completion and get all of the achievements for. Borderlands is one such game.
But this is where I run into issues. This game that I love so much, this spectacle of violence and hilarity, this veritable masterpiece of graphics and programming: it hits on one of my biggest gaming pet peeves. No, I am not talking about crappy DLC in the form of Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot which, despite being a plotless meat grinder that somehow manages to take the fun out of cel-shaded murderin’, did provide the incredibly useful bank. What I am referring to here are incredibly stupid and pointless achievements that take an eternity to get.
This is a problem I have seen in a fair few games. The general form that these inane “achievements” take is something akin to the item-retrieval mission. Now some of them are reasonable. For example, I do not think it is unreasonable to hide “intel” in one or two rooms across a COD campaign level. I even think three is just ducky. Where I have a problem is when this gets out of control. Does anyone remember the fun of hunting down flags and Templars in the original Assassin’s Creed? I went through the whole game having run, jumped, tumbled, stabbed, gotten stabbed, and hid in what I thought was every corner of those cities and still only came up with about 17 flags and 4 Templars. That’s 17 out of 100 and 4 out of 60 respectively.
Now I will grant you, finding all of those flags and killing those Templars is impressive. However it is not impressive in skill or observation, it is impressive in its required patience. This is why the only people I know who actually got any of those achievements are my sister, and she only got all the flags in one area not all the flags in the game, and RedGuinness, because he is a lovable crazy person.
But, at the very least, this patience has a foreseeable end and there is a definitive way and location to acquire each and every flag and to kill each and every templar (not to mention a decently hefty gamerscore/trophy addition for doing so). The step worse is what Borderlands pulled with some of its item collection achievements. There are three or four of these achievements, and all of them are based on random item drops by slain enemies. What does this mean? It means that, though the laws of probability dictate that I should encounter certain rare dropped items a certain percentage of the time, there is no guarantee that I will ever find all those items before my xbox dies a horrible, old-age-induced Red Ring of Death. It all depends on how the die rolls and how truly random the item generation algorithm actually is.
Luckily for me, the boss of this area spawns a certain number these item-dropping baddies and then has the common decency to run them over so it can spawn more. The result is an infinite supply of item drops. Due to a nice little protected area, I have (in my supreme frustration after running through the various other areas of this map a dozen times) taken to crouching in a corner and letting these items pile up, moving one of the joysticks occasionally to keep my controller on. I collect them every time I am finished with an episode of House, M.D. on Netflix, but I’ve been doing this for close to four hours now and I still only have one of those achievements.
This is not how achievements should be. They should reflect attaining a goal, be it progressing through the story, exploring different options, achieving a certain level, perfecting a skill, finding a hidden location, etc. I even partially accept the Assassin’s Creed flag hunt because, while it is rather excessive, at least it shows off the work the crew did on in creating the different aspects of the setting. For the Assassin’s Creed series in particular the historical work in the centuries old cities was simply breathtaking, and having a reason to run through them is fair. But back to achievements, the thing they should not be is boring, frivolous, wastes of time that require no skill other than the ability to browse my Netflix queue to attain.
I guess the tl;dr version of this is that I’m whiny and impatient. But developers, please stop taking the easy way out when it comes to achievements. Some of your more seasoned gamers love to sit and work through them. I want a (light) challenge, not boredom and needlessly dead controller batteries.