Category Archives: achievements

Ringing in the new year with 90,000 Gamerscore

When I hit the 80,000 Gamerscore mark in August 2017, I predicated I’d earn the next full 10,000 by March 2018. Mel went with April 2018. Er, whoops. We were a bit off on those guestimations. Here we are almost two weeks into January and, thanks to a number of recently completed games and the Iron Fist martial arts tournament, which I’ll touch upon below, I punched 90,000 Gamerscore perfectly in the nose last night, shortly before hitting the hay:

Go me, go numbers growing higher. Also, at some point, I really do need to look into updating my avatar, seeing as I haven’t rocked a full beard now for many, many months. I can also make my body size a bit slimmer.

Let’s see. Obviously, the games I’ve touched most recently–Wolfenstein: The New Order, Night in the Woods, and Prey–played a bit part in climbing this mountain. As did Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and all its DLC, which, until typing those very words, I had honestly wiped from my memory despite the number of hours that whole thing took to complete. There’s also Slime Rancher and Murdered: Soul Suspect, of which I got most for the former and all the Achievements for the latter, plus a bunch of smaller games here and there to fill in the gaps, inching my Gamerscore a wee bit closer to the clouds.

However, after finding every single hidden enigma code collectible and unlocking the first puzzle-related one in Wolfenstein: The New Order last night, I saw that I needed 20 more Gamerscore to hit 90,000 perfectly, which wasn’t going to work with the remainder of enigma-related Achievements left in the game. So I began searching through my installed games list, on the hunt for something worth either 20, 15, 10, or 5, though I was hoping to find an easy one for 20 and call it a night. Enter Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and this little gem involving pressing X+Y+RB three times in Practice mode against an opponent standing still and not blocking, all of which took me about 30 seconds to do:


Master of the Direct Tag Assault (20G): You pulled off 3 Direct Tag Assaults.

My skills are undeniable. I don’t even remember which two characters I picked for my team. Either way, the job got done.

Will I achieve 100,000 Gamerscore in 2018? You bet your butt I will.

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Gobbling up that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Fourth game of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds played, first with a squad of two friends and a random. Mark this day (last night, technically) down in my gaming history.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was indeed full of peril

Hyperemesis is severe or prolonged vomiting, usually as a condition occurring during pregnancy. It’s also the only word I could seem to find to truly rhyme with nemesis. Sorry, but pessimist doesn’t exactly cut it. Thankfully, in the Lord of the Hunt DLC for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, there’s a lot of vomiting happening when riding on the back of a Wretched Graug, so it does tie in nicely with the subject matter at hand. All’s well that ends better, I guess.

Look, I have mixed feelings about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game I put about 32 hours of my life and thumbs into, a game based on Lord of the Rings–which for those new here is something I care about greatly–that probably didn’t need to be based on Lord of the Rings, but perhaps then I might not have ever given it a glance so it’s kind of a double-edged, flaming, Uruk-decapitating sword. In the end, I think I would have preferred this not to be based on Lord of the Rings and, as a result, something I would have skipped and left forever on my “did not get to play this year” lists. It’s a perfectly fine, even good action game, and a terrible game playing around in the Lord of the Rings realm, and this is coming from the dude that has three copies of Aragorn’s Quest–for the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation 2, and the Nintendo Wii.

This original non-canon story set in the legendarium created by J. R. R. Tolkien tells the troubling plight of generic face, “Dollar Store Sean Bean” Talion, a Ranger of Gondor responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor, who bonds with the wraith of the Elf Lord Celebrimbor to avenge the deaths of their loved ones and…do other things. Such as behead a bunch of Orcs, find hidden collectibles, and climb tall towers to reveal more of the map. Also, like, spoiler alert, try to make a new Ring of Power. Knowing that none of this actually fits into the final timeline of events helps ease the silliness and unnecessary-ness of it all. You’ll also run into Gollum early on in the action adventure, who, via tracking missions, will help reveal some of Celebrimbor’s past. Lastly, and here’s the part I really found real amusing, you do face off against Sauron (via someone else’s body) at the end in sword-to-sword combat, and quick time events are involved.

Combat is mindless and mashy and never in a fun way. Each encounter, more or less, went the same, with Talion getting a few hits in to up the combo streak and then mashing one of several button combinations, such as X+Y or A+B, to do a thing. These things range from instantly killing an enemy or branding it to fight for you or creating a blast of energy to stun foes and so on. The whole ebb and flow is built around these moves, so you’re constantly bouncing between dudes to keep the combos up. It can quickly become chaotic and frustrating, especially when you begin to take damage from ranged enemies, which messes up your rhythm greatly. Towards the end of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and in its two pieces of DLC, I worked extra hard to avoid big confrontations unless they were part of the mission at hand because they were a lot of work for little reward besides some XP and the chance to maybe stumble upon a named bad dude. Also, there were so many different button combinations that I forgot many and mainly stuck with one or two. Ugh.

As I’m wont to do, I tried to do everything in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, knowing I’d be uninstalling it once finished it. This included getting all of the collectibles and playing the two bits of additional content. Lord of the Hunt was fine, but ultimately more of the same, only saved by the Dwarf Torvin and his colorful dialogue. However, The Bright Lord was beyond frustrating, and I almost walked away from it altogether. See, in that piece of DLC, you play as Celebrimbor some 3,000 years prior to the game’s main plot, which means you don’t have every ability Talion had, have less health, limited powers, and must focus on branding Orcs to fight for you versus getting your own hands dirty. I eventually had to re-train my brain on how to handle combat, staying up high, calling in branded Orcs over and over, and slowly whittling the army down. The final fight, this time not a QTE test, ramps everything up to 11, having you deal with multiple warchiefs along with a big baddie that can revive warchiefs; I will say that I beat it taking the most cautious and cowardice-laden path possible.

It’s a bit of a bummer that the two games I bought during 2016’s Black Friday sale, this and Dragon Age: Inquisition, turned out to be rather disappointing. Here’s hoping the games I got this yearPrey, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and The Inner World–don’t follow the same trend. I’d also like to not have a year go by before touching these, though I am currently sneaking my way through Prey and enjoying its atmosphere and immersion. So there, progress.

Also, I can say with almost 100% certainty, unless given to me at zero cost and beside a delicious-looking sandwich and promised that everything will work out fine in the end, I’ll not be getting Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which sounds like all this over again…only worse due to the inclusion of loot boxes and end-game grinding. No thanks. If anything, I think this is now the best time for me to pop back to something LOTR-related and untouched in my collection, such as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the PlayStation 2. Remember, as the wise ol’ Gandalf once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

2017 Game Review Haiku, #123 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – The Bright Lord

Use Celebrimbor
To brand your way to Sauron
Difficulty spike

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Begin your King’s Quest by outwitting four other knightly candidates

I have zero association with Sierra Entertainment’s King’s Quest series, despite its legacy in the point-and-click adventure game genre and my love for entertainment based on pointing and clicking. I remember hearing something once that these Sierra games were punishing and reveled in killing the player from time to time, and that’s lived inside of me ever since. From what I can tell, it helped pioneer the use of animation and pseudo-3D environments, as well as introduced the notion of players solving puzzles and advancing by using items found earlier and stored in their inventory, which is a big deal. It’s on my “want to play eventually” list, along with Loom and Day of the Tentacle, which I do own copies of the latter, but I don’t know when exactly that day will arrive.

Anyways, “A Knight to Remember,” the first episode of King’s Quest and free to download on the ol’ Xbox One, is a series reboot from The Odd Gentlemen, which you may know from their work on The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Well, that’s where I know them. It tells the story of the likeable yet overly excitable Graham, who’s working on becoming a knight and, eventually, the king of Daventry. That’s not a spoiler, seeing as the main meat of the game is told via flashback, from an older, bedridden Graham in bed, many years later after he became king. He’s telling the story of his life to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Still, as a young knight-to-be, he needs to outwit four other candidates for the open position and make his name heard.

King’s Quest is most definitely a modern point-and-click adventure game, one clearly designed for a controller and home console, but still retaining many of its genre roots. For instance, there’s no tutorial or quest log to remind players about what they should be doing. One needs to quickly learn how to figure stuff out for themselves; that, or try every item on every other item, which is usually my go-to attempt when stuck. There’s also multiple solutions to puzzles, and, strangely enough, Graham can die, though since this is told via flashback the narrator quickly walks back any life-ending decisions like that. It also very much does not follow in the footprints of Telltale Games’ hand-holding, decision-makers, and for that I am thankful.

You control Graham like you would any avatar in a 3D character-action title, and there’s some sick cape physics to admire. Gameplay consists of exploring locations, talking to people and navigating through dialogue trees, picking up items, using said items, and surviving quick time events. You’ll put your wits to work occasionally and do a whole lot of walking. Let me touch on that last point a bit more because it is where I struggled with the game the most, to the point of almost walking away from it entirely, pun totally intended. See, King Graham, you’re not the only one with the good wordplay.

One of the better advancements in point-and-click adventure games is the introduction of a mini-map or the ability to double click on edges of screens to have the protagonist either move there automatically or simply jump to the next location. When a game is structurally built on revisiting the same locations over and over and over, some of which are four or five screens apart and broken up by loading screens, this is paramount to maintaining a good pace and not forcing the player to watch in stark boredom as Graham meanders to and fro like there’s nothing better to do. Lastly, you can’t skip dialogue, and I suspect that my six to seven hours with this first episode alone could have been trimmed down immensely if The Odd Gentlemen made room for a few more user-friendly design concessions.

Visually, King’s Quest is my jam. Specifically, my cel-shaded jam. This results in environments with a hand-painted effect that looks cartoonish, magical, and, somehow, completely natural. Characters stand out against these backdrops, but only initially. For this first episode, locations are limited, but strikingly varied. Graham ends up in the village of Daventry, inside the castle briefly, visiting a theater, exploring a darkened forest, and creeping through a cave home to a massive dragon, who may or may not be friendly, depending on how you interact with it. Strong, ambient lighting and minute details help round out this fantastical world into something believable and lived in. At one point or another, it felt like moving through a painting. This is also all backed by a good soundtrack and strong voice acting, specifically Christopher Lloyd‘s deadpan delivery of puns.

If I’m being honest, the reason I finally sat down and played King’s Quest is because it is a large, sizeable install and I wanted to open up some space on my console for other games. That said, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the other remaining episodes any time soon, but maybe they’ll pop up in a nice bundle down the road or just eventually become part of the Games with Gold program. I mean, I already know Graham becomes king, but I guess it is all about the journey, after all. We’ll see if I ever see it through myself.

Gone Home, where happiness doesn’t have just one address

It’s been a few years since I first played Gone Home. This was back in 2014, when my life was wavering, changing into something new and different. I was, at that time, drawing small, teeny-tiny comics for each game I completed instead of my now much more popular standard of haikus, and the one I did for The Fullbright Company’s first-person adventure exploration debut remains one of my more popular pieces on the photo-sharing site Tumblr. Which I have always found interesting because all I did was use Sam Greenbriar’s words about her girlfriend with a few crude illustrations to accompany them. Art is odd.

A quick Gone Home plot summary for those that don’t remember what is going on here: 21-year-old Katie Greenbriar returns home in 1995 from being overseas to her family in Oregon only to discover the house is completely empty of life. As she begins to explore the house, she’ll discover clues and notes left behind that explains where everyone went. It’s a story about love and loyalty, abuse, friendship, religion, dedication, confidence, neglect, connections, mental health, and more things than I can list out here. The easy joke to make would be that this is one full house. I’m not going to re-hash what I previously wrote some years back, so please click here for a deeper dive into the game’s narrative and theme, among other topics.

Right. For the console version of Gone Home, not much has changed in terms of gameplay, though I do enjoy using a controller to navigate and examine neon-colored highlighters more this time. Also, there’s Achievements, and this is where I found new life in the rummaging simulator. A couple of them, specifically “Homerunner” and “Speedreader,” are all about completing the game quickly with next to no room for error. Another has you going through the Greenbriar house slowly, methodically, pausing with curiosity and searching every nook and cranny for the chance to learn more. I loved both plans of attack and want to talk about them individually below.

It’s official–Gone Home is the first game I’ve spedrun. Speed-runned? I’ve done a speedrun of? Ugh. There’s really no graceful way of saying it, I guess. Look, I beat Gone Home in under a minute. I never even knew this was possible. The “Homerunner” Achievement asks that the player complete the game in less than 1 minute with no modifiers enabled. That might sound crazy difficult until you realize that you can access the secret room by the front staircase at any point when playing to grab the attic key. After that, it’s all about cutting corners and navigating down a dark hallway to click on Sam’s diary. It took me a few tries, but I eventually did it, and that felt pretty cool. The next game I plan to speedrun is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, 100% catalog, all fossils, fish, and bugs. Just kiddin’.

For the “Speedrunner” Achievement, you need to complete the game having found all 24 journal entries, without any modifiers turned on, in less than 10 minutes. Hmm. Again, it sounds tough, and there is little room for wasting time, but once you know the best path to take and make a b-line for every audio journal trigger, it’s not too bad. I didn’t personally time myself, but the Achievement popped on my first go after thinking about where everything was for a moment, so it was obviously under ten minutes. Now, before I did this one, I also learned about the secret journal entry you get by bringing a tiny ball from the garage up to Sam’s room and dunking it in the basketball hoop, which I never did initially. The reveal is purrfect. So that was another fun treat to learn about, as well as the task of bringing Christmas duck to its rightful abode in the attic.

Lastly, there’s the “Behind the Scenes” Achievement, which wants you to find all the commentary nodes in the house after turning them on via a modifier at the start of a new game. Commentary in games, much like on DVDs, is something I find neat and cool from afar, but rarely digest. I don’t know why that is. Certainly, when it comes to a movie or TV show, I’d rather just watch the original material and read an interview with the director or actors later. However, games can be more interactive than this, which gives new life to the idea of re-exploring these environments. I enjoyed it in Blackwell Deception and Even the Ocean, and I greatly enjoyed it here, though some nodes offer more stories and details than others. The truth is, as an Idle Thumbs fan, I could listen to Chris Remo go on for days about composing music. Still, I learned a lot about hidden secrets and design choice from Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimonja, Kate Craig, and Emily Carroll, as well as got Sarah Grayson’s take on her character Sam, who drives the game forward with her painfully heartfelt narration. Finding each one was rewarding, and I refused to leave the area I was in until the recording was done playing.

Basically, in the last week or so, I ended up beating Gone Home several more times, all via different types of playthroughs, and I still think this is one of the more important games of the last decade. Play it, please. I suspect I’ll return to it again down the future road; until then, I really need to check out Tacoma.

Gimme Five’s random questions just keep coming

gd-gimme-five-xbox-pc-impressions

If I could have just one TV channel and not include anything else in my personalized cable package, it would easily be the Game Show Network. So long as they let me cut out Idiotest and replace that nightly time slot with either dead air or a live feed of some dude’s sick-ass-fish-heck aquarium. On a related note, fish heck should totally be called Pheck. Anyways, both options are 100% better than Ben Gleib’s shambling mess of brainteasers wherein the goal is for contestants to prove to the audience they are not dumb while everyone points and laughs at how dumb they are, especially the host. Ugh. I’m also not a fan of Divided, but I don’t want to get into it here.

Smooth transition time: I am, however, a big fan of Gimme Five, a surprisingly addictive trivia game that puts your knowledge of anything and everything to the test. No, really, the subjects at hand–pun totally intended–vary immensely. I’ve gone from answering questions about coins in the United States to famous Wimbledon winners to identifying prime numbers to figuring out what counts for furniture in the question-asker’s mind.Well, if I’m being honest, Melanie helps me out on all of the math-related items while I handle the ultra hard tasks of naming X-men characters and female protagonists in videogames.

Basically, the game’s goal is simple: answer as many trivia questions as possible–before time runs out or you get too many wrong. See how far you can get. I usually hit a snag between questions 15 and 20, though we did reach question 30 the other night thanks to the mighty skip power-up. Each question has five correct answers, and you must select from nine potential click-able squares. Because this is a videogame and not simply someone giving you a multiple choice test to take, you can use some power-ups to help in this endeavor, such as one that shows you all five right answers, one that highlights a single correct answer, and one that skips the question entirely. Depending on what item you equip before you start playing, you’ll have different amounts of each power-up, as well as other perks, such as bonus time added when answering correctly; I personally like having more skips than anything else because I will never know a single NASCAR championship driver–so stop asking me.

In doing a little research for this post, I discovered there was another game called Gimme Five that came out over a decade ago, from Namco, on mobile. Think about what mobile meant in 2005. I have no idea. Sounds like it was a card-based mini-game thing. This more recent Gimme Five feels mini in its user interface and design, but is addicting enough to keep me coming back for one more run of random questions. I just crossed the level 30 mark and have seen a fair share of repeated questions, but that’s okay, because now I can answer them quickly thanks to memorization and without having to burn a power-up. The developer Shuboarder could also add a few more famous starting quotes, and if they need inspiration, just watch any episode of Criminal Minds.

As you play, you earn KP, which naturally stands for kudos points and not everyone’s favorite animated comedic-spy thriller Kim Possible. This is a type of currency that you save up and spend either on unlockable items to affect your power-ups or you can use them to continue after you hit a dead end. However, each time you continue it costs more KP, and you don’t magically start fresh with a full stock of power-ups and time. If you answered incorrectly and only had a few seconds left on the clock, clicking continue will start you with a new question and the same amount of time to go, so you need to use your continues wisely. The first one costs 10 KP, the second 40 KP, and I’ve never been brave enough to use it a third time though I suspect I’ll have to if I’m ever to see the 50th question.

Strangely, I don’t remember Gimme Five being a product that cost money, back when I installed it in early February 2017. It was a free thing then that certainly looked free and felt free and also offered up 1,000 Gamerscore points, along with in-game statistic tracking. But it seems like it’ll strip your wallet of $4.99 now if you want in on all the crazy questions, and I’m not sure it’s worth that amount of digital cash seeing as there’s a billion trivia games out there, many of which are free or no more than a dollar. I am having fun, as is Melanie, but it also helps that I got into this thing early when it was a freebie.