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Can you remember what your first achievement was? Mine was the active reloads in the first Gears of War, now, here’s a better question; can you remember the last achievement you unlocked where you actually feel like you accomplished something?
What I’m getting at here is the achievement system in both the 360 and PS3 has become somewhat, run of the mill. The average game has anywhere between forty and fifty achievements to start with and around seventy to eighty percent of them are unlocked on the initial playthrough. There’s very few real achievements in most games, some of them have a certain “badge of honour” attached to them, which is a step in the right direction but there are just so many token achievements it makes unlocking them feel very hollow.
Surely an achievement that requires you to do something different, like beat an entire game with just one weapon or without saving is better than a having a horde of “kill X amount of enemies, with X weapon”. This just seems such a waste of a system that has a lot of potential to add some real value to the right type of game. Let’s look at a game like Halo for instance, the amount of crazy stuff that happens, that you rarely see, unlocks nothing. Yet beating the game on legendary will unlock over half of the achievements in one go. That’s not to say that beating legendary isn’t worthy of some achievements, but people will always find a way to make it easier.
The truth is there have always been achievements in games; it’s just that only now they have been given a presence in the actual game. When you finished the first level in Max Payne you didn’t get a little bubble pop up saying that you had done it, you just knew you had. Before the days of online games (yes, there was a time) you would just talk about this kind of stuff with your friends. It was more a contest of who could be the bigger nerd by beating a game with an insane amount of handicaps applied, and still, you didn’t need that little pop up to tell you how awesome you are.
It's only a number afterall...
In a way, achievements have ruined that aspect of gaming, because in a sense, they deem how the game should be played. There’s never an achievement for beating the game while taking no damage or beating very hard with no upgrades, just the same old stuff over and over again. Older games have somewhat of an excuse for this; the achievement system was new and definitely shouldn’t take precedent over creating a great game. But surely now that there is so much attention surrounding it, developers could just be a bit more creative. There is no doubt that the more complex an achievement is, the more difficult it is to implement, however, accomplishing these tasks makes use of the system and even encourages playing the game in question more.
There are some examples of more old-school esque achievements in modern releases. Dead Space has an achievement for completing the whole game with just one weapon as does Ninja Gaiden 2. Completing the hardest modes in certain games is definitely worth noting in some games, whether it’s for the right reasons or not. Maybe it’s just this is just the wacky idea of someone who has played far too many games, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that calling something an achievement, should actually involve achieving something note worthy. Not just doing something completely mundane and more importantly, unavoidable.