Crystal Relic Collector

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Knack • Acquired a Crystal Relic • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 62.9% (Common)

It’s the freakin’ weekend, and do you know what that means? If you guessed housework, and a day out-and-about, then you’re absolutely correct; but if your guess ventured into something about having to entertain the kids when they’ve had a full day of the aforementioned ‘out-and-about’, and they’re eyes are hanging out of their head … then I’m happy to give you a silver medal as well.

What does this all mean? Why, time to fire up the closest friendly family game, of course – and Knack fit the bill. While we’re pretty much tag-teaming the game for the most part, it really is a case of my son playing for a bit, getting killed, and then me having to go back and get through the next chunk until he feels like playing again. Repeat, ad nauseum.

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Even though he still falls over along the way, he’s certainly got the grasp of the game, and he knows when to look in side doors or areas where chests might be. Even though he breezes past a lot of these things while he’s playing, it pleases me that he’s getting a good grasp of side quests. I’ll turn him into a professional gamer yet!

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This trophy is simply for unlocking a particular type of collectible, or ‘relic’ as the game labels them. I noticed that collecting the full set of these crystals appears to be the requirement for unlocking ‘Vampire Knack’, which – perhaps most importantly – is necessary for another trophy entirely! I can’t see myself in the likely multiple playthroughs needed to obtain the full set, but by the same token, I said that a lot about Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, and then I had to keep going back to it to cater to my son’s obsession, and used the time to 100% it. Silver lining and all that.

Tomorrow is pretty much a dedicated family day, so I’m not sure where I’m going to land when it comes to achievements. I still have many of my quick-and-dirty achievements on Steam there to work my way through, which might be a nice change from the more ‘meaty’ stuff I’ve been working on lately. Final Fantasy VII, in particular, is proving particularly taxing on the mind.

I’m not sure if that reflects the game, the twenty years since it’s been out or … more troubling … my mind!

Survivor!

Rayman Origins • Survived a Piranha Pond without a scratch!

I’ve played a lot of Rayman in various forms over the years – but it’s been so on-and-off I haven’t really worked towards a particular trophy. Between different accounts and different games, it’s always been much more of a casual pleasure than on steady rotation, and so when I was playing around tonight and this trophy popped, it seemed like a good a time as any to celebrate.

Ironically, for the hours I’ve put into the game I still don’t consider myself very good! Every time I attempt one of the timed runs (for another one of the little purple creatures) I fall just short or fail miserably. Que Sera, Sera.

Grabbing this trophy frees me up a bit tonight, so I’m thinking a bit more Fortnite or something more shooty bangs on the fixture.

Either way, flexibility is good – as good as a nostalgic walk down memory lane with a good ol’ Vita game to keep you company.

Father and Son

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God of War • Obtain all other trophies

It’s done. Valkyries, Ravens, Artifacts, Mists, Chests, Rifts … well, actually, I think I’m still missing a rift … but either way, the Gods of Trophies have seen it fit to bestow on me the Platinum Trophy for God of War.

In the famous phrase from The Handmaid’s Tale: Praise Be.

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I will be honest … this last, final grind towards 20,000 blood mists was incredibly tedious. I can see why people who ‘don’t care’ about achievements or trophies might just as easily skip over this part. For many of my last few battles, I was facing a steady stream of Wulvers and Trolls, which – while not necessarily difficult – were annoying.

I’ve spent a fair part of my afternoon wondering ‘what’s next?’. I started off with a quick 10 minutes of Dark Souls (not the remaster, just the good ol’ fashioned classic) to see if it floated my boat (it didn’t) before I ended up on Rocket League for a few mindless matches against the best the web could throw at me. I have to say: I loved every minute of it. After the mental drain of a trophy cleanup, sometimes it’s good just to snuggle up with a contemporary classic.

I might treat myself to another few hours of it.

Allfather Blinded

God of War • Kill all of Odin’s Ravens

Tonight started off about collecting all the relics, and finished with a tricky little walk around the Iron Cove and some sneaky axe throwing work to kill the last of Odin’s Ravens.

One trophy to go.

Earning these last few trophies has felt more like relief than satisfaction. Part of this is frustration that I missed or didn’t work more systematically through the game in the first place.

Still, for want of a better cliche: better late than never.

I’m hoping that a solid Friday night session tomorrow might be enough to round-out the GoW trophy hunt, but I’m also conscious that it’s going to be a grind – so, worse case scenario, it might be a weekend job.

Cliche 2: Time will tell.

Treasure Hunter

God of War • Use treasure maps to find all of the dig spots

Look, I’ll be honest – I just wanted to talk about God of War a bit today – because I’ve been putting in the hard yards and I feel like I’ve earned a ‘bit’ of a narrative around my journey to platinum.

First things first – yes, I beat the Valkyrie Queen. Yes, it felt good. And yes, I am officially on ‘the home straight.’

The battle itself was, as expected, tough. Very tough. For all the guides I read and the videos I watched about how to beat her, I ended up essentially doing my own thing and just pressing the fight. It involved a bit of mastery around the relic attacks, and once I spent some time tweaking them to maximise the chance of actually hitting her (one of them, for instance, the ‘spinning axe’ attack, seemed to always fall a touch short) and getting better at dodging her attacks (except the one where she jumps into the air and slams down on top of you … I never quite mastered that), I started to slowly find her health get lower and lower each encounter … to the point at which I actually had her health at zero and then got killed by what must have been a last-minute projectile.

That one, in particular, was almost controller-through-the-TV worthy.

My trophy for this entry, however, is part of my ‘cleanup’, and involved finding three final treasure caches that you are guided to from maps you’ve collected along the journey. My fairly significant exploration of the world had already uncovered all the maps that I needed, and so for the final three steps I had to look up a bit of a guide to see what I might have missed. Sure enough – the caches were just in tricky little spots that I had already explored, but were just off to the side of an area that likely had a battle that caused me to rush through it – or they were ‘just’ aside the main path. In short, there was no big revelation or new area that I discovered while doing this trophy, but it is another milestone on the path to platinum.

So, there’s only a few trophies left. The first is unlocking all the workshop chests, which largely amounts to a bit of grinding. I was tossing up between doing this and killing the Valkyrie Queen, and I have to say – I’m glad I killed the Queen. Now I have the luxury of just killing bad guys and opening chests, and I feel like that is the right level of catharsis that I’m seeking from God of War at this stage.

That is, of course, until they patch in New Game Plus.

Why Fight It?

God of War • Fully upgrade the Blades of Chaos

It’s been a long time since I’ve been awake at 2am playing video games, and yet – here we are! Tonight I was able to take down my eighth and penultimate Valkyrie, but after a few attempts at the Queen – I felt it best to maybe side with the trophy that I had already earned, rather than the aspiration. I think it will take some patience, a quiet, kid-free period of time, an empty bladder and a sprinkle of luck to finally beat her, but on consulting with my Dark Souls’ speed running mate who takes pride in smashing big, difficult bosses – who gave up after three attempts – I’m feeling like I made a good call.

This trophy in and of itself isn’t a throwaway one though – I’ve had a long stint of not having my Blades of Chaos fully upgraded, and I have to say – it felt kind of weird at this point in the game. I am a fully upgraded, well-equipped killing machine, but for a long time I haven’t had the right materials to tip me over the edge to Level 5 Blades. Well, it seems Brok and Sindri came good – and it turned out that the necessary resources were now just available to buy! Whatever it was I needed (memory fails me), I know that I needed some resources from Muspelheim to trade – so it seems like completing the Trials was a good decision.

For the rest of today, I’d like to see what I can sort out in the home PC. There’s a whole decade’s worth of Steam games that I need to start working through! (And then I might be able to start on my EA Origin, Uplay, GOG, etc.)

Dangerous Skies

God of War • Free all of the Dragons

Another episode of Kratos and Son tonight, and – as promised – thus concludes the third and final dragon free from both the metaphoric and literal constraints of Norse mythological life.

I have actually already free’d this dragon as part of my first God of War playthrough on my other PSN account, which made finding the shrines and releasing him a touch easier this time around.

Much of my effort now has concentrated on cleaning up small tasks like killing Odin’s ravens and finishing up the odd task still on the to-do list. Given enough time, and a good walkthrough – anything is possible.

And I’ve already found plenty of good walkthroughs!

Fire and Brimstone

God of War • Complete all the Trials of Muspelheim

Well, that was exactly as satisfying as I thought it would be. It was these trials which first seeded doubt in my mind that I’d ever get around to obtaining platinum on God of War, but a bit of patience, a lot of skill and just a sprinkle of luck got me through in the end.

The hardest part was largely the final stage of the trials, where you have to obtain three keys in order to get to the endless wave stage of the trial. The final stage itself was quite easy – it seems like you only need about fifty kills to finish it off (I got between 75-80), which makes the final battle kind of a catharsis following some of the most fiddly encounters of the game so far (second, perhaps, only to the Valkyries).

I didn’t stop there though, ending up with another trophy for my efforts in completing all the Dwarven favours. The final favour also doubled as a mechanism to free one of the three dragons in the game – so a quick guide and a bit of a session tomorrow should see me knock that trophy on the head too.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. This is a great, great game.

Sticky Start

Super Exploding Zoo! • Collect your first sticker!

And so it begins. The start of a new financial year, and my effort to broaden my horizons. I have deliberately gone with something non-Xbox for the day. In truth, this actually worked quite well considering I’ve spent most of the day out of the house – and so I managed to find something ‘new’ in my Vita library and fiddle around with it for a bit to grab a trophy.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing in Super Exploding Zoo! but I suspect it has more to do with just blowing animals up than any real strategy. I’ll experiment a little more over the next couple of days and see if I can work it out.

For now though, I have a shocking headache and all signs point to something viral, so it’s an early night and sleep for me.

Thank God for portable gaming!

Achievement a Day 2017 – 2018 (Year in Review)

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About sixteen months ago, I had an existential crisis. I don’t think that is particularly uncommon for people in my position or demographic, but it was enough to prompt me to resign from my desk job in the city and make a commitment to spend more time with my family, and doing things that I enjoyed – rather than continue to persevere in a job with people, and in a field, that I simply didn’t enjoy.

A little over twelve months ago, I had the idea to reinvigorate something I had tried, and failed, to do while I was working: earn a gaming achievement every single day. I guess the intention was that my new outlook on life meant that I needed less emphasis on my ‘job’, and having an activity that I was passionate about, that also had some purpose to it, meant that I wasn’t confined to the common trap of self-identifying as my profession. Instead, I could be a writer, a gamer, and a miserable white-collar 9-to-5’er as well. I figured the turn of the financial year was as good a time as any, and my passion at the time was pretty uniquely Xbox, and so with that in mind – I set myself some personal barriers, and started my journey.

For many, many gamers, earning an achievement a day isn’t actually that much of an effort. For variety streamers and even home enthusiasts, they complete this requirement unconsciously. The time and energy they put into their gaming means that achievements just tick into their account effortlessly. However, they also – like me – have birthdays, and families, and Christmas and work functions and any multitude of life events that they can go to without the mental burden of having to ‘squeeze in’ an achievement.

Others, do make an effort. Psyonix VP Jeremy Dunham (in)famously claimed that he pursued an Xbox Achievement and a PlayStation Trophy every single day. A quick look around the internet will also prompt you to stumble across the occasional long-term achievement hunter.

My point here is that I’m neither new or unique in my approach to achievement hunting. I don’t have a 2,000 day streak, there’s been some days when I’ve only earned one achivement and there’s been others that I’ve absolutely ‘cleaned house’. But for the 2017-18 Financial Year (and a little bit before that as I ‘warmed up’), I’ve earned, and documented, my journey towards obtaining an achievement every single day.

So, what did I learn?

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I did learn that gaming can impact on those around you. Sometimes, towards the end of the day – I would have to try and wrap-up whatever we were watching in order to jump onto my Xbox One and knock-out an achievement. I will be honest, that sometimes meant that I was somewhat bullish about sharing the TV, even at the expense of watching something that I enjoyed as much as other family members.

There were a couple of times where my achievement hunting required me to push through right to the stroke of midnight, and there were others where I deliberately (and overtly, I usually made-mention of the fact) would stay up past midnight when I knew there was an achievement to be obtained – essentially ‘freeing up’ the following day. It is these small allowances that were necessary in order to get through what I’ve affectionately thought of as ‘Year One’. And it these strategies which I will most likely carry forward into ‘Year Two’.

So, what’s next?

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few months when I seemed fairly confident that I was ‘going to make it’. I typically have balanced out my effort to grab an achievement on Xbox and then still make comment on other games as I’ve played them, particularly the likes of God of War which I’ve fawned over the past few months, as well as, more recently, a few puzzle games such as Puzzle Agent 2 on PC. Is that sustainable? Probably. Do I want it to be? I’m not really sure.

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Right now, I am very very happy that I’ve completed my self-imposed challenge. I’ve done it within the parameters I set myself and in the time I allowed. I know, from history, that sometimes it’s easier to broader the horizons a bit and allow yourself time to experience new things – and in the gaming sense this means trying new games, from small indie romps through to the latest offering from a AAA First Party Studio. Xbox has done a pretty good job under Phil Spencer to deliver on those offerings, but practically speaking – sometimes it’s easier to get a quick lunch-break achievement rather than burn out during the day at work and then pursue a gaming session at night. I’m spending nearly ten days away from my normal gaming devices later this year, but I can promise you I’ll be taking my iPad and my Vita. It’s these instances that I want to allow myself some flexibility on, so the balance I’m seeking here is, essentially, ‘achievable but challenging’.

What does this mean?

Simple. From tomorrow, 1 July 2018, you are going to still get your achievement a day. However those achievements may no longer be exclusively Xbox. I don’t want to lie though, I still find the Xbox to undoubtedly be (forgive the marketing Kool-Aid) ‘the best place to play’, meaning that there will likely be a disproportionate number of Xbox achievements to other platforms – but I also don’t want this to come back and bite me on the bum when somebody does an audit (no doubt when I’m a rich, famous gamer) who finds a ‘gap’ in my record.

With that in mind, this leads to my second change. Scheduled posts. Every day this past year (except one accidental error in posting slightly after midnight) I have played a game, written a post and published it on this blog – but whether it’s timezone changes, daylight savings, or just gremlins in the system, I still have a number of days where posts appear to be ‘doubled up’ on particular days, and completely absent on others. My solution to this will be to schedule a post every evening just before midnight in order to get, roughly, a consistent battle rhythm when it comes to posts. Some days I might still earn the late night or ‘wee hour’ achievements, but you will still see the post time as being from late the following night. I hope that this brings about some consistency going foward, but if there’s any issues, then I may consider doing a ‘minus one’ approach to posting, and just automatically post, even if I have to backdate, at lunchtime, 12pm on the day I earn them. Watch this space.

And now, I plan on settling down for the evening, watching a bit of Netflix and doing very little for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is the start of a new adventure, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what I’ve missed out on across the gaming spectrum. There’s a Steam Sale in full swing, I’ve recently obtained a new Humble Bundle (well, they took my money out) and I have some cheap-and-cheerful PlayStation discounts to dive into from their sale earlier in the year.

It’s a good time to be an achievement hunter.

It’s an even greater time to be a gamer.