Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Complete a Vendetta Mission • 15G • 59.36% of gamers unlocked this

I’m going to attempt to going back to adding in more detail about my achievements in the initial leader line because I think, in some instances, that context is useful. In some ways, differentiating between a Bronze or a Gold trophy, or understanding it’s difficulty in terms of earn-rate (percentage) provides a rich picture about the achievement beyond my usual musings and often over-tired and shoot-from-the-hip style of writing.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure if this achievement is glitched or not, but from what I could tell, it unlocked while I was still in the middle of the titular Vendetta mission. While I did complete it in the end, I was actually in pursuit of my Orc target when it unlocked – which caused me to raise an eyebrow, briefly, before resuming my chase and eventually cutting down the tricky little blighter who had killed me twenty minutes prior.

It seems that I have progressed far enough in Shadow of War now so that my time is to be split between managing my army and playing the game itself. I am still having my hand held by a lot of the tutorial and help screens for this part of the game – but from what I can tell, it’s a good evolution of the already-excellent nemesis system.

One of the more emotionally-charged moments of the game came this morning when ‘Tarz of the Black Gate’ came on me and decided to taunt me with his admission he was there on the night that Talion’s (the protagonist) family were killed in an Orc attack. I’m not sure if this was a dynamic or scripted introduction into the game, but I loved it. Loved it. It triggered just the right of emotion into the battle that I felt like Tarz needed more than a simple sword-to-the-face. I wanted him to be properly punished. I wanted him branded.

So I did.

To add insult to injury (for Tarz), the delightful war troll, Brûz – who is best known for his appearance in the original gameplay reveal – rolled in shortly after I dominated Tarz and suggested that I make him my bodyguard. Great suggestion, Brûz. With a couple of controller clicks, I had converted Tarz, the taunting, family-killing orc captain into a minion under my control.


I’m still slowly working my way through this region of the game, and pretty much just undertaking quests if-and-when they occur. There is a method to working through the quests in sequence, but – to be honest – I’ve just been having fun levelling up Talion and, now that I’ve unlocked it, branding Orcs to fight for me.

Now if only they have the brilliant mechanic from Shadow of Mordor that allowed me to explode their heads en masse, we could have some real fun!

Better Luck Next Time

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Meet an Enemy or a Follower who has cheated death

I am feeling a bit miffed, as I had hoped to have a beautiful new Ryzen 5 PC built and be playing something significant on it by this time today, but alas, good ol’ Ryzen chips don’t have on-board graphics, and I can’t work out whether the little-2GB-GPU-that-could is actually supposed to work on that board, or whether I should genuinely be upset that the CPU fail Ezy Debug light is showing on the beautiful new motherboard.

Net result: I am a little upset.

It’s a good thing there is the sweet, sweet catharsis of killing orcs to see me through, as I pushed on with a couple of missions today – resulting in a not-insignificant amount of slaughter for a few named orcs. I have to admit, I do miss my full powered-up Talion from the original game, but judging by my skim of the upgrades list, most of his old moves are there, and it should just be a bit of a grind away to get them all in the end. Time. It’s just simply time.

I’m still a bit on-the-fence about the game’s representation of Shelob … as a humanoid. I mean … I can see that it makes the narrative a little easier, but I don’t think anyone has really ever taken Tolkien to be a allegorical work, still fiction, of course, but everything has typically had its plain meaning. Still, good gameplay tends to forgive a lot of sins, and thus far, I am killing Orcs at a pace that satisfies my tortured soul.


Dragon Slash!

Fortnite • Unlocked access to the Ninja Hero

While there’s not really a lot of pressure today, I didn’t necessarily feel like spending a day in front of the television to progress through Pillars of Eternity – well, certainly not as much as I did yesterday (I’ll probably work on this a little later tonight) … and so I headed back to ‘Save the World’ in Fortnite for a little longer to see what I could achieve.

As it turns out, less than I thought.

I was certain that there was an achievement for every one of the levels in the campaign mode of Fortnite, but that doesn’t actually seem to be the case. This morning I went through two of the main missions – which is a bit tricky because they’re not so much linear missions, but more like tasks which you need to set out to achieve while completing the other wave-based defence missions, and usually with other people. So, by the time I finished my second mission, I headed back to the achievement list to confirm that, no, you don’t get an achievement just for attendance, and as it turns out, there was likely to be another two or three missions just to get the next achievement, and so just as I was about to wrap it up and move onto something else for the day, I figured I might just spend my earned XP and level up a bit of my base. As I did …

… ding! Ninja unlocked! To be honest, I’ve been hanging out for the Ninja ever since I learned that they can do a double-jump (it’s on one of the loading screens) … and now that I’ve played an additional level with her, I think it’d be very hard to go back. Even though the special move is a little underpowered compared to the soldier’s grenade or the constructor’s charge (from what I can tell, the Ninja just throws a shuriken), but double-jumping around the map is just a much more fun way to navigate … and so there’s a better-than-average chance that I’ll be sticking with her.

What’s even better is that the achievements for the other hero-types don’t actually require me to play as them, just unlock them!

Before and After Science

Fortnite • Completed “Before and After Science”

For an achievement hunter, there is nothing more frustrating than having achievements ‘locked away’. Perhaps the best example of this is DC Universe Online, which tucked away its trophies (on PS4) behind a pay wall that required you to purchase one of the episode packs before you could unlock anything.

I took advantage of this week’s Xbox Deals to grab the Founders’ Pack for Fortnite at 50% off RRP, which not only unlocks achievements, but the other half of the game – the Player-Versus-Environment – section (for which the achievements are for). I have to say – I think this section is, by far-and-away, much more fun that the traditional Battle Royale.

In what I expected was a traditional, story-based campaign in which you run around fighting zombies (or ‘husks’), turns out is a much bigger strategy game that involves rescuing survivors, building forts that have a purpose, crafting resources, base management and – most importantly – shooting stuff. I’m about 2-3 missions in so far, and I am loving it. Loving it. The only downside is that it isn’t particularly family friendly, so I can’t settle down for an decent session to play without tucking the kids into bed (or, like today, playing before they wake up), but I feel like grabbing the game before it’s released to the world is a good way to get a headstart and build some capability and understanding into how the game works before the ‘cool kids’ (read: Twitch Streamers) discover it.

This is where I drop an obligatory hipster ‘I liked Fortnite before it was cool‘.

I’m in two minds about whether to spend the time playing the PvE (which I enjoy) or sinking my time back into the Battle Royale mode (which everyone else is playing) this season. I went and splurged on the Battle Pass last season, and – to be honest – I don’t feel like I got a whole lot out of it other than some new costumes and things. Other than updating my stats, there doesn’t seem to be any real carry-over goal from season-to-season (which, I suppose, is the point), so if I invest my time in building up my base in PvE which appears to have a slower burn (we’ll see if it resets next season), then I think I’d rather run with that approach.

Of course, being a Beta product – there’s a good chance than none of my progress will carry over at launch, and the whole thing will be a waste … best get those achievements quickly then!

Did The Thing

Death Squared • Completed 1 Story level

Death Squared is one of the latest additions to the Xbox Games with Gold monthly freebies, and essentially amounts to an indie puzzler that uses both control sticks to navigate a red and a blue square around a 3D puzzle. And … well, that’s it … end of description.

To be honest, I have plenty of time for gaming tonight, but I really just wanted to try out something simple before I left for work this morning, and this seemed to fit the description. There’s no tutorial for the game – instead, you rely on diving in headfirst to discover how to play, but if you haven’t worked it out within the first 15 seconds, then – I’ll be honest – the rest of the game probably isn’t going to be for you. Even as new challenges and obstacles are introduced in later levels, it is usually only one or two deaths away from having that ‘a ha’ moment, and completing the level without much trouble.

Now that I’ve finished God of War, I feel like I’ve been a little bit lost lately with what to play. It’s certainly not for a lack of available content, but with what I have the appetite for. The last few nights, I’ve managed to have a bit of a session on Rocket League before having what I would normally call an ‘early night’ (which is still way after 11pm and pushing midnight!), but in terms of a game I can steadily work through – well, there’s a bit of a hole in my heart.

Perhaps some retail therapy is required to find one, decent, AAA title that will keep me sustained for a little while – I’m open to suggestions about what that can be, but chances are that I’ve already dabbled in it.


Riptide GP: Renegade • Earn 1st place in any Elimination Event • 20G • 20.74% of gamers unlocked this

I didn’t realise that I had another event type to earn an achievement on in Riptide, and I thought that today’s achievement would be for reaching Level 5, but in my ongoing progress through the campaign, this event type came up – and I managed to stay in there long enough (not overly difficult) to win the race.

You would think for someone who has been less than enthusiastic for this game, that they might have long since abandoned it … but this weekend has been a time-poor occasion, where I’m attempting to mix garden landscaping (building a retaining wall yesterday, I ended up getting burned and blistered), a Robbie Williams concert (yes, Robbie, you may entertain me), and a foggy, hungover head as a result of the aforementioned concert. It seems like a miracle that I am even able to get out of bed today, but other than sitting down to do a couple of races and smash through the rest of my level on Call of Duty (which I’ll write about shortly), I have been taking it deliberately easy.

The good news about earning these surprise achievements is that I know what I can accomplish tomorrow before I even have to worry about it. Tomorrow is another balls-to-the-wall kind of day, so a couple of races to clinch Level 5 is likely all I’ll have time for.

And right now, my hangover tells me that sounds like a damn good idea.

Cow Tipping

Minecraft: Xbox One Edition • Harvest some leather • 15G • 52.32% of gamers unlocked this

I was planning on having a session of Telltale’s The Walking Dead this morning, but of course the kids woke up, and I’m also at the part in Episode 4 where I have to go hunting around the school for various bits and pieces ready to escape Savannah, so I didn’t feel like I could invest enough time and energy into the process in order to grab the achievement before I left for work (plus I know there’s lots of zombies in that section so it’s probably not suitable for kids over breakfast), so instead I skimmed my available options and came across Minecraft.

I saw the news yesterday that Microsoft are releasing a very trendy Minecraft edition of the Xbox One S, so I felt like it was a good sign that I could quickly earn ‘something’ in there, particularly after my surprise in Minecraft iOS about the unlisted achievements, but thankfully a quick look at the list highlighted a glaringly obvious option in harvesting some leather. AKA, ‘kill a cow.’ I had spawned into one of the old worlds, or, more specifically, one of my son’s worlds, so I wasn’t sure that there would be any cows – but after about ten quick minutes, I found one stranded on a cliff.

A couple of quick swipes with the axe saw him … MOOve along (sorry).

Tonight’s plan is hopefully a bit of achievement tidy up. Maybe I’ll have a go at that Walking Dead level, or maybe I’ll push through some more of Ryse. Either way, I should have some time to play ‘something.’

In other gaming news, I also preordered my Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition today! Not just your regular run-of-the-mill One X, no, this baby has emblazoned Project Scorpio on it – and that pleases me no end. It’s a great name – and it brings me joy – and I think it’s worth spending a few extra bucks on something like that.

Savior of Skylands IV

I’ve actually had a fairly productive day for achievements – spurred on by the announcement of the Xbox One X (more on this, below) and happy to stay in the Microsoft ecosystem for the time being. I had planned on putting one of my achievements from the brief post-E3 session on Blood Bowl I had this morning, but after a fairly exhausting weekend for the family, it was nice to plop in front of the TV and have a Skylanders: Trap Team session with my son.

Little did we know that about an hour and a half later (stop-starting to do a few other things in-between), we would be confronting perennial antagonist, Kaos, in the final chapter (18) of the Trap Team saga.

We have been slowly making our way through Trap Team since we finished Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, so I guess we made more progress than we thought. It’s probably a game that we play briefly once every few weeks, but it seems like that it was a content-rich game nonetheless. It’s a completionists nightmare between the toys and the hidden areas (and 18 levels of them!), but for once I’m happy just to register the ‘campaign complete’ achievement and move on to the next thing on my backlog.

I suspect that the next Father-Som game we’ll work through will be LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, as its one of the few games in my library that does couch co-op really well. Normally I’d make an attempt at 100%’ing the LEGO games, but in the interests of keeping things varietal, I think it’ll be a fun run to the finish, just as this was.

This achievement was worth 150G and 27.66% of gamers have unlocked it. 

In other news, I was up early this morning to catch Xbox’s E3 press conference, and reveal of the Xbox One X. Following that, I went and watched the IGN post-show show and, my God, the comments. Whinging about the price, calling it Xbox’s worse E3 ever … perhaps it was more indicative of IGN’s audience?

Nonetheless, I figured that it shows the gamer mindset still thinks of Xbox as a console and not a service, despite Satya Nadella making that his big focus when he took over (see also: Office 365, Azure, etc.). Sure, there were games there that were identified as Console Exclusive, with complete ignorance of the vision that Microsoft, the company, has when it comes to gaming. 

Repeat after me, haters: PC games can now be Xbox games. Perhaps I should insert a not-so-subtle reminder here about how much Steam was hated … HATED … when it launched.

Despite nearly two hours of games showed with a fat Xbox label plastered across them, the beefiest console, OG Xbox back compat, the failure to produce something with the psychological equivalent of Horizon Zero Dawn makes Xbox the ‘failure.’

I stand by my oft-peddled (and crass) line that Microsoft could give out lollipops with every Xbox sold, and people would still complain that they didn’t get one that was strawberry flavoured.

It was an absolutely good conference. It ticked the boxes for me and I can’t wait to play things faster, crisper and better on the new console.