There is no hope

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Kholat • You’ve collected a note in the tree area • 35G • 19.45% of gamers unlocked this

I have actually waited quite a while to score myself an achievement from Kholat. A quick search of this blog notes that I tried back in November last year without much luck to get Kholat working on the 2012 Macbook Pro, and so with my new sexy and beefy gaming PC, it was about time to give this one another go.

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If I’m perfectly honest, the only reason I ever got this game was because it looked affordable on the Windows store and I needed more Win10 titles on my laptop to get me through ’emergency’ sessions during the 2017-18 run of Xbox-only achievements for this challenge. But, it wasn’t free – and so I did actually part with some hard earned cash to get this game, and with that in mind it seemed silly just to leave it parked on my account without ever having fully experienced it beyond 10 FPS and frequent crashes.

I tried reading more about the real life circumstances that surround the game of Kholat but it’s one of those genuinely unexplained mysteries that just don’t sit well with me. There are instances like The Staircase, where there are a whole raft of situations that could have happened – up-to-and-including an attack by an owl on Kathleen Peterson, causing the head wounds and her ultimate collapse at the stairs. We’ll never know exactly what happened, but there are scenarios that are plausible and in the absence of any further facts, then I’m happy with them as options. Kholat, or the ‘Dyatlov Pass Incident,’ just raises more questions than answers – and that aggravates me. With that in mind, I can still enjoy the scenario of the game without needing those further answers – I appreciate this game has a far greater supernatural element to it than what reality might dictate.

For the most part, it feels a bit like a walking simulator, though I did conclude today’s playthrough with a terrifying encounter with what I can only describe as a ‘flame man’. Other than a quick snapshot of the man-come-creature grabbing you and a cut-to-black, it’s a bit hard to understand the circumstances and the reason ‘why’, let alone the ‘how’ of being killed, but from what I read on the internet, I guess I’m supposed to treat this as part of the ‘journey’.

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Look, it’s not a bad game – and in terms of horror, I think it can rub all the right triggers nicely, but I very much am a spoon-fed gamer these days, and I don’t have the inclination to explore and experiment and learn as much as I feel like developers want me to. I just want to play a game. It’s nice to have the soft dulcet tones of Sean Bean introduce me to the game, but I’d be lying if I said it was enough to keep me there.

Today’s achievements are largely for picking up notes along the walking track. I might go back after reading some more, but there’s certainly no rush. I don’t know if there’s tactics I’m supposed to employ or some sort of order I’m supposed to work through the game, but in either event, I’m nonetheless glad that I’ve got something on the gamerscore board after waiting this long to play it properly.

It’s in the Bag

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Microsoft Bingo • You have unlocked 50 Luggage of any type • 50G • 19.87% of gamers unlocked this

First thing’s first: Yes, I have used a stock image for this achievement, because I really couldn’t be bothered posting another Microsoft Bingo screenshot from my other achievements because – frankly – they all look the same. Instead, in the absence of a good Bingo picture, I’ve gone with something generic to gambling, so you can enjoy that particular aesthetic while reading today’s post. Oh … alright, let me throw a couple of old screenshots into the mix as well.

Today’s achievement is largely the result of a mistake. Last night, while setting up my new PC, I wanted to make sure OBS was working correctly, and would be able to handle a stream – so I set it to broadcast a clicker (AdVenture Communist – a spin on AdVenture Capitalist) to run overnight. Sure enough, this morning got a bit away from me, and so even while I write this – AdVenture Communist is still broadcasting to my Twitch Channel, silently clocking-up potatoes and medicine while I’m beavering away at work on a Friday lunch-break.

And so, this left me with a fairly ‘lite’ selection of games to choose from. Anything from Steam would automatically disconnect the stream, and with still half the day left, regardless of whether anyone was watching or not, I didn’t really want to be faced with a blank screen pumping out across the internet airwaves with my name on it – and so I hunted for a good ol’ fashioned Xbox PC game to play.

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And, well, because I was short on time, I settled on Microsoft Bingo.

I’ll be perfectly honest, this really was a quick-and-dirty achievement for me. I even went so far as to hunt through the achievement list to see what I could grab quickly. I settled on just smashing through a couple of games, splurging the coins that I had on whatever I needed to, and landing something. Two games in, I had enough bags to get me over the line for this 50G … this is classic achievement hunting at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

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And so, this frees up my Friday night to play something a little more ambitious on that shiny new gaming PC. I have a new webcam, a new set of speakers and a whole lot of enthusiasm to put it through its paces … watch out world!

Vandal

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Destroy a Monument • 10G • 52.72% of gamers unlocked this

I had seen this achievement on the list a couple of times now, and the percentage of completion prompted me to assume that it would be something I stumble across during the course of my gameplay. Sure enough, my brief session this morning (with no purpose, just intended to log on and kill a few orcs) caused me to stumble across a large orc statue in the middle of a stronghold.

If I was Monty Burns, I would have rubbed my hands together and salaciously whispered “Excellent.”

There’s no pop-up or tutorial to instruct you how to actually destroy the monument. My experience of digital vandalism is largely confined to the Just Cause series, which usually involves placing explosives onto a statue and … well … pushing a button. Here, I shot arrows into the statue, detonated the nearest explosive barrel and swung my sword at it a few times, but – as it turns out – all you have to do is climb onto the head, click RB and Talion will do the rest of the work for you.

Exit, one monument.

In other gaming news, I still have no gaming PC yet, so I’m feeling a bit tetchy about all the gaming goodness I’m missing out on. It’s not like I’ve actually got any time to play anyway – but you know what they say about absence and the heart!

Avenged

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.

Delicious.

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.

 

Dismantled

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Disable an Outpost

Believe it or not, there is 59 different shaders you can use in photo mode on Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. The problem is, they all look a bit ‘meh’, and following the simplicity by which I was able to take shots on God of War, this clunky, mediocre effort actually makes me irrationally mad.

Thank God the rest of the game is, so far, ‘OK’.

There’s not a lot different between the original Shadow of Mordor and this outing, and I’m absolutely alright with that. Sometimes, games need to stick with what they do well, and that is it. Call of Duty is perhaps the best series which fell off the bandwagon when they introduced the most ridiculous mechanic in gaming in the last twenty years: the wall run.

In terms of achievements, this is a surprisingly slow burn. It’s taken a solid hour (though I’m sure it’s much more) before this first achievement popped – and judging by the achievement list, I’m can’t really see a path to quick-and-dirty achievements. Most seem to be unlockable through just routine gameplay, while others are for what I can only assume are key story beats.

Either way, it’s good to have a few runs on the board. I am a huge, huge fan of the WB Middle-Earth games, regardless of all the carry-on about loot boxes and micro transactions, I think a solid game is a solid game. I can’t wait to get into it a bit more!

Glasslands

Halo 5: Guardians • Completed Mission 3

I felt like playing something ‘meaty’ tonight. Something that I could really sink my teeth into – an epic story with characters that held meaning, a winding narrative arc and a hand crafted world that offered the pinnacle of escapism.

That game was going to be Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, but with a 30GB update, I’ve managed to play a few different games and even now the update has just ticked over 22%.

Malcolm Turnbull’s National Broadband Network, ladies and gentlemen.

I decided to venture into Halo 5, purely following some discussion, nothing in particular, but loose comments made about Halo Infinite. I am fairly confident that I’ve got another 2-3 years before I need to be across my Halo lore (which I’m still terrible at), but even still it seems like a glaring omission on my nerd, and especially my Xbox, credentials.

Here’s the honest truth, though: Halo isn’t really my cup of tea. I understand it’s influence on gaming culture and why it might hold the hearts of many a gamer, but the cartoony style graphics, the gunplay, the pacing, none of it really tickles my tits. I play these games so that they are ticked off my insurmountable pile of shame, but give me a mindless puzzler or even a more solid shooter any day.

Will I continue with it? Sure, I can’t see why not. I offer no promises as to how quickly though. If it is any indication, it’s been about one year and two weeks since I last picked it up.

Perhaps that Halo Infinite date isn’t looking so far away after all …

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!

Completed Act I

Pillars of Eternity • You have completed Act I

So, it seems like my journey to the depths of being a terrible consumer continues, with my inability to stop myself grabbing the original Pillars of Eternity on the Xbox mid-year sale (I already had it on PC, though it has been performing terribly).

Aside from the fact that they have a terrible sense of style when it comes to naming their achievements, Obsidian have done an absolutely brilliant job with Pillars, and as far as a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate goes … I think you could just about call this an out-and-out successor. The UI, the story delivery, everything about it builds on the original D&D series, and then some. It is an exceptional game.

For achievement hunters though? Not so much. I’ve spent a not-inconsiderable portion of my evening making my way through to game just to conclude what has been dictated as ‘Act I’. I wouldn’t say I did a speed-run, if anything I dabbled a little bit on side quests just to see if I could gather enough ingredients to craft food (there is an achievement for crafting, or cooking, five different items), but alas, it turned out that just straight-up questing was the way to win-over this first achievement.

And the first act, it sure did deliver.

In terms of story, I like the rhythm by which it’s delivered. There’s a healthy dose of overall story arc – none of which seems ‘urgent’, meaning that you can always actively venture off onto side quests without it seeming out of character (think Fallout 4 … never before has someone’s apathy towards their kidnapped child stood out as a glaring narrative oversight). In fact, even your companions, and the story beats which prompt them to join you – are all crafted in a way that makes it seem quite logical that they would come along for the ride, encourage you to help them out on their own non-essential tasks, and then persevere.

If you need an example of video game A+ storytelling, this is it.

I’m very keen to take my time with Pillars, so it might be a game that I keep going back to once I’ve earned my other daily achievement, but time will tell. I feel like it needs a solid session of gameplay in order to be able to progress a lot of the main story beats though, so at this stage I’m suggesting that it might be more of a weekend warrior activity, but I am absolutely keen to get through the main story at some stage – so I suspect this won’t be the last time you see it grace the pages of this blog (how many times have I said that before?).

Pillars of Eternity is Baldur’s Gate for the contemporary audience. And I am – so far – loving every minute of it.

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!