Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Multiplayer Achievements

Black Ops 3

I hit level 55 in Call of Duty: Black Ops III last night, which is the level cap before entering Prestige Mode. When you reach that level, you get one of the four multiplayer achievements in the game – one is unlocked at level 10, the other two deal with the new Specialist mechanic in Black Ops. That, combined with my ongoing grind for weapon camos, calling cards and Specialist attire got me thinking about those sort of multiplayer achievements – whether they’re actual Xbox Achievements/PlayStation Trophies or in-game items. My stance on multiplayer achievements has always been more or less that they really shouldn’t be on the achievement list. But that idea was basically formed from the achievements that were in Gears of War, Halo 3, and Halo: Reach. Over the last couple years, I’ve softened my stance a little.

With the games that I play the most online right now – Destiny, Halo 5, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III – each has competitive multiplayer achievements. A few years ago, I would have been pissed about that – mainly because I see those achievements always drawing the most attention for boosters and the such. I played the hell out of Halo 3 and I’m still missing a whole slew of the multiplayer achievements because they could only be unlocked in Free for All – which to me just further encouraged boosting. With Halo 5 though, the multiplayer achievements are much more easily unlocked. Win five games of the different game modes, and do the same for each of the original three Warzone maps. In theory that’s really not that many games, should you play well and get your wins quickly. Then you are free to just focus on the in-game commendations and REQ points. With the Warzone achievement, I do think that since you’re at the mercy of the map selector, it can be a bit more frustrating – I had the same issue with Titanfall asking you to win a game of each mode on each map. But those are achievements that, again in theory, are simply unlocked by playing the game over time. That’s kinda the point with shooters these days – the campaign is good for a few play sessions, then it’s the multiplayer that keeps the game installed on your hard drive.

Destiny Crucible

With the two Activision games – Destiny and Call of Duty – the lists are a little different. Destiny does have a couple PvP achievements, and really only one is dependent on player skill and might be tricky (Kill a Warlock, Hunter and Titan in one life). The rest are pretty much just keep playing kind of achievements – which works with Destiny‘s notion of you playing a bunch of different activities every time you log on. And since the bulk of the content is PvE in nature, that’s where the bulk of the achievements are. That one odd achievement is a good example of one that I definitely take issue with. At launch, it was a lot easier to get that one – everyone was still playing around with each class, including alts. I got that achievement when I was leveling my Warlock before my fireteam had actually finished the story – mainly thanks to Nova Bomb being good at covering a wide area. After the meta stabilized though and Titans all but vanished from PvP through most of Year One, that achievement became a hell of a lot harder to unlock. Now it’s probably back to being relatively straightforward with Sunbreakers making Titans relevant again.

Which brings me to Call of Duty. It’s been a series that has always done different things with multiplayer. The first multiplayer specific achievements didn’t appear until the first Black Ops, of which there were two – one to reach level 10 in Combat Training, and one to win five Wager Matches. And for the most part, that’s been pretty much how each game has approached the multiplayer achievements – with ones that are easily unlocked just from playing a whole bunch of games. Where they’ve put a lot of the kind of things that could have been achievements are in the meta-challenges. Stuff like Misery Loves Company, The Loner, and Collateral all would have made fine achievements, but putting them in-game helps reduce the boosting, in theory. For Call of Duty, I think that balance is definitely the best way to go. It lets the developers put in a couple multiplayer achievements to round out the list, but put the real challenges in-game and reward the players with in-game items. With Black Ops III though, that line has been blurred just a little bit. Those two Specialist related achievements aren’t just earned by playing with them a lot – maybe the triple kill one depending on the weapon – but the five medals in one game one definitely seems designed to push players toward a specific playstyle with specific Specialists. I’ve spent this whole Prestige playing as Prophet – mainly because I think Tempest is a great objective defense weapon – and I don’t think I’ve played a single game (even with Overdrive) that I’ve felt like I could have earned five medals based on Glitch. Truth be told, I think Glitch is one of the two weakest abilities in game along with Rejack, mainly because of the challenge associated with Glitch has you getting kills after it. To me, it’s way more attuned to a defensive use – before I was trying to get those last cosmetic items for Prophet, that’s how I used it – to survive fights I was dead in.

Black Ops II

Tie that together with the “secret” Dark Matter camo and Gold Hero attire for Specialists, and it’s really not that hard to see why Treyarch is cracking down on boosters pretty early in the game’s life. Instead of Dark Matter being like Diamond was in Black Ops II as a status symbol, my first thought is now trying to figure out if the player is a booster. Now, of course, Diamond had boosters too – they’re part of the system, and that’s why there’s always going to be the need to crack down on them. Putting things that almost encourage boosting into the achievement list is never a good thing, and I think Treyarch toed the line a little this time around. Hopefully Ghosts 2 or whatever we get this year will have a more straightforward list.

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LEGO Games – A Case Study on Gaming

Lego Batman 3 Beyond GothamThanks to the Ultimate Game Sale last week, I was able to pick up a few games I missed. One of those games was LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. The original game in that particular sub-series was one of my favorites among the LEGO games, and this one takes everything up a few notches. I’ve spent the weekend playing it pretty much nonstop, on the warpath for 100% (in-game and achievements) and it has got me thinking about the LEGO games as a whole.

What I came up with was that the LEGO games as a franchise really illustrate the evolution of the gaming industry in the last 10 years. When we talk about LEGO games these days, we’re really talking about the games Travelers Tales has released since LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game in 2005. So that’s what I’ve been looking at too – although I do still have a soft spot for the old LEGO Island game from ages ago. I think the major example that I’ve been thinking about pertains to the level of collectibles in the game. In the old games, there were minikits, and Gold Bricks were used for the cheats – and that was about it. In LEGO Batman 3, there’s minikits, Red Bricks, Character and Vehicle Tokens, Gold Bricks AND Adam West to rescue. Those are in each story level, as well as every HUB world. That’s a huge increase in the amount. And I think I may actually know what the underlying cause might be for the increase. It’s important to remember that those first games came out 10 years ago – on the original Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube. Those consoles didn’t have achievements or trophies. With the addition of those in the next console generation, developers looked for ways to add in some extra life to their games. A nice and easy way to do just that is add in a bunch of collectibles and give them some incentive with achievements and in-game value.

Lego Star Wars The Video Game

There’s been a whole lot of talk about collectibles in the past – what is the right amount, should they be purely hidden, or with a map, and should they have in-game results. The questions also involve the achievements too – do you need to collect each and every one to get the achievement, or percentages. Different games do it different ways – Crackdown had you collect 800 orbs, in addition to vehicle races. That was a little over the top. Tomb Raider had tiered achievements, you unlocked them at certain percentages along the way to 100%. Assassins Creed had multiple sets of flags, along with templars – but no fast travel really made hunting them down a chore. Now with LEGO Batman, there are a lot of collectibles in there, and only one achievement for overall 100%. But the very base way that the LEGO games work makes them a lot less of a chore. For instance, I managed to beat the game, free play each level, and finish out 6 of the HUB worlds in three days time. No penalties for death, and a low difficulty level really makes going back in fun, not boring. The sheer number of characters too helps keep it fresh. It’s pretty fun to go through the Batcave levels as deep-cut characters like Firestorm or Batman from The Darkest Knight story-arc.

I think when we look back at these past few console generations in another 10 years or so, the biggest innovation could actually be the addition of achievements/trophies. They’ve clearly had an impact on how developers look at their games, and for some can actually impact how players look at the games. I know if a game has a questionable list of achievements, I might hold off on picking it up. The opposite is also true – I grabbed Shadow of Mordor in the sale too, not only because I’ve heard nothing but good things, but also the list doesn’t look insanely involved, aside from one or two. And in that mindset, I think looking at the LEGO games really clearly illustrates that design change.

Destiny Achievement Roadmap

DestinyI’ve never shied away from the fact that the Xbox Achievements play a pretty big role in how I approach some games. Even though I was totally going to be getting Destiny no matter what, the achievement list helped thanks to no particularly insane achievements. In general they’re all ones that are pretty easily obtained through playing the game – nothing requires players to really go out of their way to do crazy things. So with that in mind, I thought I’d provide how I went about approaching the achievements to maximize your gamerscore.

First off, there’s only three achievements related to completing story missions – all of which are taken care of in the first few story missions. Beyond those, you can also grab a couple extra ones within those first few missions. During the very first mission make sure to kill the Fallen enemies with headshots and don’t die to ensure you unlock The Bane of the Kell achievement. On your first trip to the tower, make sure to inspect a player there to get that achievement as well. While you are on Earth, you can also make sure you get the Bane of the Dead by killing 25 Hive with headshots – the best spot is on the Last Warmind story mission’s final firefight. You should also be able to grab achievements for dismantling weapons and armor, decrypting engrams, reviving players, reversing an upgrade; as well as start work on completing Public Events. The other precision kills can be tackled on Venus for the Vex (use the second story mission) and Mars for the Cabal (the first story mission has plenty). You can also grab the kill 5 enemies in 3 seconds achievement in the third story mission on Earth – use a super on the group of Thralls that rushes you in the dark room.

Destiny Valorous Achievement

There are a few other achievements that require you to do a bit of grinding – fully upgrading a subclass will take until you are around level 25 or so. Make sure you are doing as many bounties as possible to make the XP gains go faster. For the two weekly mark achievements, pick one and do it through before focusing on the second. I did Vanguard first, getting 100 marks in a week isn’t too tough at all, just do the Public Events to Gold, as many patrol missions as possible and turn in upgrade materials to the Vanguard Quartermaster. The game says that doing the Vanguard strikes playlist is the fastest way, but I don’t know that is really true. Each completed strike will get you six marks if you play the highest level – doing the others is easier to do solo. As for rep – always do all the PvE bounties, and missions while patrolling for gear. It’s worth doing not only for the achievement, but the gear that unlocks – at rank 2 you can buy Legendary gear, at 3 you can buy weapons. I also was gifted a Legendary weapon once I got to rank 3, but I don’t know if that is a random unlock. Doing the Vanguard stuff is a bit of a grind, but it can help with some of the other achievements as well – going into patrol is a good way to get engrams to drop, with the possibility for Legendary or Exotic items, which are both needed for achievements. Grinding is also part of getting the Lucky 7’s achievement – it’s not actually possible to hit 777 in the Grimoire, but as soon as you break that number the achievement should pop. A great way to build that Grimoire score is collecting the Dead Ghosts – you need them anyway for another achievement. Some of them are hidden in really devious spots, so don’t be afraid to find a location guide – I used the IGN guide to grab mine.

Destiny Flawless Stiker

As for the Strike and Raid achievements, you really need to go in with friends. The Strike ones are much easier – beating one is pretty easy to do, and being part of a clan is real simple on Bungie.net. There are plenty of open clans for you and friends to join, or you can do what I did and create a group for your friends to be in. Beating one with no one dying is a little trickier, but not too difficult in practice. We got to about level 14 or so and then hopped back into the Earth strike. It’s level six, the only real threats come from the Devil Walker’s main cannon and arc mines, and Sepiks Prime’s “melee” attack. Just take it slow and smart, if your shields break, back off and heal, don’t be afraid to use your supers to get you out of jams; but most importantly – communicate with your teammates. Make sure everyone knows when the Devil Walker is vulnerable, and that they know where Sepiks Prime is when he teleports. As for the Raid achievements, I really can’t speak too much for them – we haven’t tackled it yet, knowing it’s a level 26 quest and requires six players.

Destiny Notorious

The last group of achievements to talk about are the PvP ones in the Crucible. The only really tricky one is killing one of each class in one life. Your best bet is playing Control and hoping to see a good mix on a Control point – then super the point. As for the others – getting 100 kills on each class is easy just by playing and killing, maxing out the Crucible marks in a week is easy since you get marks regardless of win or loss; and the heavy weapon kills aren’t terrible either. I recommend a rocket launcher, since it’s got a quicker damage output than the machine guns. Just make it a point to grab the heavy ammo whenever it comes up, and most importantly – use them! They aren’t there to hoard – they are there to get easy kills.

Achievements and What Makes Them Awesome

With Titanfall dropping tomorrow on the Xbox One, and with my playing of Thief and Fable II lately, I’ve been thinking about Achievements again, and I think I should probably talk a little about what I think makes a particular game’s list good or bad. To start, let’s look at basically the two broadest categories of Achievements – singleplayer and multiplayer. Then we’ll get a little more specific to hit a few highlights, before I talk about some good/bad lists.

Fable II

First off, singleplayer achievements – by which I mean, the achievements that you unlock through a game’s singleplayer mode. Generally these tend to be story progression based, but a good list will also include a bunch of different tasks to unlock some. For example – I’ve been playing a lot of Fable II lately – there’s not only the story related achievements (which also hold pretty big point totals) but also smaller ones for silly things like dying all my clothes and hair black (The Goth) or skill based ones like Killing 5 human enemies with a single spell (The Archmage) as well as a few that encourage you to try parts of the game – marriage (The Spouse,) using expressions (The Show-off,) and buying houses and businesses (The Property Magnate and The Ruler of Albion.) The other major category of singleplayer achievements tends to be Collectibles, and this is the kind of achievement that can make or break a game’s list. Some games require you to get every collectible, and each type – again, using Fable II, there is one for getting all the Silver Keys (The Hoarder) as well as all the Gargoyles (The Gargoyle.) Others will just require a certain percent/number Far Cry 3 has an example actually of both – you do need to get all the Memory Cards (Memory to Spare) and all the Letters to the Lost (Dead Letters); but you only need to get 60 of the Relics (Archeology 101) of which I think there are 120 total. The incentive to get the rest of them is to get extra XP to help with other upgrade related achievements. My problem with Collectible achievements comes in when we start talking about numbers – both of Collectibles, and of achievements. Some games will devote too many achievements to Collectibles, turning the game into a grind/scavenger hunt; or they’ll just have an obscene amount of Collectibles to find – Crackdown jumps out – well into the 800 mark for the orbs.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Next let’s talk Multiplayer achievements – which is where a list can really break down. Sometimes it’s a game like Tomb Raider, where the focus is really on the Singleplayer, but they add in 15 achievements to get you to play the multiplayer. Now, the MP in Tomb Raider actually wasn’t terrible, but definitely wasn’t the focus. In general, I’m against Multiplayer Achievements if possible. Call of Duty is pretty good at that – especially the Infinity Ward games. There are achievements tied to Spec Ops, but that’s Co-Op, which is totally different than competitive Multiplayer. In general, if a game has to have MP achievements, and I know it will have a good lifespan/player count, I can get behind leveling up achievements and playing on each map achievements. Ones like the Gears of War ones to get 1000 kills with each weapon, when there were only a few kills available in each game are just asinine.

Lastly, let’s quickly talk DLC achievements. On the 360, in order to add in Achievements, some kind of a patch/update is required, but supposedly the Xbox One is going to allow more freedom for developers to add in later achievements. What that amounts to, is on the 360, you’ll generally only see new achievements when a major DLC addition comes out, and all the achievements are tied to that DLC. That isn’t a bad thing, but I think by adding more freedom to the system, it will allow developers to look at how their game is played, and add in achievements to either reward players that are doing that, or drive players to do something maybe they hadn’t yet.

Titanfall

Finally, I want to talk a bit about Titanfall since it comes out tomorrow, and it really is a unique game. It’s pretty much the first game to be exclusively multiplayer – even the story is told through MP. That means that all the achievements are tied to MP – which had me worried at first. When I saw the list though, I felt a lot better, especially since it leaked after the Beta. A lot of the achievements were simply progression based, with a few little skill based ones tossed in – but in general, they were already things I was doing in the Beta. Overall, I don’t think it will end up being a bad list to get most if not all done relatively quickly.