When it comes to gaming, I look to it as an escape. An escape from everyday life, career, family, real world problems. I don’t want to work, I don’t want to think, I simply want to actively participate in a story and be whisked away into some fantasy world for at least a little while. As such, I generally don’t purposefully engage in the pursuit of achievements and very rarely approach a game with a completionist mindset.
Occasionally, however, along comes that special game that demands that extra bit of attention. Far Cry 5 was one such game. Having played that it so many times over, solo and coop with friends, I had already accumulated a bunch of achievements. With that much time already invested in the game, why not have something to show for it? So I set out to get all of the achievements available. This was the first time I had ever attempted such a feat so there was very little method to my madness. My “ method” mainly consisted of me going back and forth between the game and the achievements list trying to figure out which ones I needed, which ones I had already started, which ones were for the main game versus the arcade, and what exactly I had to do to earn any given achievement. It was tedious, time-consuming, and rife with errors as I’d forget what I had to do when distracted by other things. Through tenacity and perseverance, I was finally able to not only get all of the achievements for the main game but also for the arcade. No simple task as the arcade was pretty awful.
Then came the DLC’s and an influx of additional achievements. This was manageable at first, Hours of Darkness, the first dlc, was very fun. It was upon the release of Lost on Mars and then Dead Living Zombies where I ultimately relented. I was able to trudge through Mars, if only for Herc, and it’s achievements for that matter, but that Zombie one, I just couldn’t do it.
I needed a game that I wouldn’t get tired of. One that could keep me engaged if multiple playthroughs were required. Preferably one that either didn’t have any DLC or at the very least was done with any subsequent releases. I eventually found all of that in South Park: The Stick of Truth. An older game, released in March 2014, I was familiar with it but had never played it. I decided to give it a try when I picked it up on sale and it really resonated with me. It was funny and true to the show, the gameplay was engaging and a great homage to fantasy games, it had a great story with so many curveballs it never felt stagnant. It felt as my character was truly a part of the show.
Early on I knew that I would play the game a couple of times over. So, why not attempt to go full completionist on this absolutely amazing game? Upon looking at the list of achievements I found out that a second or even third play was going to be necessary. I had already done things that prevented me from getting certain achievements so I figured I may as well continue on, get what I could, and formulate a plan for how I would achieve the rest.
I ultimately wound up playing through three complete campaigns of South Park: The Stick of Truth in order to grab all of the achievements. A couple of smart save points also prevented a fourth (though I wouldn’t have minded). I was able to fully experience 3 out of the 4 classes and, as I mentioned before, it was an extremely entertaining game. I just wanted to get to the sequel which many players may not always have the desire to do that. For example, the sequel to The Stick of Truth, South Park: The Fractured but Whole pales in comparison to its predecessor and is not nearly as enjoyable. As of this writing, I am currently running through the campaign of The Fractured But Whole for a second time just to get one last achievement and not enjoying it all that much.
Before starting The Fractured But Whole I wanted to see if it was possible to get all of the achievements one time around. After having done my due diligence in this regard I discover that for this game it was indeed possible but I had a decision to make. I could either continue on with the story of my character or create a new one. The latter, creating a new character, meant that I would be able to attain all of the achievements in a single playthrough. I chose the former, continuity, on the assumption that I would enjoy this game just as much as I had enjoyed the first. Unfortunately, that has not been in this case with this one.
Through all of this trial and error, I have attempted to identify some sort of process that would assist completionist-minded players. It is in no way a comprehensive list of steps. It should be looked at as a starting point to be learned from and even optimized to one’s own style of play. My process may be different from another’s but I think they would all share some core elements.
So without further ado, here are some steps that should help your goal of acquiring every achievement in a game…
1. Read the description of each achievement.
This is an obvious one but it can come with a certain amount of sacrifice if players choose to do this before playing the game. Many achievements describe key plot points and may end up revealing more information than some people are comfortable with. This is further exacerbated should you discover that a second game is going to be needed anyway and you just read a bunch of spoilers for nothing. This is purely a matter of personal choice but I tend to want to experience the story first hand. This means I won’t worry about this step or the rest until I have played the game once already.
2. Categorize, prioritize and list.
In order to make sure no achievements are forgotten along the way, a self-generated list will be needed. This list should not be just a copy of the original one. Instead, it should actually be shorter so it can be referred to more easily. This is where the information from step 1 comes becomes more significant. By creating a category for achievement types players can prioritize which ones need to be focused on and which ones need not. For example, story driven can be omitted as they will more than likely automatically be unlocked through normal play. Why allow those to distract from ones that must be actively pursued? This means that the generated list should be viewed as entirely utilitarian and should only contain information and notes for achievements that ask for very specific tasks. This is will also assist in determining whether a single play-through is a possibility.
Games that have been out for even a little while will already have a plethora of information available on the internet. Even if the game is brand new there is bound to be something that will help. Start with very broad questions about the game and its achievements. Is it possible to get all of the achievements in a single play”…”Are there missable achievements?”…”Are there any known buggy achievements?”…”Are there any secret/ hidden achievements”. Go back to the descriptions, are there any that don’t quite make or need additional information. Try searching the name of such achievements to get some. Be sure to write notes and add any secret achievements to those lists generated in step 2.
4. Just play the game already.
I believe that those games in which all of the achievements can be unlocked in a single play are the exception to the rule. Even with careful planning, games with a more complicated array of achievements are going to require that players have already experienced the story for one simple reason. Knowledge of where certain mobs or NPCs are found and when can be key here. Knowledge of the flow of the story and its key plot point. Games that offer a chronological save point list allow players to go back to certain parts of the game. Knowledge of key points in time to generate a save file may be the difference between playing the entire game over again or just going back in time to get that missed achievement. Playing through the game first gives all of these steps so much more context and useful to the player.
Good Luck and Happy Achievement/Trophy Hunting
That’s all I’ve got for now…hope this little tidbit of information helps in your own quest for that revered title of “completionist”. On a side note, I do realize that PlayStation uses the term “Trophies” for its achievements. For the purposes of this article, I just chose the convention that I was familiar with. In any case, it doesn’t matter what they are called, what matters is the process. With that being said…Happy Hunting!
Minor Spoiler Alert for South Park: The Fractured But Whole ahead…
In case you were wondering what the achievement was that forced me to play this game a second time, it was called The Token Experience. To get it you have to play the entire game as a black character on the mastermind combat difficulty. At the time I was sure I would love the game as much as I had loved the first one, so for the sake of continuity of headcanon I chose to create the same character I had played in Stick of Truth. Part of the problem is that there is no difference in the gameplay at all. I played on mastermind the first time around so if that is supposed to be “The Token Experience” it falls flat.
This achievement would have actually been the perfect opportunity to provide players with at least some difference in gameplay, as the name suggests. The game features a couple of missions where the new kid (the main character) must confront “criminals” for the racist cop Seargent Yates. Yes, these “hardened felons” do happen to be black. It seems that if they wanted to give players this experience it would have been better to make those quests unavailable to a black character and instead make the cops a hostile mob right from the beginning of the game. That storyline ends with a feud with the cops anyway so it wouldn’t affect much in terms of other quests as a black new kid would just have to wait a bit to gain access to the police station to do them. This would, in turn, make the “End Racism” achievement only available to white, or paler, characters in which dialogue making fun of the whole SJW “white savior” mentality. I think that would have made for a meaningful experience while adding in some social, or political, commentary as the show often does. It certainly would have, at the very least, provided some much-needed variety in the pacing of the storyline and made getting this achievement not so damned tedious!