In the latest edition of Ask RPS, our new mailbag feature where RPS supporters pose us questions that we then answer in public posts for everyone to enjoy, we’re turning our gaze to that loved and loathed staple of the video gaming landscape: achievements. Ah, achievements. Never mind if they’re good or bad. Today, we’re remembering the terrible things we’ve done to actually get them.
The question comes courtesy of Fachewachewa, who asked: What’s the worst thing you’ve done for an achievement? Or more generally, a time you were focused on a specific goal in a game, reached it (or gave up), and after, looked back and thought, “Why did I do that?”
Why, indeed. Come and find out which achievements have spawned our biggest gaming regrets, and why not tell us about your own gaming follies in the comments? We can all wallow in our foolishness together.
James: Many years ago I, willing and of sound mind, carried a garden gnome throughout the entirety of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 so that I might stuff it into a rocket at the end. And for what? I knew beforehand that there’d be no extra cutscenes, no alternative endings, not even an acknowledging voice line to be gained from the exercise; I did it about 20% for the achievement and 80% so that I could tell my friends I carried a garden gnome throughout the entirety of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. None of them were particularly impressed.
I will say that the need to care for lil’ Gnome Chompski did add an interesting challenge, especially trying to stop him bouncing out of a muscle car with no doors or roof. But that’s ultimately just difficulty for difficulty’s sake, a game trope I’ve since grown to despise. Besides, Gaben sent a gnome to space for real in 2020, further consigning my effort to the footnotes of ornamental rocketeering history.
Katharine: Like James, I also tried to accompany Gnome Chompski through the whole of Episode 2, but failed almost instantly and couldn’t be bothered to restart. I was this close to getting the Zombie Chopper achievement in vanilla Half-Life 2, though, which involves playing through Ravenholm using just the Gravity Gun. It was an amazing thrill for the first 80% of it, but my last and most trusted serrated saw blade pinged off into oblivion when I fired it at a headcrab and I never saw it again, leaving me alone and defenceless in a swarm of hungry zombs. I really, really, really didn’t want to reach for my gun, but I also had very little life left and didn’t want to do the entire thing over again. I don’t regret the experience, though, as it was a fun challenge and made me think about the Gravity Gun and Half-Life 2’s immensely clever systemic physics nonsense in cool new ways. One day, I’ll go back and do it right.
I clearly have a thing about weird weapon challenges, though, as years later I did manage to complete Alan Wake’s Gunless Wonder achievement, which remains one of my rarest achievement wins to this day. This involves getting to Cauldron Lake without firing a single bullet during the ‘On The Road To Cauldron Lake’ chapter, and man alive, it was intense. That one, though, I do regret. Why? Just why? Why did I put myself under such strain in arguably the most stressful chapter of a very tense and spooky game? Absolute madness. What was I thinking?
Ollie: Do any of you remember Patterns, that Linden Lab sandbox game that was basically Minecraft Alpha, but with triangles? I played it when it was first brought out in early access, and I had a fair bit of fun with it. Then I saw that there was a competition on the game’s forum to create the most amazing build possible, and the winner got a top-tier Alienware PC.
I spent over 30 hours putting together a spectacular build I called “World-Eaters”, a tableau of several Sandworm-esque monsters burrowing through and tearing apart one of Patterns’ small pyramidal planets. An outside the box build that was as intricate as it was grandiose. I was immensely proud of myself – until I looked at the fine print on Alienware’s website and saw that the PC was only eligible for US participants. And then, to top it off, one of the devs emailed me saying that “as key members of the community”, my brother and I should give this contest a go.
After that betrayal, I lost the will to continue playing Patterns. Probably a good thing really, because I heard the early access period was handled atrociously after that, and then the game was shut down. But I’ve been a broken man ever since. That PC should have been mine.
Alice Bee: I only have the boring ‘idk’ answer to this one, because I don’t tend to get hung up on stuff like cheevos – or, if I do start doing something, I get bored very quickly. Like, I tried collecting all the Mother’s Amnesia Feathers in Assassin’s Creed II, but after a couple of them realised it was very pointless and I shouldn’t bother. In games like Stardew Valley, I’ll try to lay out a nice farm, but then can’t bother my arse to replant things or move stuff around once it gets bigger.
I have, in the past, spent a lot of time looking up the specific things you have to do and gifts you have to give to romance characters in BioWare games, or become best friends with them. Actually, thinking about it, I can look back and ask myself, “Why have I spent more than 300 hours playing Dragon Age: Inquisition?”
Liam: I love the idea of achievements more than the act of actually acquiring them. I feel like I start most games determined to gain every gong but quickly give up the second it asks me to do something fairly innocuous like play the game a second time on a higher difficulty or something. I vividly remember spending weeks trying to collect every trophy in Assassin’s Creed II, but walked away in frustration after struggling to find the final bastard feather that would have allowed me to gain the platinum. That one still stings. Maybe that’s why I don’t bother anymore?
Shamefully, my real answer to this question is that every other month I spend a disgusting number of hours levelling up my battle pass in Fortnite to unlock a bunch of skins I’ll ignore in favour of something I paid extra money for from the in-game shop. I’ve been doing this for years. I played the game on Christmas fucking Day just to make sure I didn’t miss out on Doom Guy. There is no satisfaction in hitting that arbitrary goal, and yet when the next season rolls around I dutifully do it all over again.
Hayden: I bloody love achievements. Steam achievements, Gamerscore, Platinum trophies, I want them all. I’ve spent many nights hunting for them, and an achievement that’s hard to get can put me off a game. Heck, the Emperor! achievement turned me off The Elder Scrolls Online entirely! To get that delectable ding, you had to become the number one player in your PvP faction. No! Why would I do that? But also, I want that achievement, and if I can’t have it, then I’m not playing!
A tough achievement that I did try to pop was ManBearPig! in South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play. It was an Xbox Arcade game in which you’d place towers to defend against an onslaught of cows, old people, demons, that sort of thing. Each character also had a basic attack that let you hurl a snowball for a tiny smidge of damage. The penultimate level pitted you against a tough ManBearPig boss in the final wave. The achievement involved beating the entire level, including ManBearPig, without using any towers on the hardest difficulty. Snowballs only! Me and a pal spent ages trying, but we never did manage it. I don’t regret it, though. We’d gone to different secondary schools, but this stupidly hard achievement helped us stay friends for a year or so longer before we ultimately grew apart. I think that’s quite nice.
Ed: I do and I don’t get hung up on achievements. I do want to collect some rare ones and then I realise it’s really difficult to, so then I don’t. Off the top of my head, one I really put my mind to was Bloodborne’s platinum trophy for collecting all of the achievements and beating all of the endings.
I did the trick that most folks did, where I reached a point in the game where I’d tee’d myself up nicely for each ending, then uploaded the save file to the cloud. I’d then re-load it after ticking off each ending, and voila, job done! Otherwise, I’m sure I’ve chased a lot of achievements in the form of campaigns on hardest difficulties, with Halo 3 and Reach springing to mind. God, the stress.
Rachel: I’m also not really into achievements but there’s one in The Longing where you need to wait 400 real-time days to wake up a King sleeping deep underground, so I set an alert on my phone’s calendar, totally forgot about it, then over a year later booted up the game to get the achievement. Yes, I could have changed the clock on my computer or watched a video on YouTube seeing what would happen, but it was just something I felt the need do myself. It wasn’t really worth it either!
Rebecca: My initial reaction to this question was a slightly self-indulgent claim to not be invested in achievement hunting. My time with a game tends to come to a natural end once I’ve seen everything that interests me, I was going to say. And in fairness to me, that is technically true. But then I looked closer and realised that basically all of my most-played games on Steam are ones where you can collect little bits of info about the characters, maybe culminating in dressing them in different costumes and stuff. And I realised the unhinged frequency with which I’ve spent more time than I really wanted to unlocking alternate outfits I’ll never equip for a character who is, in my estimation, a solid B-tier at best.
The fact that I completed Momo’s full profile in HuniePop should frankly be written on a board slung around my neck while someone rings a bell over my head and marches me through the town centre, where I have to confess to everyone I meet that Momo makes my skin crawl but I compulsively 100%-ed her route anyway.