Polish that digital trophy rack.
I’ll admit up front: I love obtaining trophies on the PlayStation Network. For me, there’s something enjoyable about hearing that memorable ring and watching the trophy notification pop on screen; it’s even more enjoyable to see that platinum trophy follow suit. While not overly impressive in the eyes of ‘true’ trophy hunters, my 33 platinum trophies give me a sort of gamer pride. Throw all of those faux rewards aside, however, and what are we left with? The rise and fall of value (value is defined for this article as the dollar amount per hours of gameplay).
Adding achievements to the Xbox 360 initiated the change of perspective in the hearts of many gamers. Providing about 1,000 gamer points per title (give or take depending on the size of the game and DLC), achievements presented gamers the opportunity to show their skills and dedication to any particular game. Sony emulated Microsoft a couple years later by adding the trophy system, and, more recently, Steam included achievements and cards in most of their games. The concept has wrought a multitude of extra hours of gameplay – if you choose to bite at the bait.
The first game I ever completed for 100% was Warriors Orochi for the Xbox 360 (way back when I was a freshman in college in 2006). The tasks the achievements required of me were extensive, and many included beating levels on the chaotic difficulty, obtaining ultimate weapons for each character, and others along those lines. I’m sure I must have dedicated over 100 hours into that game for the sole purpose of obtaining 1,000/1,000 of the achievements.
In the case of Warriors Orochi, achievements added – for me, of course – at least 40 hours of extra value. You see, once I’ve beaten a game, I have a very real habit of never touching it again. What’s the reason? Sure, new game plus modes are available, and sometimes you don’t actually see a true ending on the first playthrough… but I generally don’t care. I am plagued with the inability to read a book, watch a movie, or play a game completely through twice. There are, of course, the exceptions, but I often find myself on the cusp of boredom during a second dance with any of the aforementioned mediums.
Still, achievements and trophies don’t always add value for the better. Two of my most prized platinum trophies, for example, became complete grind fests. The two titles in question (two games that I thoroughly enjoyed) were Nier (a little over 100 hours, I believe) and Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (over 200 hours). Both games required insane amounts of grinding; Nier for its damned eagle eggs (necessary to upgrade a weapon); Samurai Heroes for its trophy asking you to collect all titles and recruit all allies (this was even more intense because the conditions and routes needed to unlock each often found you digging through minute details with each character).
Still, the fact that I threw over 200 hours at a game and came out happy and with platinum in tow goes to show how much value (again: dollars vs. gameplay hours) that achievements/trophies can add to any given experience. Yet if we carefully examine all of my achievements and trophies, we can identify a somewhat distressing trend.
Not all achievement/trophy lists add value. In fact, too many of these lists are capable of killing value in any given game. To this point, if you’re not a trophy or achievement hunter, neither the rise nor fall will make sense/matter to you. I imagine that, if you’re still reading this, you are like me – you enjoy your digital achievements. And this is exactly how the entire process is capable of cutting value from a game.
A good portion of my platinum trophies (and the few 1,000 point games I accumulated on my Xbox before it red-ringed) did, in fact, involve an exorbitant amount of hours and/or skill. But another significant amount of my collection detract from the overall value for two reasons, and it is a cause of concern (for me, at least).
The first worrisome issue with achievements and trophies that I’ve come to discover is that, once I’ve nailed down the platinum, I find I have absolutely no drive to further play that game. Is this necessarily bad? Not necessarily. Take Final Fantasy: Type-0, for example. The game itself requires only about 40 hours to platinum or 100% (less if you know what you’re doing). This entails defeating the final boss and completing the game. Essentially, the platinum is obtainable after one playthrough, assuming you found all of the Akademia dog tags. This doesn’t seem so bad if you consider that you must complete the game to unlock your platinum trophy. If you examine the game further, however, you’ll notice that the platinum trophy doesn’t even consider touching on nightmare mode or any of the trials. Hours upon hours of gameplay is forgotten, ignored, or completely unknown to or by the player who is in it for the achievements or trophies alone.
The paltry The Last Rebellion, a not-so-great RPG published by NISAmerica, is another prime example of trophies gone wrong. To its credit, too, the game rewards you for completing the plot (and actually spending about ten minutes on ‘side’ monsters – namely four prinnies and four cats). Where the lackluster plot requires about 20 hours of gameplay, the additional eight trophies require brief, easy ‘boss’ battles. In other words, the entire trophy list for this PS3 exclusive consists solely of main and side boss battle trophies. Thankfully, I had only purchased the game used for less than $20.
A Middle Ground?
For the sake of brevity, I’ve only included a couple examples of my trophy-related value experiences. On the brightest side of things, I can see and have seen a middle ground trending upward. My most recent platinum trophy was for the wonderful Ratchet & Clank reboot. To obtain, you really only need to spend about 30 hours in game (let me remind you that the game only costs $39.99 new). With that said, the platinum trophy requires you to complete everything there is to do in the game. You must beat the game twice (once regularly and once in challenge mode). You need to use each weapon until its level is maxed (and upgrade it to completion). You need to complete many secret objectives (often humorous), or complete weapon-specialized tasks (like making every enemy in the game dance to the Groovitron). The game even asks you to beat a certain time on both of the hover board gold races (meaning you need to complete the bronze and silver cups for both worlds, too). Lastly, the game rewards you for collecting all of the holocards available. This one, for me, required two-and-a-half playthroughs to unlock the final set of cards (it’s finicky, so it may take someone else less or more time). But the game itself, again, requires the completionist in you to obtain the platinum trophy. So even though the entire endeavor took about 30 hours, I felt total satisfaction once the platinum trophy sang. I’m not saying all games should take this path, but it would, at least for me, increase the ultimate value of any given game.