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!

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Promise Keeper

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Issue a Death Threat, and then successfully kill the target • 20G • 31.15% of gamers unlocked this

A bit more Middle-Earth today, and – if I’m honest – this was a bit of a cherry picked achievement. For much of the last week, I’ve really just been working my way through Mordor and killing and building up Orcs for my army without any real rhyme or reason. I think the mechanism is a bit different from the previous game, in that the ‘pleb’ orcs don’t hang around and they certainly don’t do anything for you beyond fight in the here-and-now (or, at least, not attack you), which is frustrating, but it’s also equally fun – and so while I am likely not making much narrative process, I also feel like I’m doing what gaming is supposed to be about – having fun.

Today was all about threatening and then killing a particular orc. The ‘worm’ orcs seem to play a more important part in this title than the first installment, in that they are more numerous and serve as a logistical force behind a lot of the emergent gameplay, and it wasn’t hard to find one – send a threat out to a random captain, and then … well … then kill him.

In other news, I still haven’t heard about my Ryzen PC, which – regular readers will know – has been sent to the technicians for troubleshooting and repair. It’s quite frustrating, I had hoped for a weekend of gaming that I have otherwise had to miss out on because of my potato PC, but if this blog has taught me anything, it’s that the vicissitudes of life tend to prohibit these plans on a not-uncommon basis anyway.

There is a temptation to call the technician and give them a hurry up, but a saying which I was always fond of repeating springs to mind – good things come to those who wait …

… or does the squeaky wheel get the oil?

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!

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!

Eregion Reforged

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – Game of the Year Edition • Build all the Forge Towers in Udun • 40G • 8.08% of gamers unlocked this

So it seems like the solution to being able to actually use proper screen shots from Xbox on this blog is to first take the screenshot, then save it to Google Drive on my phone, then download it on my computer and then upload it to WordPress as part of preparing the blog entry.

Yeah, right. Consider yourself lucky today – this certainly isn’t going to be ‘the norm’. The easiest solution is for Xbox just to patch the App, which we’ll just keep assuming is going to happen ‘sometime’ in 2018. Mind you, I don’t know if ‘lucky’ is really the right term. This process means you only get one shot today … and it’s not a very good one if I do say so myself.

Speaking of which – whoo-hoo! This is officially the half-way mark for my Achievement a Day challenge. Half. Way. I almost can’t believe it. There’s been a few stumbles along the way, as the lure of the PlayStation calls to me – even more tempting has been a shift to PC gaming – but I’ve kept at it with my beloved Xbox, and now that I’ve hit the top of the hump, here’s hoping that I can bring it home strong. Part of these other temptations have been sated by my consideration of what the ‘next’ challenge could be. I’m heavily leaning towards PC, as I get older I can see more-and-more the appeal of PC gaming. And it’s not just cost – its permeation as a platform means that there’s a healthy dose of people to play with – even on older games which many would consider legacy or retro. There is obviously a better range – while MMOs have been doing a good job on console lately, there is still a noticeable absence of the likes of World of Warcraft there to hold down the fort. Plus, it simply has all the features that I love about PlayStation and Xbox on there now. Both Steam and GOG have achievements, Ubisoft Club and EA – with their respective platforms – both have social network integration, and thanks to this blog, I’ve come to a conclusion that it’s actually not that hard to showcase your achievements to the world. They don’t all need to be centralised, and – perhaps most importantly – not many people care that much about your achievements. It is often a deeply personal experience, and sure, you might like to share it on social media when you earn a particularly special one (PlayStation Platinum trophies in particular permeate some of my Facebook gaming groups), but by-and-large, those people who care about achievements are in it for themselves. Unless you’re going to show them an easier way to earn it, then people will keep a closed shop on the whole idea.

Today’s achievement comes from my beloved Shadow of Mordor. Yes, I know I’ve platium’d it on PlayStation, and I’ve completed everything I can on the base game, but the GOTY edition is a whole new set of achievements. I didn’t necessarily want to double-dip on an achievement if I could help it (I’ve likely done this before on some of the Minecraft achievements, so I’m not making it a hard-and-fast rule), so instead I’ve been playing some of The Bright Lord DLC which I’ve never done before.

This narrative takes place when Celebrimbor is building a Mordor-based following to take down Sauron. It doesn’t look like particularly big DLC, I have to say – but it paces the expansion by locking-away missions until you have a bigger following or a stronger presence in the region. Personally, I found it more frustrating than anything, but I didn’t make the game, so I suppose there’s a narrative or mechanic beat here that makes it necessary. Because I’m unlikely to find out what that is, I’ll just come on my blog and whinge about it.

Elsewhere on the gaming front, I’ve reinstalled Fallout 4 finally. That is a big, big game now – aside from the disc, it’s about an additional 25GB of downloads, which it did over two days for me, assuming because I have downloads turned off when the power is off. I did manage to finish the ‘Sanctuary’ achievement today though – which I suspect is an achievement that most people have (I just looked it up, 42.27% of gamers have it – I was certainly in the minority here), so at least that’s some small progress towards completion. Given the DLC packs though, I find a completion run unlikely.

Have a happy new year if you’re reading this on the Sunday, or if you’re a day or two late, I hope you’ve recovered. Thanks for meeting me at the half way point. I look forward to you joining me on the final steps!

 

The White Rider

OK, there’s quite a bit of gaming to catch up on today – so I’ll start with the ‘official’ achievement – this one from Shadow of Mordor, and for liberating 30 slaves in 180 seconds while riding a caragor. I don’t remember it being quite so challenging on PS4, but it certainly took a bit of back-and-forth between the game and some guides to get it right today. Nonetheless, after about my third or forth guide, I managed to stumble across a good route to take for freeing slaves, and after a good lap of the area, the achievement popped.

Perhaps what is more interesting out of the whole experience was that I found out you could change skins in the game – between Talion, and Lithariel, daughter of the Lady Marwen – and she is fantastic. Who needs Aloy, Horizon Zero Dawn and silly console exclusivity when you’ve got a kickass female lead right here! From what I’ve read, there are obviously other skins available if you had a season pass or bought them separately on the Xbox store, but I was just fairly happy for this freebie to tidy up my last few achievements from the core game. I’m about half-way through the last of the story achievements to complete: ironically liberating more slaves.

This achievement is worth 15G and 2.04% of gamers have unlocked it.

With this achievement under my belt, it was also time to tackle this month’s Elusive Target from Hitman, season one. I understand that this is to be the penultimate target, so I was keen to make the most of my time left with the game, considering that it’s unlikely that I’ll get back to it unless I can dedicate an afternoon to completing a few ‘suit only’ achievements. Personally, I’d rather push-on with getting into Season Two, if-and-when it ever eventuates.

This target was unlike most of them, in that you don’t actually know who it is going in. You’re encouraged to follow patients in the Tokyo Private Hospital to see if they can drop a clue, or look through patient files in the hope that you can discover more information. Sure enough, I spent a not-inconsiderate amount of time wandering around the hospital trying to listen to patient conversations, but not much was happening, so I ended up lingering upstairs until I discovered the Hospital Administrator’s office (something I hadn’t found even through playing the main campaign and doing challenges for Mastery Level 20), so with a quick hack of the lock and a look at his computer screen, Diana tells me that the patient has had work done on his ears, and to look for a patient with bandages on his ears.

It doesn’t take long. After finding the patient in the spa, and following him to the restaurant, an remote explosive duck – my signature move – makes short work of the target, and I glide down the chair lift to my freedom, my Terminus Suit and a fairly nice haul considering the game is in its twilight.

I broadcast this one on Mixer, and I’ve archived the video over on YouTube.

Remember the other day when I spent much of my day playing LEGO Dimensions, only to be cheated out of an achievement pop thanks to a glitch? Well, I finally cleared the air today, doing another, separate run of the Doctor Who part of the main Dimensions story, and finally bringing balance back to the world.

I had to laugh while playing with UniKitty, one of the few new units I collected as part of mega end-of-financial-year sales everywhere, when I discovered she has this delightful ‘rage’ mode (hold down B) at which her head goes enormous, red, and very, very angry. While most of my gameplay involves focusing on Superman for the quick navigation, or the core three (Batman/Wyldstyle/Gandalf) who are often uniquely talented to pass a level, sometimes its a bit of fun to see what else is on offer.

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The last thing I want to gripe a little bit about today is Hearthstone. Early in the month, I managed to get myself down to Level 19, and I was having a good run. Somewhere over the past week, I have successfully managed to loose most of my games – even against true plebs – and drag my June 2017 ranking back down to rock-bottom. Yup, I am now sitting at the base of a Level 20 just riding out the rest of the month for my cardback. Part of the reason for my downfall has to do with completing quests rather than just choosing my strongest decks, but that’s not all. My Priest deck has served me well over the past few weeks, but one of the challenges for coins was to play a sequence of Shaman cards, so I abandoned my ‘team’ in order to go find people to play Shaman against, but once the quest was complete, I switched back, and sure enough … dun dunnn.

I am certain that my own capability has been contributing to my terrible performance lately, but I think the time and knowledge needed to be able to build a good deck requires far greater capacity than I can offer. I do enjoy Hearthstone, and I’ll continue to play it – but golly gosh darn if the rise and fall of competitive rankings doesn’t grate you in just the wrong places.

The Maker’s Bow

Another late start tonight on account of training, a late dinner, then an episode of OITNB, and I still had a Shadow of Mordor itch that needed scratching off the back of E3, so I ventured back to Mordor for another night.

Most of tonight was spent cleaning up the upgrades for my dagger and bow, but after a while (and a few failed attempts) it seemed like I was better off focusing on one weapon so as to get the achievement before I made it to bed. That weapon was the bow, Azkâr. 


For a game that drip feeds you upgrades throughout the campaign, Mordor is its most fun with a heavily upgraded Talion simply running around beheading and combusting heads willy-nilly. The bow seems to be a bit under-utilised across the game, so these ten challenges are a welcome addition to try the bow out.

I only have a couple of dagger missions left, so I’ll keep them handy for a night where I have time and inclination. They’re not ‘quick’ missions, they’re ‘don’t be discovered’ missions – perhaps my weakest trait when playing Mordor. Still, practice makes perfect.

This achievement is worth 30G and 14.35% of gamers have unlocked it.