X3F Achievements 101: Dragonriding Swashbucklers

So the previous week has come to a close and I'm back with another glorious edition of X3F Achievements 101. The past seven days had some serious grinding behind it as I finished off the amazingly tedious Eragon. Hopefully Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End be a third time's charm for film-to-game adaptations. I'll also give my interpretation of the release of the Halo 3 Achievements, which took the interwebs by surprise this week. Either way, there's a lot to cover from the past week, so let's get started.

Probably the biggest news of the week for both Halo fans and Achievement Whores alike was the release of the third installment's Achievements. When I first got my hands on the list, I quickly scanned it and contemplated how these stacked up to what other gamers would consider the "golden standard". It had a solid support for the single player, with retroactive Achievements for completing campaign on three of its difficulties, as well as individual Achievements for the missions themselves.

The Achievements also revealed three things about the content of the campaign. First, it gave away that there will be skulls to be found in each level, and will be accessible on more than just the Legendary difficulty. Secondly, there is a meta-game within the campaign's missions that you must obtain a minimum high score to unlock its respective Achievement. Both the meta-game itself as well as the Achievements tied to it will add replay value to the single player experience, although how much is dependent on the difficulty of accumulating such scores. I'm also curious as to whether you get a "multiplier" or "bonus" for playing on harder difficulties, although it sounds like common sense. The third and possibly most intriguing revelation is the "Marathon Man" Achievement, which will net you 40 Gamerscore.

The multiplayer Achievements are getting mixed reviews from the community, but I must say that I really like them, and this isn't because I don't foresee myself having any troubles acquiring them. I don't like games that have Achievements that only players who devote all their gaming schedule to can acquire.

Take Final Fantasy XI, for example. It's no surprise that a pay-to-play game would have the most difficult (read: time consuming) Achievements to unlock. The highest score on that game is 650. That particular gamer's total Gamerscore? 675. The top 5 gamertags don't even use 360Voice, so I can't track the ludicrous amount of dedication it's taken for them to get that high. But, I digress.

The ranked based Achievements in Halo 3 may be more difficult to reach than it was in the Beta, which could have had accelerated leveling. The majority are tied to free for all, which also keeps people from sacrificing strategic teamwork for getting 5 kills with the Needler. The Achievements also look like fun ones to strive for, too, which is definitely good. The important thing to consider is that these Achievements are going to be a lot of gamers introduction to the concept, as they got the system for this game, and we don't want them to be overwhelmed with overly difficult objectives. They should be like low hanging fruit, just waiting to be plucked by newcomers to the platform. With that in mind, I think Bungie did a great job at balancing the Achievements with pacing, challenge and how fun they are to go after.

Moving from Achievements I'll be getting in the fall to those that I've gotten in the last few days, I finished up Eragon yesterday. I think I can safely say that that was some of the most boring gameplay I've forced myself through in a while. To make matters worse, I had to play through each level twice, once on Hard, and followed by Normal difficulty setting. You know there's an issue with the game when you can simply run past enemies and complete the level. Either way, you're welcome to give it a go. The secret eggs aren't a problem if you've got a good guide handy.

With Eragon out of the way, I picked up Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, having both enjoyed the demo and hearing it was a reasonable 1000. Of the three movie turned videogames that I've played since starting this column, this one has the best polish and is the most enjoyable to play. While it doesn't feature the actual actors (which I confused with Superman Returns in this morning's Fancast recording), the voice actors within the game do a good job of selling the characters.

Each level has seven items for you to collect, which vary based on the locale. The Achievement associated with a given level's item unlocks as soon as you pick up the final one, which is handy. There aren't any Achievements tied to collecting all the items, so if you missed a level, you can just play it, get the seven Pirate Flags or whatever, then quit out. The only two things that are persistent throughout the game that justify finishing a level on the second play through are Collecting 100 Souls or all Eleven Calypso Pieces, both worth 150 Gamerscore. I'll post some tips on my soul searching in the next column, as I'm sitting at about 36 total so far. There are 8 levels that you can get souls in, so if you average 13 per level, you're golden, although the above link has some tips on levels that you can go back to and get the rest in one go.

Well, that pretty much sums up the last week in Achievements news and whoring. As always, you can send your feedback, be it tips, suggestions, questions, or offers in Achievement trading to david {at] xbox360fanboy [dot] com with the subject line "Achievements 101". If you want to catch me when I'm on my 360, you can add on MSN, as that's both my primary MSN and linked to my gamertag. Once I plow through this queue of easy games you guys have brought to my attention, we'll start organizing play times and what not. See you all next week.