Friday, February 19, 2010

Infinite Undiscovery - Achievements

NOTE: Rachel pointed out in the comments that I've been abbreviating Infinite Undiscovery "ID" rather than "IU". I have no reason for this...the best excuse I could give is that the game's title is so nonsensical, I got confused and never caught the error. Whatever, I'm sticking with ID.

I've mentioned before that Achievements can have either a positive or a negative influence on one's enjoyment of a game, depending on how they're used. ID is a fantastic example of the dark side of Achievements. If it had featured an ordinary set (or no Achievements at all), I would have played through the game once on the normal difficulty, enjoyed the crafting and Capell's character development, disliked the story and the AI, and probably walked away thinking "Eh, below average but not terrible." Instead, I engaged in a 250 hour death struggle with this demonic entity disguised as a simple piece of software, leaving it dead and me mortally wounded (or at least psychologically wounded). To illustrate this point, I'm going to go through the requirements for some of the Achievements in ID (divided into GOOD, BAD, and UGLY). There are Spoilers in here, so proceed at your own risk!

"Guardian" - GOOD
During one of the game's events, you need to escort some villagers across a monster-infested desert so they can found a new town. If you perform this task without allowing any villagers to die, you get Guardian. This Achievement is well-designed, because it's easy to lose a villager if you aren't paying attention, but with careful planning and a watchful eye, it isn't too difficult.

"Time for Glasses?" - BAD
Play the game for 40 hours. These "play for X hours" Achievements are not uncommon, and I don't really understand them. Is this supposed to be an accomplishment? What if I can beat the game in under 40 hours...should I just stand in a corner until the award pops? Of course, if you want to complete the set then this one won't be an issue.

"Filthy Rich" - UGLY
You get this one by accumulating the maximum amount of cash (ID calls it "Fol") that can be carried - 99,999,999 Fol. Okay kids, time for some math. After you beat the game you can go down into an optional dungeon. On the fourth floor, past a small group of enemies, is a side room with a monster disguised as a chest. If you kill it, it drops about 60,000 Fol, the maximum monetary drop for any recurring (i.e. not a boss) enemy. Then you can leave the floor and come back - voila, it respawns! If you're really clever and make use of Capell's enchanting techniques, you can (temporarily) create an effect that triples cash drops, thus earning 180,000 each time. It takes an average of about two minutes to defeat the enemies, kill the chest monster, and run back to the teleporter that takes you to the previous floor. So that's 90,000 Fol per minute, not including time spent fighting down to the fourth floor and back when you need more supplies or just want to quit the game for a while. So to accumulate max gold, it would take 1111 minutes, or about 18.5 hours. Again, that's just the "killing the same chest over and over" portion.

Here's my question - why such an insanely high number??? When I finished the game, I had about 7 million Fol, plenty to buy everything in the game. 100 million Fol might as well be infinity, because there isn't even anything you can buy with all that money. This is just a stupid, arbitrary challenge thrown in to be obnoxious. It's like some kind of reverse-intelligence test (one that I failed miserably) in which accomplishing the goal proves that you're an idiot for trying in the first place. "Filthy Rich" is the Achievement system at it's's not creative, it adds nothing to the game, it's just tortuous.

"Big Daddy's Back" - GOOD
In the same dungeon with the respawning chest, you can find your dead teammate Sigmund. If you beat him in a one-on-one battle with Capell, he'll then rejoin your team and you get this oddly titled award. Here we have an Achievement that rewards exploration (finding the optional boss) and strategy (must win a solo fight, the only one in the game besides the tutorial). Plus there's good reason to want to do this one, because Sigmund is a powerful ally. If they could only all be like this!

"Seraphic Gatekeeper" - BAD
To get this one, you have to defeat the Ethereal Queen (the game's hardest boss, at the end of the optional dungeon) on Infinity difficulty. On the surface, this one seems similar to "Big Daddy's Back", so why is this one bad? Because of those tricky little words "on Infinity difficulty". That is, the hardest difficulty setting. Which is only unlocked after beating the game on Hard difficulty. Which, in turn, is only unlocked after beating the game on Normal difficulty. So what this Achievement is basically saying is: beat this moderately long (and not very fun) game THREE times and then you can take a crack at earning this award. I think it should be fairly clear why the full set took me 250 hours to finish.

"Compulsive" - UGLY
It's like tri-Ace is taunting me with the Achievement names. Rachel mentioned in a previous comment that I was using pages of material while working on this game, and she wasn't kidding. For this one, you need to have possessed (and in just one playthrough) every item in the game. There are 880 different items, and no way to know (without a checklist, hence the papers) what you've found and what you're missing. But beyond the sheer number of items, it's essentially impossible to collect all the items without foreknowledge of the game. Consider:

- At least one town is wiped off the map during the game, and any unique items available in its shops or through side quests there will be lost if you haven't found them.
- The items available in other shops change over time, so you can miss items if you wait too long.
- Some items are in "one time only/can never return" dungeons. Even worse, some are in chests that can only be reached by one specific character (out of the 15 you could have selected to accompany you). Better choose wisely!
- Finally, some items are dropped by specific enemies with rare frequency. For example, there's a fight involving three giants (and a bunch of random soldiers) during a castle assault. The giants have a small (say 20%) chance of dropping a "Giant Wristband". It's the only place in the game where you could possibly get one, as there are no other similar giants and no way to buy or craft Giant Wristbands. What are the odds that a person unaware of this fact would happen to get the wristband they needed just by chance? And that's not the only instance where you can miss a unique drop.

There's a big difference between Difficult and Unfair when it comes to Achievements. "Compulsive" is the definition of UNFAIR. Even knowing the exact location of every item in the game, it still took a 20 page checklist and MANY HOURS of work to accomplish it.

My only consolation? I'm done with this stupid game forever. Now I can move on to some other ridiculous Achievement set that will drive me crazy...


  1. Did you ever feel like the game designers were laughing at you?

    Am I the only one hearing this conversation in my head -
    Casey: ID Achievements are for suckers.
    Jeff: Achievements?
    Casey: Sucker.

  2. Ha, ha, ha...I was definitely the dupe in this case. Sadly, I was so far into the set that when I finally grasped the magnitude of the task, I felt like there was no turning back.