I don’t consider myself a proper trophy/achievement hunter. I make it a point of getting at least one platinum a year just for appearances. But really I hate trophy hunting and very rarely find a game that I genuinely want to collect the trophies for. Recently, in the midst of playing Ratchet and Clank (2016) and Mass Effect: Andromeda, I started to realize exactly what it is I hate about modern trophies so much.
For this year’s platinum I decided to do the latest installment of the Ratchet and Clank series. I have platinumed every one since the PS3 released (the start of trophies) and will continue to do so. I thought it was a good choice for 2017’s platinum and decided to get it out of the way early so I wouldn’t have to think about it again until 2018. My platinum for 2016, The Division, was super annoying and down to the wire. I finished it in December. Ratchet and Clank is never terribly difficult to platinum, but it took me three playthroughs to get it in this one. That should never have happened. The reason it took so long was because of one common, but badly executed, trophy.
“Death By Disco” is a trophy you get for using a specific weapon, the Groovitron, on every type of enemy in the game. This trophy has become standard for all Ratchet and Clank installments and technically it’s stupid and troublesome, but I have no real beef with it. What I do take issue with is how the trophy is managed. You are required to use the Groovitron weapon on every enemy in the game, including bosses, and this isn’t too difficult a task. What is difficult is trying to figure out which enemies you have yet to hit with said weapon. Especially when you’ve already completed your first playthrough. This is because they don’t take any measures to tell you which enemies you have or haven’t already hit with the Groovitron. Meaning I had to play through the full game a third time, making sure to waste time hitting every enemy with it, having no idea how many I was still missing.
I got all the way back to the boss of the game, for the third time, and still didn’t have the trophy. Used it on the boss and then got the trophy and finally the platinum. Here’s the problem with this. I don’t know why I got the trophy when I did and not before. I know I used the Groovitron on that boss in my previous playthroughs. In fact I’m pretty sure I could find footage of it on my older Twitch streams if they haven’t been removed yet. But there are a number of factors I can’t account for. Maybe I used it on that boss before but then died so it didn’t save that I had used it on him. Maybe you had to do it all in one playthrough and I had missed one along the way in my second playthrough and then was forced to replay the whole thing again. Maybe I used it on the boss previously but during a point in the fight where it didn’t count because the boss was in a transition period. These are all very possible theories. None of which I should have to be wondering about right now. This trophy is a prime example of a really bad trend in the way many if not most trophies are handled today.
There is no transparency in the progress of so many of these types of trophies. Insomniac Games could easily have provided a progress list in one of the menus or even the gallery area you unlock after beating your first playthrough. Each level could have a list of enemies that haven’t been hit with it in the world selection screen. There is any number of ways that this trophy could have been presented in a way that was helpful without making the achievement of the trophy any different. But instead they just leave you to fend for yourself and trust that the game isn’t screwing you over, which in my case I can’t honestly believe is the case because of the conflicting evidence I’ve already mentioned.
Lots of games have this same problem today. I’m currently playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and while I have more than 80% of the game completed in my save file, I only have 75% of the trophies. Some of the remaining ones are easy or plot based and I just haven’t done them yet. But many of the trophies in this game are really annoying and they’re number based. My least favorite example, which thankfully I’ve already completed, is “Fireworks.” This is achieved by performing 100 power combos. While I find this trophy annoying, I have no problem with it at face value. Bioware took the time to create a system where you can combine powers to create special reactions in enemies. Of course they want you to use it. Honestly it’s not really my play style. I’m a pretty committed long range sniper, so I rarely use powers. I played all three of the original Mass Effect games as a hard solider class, literally learning no biotics except the shared power ones from your squad mates and I basically only used the passive shields and maybe charge occasionally just for kicks.
One of the best parts about the franchise is that you can literally play the games however you want. There are five classes of weapons, several powers, and a ton of power combinations. You can fight however works best for you. Yet I still have no problem with the fact that Bioware decided to force me to get up closer to the action so I could make use of biotics and create power combos. 100 is a lot, but it’s not an illegal amount. The only problem is you have no way of knowing how many you’ve done. Nowhere does the game tell you how many power combos you’ve made. This is pretty inconvenient when you have to do 100 of them. That’s not something you’ll accomplish in one session. So it would really help to have some sort of counter located in a menu. But at least with power combos you could manually count them if you really wanted to. The same cannot be said for the “Fastball” trophy. This requires you to throw an enemy with a power called “throw” into another enemy 25 times. First of all, that’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. I honestly can’t say if I’ve truly done it even once, which is the even bigger problem. This difficult trophy with no indicator also has no counter. So not only do I never know if I’ve even accomplished the task, I have no way of knowing how many more times I need to do it. What is the reason for this? It’s unnecessarily troublesome even though it’s a problem easily fixed.
Back in the day, there were no trophies. There was only the game percentage. You did everything in the game and you got 100% completion. They still have that. Mass Effect: Andromeda has that. But it in no way reflects your acquisition of trophies. In the old days, most things had a visible counter. Banjo Kazooie was the worst game ever for collectibles because all the music notes reappeared every time you returned to a previous level. But at least you knew how many you had missed. The game told you exactly how many you collected every time you entered a level and it told you how many you had yet to collect for the first time. Is that asking too much from modern developers? I’m not saying get rid of dumb collectible trophies. I’m not saying get rid of annoying number based trophies like “win x number of matches online.” All I’m saying is that games should at least give the player the courtesy of letting them know how close they are to actually getting those annoying trophies. That doesn’t seem like a ridiculous request in 2017.
Some people might be thinking things like counters take away from the challenge. Those same people probably don’t like life bars in games. To them I would say, I’m not demanding the game forcibly show you your trophy progress if you don’t want to see it. That should be my choice as the player to decide if I want to know my progress of just organically get the trophy. Let’s be honest, these trophies aren’t going anywhere. They’re only becoming more prevalent as more games go open world. Collectathons and actionthons are an easy way to pad the playtime of any game. (Glances at Assassin’s Creed) No one, myself included, should be surprised by the proliferation of these trophies or expect them to disappear. But I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect the games to at least let you know if you’re actually making progress towards completing them or not. There’s even collectible tasks in Mass Effect Andromeda that don’t tell how many things you need to collect to complete it. Who thought that was ok? Of the 56 trophies in Mass Effect: Andromeda, 16 of them are bullshit task/collectible trophies with no counter. Not counting the 19 story based trophies, that’s 43% of the trophies in the game. Almost half the entire achievement experience is doing annoying repetitive bullshit or collecting things, without any means of knowing how close you are. That’s a problem.
If developers want to be lazy and pad their games with crappy challenges, that’s one thing. You don’t technically have to do them. But if people do want to take the time to fully complete the experience they should at least be able to know how close they are when they want to.