A few weeks back I wrote a post about gaming without achievements. Specifically I discussed a game that came out on the PS3 before the PS3 offered trophies. More recently I have been playing games on Steam. Games that have achievements when played on the Xbox 360 but lack them on Steam.
Those who know me know that I love the Fallout series of games. If I could only ever play one franchise of games it would more than likely be the Fallout series. As a point of fact I have owned several copies of Fallout 3 (PC/Xbox360/Xbox360 On Demand/PS3) and two copies of New Vegas (Xbox360/PC). In case you can't guess I'm playing Fallout 3 on the PC.
When I first played through the game I made a conscious effort to grab all the achievements I could. Those karma based ones? I specifically created save points so that I could either steal or donate stuff to get my karma to the proper level before leveling up to insure I earned all three achievements at the same time. Looking back on this I realize that my initial play throughs made me a sort of slave to the chievo.
One of the reasons I picked up the PC version off of Steam was because I wanted to enjoy all of the user created mods that exist for the game. That and Steam had the GOTY edition on sale for dirt cheap!
While looking through the list of mods I felt a little bit overwhelmed. There are so many, how do I choose which ones to install and then how do I deal with conflicts? In order to answer those questions I had to ask myself another question, “What do I want to get out of this game?” The answer was clear.
As much as I enjoyed New Vegas, once I earned all of the achievements I had zero desire to play it again. Even after picking up a copy on Steam and adding some mods I just did not feel the urge to play it again. The DC Wasteland, on the other hand, has always drawn me back in. I also have to say that I greatly enjoyed the new crafting system and hardcore game mode from New Vegas.
I ended up downloading a mod that adds those two great things to the DC Wasteland. While browsing I also found a mod that adds new music to GnR's playlist as well as a few cosmetic mods that add little touches to the desolate wastes of DC.
Adding hardcore mode to the first game changed a lot of things for me. While I used to run around with more ammo than the entire DC chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel I now found myself being far more selective in what I carried. With many weapons and armors having been rebalanced I found myself experimenting more with what I used in combat. Pistols that used to be less than useless now had some value to me. Armors that I used to carry to sell I now dropped on the ground.
Food merchants now had a purpose. If I did not eat often enough I would suffer from hunger pains. Same with water. That guy in front of Megaton who asks for purified water? He's not getting mine now because I can't drink that irradiated crap either!
The largest change in my play style came not from the mods I installed but from the lack of achievements in the game. While before I would slog through Moria's long quest I now realized that having someone who can repair my stuff was more important than helping her create her book. Yes, I crushed her dreams of writing a book and in so doing her repair skill increased.
While my initial play through of the game (all those years ago) was governed by my desire to get achievements I now found myself liberated. I know it sounds funny but even after getting all of them and starting a new game on my Xbox 360 I never truly felt free in the game. In the back of my mind those chievo's were always lurking.
It's not just Fallout 3 either. The other night I was playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 with some friends. We were in Vietnam and we were talking about the silver and gold star weapon achievements. One of my friends checked his stats and realized that he only needed a few more kills with some of the weapons to garner those achievement points.
Once he switched off his usual guns he became very unhappy. It became a horrible chore for him and he started having less and less fun as the game went on. We were all glad once he switched back to his favorite weapons.
I had the same problem when I went for the Spec Act chieveos in that game. I suck at kill streaks. Too many times I walk into a group just as the rest of a squad is spawning and manage to die after killing three or four guys. So getting the kill streak awards needed for those chieveos was a serious pain for me. I eventually got them but it took me a lot longer than it took my friends.
I guess my point is that while achievements can extend the life of some games they can also make a game less fun if you feel the need to get them all or if you let those achievements dictate how you play them game.