What I've Learnt On My Way To 100 Percenting My First Game

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

When it comes to open-world games, I'm not the kind of player who tries to reach 100 per cent completion. But I recently booted up Shadow of Mordor again and discovered something shameful. I'd played 38 hours and hadn't even cracked 40 per cent. That was simply unacceptable. So it was back to Mordor for me.

Before I go any further, I should admit that I still haven't "finished" the game — if you consider maxing out the percentage tracker in a game's starting menu the only true way to "finish" it. As of this writing, I've clocked 44 hours and 41 minutes in Shadow of Mordor. Apparently, those extra six hours and 41 minutes I put into it over the weekend were enough to bump up my progress quite a bit — I'm now at 73 per cent. But I'm honestly not sure I even want to take this completionist quest any further. Because as I watched my percentage count climb ever upward over the weekend, I began to notice that my feelings for Shadow of Mordor were slowly but surely...changing. And not always for the better. Looking back over the notes I was taking throughout my journey, I could sense this change of heart in the tone of my own writing as well.

What follows is an outline of what I discovered — both about Mordor and myself as a gamer — as I set about my journey to hundred per cent my very first game.

Part 1: I love this game, so I don't want to stop playing it.

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

When and how being a "completionist" gamer became a matter of common parlance is an interesting question, and one that's probably the worthy subject of another piece entirely. But I'm guessing that developers started injecting more stuff into their games in an effort to respond to a specific request from players. A slightly cynical way to look at this would be to see completionism as arising from developers effort to add "replay value" to their work. But I see completionist tendencies and the focus on replay value as both arising from a common point of origin: people enjoying a particular game so much they just can't seem to get enough of it.

That's certainly been my experience with Shadow of Mordor. As I suggested in my review way back in September, this is one of the best games I've played in a good long while. And I say that in spite of the fact that I admitted being bored to tears with its main storyline. The fact that I saw protagonist Talion's quest to the end of its official scripted narrative is, on one very deep level, meaningless. There are much more interesting things to do in this game than follow his main story arch. My personal favourite is running around killing the many villainous orcs that make up Mordor's nemesis system. But as I played more of Mordor, I became increasingly confident in my knowledge that those guys aren't going anywhere. The board game-like display that represents their military hierarchy never stops shifting and repopulating itself. So, again, I kept coming back to that shameful sub-forty-per cent-completion-point. Was I missing something? There was only one was to find out.

Part 2: I'm seeing a lot of stuff I wouldn't otherwise.

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

Like many open-world games, the sidequests and challenges in Shadow of Mordor are broken into a few different categories. There are "Outcast Missions," which task Talion with freeing any of his fellow humans from slavery at the hands of Mordor's orcs and uruks. Weapon challenges, meanwhile, are exactly what they sound like: specific gameplay prompts that put you in a situation where you must use one of your three main killing devices (the dagger, sword, or bow) to complete a specific task — i.e., kill a bunch of bad guys in a specific way.

And then there's the treasure hunting. Oh, the treasure hunting. Mordor has two types of collectibles: "Artifacts" and "Ithildin." Both deliver bits and pieces of Shadow of Mordor lore in addition to handfuls of various points that fill up different bars in the game's levelling system. These help flesh out the world of Mordor, story-wise. I only realised that the "partner" that the dwarven character Torvin kept referring to when speaking to Talion was actually his brother, for instance, once I uncovered a few relevant artifacts in Mordor's second map:

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

If it weren't for things like this "Blood-Stained Buckler," I would have sworn that "partner" referred to something else entirely.

Once I started paying attention to Mordor's collectibles, however, they also triggered some obsessive response mechanism in the deepest recesses of my gamer brain. I started combing through the game's world region by region in search of these virtual goodies, each tiny geometrical facet of the map glaring out at me as a reminder of what I still hadn't captured:

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

Every time I panned over to an untouched area of the map, I felt like I was looking down at a section of some floor I was about to take a broom to. Hopefully all these errant bits of fuzz and dust would be gone with my next sweep.

That probably makes hunting for collectibles sound a bit tedious. And, well, it is — on one level. It's also more than a little absurd to run around a stronghold full of orcs who want nothing more than to kill you in search of a little trinket buried in a random nook or cranny of an enemy encampment. But at its best moments, what I like about how the treasure hunting works in Shadow of Mordor is that it pushed me to play the game outside of my comfort zone. Here's a screenshot I took while I was sneaking around the outside of one stronghold, for instance:

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

See all those bright blue and red splotches? Those are bad guys. Unless I wanted to get bogged down fighting wave after wave of orcs and uruks, I had to adopt a much stealthier approach than I normally have in Mordor. The game's collectibles therefore reinforced the sense that I was going behind enemy lines, in their own (occasionally silly) way.

That's when everything worked, however. A lot of other times? Well...that's when I got into to the far less pleasant part of my completionist quest.

Part 3: There's a lot of repetitive nonsense.

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

Aside from the weapon challenges in Shadow of Mordor, most of the extraneous material in this game functions in a single way that never changes. All of the Outcast missions I played, for instance, delivered the exact same challenge — albeit on different parts of Mordor's two maps. Each began with three human slaves highlighted as my targets. Each of them was tied to a post somewhere, and it was my job to free them. That's pretty much all there was to it. It was like any other part of the game, except instead of killing my target I was pressing R1 to cut them free. Well, actually, I ended up killing a lot of orcs along the way too, so these extra missions really were just like like every other part of the game. I haven't met any additional characters through them yet, nor have I discovered any intriguing new facet of the game. I've just continued to receive a handful of new targets every time I accept one. The only thing that's helped liven them up have been the all-too-rare occasions when I run into an orc captain when I'm in the middle of trying to liberate some of my human brethren.

Out of everything I've encountered in Mordor, the Outcast missions have been the least imaginative parts of this game by far. By the time Sunday night wound to a close and I was still making my way through the game's second map to check off those little fist-shaped icons, it occurred to me that playing through this part of the game was starting to feel like more of a chore than anything remotely pleasurable. So why was I even doing so? Well, I don't have a good answer to that yet. But there's some deep, indescribable urge I still have to just see all of them through.

But remember what I said a moment ago: about how sweeping through Mordor's map started to feel like actual sweeping. Like, the kind with a broom. I might still be enjoying Shadow of Mordor more than doing actual household chores. But the reason the game has started to feel like a chore is because a lot of the extraneous activities really are just chores, plain and simple.

I mean, look at two of these last items I came across during my collecting this weekend:

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game
What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

A knife and...a basket fragment. Really? Even the description of the item says that this thing is "utterly unremarkable." Why on earth am I playing a video game set in one of the most visually and thematically rich fantasy worlds out there, and collecting pieces of a basket?

It was around this time that I decided I didn't want to make it to one hundred per cent in Shadow of Mordor.

Epilogue: My favourite parts of games are the hardest to quantify.

What I've Learned On My Way To Hundred Percenting My First Game

In my basket-fuelled frustration, I wandered off into a random pasture in Mordor and started picking a fight with the closest group of orcs I could find. A few minutes later, the oaf pictured above showed up. His name was Snagog Hot-Head. And, fitting oh so perfectly with his name, he has a flaming metal basket on his head. What a deliciously corny joke! Delivered at just the right moment.

Oh, Mordor, I remember thinking. This is why I love you.

And that's the thing: Shadow of Mordor may be remarkably familiar in some ways, and breathtakingly unique in others, but trying to "complete" every part of it has reminded me of something that holds true across the vast majority of games I play. The parts of Mordor that feel genuinely special to me aren't the ones that move the needle on the game's menu. It's the tense, combative moments I have fighting back and forth with the game's always colourful cast of orcs. As for the other stuff? The Outcast missions, the collectibles I pored over the map to find and gather obsessively this weekend? For better or worse, that stuff is just content. It's the part of Mordor that's easiest to measure, which is probably why I jumped almost 40 percentage points in a matter of hours anyways. But that doesn't make them the most enjoyable parts of this game. "Fun" is ultimately an indescribable sensation, I'd argue. And I don't mean for that to sound defeatist. Rather, I'm simply observing that I had a lot more fun playing through the parts of Mordor that counted for a much smaller part of my overall progress in the game than I did collecting all of the game's extraneous filler material.

I don't think I'm finished playing Shadow of Mordor, therefore. But I'm not going to feel quite so bad about not "finishing" the game anymore.


    I tried to 100% ACIII and strangely had no issues with the collectibles and side missions. It was interesting how there were chunks of the map the game NEVER requires you to visit and there were some missions not showing up on my map because I had simply never walked past them.

    The most annoying part was having to continuously generate revenue through trading missions in order to buy the ludicrous number of weapons to complete the armory, 90% of which there was simply no use for. I mean, did anyone ever carry a large weapon which you can't holster and throw away the second you need to sprint or climb? No, but you're expected to buy several of them!

    I never did 100% it, leaving a couple of achievements locked (and I didn't even TRY the multiplayer) but I definitely did play it far more than necessary and for the most part don't regret it. I think I appreciate the game more because of it, though I already (against all expectation) really enjoyed it to begin with.

      ACIII I actually found aggravating to 100%....things like watching the local farmers to perform an activity, or use 'pivots' to find glitches in the Animus or something.

      On the other hand, ACIV (despite taking easily as long) never felt like a chore. Sail around and if you can't find what you're looking for (White Whale etc), just blow up other ships anyway? Yep, can do.

        Yeah, I didn't understand the pivots at all, I assumed they were just used to unlock cheats for free play, like controlling the weather etc.

        I enjoyed watching the community to complete the journal or whatever it was though. Interestingly the last thing I needed (I think the final entry for the blacksmith) is not available until a certain point in the story and I totally thought that finishing the journal was what triggered the cutscene where Connor discovers Achilles has passed away and the resulting funeral - my wife could NOT be bothered with any of that and that was when I realised that will happen regardless, all the stalking I did was purely for a 10 point achievement :P

      Im still trying to 100% AC3, the worst part i have found is the one where you have to observe the colonists in your part of the map going about there duties, but you have to try and catch them at different times of the day so that you can observe the three different tasks each one does. other then that, i spent hours and hours grinding away everything else.

        One of my friends is convinced the reason he doesn't have this completed yet is because once you upgrade the tailor to a certain point she stops working outside altogether but that seems like a pretty big oversight if true. I think the hardest for me was the miner, mainly because his house/mine was so bloody far away from everyone else and I swear he spent a lot of time doing nothing. Sitting on the porch whittling? Well of course that doesn't count. Panning for gold in the river? You'd think so but apparently not.

          and dont forget swooning and being nervous over his crush/wife

    I have only 100% two games out of approx one hundred billion. Fight Night Round 3 where Spence beat Ali in a 12 round thriller to become the HW champion, and Tekken 6.

      Fight Night Round 3 was the only one I've 100%'ed because you just had to finish the game... They didn't try hard with achievements back then.

      On topic - this is a great article and accurately reflects how I feel when compelled to 100% a game. It just ends up feeling like a chore and I never end up doing it.

        No, no no they didn't. Mind you - beating Ali with your own created character wasn't particularly easy.

    What I learned on my way to 100%ing my first game was that... fuck me I have no life.

    Trophies, achievements, progress, gamer score - all leave me cold.

    I don't mind getting a trophy, or unlocking an "achievement", but I don't chase them.

    Maybe they should experiment with secret achievements and leaving out the percentage 'completion' all together.

    Just put in a whole bucket load of them and let people play the game and get the occasional message: you did X, and have earned some gold pixels - nice one buddy.

    But play how you want to play, have fun in the way you want. If completions are your thing, best of luck.

    I've never been a 100% player, I usually just play the story and end up around 40-60% done. If I really like the game I will continue on any missed side quests (as I'm doing with sunset overdrive right now) or sub modes (like alien survivor mode) but I never go for the collecting content.

    The last game I achieved 100% in was GTAV....they gave me an in-game t-shirt saying as much. Thanks R*....

      I tried to 100% this. I had done everything bar the insane jumps, the bridge fly-unders (whatever they were called) and most of the multiplayer stuff.

      I spent a couple of days doing the jumps, and when I had crossed off everyone but 2, I did the second last one and it came up and said '2 remaining'. Meaning I'd somehow crossed off one I hadn't done. I went back and did the last few but it was none of those so it bummed me out so bad I just stopped altogether. I haven't played since.

    Only 2 games since being able to track progress like that - UNO on Xbox 360 and NBA Live 05 (I think it was 05) on Xbox 360. Nothing since - I get bored of the collectable type parts far too easily.

      edit: I totally replied to the wrong thing. Dammit.

      Last edited 13/11/14 6:57 pm

    I'm a completionist and love trying to 100% games, but I rarely ever actually do so.
    Mostly because by the late 80-90's I start to get burnt out, start a different game for a change of pace, and never end up going back.
    But this doesn't apply to all games, depends on the nature/style. Some games I'm content with just finishing the main story and being done with it. Depends on how rewarding the side quests/collectibles/extras are to complete (i.e. is there some incentive to dinging that 100% other than the ding, such as extra lore).

    Every time I panned over to an untouched area of the map, I felt like I was looking down at a section of some floor I was about to take a broom to. Hopefully all these errant bits of fuzz and dust would be gone with my next sweep.
    This, mild obsessive compulsive tendencies drive me to this approach. Ubisoft are notorious for it but there are others where you are going along cleaning up the map, turning everything the one colour and so on.
    My biggest problem though is that I reckon multiplayer should be removed from single player when it comes to recording trophy/cheevo collections (like TLoU split into DLC, multiplayer and super difficult mode whose name escapes me at the moment) I am not a huge fan of multiplayer achievements and want to 100% a game and look at a bar on the achievements list and see it full, not groan inwardly knowing to fill it I would (but wont) have to spend 100s of hours on the games multiplayer regardless of how good it was

    Two things:

    1) has anyone 100%'d Destiny yet? That complete a raid with no 1 dying seems a bit rediculous. Unless you cheat.
    2) Props to COD AW for not putting achievements in PVP.

      Actually, the raid on normal isn't too bad. A well geared and drilled and team could do it without too much stress.

      The chief difficulty would be the plague of glitches and continuing connection issues. That is what will stop many getting it.

      The final boss in the Vault of Shards is now Glitcheon.

    I've only ever gone 100% on three games:

    Mass Effect 1
    Mass Effect 2
    Mass Effect 3

    It's a testament to how good the trilogy was, considering I have the attention span of a toddler on a red cordial bender.

    The epic story, voice acting, lore and characters you actually care about made it a joy to complete, not a chore.

      Man getting those complete game with primarily "insert name" companion in ME1 were bloody hard... You have to do every laborious Mako infused side mission... I only actually got 2 of them the other day.

      I've done the Mass Effect series to 100% as well. I'm not sure why, but when I love a game it's kind of a ritual to have done it all. But recently I have bee thinking a lot about trying to get achievements at all. It does change the way I play, since ignoring them, I've enjoyed my gaming more.

    Yea, the basket and the knife don't look like much, but the point of them is the 'memories' they contain that flesh out the story (and Middle Earth in general) in some really interesting ways.

    Mordor is pretty much the only game I've ever spent significant time collecting *EVERYTHING*. Next playthrough will have to be on hard mode, with limited runes etc.

    i believe Shadows of Mordor is one of the only games ive ever completely 100% tasks and achievements. to be honest, i thought they made it quite easy. i thought the achievements could have been more difficult. awesome game though, cant wait to see what dlc they bring out.

    I love to 100% games. It's some drive I have when I play. Thoroughly enjoyed doing it on Shadow of Mordor. Since getting my ps4 last year I think I've done it on 7 games and are 1 achievement short of getting it on rayman legends and a couple of others. Looking forward to doing it on the new assassins creed and dragon age games.

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