- 51 Achievements / 53 Trophies (Plus a platinum)
- 48 Bronze, 2 Silver, 3 Gold, 1 Platinum (Playstation)
- 30 0–10g, 8 11–25g, 10 26–50g, 3 51–100g, for a total of 1100 gamerscore (Xbox)
- 12 Secret/Hidden
Interestingly, the lists are different across Xbox and Playstation, which is extremely rare. The achievement list omits two trophies (discussed under Difficulty below).
The least interesting part of BioShock’s trophy list are the story trophies, nearly all of which are hidden, so let’s take care of them first. To avoid spoilers, I won’t include an image. The game has 9 trophies strictly tied to story progression (10, if you count Toaster in the Tub, which you’re instructed to do, but isn’t technically required), accounting for about 17% of its list. I’d call this a good spread of story trophies, particularly for a game with such a heavy narrative emphasis, and they’re well implemented. They correlate roughly with the games chapters, and pop as you exit the level, making them pretty non-intrusive. Trophies are great, but having them pop during dramatic moments isn’t.
BioShock Difficulty Trophies
There are 4 trophies associated with completing the game on various difficulties. One each for finishing on Hard and Survivor difficulties, then another two for finishing on Hard and Survivor without using Vita-Chambers, the game’s rather lenient respawn system. All of these stack, meaning someone could unlock them all on a single Survivor playthrough without using Vita-Chambers.
While I’m on board with rewarding players for completing challenging content, I’m rarely a fan of encouraging / requiring a game to be played on it’s highest difficulty setting. It rarely feels interesting or inventive, and often feels explicitly out of place in games that aren’t otherwise about mastering systems or perfecting skills (a category that pretty clearly doesn’t include BioShock).
The more interesting trophies in this category are the ones for playing without Vita-Chambers. Unlike many other respawn systems, a Vita-Chamber returns the player to the world exactly as it was when she died, rather than at some checkpoint in the past. Dead enemies stay dead, damaged enemies stay damaged. Removing this system adds consequences to combat, making each enemy, especially the Big Daddies, feel much more dangerous. The potentially frustrating threat of losing progress is offset nicely by the ability to save anywhere. A careful player will rarely lose more than a few minutes, but even the tension that comes from frequent saving goes a long way toward making Rapture feel as hostile mechanically as it does aesthetically.
I’m not sure that I agree with the decision to link one of the Vita-Chamber trophies to the Survivor difficulty. I’d have preferred to see a single difficulty trophy for beating the game on Hard or higher without Vita-Chambers, or even removing the difficulty requirements entirely. BioShock rarely, if ever, feels like a game about combat or player skill. Instead, BioShock is at its strongest when it is creating a world in which the player is made to feel unwelcome, but not helpless, and combat is one of many pieces that work together to create that. The trophy list should be encouraging players to find an appropriate level of difficulty, not ramp it up as high as it can go.
Interestingly, this is the area where the Xbox and Playstation lists diverge. The Xbox achievement list omits the Survivor difficulty entirely (though it is still included in the game). Instead, it contains only Seriously Good at This and Brass Balls. This distinction makes the Xbox version the stronger list, in my opinion.
BioShock Collection Trophies
BioShock has a handful of trophies associated with completing collections. (Note: Though “collectables” is often used to refer to items that somehow appear in the game’s world, I’m considering any trophy that requires the player to find, see, do, craft, etc. all of some set to be a collection trophy. For example, I am including Dealt with every Little Sister as a collection trophy, since it requires the player to complete the set of Little Sister encounters.) These are largely well done, but with one major flaw.
First, the successes. All of the completion trophies are tied to things with in-game significance. There are no collectables or upgrades that exist solely as padding or for the trophy list. Every one serves a purpose on its own. The trophies are either guiding the player to meaningful content, or adding rewards to things that were already rewarding. The audio diaries in particular are a standout here, largely because of the thought and care that went into their in-game design.
BioShock Intermediate Trophies
The trophies for completing collections are often accompanied by at least one intermediate trophy somewhere along the way toward the full collection. This has the benefit of both increasing the value of the final completion trophy (since it effectively includes all of the intermediate ones) and making the larger task feel less daunting by providing several rewards along the way. Lots of these intermediate trophies also do double duty as teaching trophies (see below), which makes me like them even more.
The chief failing in the completion trophies comes from the fact that several of the collections include missable elements. By and large, I don’t see much merit to missable collectables. But, if a game is going to have them, they should either be high-consequence but clearly marked, or low-consequence and easily missed (my personal preference). BioShock makes the unfortunate choice to make a handful of its collectables both high-consequence and easy to miss.
This issue is most obvious with the audio diaries. Though the player can return to almost any area of the game at will, there are two areas that contain audio diaries which become permanently inaccessible. The chief frustration here has two parts. The first is that stakes are extremely high, since the player will need to replay everything after her closest save to the closed area if she misses one of these diaries. The second comes from the fact that the vast majority of areas in the game can be revisited, and there is nothing to indicate that the player will not be able to return to the two areas that become locked. Together, these make for a very frustrating combination.
You can see something similar in the trophies for collecting all of the tonics and for purchasing every plasmid and tonic slot. It’s possible to get both of these on the same playthrough, but there’s a catch. There isn’t enough Adam in the game to purchase all of the upgrades. So, in order to afford all of the slots and tonics, the player must forego some combination of Plasmids, health, and Eve upgrades. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem arises when you consider the fact that this requirement isn’t made explicit. A player has no sense of how much Adam will be available, and is actually in a position to unknowingly lock herself out of one or both of those trophies by purchasing too many “wrong” upgrades pretty early in the game.
BioShock Teaching Trophies
With 19 trophies falling at least partially under this umbrella, teaching trophies represent a larger percentage of the total list than any other category. This is great, since teaching trophies are some of the most valuable trophies you can find in any given list. These generally low-value trophies are awarded for some initial interaction with one of the game’s systems. They can also be an effective tool for telling or reminding players about some of the options at their disposal, without being heavy-handed.
In BioShock, the teaching trophies focus primarily on hacking and research. After some straightforward trophies for experimenting with each system, the list goes on to provide a list of potential targets for the player’s newly learned skill. For example, the hacking trophies effectively begin with One Successful Hack, awarded for successfully hacking any machine. After that, a group of trophies are available for hacking a security bot, a turret, a security camera, a vending machine, and a safe. Since the trophies are public, they encourage people to experiment with each of these targets at least once, introducing them to some of the game’s intermediate combat mechanics.
I’m always a fan of teaching trophies, but it would have been nice to see BioShock’s require a bit more actual engagement. Rather than requiring the player to hack a turret, I would have asked her to kill 5 splicers with hacked security (I believe that this is even the route BioShock 2 takes). I also might have consolidated hacking safes and vending machines into a single trophy, and increased the required number to 5 or 10. Trophies like this really shine when they are forcing players to actually explore the systems they’re teaching, instead of just brushing up against it.
I would also argue that there’s a bit of a missed opportunity here. For a game with a fairly expansive and creative list of combat options, I’m surprised that there are so few trophies related to actually using the weapons and plasmids at your disposal. I don’t mind playing with Winter Blast and the chemical sprayer just for kicks, but a handful of plasmid- or weapon-related trophies could have been a welcome push to try some of the less immediately useful tools the game provides, instead of falling into an Electro Bolt rut.
Setting aside some differences of opinion in implementation, this is one of BioShock’s stronger categories. They focus a lot on hacking and research, and probably leave some other options on the table, but they do a great job of guiding players through two of the game’s strong underlying systems.
BioShock Other Trophies
There are a handful of other trophies that either don’t fall into a clear category, or whose categories are so under represented that they don’t warrant an entire section. A handful of these are generally nice to have, just to keep a list from being too homogeneous. I’ll be taking a look at some of the more interesting ones.
First off, Avid Inventor, awarded for successfully inventing at least 100 items. Broadly, I’d categorize this as a goal trophy, which sits somewhere between teaching and collection. These generally require more thorough exploration of a system than a teaching trophy, but don’t have the completeness characteristic of a collection trophy. Skilled Hacker is another good example. I would have probably liked to see a couple of the teaching trophies transitioned into something like this.
Second, Lucky Winner, awarded for hitting a jackpot on the slot machines in Fort Frolic. Arguably, this teaches the player about the slot machines, but I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made for the slots being a significant system within the game. So, instead of teaching, I would categorize this as a diversion trophy. These can be a good way to point players toward minigames, easter eggs, or other small places where the game does something small and special. Trophies like this can be tricky to pull off, since a few of them can add some fun variety to a trophy list, but too many can make the trophies feel out of touch with the game. Having just the one doesn’t hurt the list, but doesn’t add much, though it is a fun reminder to play with the slot machines.
Finally, I’d like to talk about two of the secret trophies, so SPOILER WARNING for the next few paragraphs!
Irony and Found Cohen’s Room are what I would tentatively call event trophies. They are tied to performing a specific action or being at a certain place at a certain time. They’re similar to collection trophies, with only a single collectable.
There’s a lot of potential for these to be very frustrating. Found Cohen’s Room requires the player to NOT kill Sander Cohen in Fort Frolic, and puts the payoff/realization of a potential mistake several levels past the point of no return. Irony is a bit better, since any save from shortly before a Cohen fight could be used to quickly obtain it, but that’s not saying much.
However, unlike Historian or Tonic Collector, the effort for these trophies on a replay is relatively low. For example, if a player kills Cohen in Fort Frolic and fails to photograph him, she’ll have to replay the first few levels, but at least she doesn’t need to recollect dozens of audio diaries to correct the mistake. She doesn’t even need to finish the game. These kinds of caveats are what make me say, if you’re going to have missable trophies, at least tie them to events rather than collectables.
A really good set of trophies enhances a game, while remaining an interesting challenge unto itself. BioShock’s list gets halfway there, doing an excellent job of drawing attention to some of the game’s strengths, but lacking the depth to go much further than that. Most of the credit goes to thoughtful game design that gives generic trophies something strong to highlight. Unfortunately, the trophies that do stand out are often held back by some central implementation flaw. It’s a fine list, but doesn’t show nearly the care or inventiveness on display in the game itself.