The Writer Within III


Games no longer release complete, at least not the majority of them, and they usually require day one patches. Also, we’ve reached a time where a bad game can actually be fixed and can even become great over time with additional bug fixes and patches. Taking all of this in mind, I question whether or not the process in which games are reviewed should be changed.

When your on the fence on whether or not you should purchase a game, that’s when the true purpose of a review is showcased. It’s defining score, the author opinions, and the details of the content in the game will sway you one way or another if you were unsure on a game, thus showing that reviews and their scores do hold power. That’s why they must be unbiased. Now, I believe reviews only serve those unsure on a game because if you see a game and know you want it based on what you’ve seen and read, there isn’t a review that will prevent you from entering that world.

For example, I bought the game Elex despite claims of unresponsive controls, technical flaws, and frustrating combat and progression, etc. because I loved the concept of the game world, I thought the story was unique, and I happen to love RPGs. I knew I would like it even though it is far from perfect and I have no regrets.

Now reviews have helped push me to buy a game and have helped me decide against getting a game. Never having an interest in Call Of Duty but curious on what made the franchise so special, I watched the review for Black Ops. In the review, Zombies was shown off and who would have known at the time that it was exactly what I always wanted in a game mode. I’ve bought every Call Of Duty since and went back to prior entries like World At War. The reviews for Fuse, that Insomniac game that had an awesome reveal trailer, helped me not to buy it as what it ended up becoming wasn’t what was initially revealed.

With that being said, reviews are important for different people for different reasons but they haven’t evolved the same way the industry has. Which brings back the question on whether or not the way they are conducted should be revised and changed. Often or not the game on release day isn’t the same after months, nor are review copies the same as the day one release. Let’s look at some examples through the iconic Mass Effect series.

Everyone was eager for the arrival of Mass Effect Andromeda and many were more than prepared to blindly buy it because of the value that series had created for players everywhere. However, once the reviews started rolling in and the light was shined on what the final product was, well, many cancelled their preorder and never looked back. That game’s review on launch forever tainted it and since we don’t go back to review games after there has been noticeable improvements, or attempts at improvements, its locked as either a bad game or a good game. Which is a shame because Bioware released several patches and bug fixes and even though the game still needs a lot of improvements, it is immensely better and I believe this current version would have scored higher than it had on launch.

Likewise, There was also Mass Effect 3 that received a lot of criticism for its ending decisions, or lack thereof, but through updates and patches the ending was improved enough to please the fanbase. That change could have changed the final review score and may have swayed someone into purchasing it who otherwise didn’t because of what was described as a disappointing ending.

We’ve all had conversations where a game is brought up and someone comments how bad it was but someone then corrects them and says that it’s been fixed or that it’s better now. Information like this isn’t updated to reviews. I can see both sides of the argument, both offer valid solutions and potential but I firmly believe you only get one shot to make a good impression. I understand there are time restrains and pressure on developers and it’s easy to push a game out and be satisfied with it because you can always patch it later but it’s a slap to the face of gamers.

A game should be completely functional and as close to perfect as the developers can get it before release. Patches should be left for either adding additional content or for fixing rare bugs that didn’t come up during play testing, like Prey’s PC bug that prevented people from finishing the game.

What do I think? I think a game should be reviewed based on the version that is available to the mass public on launch, regardless on if they have an internet connection or not. In fact, I think the offline version available on launch is what should be reviewed. There were no patches of several Gigs available back in the day. If your game came out broken, there was no ability to fix things unless you re-released the game and even still reviews would have warned potential buyers. This made developers focus on making sure their game was as close to perfect as possible on launch and was one of the reasons why Nintendo and SEGA had/have their seal of quality on their games.

I don’t think games with multiplayer elements should have a score on launch when reviewers have only played with such a small pool of pre-access members. There was no way Call Of Duty WWII or Destiny 2 should have been reviewed and scored hours before it released. I also don’t think reviewers should release a ‘review in progress’ which is just a pre-written review they can tack a score on should everything hold up on the servers.
I’ve got no problem with writing a review, having it all written with the exception of a score because of multiplayer testing, and then hitting submit a couple of days later after everything has seemingly held up. But if I’m going to do that, I’ll release the complete review when the complete review is done. I feel those review in progress are just a reason to double views on reviews or to elevate yourself over the game as everyone is filled with intrigue on what you and your website will rate a game.

When it comes to giving a number to a game, I don’t think it should be a predetermined one you have pictured in your head and added towards the end. The way I do reviews here at The Loot Gaming is based on up to Six (Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, Single Player, Multiplayer, and Story) categories. Each is given a numerical value based on what’s available and from taking into account all the pros and cons that affect that category. Once each category has a number, I get the average and that’s the score. No predetermined number or bias implemented. I do this because if I’m playing a game and I tell myself it’s a seven, then my review is skewed towards justifying that score and that’s biased. It’s wrong.

If I feel a game is seven and I tell myself it’s a seven, that doesn’t automatically make it a seven. There may be elements in the game that are good that I didn’t appreciate and someone else will. No system is perfect but we try, some of us do. I vouch for everyone I work with here.

I, personally, don’t care much for the score a game receives. Justified by my purchase of Lords Of The Fallen. What I look for in reviews, why I read them and watch them, is to see what the game is or what it’s got. I take this into account when I write my own reviews, I make sure that my reviews are written with detail and to the point that you can make a decision on whether it’s for you or not before even seeing any numerical value on a game. Adding a score is the nature of the business because, like it or not, we’re attracted to shiny things.

So, do reviews matter? Yes and no. The numbers don’t matter and the opinions of the author do not matter. What matters is the description of what the game is and the content available. If it’s a game you like, it’ll help you build hype for yourself as you wait to play it and if it’s a game that you learn you don’t entirely like, well, it allows you to think more throughly on your potential purchase.

More importantly, I want to know what you think. Should the way reviews are conducted be changed? Do reviews matter? What about scores? Let’s start a dialogue and see where it leads us.

Have your say!

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