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The Unreviewables


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Do reviewers bother finishing most games? I don’t really see the point, especially if they haven’t enjoyed it. It’s not like suffering for a further 30 hours will change your mind on a game.

 

It’d be refreshing to read reviews where they said, ‘sorry, I gave up after 2 hours - here are a list of the things that forced me to quit’.

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Nier Automata?

 

Entirely new gameplay mechanics are gated behind multiple playthroughs, the full story extends way beyond the first credits roll, there are numerous sidequests, side-stories and collectibles (including plug-in chips that can transform how you play) and it helps to have a writer who knows about Nier 2010 (and maybe even Drakengard?), not just for story reasons but so that they know what kind of game this is.

 

At least Replicant 1.224... is providing a Nier 2010 remaster (of sorts) so that it provides context to people who skipped it originally. 

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47 minutes ago, the_debaser said:

Do reviewers bother finishing most games? I don’t really see the point, especially if they haven’t enjoyed it. It’s not like suffering for a further 30 hours will change your mind on a game.

 

It’d be refreshing to read reviews where they said, ‘sorry, I gave up after 2 hours - here are a list of the things that forced me to quit’.


For the most part I agree but there are often times where playing more of the game either changes your opinion or the game radically changes or opens up in a way you’d never have guessed.

 

I do feel some reviews can be inaccurate due to the reviewers rush to complete the game. Is a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 worthy of all its praise when you complete it over a weekend rather than slowly spending weeks with it and understanding and living with both its good and bad parts?

 

Then you have games that are only a few hours long. On first play through they may be fine or even boring? But multiple replays are where they open up as you experiment or understand the mechanics more. Playing Crazy Taxi is fun the first time but when you have played it for hours and nailed the mechanics it becomes a different better more exhilarating game.

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1 hour ago, Alex W. said:

Death Stranding

 

Edge’s horrified realisation that the next Hideo Kojima game was upwards of fifty hours long, spread over a dozen chapters varying in length from one set-piece to tens of hours of free-form package delivery, was an incredible peek behind the curtain. A game truly engineered to frustrate anyone’s writing schedule.

Yup, all that and the fact that there needs to be a community of online-connected Porters playing the game & all helping one another, to really understand and appreciate the game.

I realise that I missed the point of this thread a bit, though I wanted to make a somewhat related point on this too :-D

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I've always felt that way about live service games, Destiny in particular. It's less a game you review, more a rapidly evolving hobby you need to deeply immerse yourself into if you have any chance of giving it an objective analysis- which you can't really do unless you truly enjoy spending 30 hours rinsing the same mission over and over to get a magic gun that makes heads explode.

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I'm glad in hindsight that I didn't get to review Sekiro. It took me ages to get to grips with it and I only ever beat the final boss by watching YT guides, which wouldn't have been available at the time. Similar with Bloodborne, which I enjoyed a lot more after finishing it the first time and reading up on some of the lore.

 

I did get stuck on a boss in Nioh 2 while playing for review this year. It was about 2/3rds through the game and I honestly thought that was it, I'd have to give up the whole thing, especially with a deadline to meet. Eventually I got through it in about 3 hours and fortunately never had the same problem later in the game.

 

Obviously it would just be good with big games if publishers got review copies out sooner. TLOU2 was a good example this year, something like 3 weeks before release. I wish more were like that so we could play in more normal conditions and have time to digest a bit before writing. But I don't know how feasible that is.

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35 minutes ago, Rudderless said:

I sometimes wish we could get away with that - or, perhaps more accurately, that readers would let us. There comes a point, especially during longer games, where you know your opinion isn't going to change and you're ready to start writing, but by and large I try to finish everything I play. 


It’s kind of why Edge’s Still Playing, Long Game and Time Extend bits are so welcome, especially in the era of content updates, balance patches and - in some cases - service-based games being rebuilt from the ground up.

 

Posting impressions online (in a forum, on Twitter, wherever) can be treated as more of a continuing stream of consciousness - week one impressions, full impressions, “went back to it after six months” impressions... ;) 

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I have wondered if something clever goes on when reviewers get something so heavily reliant on the actual calendar like Animal Crossing. Do they just time travel in-game to see what it's like at different times of the year or do the publishers/developers actually provide a more elegant solution for this kind of thing?

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When I see a review with something along the lines of "this is a preview copy and the online portion of the game isn't working yet/has low population/isn't fully fleshed-out" I think well why are you bothering to review it then? More and more games have a non-MP online component these days, so they're technically unreviewable. And yet these sites have to get that review out first and before anyone else, grab those eyeballs at any cost. 

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9 minutes ago, Vimster said:

When I see a review with something along the lines of "this is a preview copy and the online portion of the game isn't working yet/has low population/isn't fully fleshed-out" I think well why are you bothering to review it then? More and more games have a non-MP online component these days, so they're technically unreviewable. And yet these sites have to get that review out first and before anyone else, grab those eyeballs at any cost. 

 

Because there's an awful lot of reader demand for launch-day reviews. In an ideal world, publications only review games when they feel good and ready, but each day past launch is 24 hours of people shouting "why haven't you reviewed [x]?" and sometimes worse. Obviously less of a problem in print, but late reviews is one of several reasons mag sales have dropped so much in recent years. 

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As with other reviewers above, I always aim to finish a game for review (even when I got code for Crash 4 the day before the embargo!) but sometimes you have to balance that with the review deadline. Luckily, aside from big releases, the site I write for are sensible about this and prefer a full review rather than a quick one (with reviews in progress being used when appropriate). I do, however, try to make it clear if I haven't finished a game's main story whether due to getting stuck or there not being enough time. I think this was the case with both Blasphemous and Valfaris, both of which I enjoyed but just couldn't physically complete due to my old man's reactions :) I've since gone on to finish Blasphemous and am considering buying Valfaris on Switch as it feels the perfect place to play it. 

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4 hours ago, the_debaser said:

Do reviewers bother finishing most games? I don’t really see the point, especially if they haven’t enjoyed it. It’s not like suffering for a further 30 hours will change your mind on a game.

 

It’d be refreshing to read reviews where they said, ‘sorry, I gave up after 2 hours - here are a list of the things that forced me to quit’.

 

This is a good question - as a counterpoint: I started Paper Mario: Origami King and felt it was DULL DULL DULL - having persevered, though, I'm now in love with it's daft sense of humour and visual style.  It also took me a little while to click with the battle system, especially bosses.

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54 minutes ago, Vimster said:

When I see a review with something along the lines of "this is a preview copy and the online portion of the game isn't working yet/has low population/isn't fully fleshed-out" I think well why are you bothering to review it then?

I remember Edge getting a lot of stick for not reviewing a Halo game because of limited access. Maybe Reach?

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1 hour ago, Nate Dogg III said:

I got so lost in Dark Souls II that I asked Namco UK PR to ask Namco US PR to ask Namco Japan to ask FromSoft where I was supposed to go next. It took a week for them to reply by which time I'd figured it out through brute force, combing the map place by place.


I have plenty of stories about big or difficult (or big and difficult) games that arrived too late or whatever, but the Soulsbornes were a special sort of wonderful pain. I didn't review Dark Souls but there are plenty of stories out there about the email support group of journos that formed during the review process. Our reviewer got cursed by the basilisks in the Depths three times (they stacked, something From later patched) and was running around for like three days with his HP bar an eighth of its normal size, looking desperately for a way to cleanse the curse. He sat behind me at the time and every time I turned around he was running sadly around New Londo Ruins getting one-shot by everything.

 

DSII was difficult as well because there was only one other person I knew who was playing it (print got it early). You can help each other with pathing, but boss strategies are no use because there's so much flexibility in builds. For that not-a-review Bloodborne review cover (ahem) I was the only person in the world playing it. I spent a good day and a bit running around the Cathedral area before I noticed the lift right by the checkpoint. I was briefly popular a month or so later when the rest of the games press got review code, proper Patrick Moore vibes.

 

 

 

How does this sort of stuff fit into reviewing a game? Edge gave Dark Souls a 9, despite it sounding like he had a pretty horrible time with it in places. At what point do you start to worry that your review score reflects less what your actual experiences were and what the support group says and what you trust From to put out?

 

I often wonder about the narrative/hype that develops around games and how that reflects reviews. To think reviewers are immune to it doesn't seem sensible. I remember reading some RDR2 reviews that felt very much like they were trying very hard to not say that they didn't like it.

 

I remember reading the Demon's Souls (Edge 10?) review, back in the day, and importing it from videogamesplus.ca. It felt like Edge was the first place to really sing its praises. When I actually played it, I would have binned it off within a few hours if it weren't for Edge telling me it was good. I genuinely wondered what made the reviewer stick with it instead of thinking it was a strange game, by an insignificant studio, that was too hard and killed you in unfair ways. And if that guy hadn't really gotten into it, given it a prestigious EDGE 10, would Demon's/Dark Souls even be a thing anyone cares about now?

 

 

(I suspect it wasn't just Edge that thought it was good, but it certainly felt like it came out of nowhere in an issue of Edge, for me).

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1 hour ago, Nate Dogg III said:

He sat behind me at the time and every time I turned around he was running sadly around New Londo Ruins getting one-shot by everything.

 

As horrible as that probably was for him at the time, that's one legitimately hilarious From victim.

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40 minutes ago, HarryBizzle said:

 

How does this sort of stuff fit into reviewing a game? Edge gave Dark Souls a 9, despite it sounding like he had a pretty horrible time with it in places. At what point do you start to worry that your review score reflects less what your actual experiences were and what the support group says and what you trust From to put out?

 

I often wonder about the narrative/hype that develops around games and how that reflects reviews. To think reviewers are immune to it doesn't seem sensible. I remember reading some RDR2 reviews that felt very much like they were trying very hard to not say that they didn't like it.

 

I remember reading the Demon's Souls (Edge 10?) review, back in the day, and importing it from videogamesplus.ca. It felt like Edge was the first place to really sing its praises. When I actually played it, I would have binned it off within a few hours if it weren't for Edge telling me it was good. I genuinely wondered what made the reviewer stick with it instead of thinking it was a strange game, by an insignificant studio, that was too hard and killed you in unfair ways. And if that guy hadn't really gotten into it, given it a prestigious EDGE 10, would Demon's/Dark Souls even be a thing anyone cares about now?

 

 

(I suspect it wasn't just Edge that thought it was good, but it certainly felt like it came out of nowhere in an issue of Edge, for me).

 

Demon's Souls was a 9 I think. I believe it was Keza MacDonald, writing for Eurogamer, was the first person in the western media to review it.

 

As for Dark Souls, the reviewer was leaning pretty firmly towards a 10 for a while, despite all he'd been through, and we retrospectively tenned it anyway. Reviews are absolutely about your personal experience of playing the thing but you need to be able to zoom out and look at it in a bigger-picture sense too, and as an editor you have to look out for those kinds of 'reviewer problems' - that sort of, "this happened to me and I didn't like it therefore the game is bad" thing.

 

 

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I think fighting games are not un-reviewable, but people who take them seriously will often find reviews completely useless. You can review the presentation, how much single player content there is, the online functionality, value for money etc. which is all handy to know. However, game balance and competitive depth can take months, years and countless patches to sort out. It doesn't excuse developers from releasing unfinished games that only become the real game after a year's worth of updates in terms of features and content, but the game needs to "breathe" for at least 6 months before anyone really knows how good it is.

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15 minutes ago, Eighthours said:

I feel most sorry for reviewers who review long JRPGs. That must be a special kind of hell if you have a short deadline.

 

I still have some very troubled thoughts about FFXIII because of that. Great combat, odd setting, then it opened up, closed down, blew the story, presented "all those words" and then topped it off with Hope. Completing the game was only the start of being able to review that one. Digesting it under pressure was the real clincher.

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30 minutes ago, JLM said:

You can review the presentation, how much single player content there is, the online functionality, value for money etc. which is all handy to know. However, game balance and competitive depth can take months, years and countless patches to sort out.

 

When I talked about the initial state of SFV at launch to others, I had so many caveats. It was one of the most busted launches of a fighting game I'd experienced because there was so much "missing" (lobbies, trials, arcade mode) and they still hadn't ironed out those server issues from the betas - however, the actual business of playing a match against someone was still kind of satisfying.

 

You're right about balance though - any competitive game has to deal with the shifting meta and how broken it might be - and if the game's own designers need months to see what works and patch accordingly, how can a writer with a deadline hope to summarise it all?

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Haha yeah, the other issue is definitely how willing we are to accept an piece of shit if the core mechanics are still pleasingly fight gamey. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite was a huge example of that. Slammed by critics, sold about 10 copies, but the matches themselves were an absolute joy so I still consider it one of my favourite games.

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7 minutes ago, Nate Dogg III said:

One former Edge bod used to joke that they could tell what score a driving game was going to get by the smell of the packaging.

This has absolutely cracked me up!! :lol:

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