Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Just Don't Even Know

So I have always told myself not to get angry or upset with gaming reviews. It doesn't really serve a purpose and a lot of the time you can tell how some reviewers may have been guided on how their review should have actually gone. Now with that in mind I have not been this angry or upset with a review in quite some time. Now everyone can have an opinion. It is your right to have one. When you complain about things which make you look stupid to those who have played the game or know the series or just games in general you make yourself look bad first off but then you could actually sway people from actually getting a game.

I recently read a review on the Financial Post of all things on Lightning Returns. So I am going to rant a bit about the review and there may be some spoilers so keep that in mind, but I will try my best to not have any. 

The review started off by complaining there wasn't enough of a "Catch up" for those who didn't play the previous games. Now there is like a 5 minute type "catch up" video wise plus the ENTIRE PRIMER you can read which gives you everything you could ever want to know. Of course the review never mentions anything about this. Now this makes me ask the question. For people who are playing a game and not taken part in the previous games besides being weird I would think you should be responsible for doing some of your own homework. Just like a movie you don't go and watch the Return of the King and have no idea who Frodo is.

Went on to talk about how the story talks to much about God and some people and how it is offensive. Seriously? Have we actually come to this in games. it doesn't talk about a known religion. It is a fantasy universe with made up religions but we are going to be offend by this because there is someone called God? Get over this political correctness crap it has ruined the way everything is interpreted.

Then the game doesn't give you enough direction about what you are suppose to do and the time constraints make you stressed and should be eliminated as it is "unfun". First of all wow you want your hand held. Have you ever played a Final Fantasy game before? Or any game which doesn't have arrows telling you exactly where you are supposed to go. Not everything has to be handed to you. You know games can have some kind of difficulty. Same goes for the timing it is a mechanic which makes you actually think about what you are doing and in all honestly once your EP is high enough time is not even a factor and you end up waiting around with nothing to do.

There is more but I think this is plenty to understand my thinking on why people like this are actually allowed to review games. It truly boggles my mind. Now I know Lightning Returns isn't the best game ever made but it is a good game and has been a lot of fun for me. Sure it is not everyone's cup of tea but you know what neither is any other game that has ever been made.


  1. How is a paper like that even responsible for gaming reviews anyway. Seems rather pointless if you ask me.

  2. At least that was a review from an "alternative gaming" publication who don't specialize in it. I recently played through Arcania, having played quite a few other single-player RPGs over the past 20+ years, and found it to be pretty good... I gave it 8/10. It wasn't perfect but its imperfections were less problematic than in most RPGs.

    My own rant incoming. Post split likely required.

    I read through the Gamespot review afterward, they may not be the pinnacle of review sites but I generally find their viewpoint interesting and at least balanced. They gave it a 5/10 for a number of reasons that I had issues with. A few/many examples.

    "Where the previous games were perhaps a little too demanding, the current model isn't demanding enough, being little more than a hack-and-slash loot grab noteworthy solely for its incredibly generic personality."

    Keep that particular quote in mind as you read the others. This game is too simple, too easy, is missing the complexity... the depth... the difficulty of the previous games. That's the point he's going to spend the next while making.

    "Bull's-eye icons mark quest locales on the minimap, but they show up only when you're practically right on top of the place, person, or thing that you're looking for. As a result, you have to follow the directions given out when you are offered a quest. This generally gets you where you need to go, although in today's GPS world, it's a little annoying to have to deal with vague comments such as "turn east at the watchtower and head up the hill." "

    OMG, having to read the quest text and follow the directions, how can the modern-day GPS crowd be expected to go to those lengths?! Also, I thought the mapping system was great, better than any I can recall in a game recently. There was a time when games didn't have maps. If this game isn't hardcore enough shouldn't they be advocating for NO maps?

    "Quests never reach beyond the formulaic. Every single person you visit needs a job done, so you play a never-ending game of "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." "

    Yep, and once your character groks that fact, which he absolutely does, he starts having some fun with it and that attitude increases over the course of the game... I recall one time he went right at a guy with an exclamation point over his head with something like "Alright, I need 3 herbs from you for this other guy, what bandit lair do you need me to clear out before you'll give them to me?" NPC blinks. "Er, nope, I'm good, here you go."

    After that formulaic quest comment they also pointing this out: "The exact same jobs have been doled out in other RPGs for a couple of decades now." Yeah, they're RPG staples for a reason. I think I'd be disappointed if an RPG didn't have at least a handful of kill 10 rats quests. Wouldn't feel like an RPG, especially one that seems to want to be in the classic mold.

    1. "Animations aren't very fluid, and objects like tall grass and shrubs abruptly vanish when you get close to them."

      Yep, that's a toggleable setting (on the PC at least) so you can actually see items on the ground that you might want to pick up. This overly simplistic game doesn't have anything like visible text (Torchlight-style) or an immersion-breaking indicator when there's loot, there's just an actual item on the ground with a soft glow that you might actually have to look for and pick up. You'd think they'd like that aspect, too, since they wanted it to be more difficult.

      "Quests are often spread out far and wide, forcing you to explore more than you might expect."

      I read that as "want", not "expect", but let's go with it as written. Apparently you'd expect the game to be on rails or something due to small maps with straight-forward pathing.

      "Maps are also very big, with outdoor areas loaded with intricate pathways and trails that loop back on each other and circle around hills."

      Or not. I actually thought it could have been a bit MORE open world but nope, not this reviewer! He's going to try to force a Dungeon Siege narrative no matter how much what he's saying is actually the polar opposite of that!

      "You can't walk more than a few feet without being accosted by one gang of goons or another."

      Yep, exactly what you'd expect in a game that's too easy... near-constant combat, wandering mobs to accost you, mobs with an actual pack mentality, etc. Well, the fights must be trivial and death a non-issue, right?

      "As a result of all of the above, it's easy to get lost and find yourself in a lot of fights that gradually wear you down to the point you get killed."

      Alright, I'm confused... does he think this game is too easy or too hard? Maybe he's just struggling with actually learning to play and is still doing the early-game click-fest back before you had things like combos and abilities and blocking and such.

      "Combat is a basic affair where you mash buttons for melee attacks and lean on the shoulder buttons to fire off spells and ranged weapons. Some combo-type attacks are available, and enemies sometimes surprise you with blocks and special moves that require you to whip out a spell or dodge by blocking and rolling. But there still isn't anything that requires more effort than zoning out and button mashing."

      Hm. Actually doing those blocking and rolling and special moves is how you actually kill stuff. Not doing them often results in dying. A theory is developing... does he realize that the skill bars give you extra abilities as you level? Does he know there ARE skill bars? There's a big-ass indicator at the bottom when you have points to spend, he must.

      "Character development is limited. You gain experience points for monster kills and successful quests, as usual, but there isn't much you can do with the skill points earned by leveling up. There are just a handful of abilities that can be buffed, leading to general improvements in attacking, defending, spell use, and the like."

      Ah! He does actually know about the skill bars, that's good. Here they are for reference:

      Well, yeah... games with overly complex skill trees always work out well. Sure, there are only 8 possible bars to fill that grant unique bonuses at certain points that you can plan for and you're unlikely to complete screw yourself out of a viable build... I guess that's boring? I thought the system was useful without being overly complex.

    2. (many, many words...)

      "The mechanics are just as conventional as the rest of the game."

      Damn, I hate games that you can just pick up and play... WTB games that require you to read a 120-page manual and keep it handy for reference. I also thought the gameplay mechanics were among the best I've seen in a single-player RPG. They felt smooth and made sense.

      "Crafting and messing around with alchemy are possible, at least. And the loot drops are rewarding. While this isn't an overly loot-heavy adventure, you do run across a good selection of weapons, armor, artifacts, potions, and other assorted D&D-ish paraphernalia."

      So... guess character development is okay after all? Low-key compliments right before the conclusion must mean he's going to soften his original stance a bit. Let's see:

      "Unlike its more interesting predecessors, Arcania: Gothic 4 is a commonplace action-RPG with boring quests, rudimentary controls, and dreary character development. All of these flaws make the game difficult to get emotionally involved in, which is the kiss of death for an epic RPG like this one that demands dozens of hours of commitment."

      Boring quests that are typical of the gentre, rudimentary controls that it seems he never even tried to learn and DREARY character development (man, that's a strong word there). All kisses of death for an EPIC RPG that demands DOZENS of hours. (I played slowly and methodically and finished in 30 hours... if I had one legit complaint about the game it's that while it felt pretty big, it could have been longer). Skyrim, in which I'm at 180 hours and haven't "finished"? Epic. Arcania? A fun game that'll last a week or two. It so wasn't aiming for epic.

      I'll close this with a comment I sent to a buddy relatively early in the game when he asked what I thought about it, which I'm guessing is as far as the Gamespot reviewer got:

      "The graphics are very good and remind me of Skyrim in a lot of ways, the story is pretty interesting, it's fully voice acted, combat isn't bad, inventory system is okay... I don't really have anything to say against it."

      The last comment was made knowing that the general review score out there is in the 6-6.5/10 range, it felt like a better game than that at that point. I think it was a better game than that.

      The only change I'd make to that comment having finished the game is that combat was better than I originally realized and a few of the voice actors were sketchy... but aren't there always a few, especially in foreign-made games?

      Alright, I'm done now.


    3. Rant of epic proportions. I find this all the time reviewers either not really understanding the game they are reviewing. Now is this the companies fault in who they choose to review the game? Or is it them for not understanding what the game entails? In every bad review there is contradiction after contradiction as if they want to say things are bad for the purpose of saying they are bad. Bothers the hell out of me and I am so glad you and other like you share this pain with me.

    4. Yeah, sorry about that, hard to tell how long something is in the little box until it has to be broken into 3 for posting purposes. :)

      That's a question I've often struggled with myself. Everyone's going to come from a position of bias, expressing that bias (as this reviewer sort of did by his comparison, fair or not, to the earlier Gothic games) is part of the answer but I think it's also important to try and remove that bias from the discussion and conclusion as much as possible. I believe he failed in that in quite spectacular fashion.

      If a movie reviewer hates animated movies, why review one? At the very least, a reviewer needs to be able to gauge the quality of something against similar somethings without having bias toward or against the genre. Oddly enough, after I'd read the guy's review, I still had no idea if he liked the EARLIER Gothic games, either.

      I think what mostly galls me about the review is that he didn't offer up anything BETTER. He criticized without context. If this mini-map was bad, give me an example of GOOD. I've played at least Gothic 2 and 3, I barely remember them, definitely not well enough to use as comparison, but if they were better in certain respects, how? I've played most RPGs over the years, at least the fantasy-genre ones, and I can't recall any that were significantly better in any respect. Is Skyrim better? In some ways, sure, but I thought Arcania was better in others. If he has played better games, what are they? How can claiming something can be better result in a 5/10 rating when nothing that otherwise exists is significantly better?


      Needless to say, the opinion of that guy and the world in general (based on the low 6s ratings it's gotten in the wide scope) aside, I'd recommend Arcania for a 20-30 hour RPG romp that's a good representative of the fantasy RPG genre. I may be in the minority but, damnit, at least I'm coming at it from a position of straightforward honesty. I'm currently playing Torchlight 2 and if that's the style of game he was comparing Arcania 2, he's way off base... two entirely different games. I like TL2 just fine but it pushes a much different internal button than Arcania did. Arcania pushed my "I miss Skyrim a bit, maybe this will tide me over for a while" button quite satisfactorily.