Technology, Uncategorized, Video Games

When NOT To Review A Game

I enjoy reviewing games. I like being able to share my honest opinion with others, and I enjoy being helpful to others who may be considering a game but don’t know if it’s worth the plunge. For that reason, I’m going to try to review at least 2 games per month, especially considering I get one free on the PS4 every month anyhow. Not to mention, I’ve got a stack of games my dad bought for the PS3, and I’m probably about a third of the way through The Last Of Us, if I had to guess (great game so far). But, for all the games I’ve rated on My Opinion As A Gamer so far, there have been only a couple that I’ve had to consider skipping a review. The first is Battlefield 4, and you probably know why I’m not reviewing it if you’ve been following the saga. The second is a new, free game for PS+ members on the PS4; it’s a quirky little title called Don’t Starve.

I plan to download and play as many free PS4 games as I feasibly can, considering my slow download speed. Don’t Starve was only about 300MB, so it downloaded fairly quickly. By description, it sounds a lot like Minecraft, and it somewhat is. Basically, you’re dropped in a world where you have nothing except the clothes on your back. You craft items to survive. The differences are that Don’t Starve is a bit more hardcore, it focuses more on simply eating to survive, but there also seems to be some sort of a storyline as well. The art style is 2D/top down/Tim Burton/drawn characters/spooky, and it’s got quirky music to go with it. I haven’t played Don’t Starve for long, but it’s really not capturing my attention to make me want to play it.

See, it seems a bit boring to this point, and if nothing changes, I won’t finish the game. So far, Don’t Starve has been a slower, more monotonous, tedious version of Minecraft where you die instantly if you don’t have a fire when it gets dark. But that doesn’t mean the game is bad; if you’re looking for a hardcore, slightly different open world/Minecraft-esque experience, this is the game for you. It just isn’t suiting me, and that’s alright. We all have different tastes as gamers and game enthusiasts.

But to rate it would be wrong, especially if you don’t finish the game. I think that in most cases, you probably shouldn’t review a game if you don’t finish it. You won’t be able to comment on how the storyline wraps up, how long the game is, what mechanics are used or overused, etc. It wouldn’t be giving a fair review because you haven’t seen all the game has to offer. This applies mainly to a 1-10 or a 1%-100% score. On the other hand, if you couldn’t finish a game, you could possibly rate it on a Worth Playing vs. Not Worth Playing scale instead. It might not be worth playing because it’s too dull to capture the attention, but if that’s the only reason why it’s “bad,” then it’s not right of you to judge the (entire) game by the small portion you played and got bored with.

Other than that, I really don’t see how it would or could be fair to rate a game you didn’t finish. Of course, this excludes games like RPGs with dozens or hundreds of hours of side quests, or games with branching storylines that might have a dozen different endings. There’s no feasible way anyone could completely play review a game like that.

Whereas Don’t Starve is (as of right now) too boring to finish or earn a rating, Battlefield 4 was too buggy to rate fairly. At it’s core, it’s an amazing, fun, explosive experience. The launch was marred by bugs, my campaign progress was reset due to a bug, so I never finished the campaign and lost the desire to do so, and the multiplayer aspect was a disaster for a solid month or more. Even though the experience was fun when working properly, that rarely happened and it was unfair to rate the game because of this. On one hand, if the game is fun, it should be rated highly, right? But if a game is broken, buggy, and glitchy, it should be rated poorly, right? If a game is both… well, the lines blur; especially when the bugs are temporary and can be fixed.

But I can’t, and won’t, review a game that’s been patched up to look new, especially if it was a disaster at launch because it isn’t a true representation of what the game actually is. So, there’s really no way I could ever review a game like Battlefield 4. I faced a similar situation with Halo 3: ODST; I encountered a bug that reset my campaign progress. Unlike Battlefield, I actually did start over with the resolve to beat the game. The difference between the two is that Battlefield was marred by bugs; Halo 3: ODST simply had one, and it didn’t ruin the experience or confuse me as to whether or not I could really write a review on it. Granted, I never did give it a definite score, (I say 9 if you dismiss the bug, 6 if you take it into consideration) but I was able to definitively say what I felt about the experience.

So, there you have it. Basically, don’t review a game if you don’t finish it. If you don’t like a game simply because it’s too boring for you or because it doesn’t suit your taste as a game player, don’t review it. If a game is buggy enough to be ridiculous while still being functional enough to be fun, it’s probably not a good idea to try to review and rate that either. Anything I missed? Are there any games you couldn’t rate or review? If so, why? Thanks for reading! Hit the like or follow buttons if you’ve enjoyed, check out the LP channels in the “Links” tab, and I’ll see you later.

Off To Play The Last Of Us
Matt

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8 thoughts on “When NOT To Review A Game”

  1. I agree with you on the story bit, unless it’s a mobile game where story is non-existent, but still fun. I think you need to have played through enough of the game to the point where you feel you can give it an accurate score and review it.

    1. Right; I haven’t done that with Don’t Starve, so I won’t review it unless I play a lot more. I don’t even know if there’s an endgame to it (Ender Dragon for Minecraft, i.e.) so I may not even be able to “beat” the game.

      1. Yeah, that’s a problem for a lot of games these days. Sometimes you start playing a game, but it doesn’t capture your attention but it’ll captivate someone else for hours. Then there’s games where part of the community will love it, and part of it will hate it. I think part of it’s to do with a scores, but still, how do you recommend a game to a person if they’ll love it or hate it?

  2. (1) Recall my assessment of Rayman Origins. I didn’t finish that game, however I came quite close while not simply finishing the stages but unlocking all of the Electoons on each stage. This included experiencing the ‘chest chase’ levels. It seems to me that my assessment of Rayman Origins as being a remarkably bad game if played on anything but the surface level should stand due to my critical attention to detail and the extent to which I progressed in the game. I think that you’d be inclined to agree with this position.

    (2) People should NOT review games that are outside of their experience/interest unless they provide the caveat that such is the position the are playing from. The experience and viewpoints of both a genre-insider and genre-outsider can be very helpful, but that needs to be made clear in some way. I’ve noticed an unhealthy number of reviews where it’s clear the reviewer is simply bad at the game or doesn’t like it and that inappropriate bias (not all bias is inappropriate) colours their review.

    But let’s look at Don’t Starve for a moment since you brought it up. This game is significantly less about beating the game than it is about the experience of play. It also exists firmly within the RTS genre -though quite differently than a game like Command and Conquer, Civilization or Warhamer 40K: Dawn of War 2- and the Adventure genre. Action-Adventure in no way begins to adequately describe it, neither does Survival Horror or the two above-mentioned genres. It straddles the RTS/Adventure line very well, messing with and challenging the expectations of players favouring those genres…and it’s fantastic.

    Looking at this game, you’d have to ask yourself if you’re familiar with particular conventions of the RTS and Adventure genres. You’d also have to ask yourself what it does that is novel and if that works. Attached to that, depending on how novel it is, if it is something that people will have some difficulty with until they accept it for what it is. For example, combat in Guild Wars 2 is very problematic. It’s not entirely hotbar-based and it’s not entirely active (cf. Final Fantasy XIII or TERA), it exists somewhere in the middle and inherits the pros and cons of BOTH systems. A player more accustomed to hotbar-based combat will find it too fast, a player more accustomed to action-based combat will find it too slow, and both are likely to find it messy until they learn to appropriately slow down or speed up. Some people love it, some people hate it and some grow to accept and even enjoy it…no matter how slowly.

    Novelty and how it can affect gameplay expectations and the experience of play is important. The critical reviewer has an eye to that.

    1. As for point 1: I definitely agree. If you come so close to beating a game before realizing it’s just not worth it, I think a review is acceptable. The only time I might advise against it would be in a game that’s very storyline focused, and say, there’s a huge plot twist at the ending, which, obviously, Rayman Origins did NOT have.

      As for point 2: I always try to extend my gameplay into other genres, and Don’t Starve is sort of a new one for me. It didn’t really click with me (to this point, anyhow) and I won’t review it because I know the game wasn’t designed with (players like) me in mind. If I were to have said I enjoy Don’t Starve, however, I think I could review it from the outsider standpoint with the stance that “even though I’m unfamiliar with the genre, this game was inviting and allowed me to enjoy the experience.” But since I don’t like it, I can’t bash a game that’s clearly not intended for this audience.

      On the other hand, have you played Don’t Starve? It seems that you know a decent amount about it.

      1. “But since I don’t like it, I can’t bash a game that’s clearly not intended for this audience.

        On the other hand, have you played Don’t Starve? It seems that you know a decent amount about it.”

        The first part is very important. A lot of games look really watered down because they tried to include features or ideas that weren’t necessary or even good, detracting from what the game perhaps was supposed to be all along. I say this because audience is important and, no matter how open-minded and critical someone is, a game can simply just not be for them and as such they’ll miss or misconstrue any amount of content. It’s good to be able to say ‘yeah…no, not for me’ and just back up. It’s intelligent and dignified.

        My experience with Don’t Starve comes from listening to and watching Pretty play well over 100 hours of the game. (Obviously, I wasn’t there for anywhere NEAR that amount of time!) What I took from watching her and listening to her explanations was gestured to in my first comment. I’m not entirely sure if Don’t Starve is a game for me but, mechanically and artistically, it does what it does very very well.

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