Random Question – How Powerful Are Reviews?

OK so here’s the skinny. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to put a lot of weight behind game reviews. Personally, I don’t read reviews before playing anything. I take a look at the game website, I get dropped a line by one of my friends, or I might just get bored and start randomly surfing the web for games I haven’t seen before.

(Pausing in Ryzom with Redshiftflux)

Recently though another review has been pulled down. Not sure if folks remember the Darkfall review by Eurogamer ( Take one, Take two). The first go round the reviewer gave Darkfall a score of 2/10. Unfortunately it was believed that the reviewer didn’t spend a lot of time in the game. The review was eventually re-done by another reviewer who was left with an overall impression of 4/10.  So after all sorts of fuss, the score went up a whole 2 points. That had to hurt.

On a more recent note Gamespot posted and pulled a review of Global Agenda which (according to the forums) only saw a 5.5 (link). On the Global Agenda forums (link), the players seem to have done a little digging and really didn’t believe that the reviewer spent enough time in game to justify the poor score the reviewer gave the game. They felt that it was not enough time spent in game to really get a feel for what the game has to offer.

Evidently time spent reviewing is basically how you can justify how much a game rocks or sucks. If you give a game a low score, you evidently need to have invested a good chunk of your life in that game before firing a shot over the bow (link).

What really got me into wanting to write a post about this sort of thing is not really these debacles so much as another thread over at the MMORPG.com forum. Evidently a Darkfall player is calling for a re-review of Darkfall by MMORPG.com (Link).

Check out this logic by the way. The player feels that if another game that was recently reviewed deserved a 5.8 score, that the player’s game deserved a score greater than the 6 that Darkfal received. I still can’t decide whether I want to burst out laughing or reach for a bottle of pain killers.

(Someone needs a hug, Geistig (1))

While that aspect of the poster’s logic makes me scratch my head and wonder if he/she forgot to take their meds before posting, another part of the post does make sense. No, not the picture of the lolcat, or even the title of the post. You see MMO’s change over time and Darkfall is no exception to the rule. The game as it exists today has changed since the original review was launched. In fact the second Eurogame reviewer even noted that changes had been made to the game during the time he spent in game.

So the question is, can you really judge an MMO today based on a review written at launch. No, no, don’t think about the buggy madness that most MMO’s tend to push out at launch these days. I’m not talking about covering up that kind of mess. I’m talking about the fact that MMOs DO change over time. An MMO that doesn’t change is going to bore the pants off of it’s player base and put it’s self into an early grave right? Is it really reasonable to think that a review written about an MMO at launch should be the end all decision as to what that game is like and will always be like?

You see I can’t really say that I’d play an MMO based on what was said in a “review”. MMO’s aren’t like movies. When you go to see a movie now, it’ll be the same movie 10 years from now. The movie doesn’t change. Reviews even work for the standard “play ’em once” box games. Sure there may be different scenarios, but once you’ve beaten the game it’s over and it goes on the shelf. Even if the game takes forever to actually play through, once it’s done, it’s done. That means any review you write about the game when it’s released stands because the game played on release is the same game played by someone installing it much later.

MMO’s though must change over time and because of that a review written about an MMO at launch probably doesn’t reflect the same MMO a year later, two years later, or like World of Warcraft, 5 years later.

Ask folks who’ve played WoW since beta. They’ll tell you that WoW is not quite the same game it used to be. So on this point a static review of an MMO would just be stale. Chances are it would really only run the risk of turning off players that may enjoy the game it is now even if they would have hated the game it as it had been when the review was written.

Here’s another point on which MMO reviews stand to fail. Think about the time it takes to do things in an MMO. In WoW supposedly “the game starts” at the end game. With that said, if a reviewer only spent 20 hours in the game but didn’t make it to the end game and spend some time in Heroics or Raiding, would that reviewer have a solid grasp on what it’s like to play WoW? If a person tried Free Realms but didn’t get to try the membership only jobs could they give a complete review of the MMO? If a person reviewed Guild Wars, but only had access to the original game (Prophecies) would they have a complete picture of everything Guild Wars has to offer?

So the thing is, can an MMO really be accurately portrayed based on the “number of hours” logged in? I’d have to say that argument totally falls flat. When games are produced to offer it’s subscribers MONTHS of content to keep them subscribed, how can spending 30 hours in that game really give you a well rounded feel for the game.

Hell according to xfire, I’ve logged over 100 hours in World of Warcraft. Does that mean I feel like I could write a review of that MMO? Hell no. That and I um, don’t keep xfire on all the time so chances are that number is just a little low *snickers*.

So thing is, can a consumer really make a purchasing decision based on a review written about an MMO? How much time should a person spend in an MMO to really get a good understanding of the game? Should reviews be written to give separate scores to MMOs that are more PvP focused than PvE focused? Should MMO’s be rated based on the strength of in game crafting or the presence or ease of talent re-speccing? What of the community of an MMO, is that something that should be taken into consideration when writing a review?

(Goofing with Guildies in the Aftermath days)

Better yet, what about reviewers? Should all reviews be written from the focus of the mythical “average gamer” or should PvP focused MMO’s have PvP focused reviewers and PvE focused games have PvE focused reviewers? Should quest driven games have quest loving reviewers? Should sandbox style games be reviewed from the perspective of folks that understand and enjoy sandbox style games?

I mean really, how can some stranger’s 30 hours in an MMO and 5 to 6 paragraphs really sway someone as to whether or not they want to play an MMO?  It’s not like we’re talking about a pair of sneakers or a local restaurant here. We’re talking about a game that you may spend months if not years playing. Do you really want to base a long term decision, not to mention your hard earned cash on an MMO you’re thinking about playing because it got a high review on a website?

Come on folks, if you’ve got enough intelligence to turn on a computer, surely you can make your own decisions about what games you want to play. Be strong, take control of your online destiny.


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12 years ago

I don’t put a lot of stock in reviews from paid sites. I’d much rather hear the thoughts of friends so I can gauge whether I’d like the game or not since I know the friend and understand our own different preferences or similarities.

Admittedly, the largest hits I get on my blog are due to my own reviews or impressions posts which seems makes a lot of sense.

When looking at a game that none of my friends have played, I tend to surf around and see what is said on official review sites and unofficial ones. Somewhere in the middle is likely the truth.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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