Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Burning The Witcher  


Reviews:  Over the last few days, there's been a lot of heat directed at Bobby Hunter, the reviewer who covered Witcher 2 for Gamer Limit. If you haven't already read his piece, you can check it out right here.

Full disclosure, I've only played about six hours of Witcher 2. Personally, it wasn't ringing my bell and I didn't feel compelled to play more. I read Bobby’s piece since it was the lowest-scored at MetaCritic (I do this for most games I play) and although I didn't finish the game, I found myself agreeing with many of the points he raises.

(I also largely agreed with my fellow critic @RichardNaik in his review of the PC version here.)

In any event, the reason I bring this up is not because I agree with the criticisms, but to express a little surprise at how many people in the review sphere seemed eager to take Mr. Hunter to task for any number of reasons; everything ranging from his low score bringing down the Metacritic average and potentially causing a loss of income to the developer, to people who felt that the score was too low despite the site not posting a rubric on their scoring policy. I'm not even going to bring up what was said in the comments posted directly to the review itself.

Even more strangely than those issues, I saw several people complaining that this review had harshly graded The Witcher for not being a hack-and-slash -- in fact, Mr. Hunter never states such, only that he says:

"Those coming into the game looking for a simple hack n’ slash action RPG will be sorely disappointed.

I don't quite understand how this one sentence could be misinterpreted and extrapolated into the idea that the reviewer docked points for the game not being in a certain genre, but the people who were lighting torches over it should douse them and re-read what he actually said.

I don't know Mr. Hunter, I've never spoken to him, and I have no stake in supporting or defending either his work or Witcher 2, but after seeing the fallout from this review, it seems like we've still got a long way to go...

First of all, the score is just an arbitrary number. Really, that's all it is. There's no standard scale that anyone adheres to unless you want to look towards the "eight is average" overinflation that currently plagues many reviews. So he gave it a 4.5… And what? What ”should” it be, and why do we care?

Also, the idea that reviewers should be somehow responsible for the compensation towards developers is absolutely ludicrous. The only responsibility reviewers have is to be honest and to explain their impressions. Any reviewer who takes on the burden of inflating scores so that developers will earn bonuses in accordance with cockamamie publisher metrics needs to stop writing reviews immediately.

Finally, I'd like to applaud Mr. Hunter for being brave enough to go against the current wave of love that Witcher 2 is receiving. To be clear, I'm not saying that the game doesn't deserve it. I haven't seen enough of the game to know, and I don't really have an opinion other than the fact that the first six hours didn’t grab me. No, what I'm applauding is that someone decided to express their opinion and give criticism of the current favorite son of critics and players alike. It's a hard thing to take an unpopular stand, but if you ask me, I think that review sphere could use more of it.

As someone who's been playing games for thirty years and writing about them for twelve, I see the same cycle over and over again: a new, hot game comes out. Initial scores are through the roof and critics fall all over themselves to lavish praise. Months (or even weeks) later, lower scores start to trickle in and many of the initial supporters start saying things like “it was good, BUT…” or “Eh, it really wasn’t all that…

I think that if more writers resisted the urge to get caught up in New Game Hype  and evaluated titles without fear of repercussions, without fear of lowering the MetaScore, or without fear of being the odd man/woman out, we'd see a much wider range of ratings and viewpoints that more accurately represents the array of opinions that I'm sure are out there. I can only see that as a very healthy thing.

Don't get me wrong , I'm not trying to paint all games writers with one broad brush here. There are certainly people out there fighting the good fight, and there are some writers who I greatly respect for taking the work quite seriously. Without a doubt.

That said, the response from many to this review was still a little surprising, and it just reinforced to me that gamers (and especially reviewers!) have to be okay with the dissenters just as we are with the cheerleaders. There's a world of difference between a review that you disagree with because it's factually wrong or does not support the ideas it presents, and one that you disagree with because you like the game more or less than the author did.  If we can’t accept that there might be some people out there who have a different, equally-valid opinion, then what hope do reviews have of ever being worth a damn?


Fable Heroes Live Release Day Event Wednesday – Hosted by Katers17

Microsoft Studios and Xbox LIVE are continuing their Arcade NEXT All-Stars live streaming event series this Wednesday at 5pm PST on Twitch.TV, when popular YouTuber Katers17 plays Fable Heroes, the hack-and-slash adventure game that delivers a fresh spin on the established Fable franchise.  Katers, along with several other special guests, will play and give insight into the game, as well as give live viewers the opportunity to interact and enter for a chance to win Arcade NEXT prizes.  To live stream the event Wednesday, visithttp://www.twitch.tv/xboxlivearcade , and to view the first gameplay clips from Fable Heroes, visit here: http://youtu.be/V99VAV9l09E 



APRIL 30, 2012 -- ATLUS ONLINE, a division of ATLUS dedicated to massively online gaming and entertainment, today announced that Shin Megami Tensei® Imagine™, the popular free-to-play MMORPG set in the company's critically-acclaimedSMT universe, is now available via the ATLUS ONLINE Portal. To celebrate the official SMT Imagine launch, ATLUS ONLINE is offering special gifts for existing and new users and a chance for all players to win prizes.

Existing and new SMT Imagine users will receive items to assist in their adventures during the launch period:
Welcome Migration Celebration (Launch - 5/16): Existing SMT Imagine users willreceive the Item Depository Pass, which lets players to rent an Item Depository, allowing unlimited use of the Depository for 30 days. The ticket can also be used to extend the end date of an Item Depository already in use.
Launch Event Party (4/30 - 5/23): New SMT Imagine users will receive the Incense of Training, allowing players Level 30 and below to increase XP earned by 1.5 times for duration of 10 days. This item's effect can also be stacked with the Incense of Experience or the Ashes of the Seance. *Once used, the effects will be automatically applied to player. Duration includes time spent offline. Effect will be overridden when the same item or another Incense of Training is used. For players Level 30 or below only.
ATLUS ONLINE is also hosting the MegaTen Blast Off Event (4/30 - 5/9), during which all SMT Imagine users will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of ATLUS ONLINE's greatest prizes ever:  
5 First Place winners will receive 42,000 Crowns ($60.00);
50 Second Place winners will receive 14,000 Crowns ($20.00);
100 Third Place winners will receive 3,500 Crowns ($5.00).
 As a special reward for their dedication to everything ATLUS, players who are registered subscribers of the ATLUS Faithful mailing list will receive a free voucher code to obtain a Jack Frost Demon!

To register, play, and find more info about SMT Imagine, please visit the official website at http://welcome.megaten.atlusonline.com.


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6 comments: to “ Burning The Witcher

  • Bales


    It's so much to do with the "review rush" cycle were on right now. Get a game review out aSaP to get clicks and views!!!!

    If people could be cool with that being off of the table, we'd all be a lot happier, more thoughtful, and more well-informed.


    I think your statements are definitely fair. What a lot of people forget is that game reviews are opinions. Sometimes something clicks for the reviewer, sometimes it doesn't. I haven't played Witcher 2 yet - I did play and enjoy the first one, but I'll admit - at first it didn't click with me. Same thing with Mass Effect. I went back, gave them both a later try and found that I enjoyed them quite a bit. Some titles, like Risen, just never worked out for me for whatever reason.

    I do agree with Bales though too - that sometimes there is this added pressure of 'I have to get this review out'. Now, I don't do that - I play what I want, when I want, and then I share my reviews and thoughts on my blog as I see fit, but that's because I enjoy the hobbies of gaming and writing and do it all for fun.

    Just discovered your site, but if you don't mind, I'll be linking to it from mine - you have some good thoughts on here. :)


    Glad to see that I wasn't the only one to give up on the game around the six hour mark. It looks beautiful, but I found it boring and overly complicated.

    Tom Bissell also wrote a good column about it this morning at the Grantland site.


  • Anonymous


    I think the crux of the issue is this; let's tread a little more carefully with this 'a review is just an opinion' notion. As tired as I am of reading the baseless and vitriolic response of the fanboys, so am I equally tired of reviewers hiding behind this convenient excuse.

    There is a clear difference between an opinion column, and a review, and it's something I'd like to see discussed far more frequently than it is. If we don't accept this, we are essentially admitting that nothing separates a reviewer from the opinion of the average Joe. Surely reviewers should hold themselves to a higher standard? Possess the ability to wield objectivity as keenly as they do language? How about consistency?

    Read the good Mr Hunter's review of TW2 and Amalur side by side. If you can convince me he used the same approach, the same scale; that he broke down both games into their components and weighed each fairly, then you are clearly a better man than I.

    How about a reviewer who is able to put his own personal view on a game into perspective, and recognise where his response to the game doesn't necessarily mean that game is objectively bad. Now there's a reviewer I'd like to meet. There's a difference between combat being broken, for example, and simply not in a particular style that you might enjoy. The best reviewers are able to recognise the difference between the two.

    Heaven forbid reviewers should ever admit to a modicum of accountability.


    @Anonymous -

    As I first read that response, I found myself a bit conflicted. I agree with a good deal of what you said in there, but in the end - I do view myself as a typical gamer, average Joe sort. I write reviews (no clue if you'd like them - I wrote one for Kingdoms of Amular if you're curious) - and I do try to break them down ways that allow me to identify different parts of the game (graphics, sound/music, gameplay, intangibles) - but I've read plenty of others out there who strongly hate those kinds of technical breakdowns or numeric systems. I think what it boils down to is a matter of preference.

    That said, I do agree with your combat example as well. In my Skyrim review (I suddenly feel like I'm advertising my site here - I certainly don't mean to), I did compare and contrast elements of combat from Skyrim to Amular and what worked for me personally and what did not.

    However, Reviews are in fact opinions. A game may have technical proficiency in graphics, but maybe the colors or effects really bothered the gamer. I know I really enjoyed Amular's color scheme and graphics (despite the technical issues associated with lot and LOTS of texture pop-in), but I loved the vibrant colors and the activity I saw on screen - where as I know a few others referred to the game as a visually horrific love child of World of Warcraft and Fable.

    I did not mean for my reply to get so long - my apologies on that front. I do think you made some excellent points, and I'm glad to have read them.

    I guess I am saying I personally have no problem reading a review that is heavily opinionated, as long as reasons are given, because I realize that gaming experiences vary from one person to another, and I would much rather read what someone has to say than not, even if I don't agree with it.

  • Anonymous



    Thanks for the considered response, I most certainly will check out your reviews.

    I was thinking over what I posted last night, and I think perhaps the best way for me to get my point across, and propose a notion which I'm pretty sure Brad is in complete agreement with, is as follows; it's all about the use of a scale.

    What I mean by that is that I too enjoy reading a heavily opinionated review, but in instances such as that, and Bissell's piece is a perfect example, don't grade the game. The second you assign a score, the implication is that you must therefore have a frame of reference to which you are measuring the game.

    I also don't enjoy highly technical reviews, or ones that overtly wear their component breakdown on their sleeves, but who said there isn't room for opinion and perspective to play nice? Not kissing Brad's ass here, and I'm sure it's a pleasant ass to kiss and all, but that's precisely what I enjoy about his reviews. His opinion always strongly flavours his take on a game, but I always get the sense that he's also trying to be as balanced and fair as possible, and keeping in mind his approach to similar games in the past.

    I get that it's a preference thing, I suppose I'm just toying still with the notion that, just sometimes, a reviewer can actually just be plain wrong.