Diecast #250: Borderlands 3, Risk of Rain 2, Playing Games “Wrong”

By Shamus Posted Monday Apr 1, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 65 comments

It’s April 1st, and tradition holds that I should deck the site out in silly images or somesuch. I didn’t have time for that this week, so a header image with nonsensical round dice will have to do. Also, let this serve as a friendly reminder to read the internet carefully today.

PAX East happened this past weekend. If I’d been doing my job, then I would have watched the show on Twitch and reported back with the highlights. Instead I watched the Gearbox show where they showed off Borderlands 3, and then ignored everything else.

I’ve wanted to go to PAX for the last couple of years, but I didn’t want to drive 600 miles (each way) in a car that was clearly in its twilight years. (And flying is just too dang expensive.) We have a reliable car now, and my new gig at the Escapist means I might be able to finagle a couple of press passes. So PAX East 2020 is a real possibility.

If any of you attended the show this year, please tell me your impressions. I don’t care if your story is, “I fell asleep in the car for 8 hours instead of entering the convention center.” I’d just like to hear some first-hand accounts from people who aren’t journalists.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Borderlands 3


Link (YouTube)

Here is the article I mentioned where I discussed why I was worried about the state of Borderlands 3. I think the show assuaged most of my concerns, although I’m still expecting the story / comedy to be a mess. Games writing is hard, comedy is harder, and the key talent that gave Borderlands 2 its personality is long gone. I’ll admit it’s possible for a new writer to nail it, the deck is stacked against them.

Fingers crossed.

14:49 Risk of Rain 2


Link (YouTube)

25:25 Playing Prison Architect “Wrong”


Link (YouTube)

33:41 Mailbag: Reviewer Skill

Dear Diecast

Should game critics be good at the games they review? I ask this not as an attempt to gate keep but because I am in two minds about it. This seemed relevant to me with the recent release of games like Kingdom Hearts 3, DMC5 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

On one hand the obvious answer would be yes because they have to be good in order to sufficiently review said game. On the other hand the vast majority of audiences would also probably not be good at the game and thus the review would be closer to their experience if it was reviewed by someone who was also not good at the game.

Regards
Eric

49:03 Mailbag: Apple Arcade

Apple just announced a cross platform game subscription service. Major selling points appear to be cross platform, lots of exclusives, no in-app purchases, and offline play. If I understood the announcement correctly, they functionally just became one of the worlds largest game publishers. What do you think of this? If Apple waved money at you, would you make a game exclusively for their service?

Thanks,
Jeff

57:43 Mailbag: LOTR – Gollum

So, Daedalic Entertainment just announced “The Lord of the Rings – Gollum”, a narrative adventure set in Middle Earth and starring everyone’s favorite corrupted hobbit. It will be based on the books rather than the films.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played a Daedalic game (such as “Deponia”), but they’re graphic adventures (more on the line of Lucasarts games than of Telltale’s), with no combat and focused on puzzles and story.

As someone who complained about the Shadow of Mordor/War games for being too focused on violence, is this the kind of game you’d like to see based on Tolkien’s universe? Or would you prefer to see other genres?

– PR

1:01:02 Mailbag: Patreon Changes

Hello diecast team

A soon-to-be creator informed me that Patreon will change a few things. He said:
“Patreon have just announced that they are making changes soon, which will change the way creators are charged to use the platform. However, when the changes are rolled out, creators with current Patreon accounts will not be affected.”
The last change led Shamus and Rutskarn write a rant about it. Are the new changes any better? Do they really don’t affect you as long-time creators?

Regards
Lars

I really do appreciate everyone who supports my Patreon.

 


From The Archives:
 

65 thoughts on “Diecast #250: Borderlands 3, Risk of Rain 2, Playing Games “Wrong”

  1. Redrock says:

    The coverage of the Borderlands 3 reveal annoyed me to no end. I’m usually not that keen on bashing games media, but this particular case stood out to me. Before the reveal everyone was writing about how Borderlands 3 would (and should) probably be another live service looter-shooter Destiny clone, and after the reveal we had gems like the Polygon article claiming the reveal was a “dissapointment” because it implied that, gasp, Borderlands 3 will probably be more Borderlands. Because clearly, in the last few years we’ve had more Borderlands releases than live service looter shooters.

    As for the tone, like I said before, I think Tales from the Borderlands made a strong case that you could have a great Borderlands story without Anthony Burch. Granted, none of the talent from that game are, as far as I know, working on Borderlands 3, but, still, the possibility of writing a good story without Burch is there.

    1. Geebs says:

      I’ve just picked up Borderlands 2 for the PSVR, since a) it was on sale and b) they patched in support for the Aim. It’s ugly as hell, and I’m having a great time.

      Not only the current crop of looter shooters, but also basically every loot game since Diablo 3, could learn a lot from Borderlands. Mostly about having some actual gameplay.

    2. Christopher says:

      I think Tales from the Borderlands benefitted a lot from being a story-focused game. Burch worked on at least the first episode, I thought. And while it’s very similar in style to the old Borderlands tone and sense of humor, I liked Tales while I absolutely loathe the main series. And yeah, some of that probably is different writers with different sensibilities, but it’s also because they were writing for a game that’s entirely cutscenes, QTEs, adventure game segments and the odd dialogue choice. You can do a lot of comedy that’s not possible with just UI, voiceovers and quest descriptions. You can have timing, for one thing.

      I checked out the trailers because of my newfound love for Tales, and while it is nice to see some of those characters return (even with a dumb mustache), I felt bored basically instantly by the Borderlands 2 flashbacks I got.

      I guess this doesn’t have that much to do with your post but I just wanted to go “This is what I thought about the reveal” and found a Tales mention to hang onto.

    3. RichardW says:

      I wonder if much of that disappointment is coming from what seems like a lack of evolution on display? More of the same can be a good thing, but you might expect a bit more of a jump in gameplay and certainly graphics after a fairly long hiatus. The Pre Sequel was a side project by another 2K studio so could be forgiven for iterating not innovating, but with a mainline entry in the franchise I think many were expecting something flashier.

      I mean for me, the visuals were what stood out to me immediately. Either they stuck with the same old engine or worked very hard to make a current gen game look like one from several years ago. It’s not *bad* but doesn’t appear like much of a leap from what’s gone before, especially compared to something like Rage 2 which is in a very similar ballpark (sans co-op).

      I’m really curious to know their reasoning, whether it’s wanting a seriously consistent look through all the games (considering they’ve been ported to PS4 etc. now) or if it’s more of a Bethesda scenario, where they’re so used to their existing technology and pipeline from the previous games that it would be more work to change. The art style is still fairly strong, but I would’ve thought they’d have moved from Unreal Engine 3 to 4 by now, everything in that trailer looked and felt like Borderlands 2 era from the way the explosions pop off, to the glows coming off the guns to show the different weapon rarities.

      1. Christopher says:

        It would probably have helped. Like, take Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter V. It’s a similar style, but one is clearly ahead of the other. But that’s if you look at them next to one another. If it’s been a while since SF4, then they look very similar.

        Then take Devil May Cry 5. It’s fairly traditional, a return to form, a direct continuation of a decade old game. But because they’re using the Resident Evil engine and have given everyone these super realistic faces, shading and textures, nobody is gonna look at that and say it’s just more of the same(of a game that hasn’t had a release in yeeaars, but you know how this goes). It was a pro move. I’m more of a fan of stylization, but I fully expect Street Fighter 6 when that eventually happens to look a lot more realistic, because that gets more people to go “oooh how far we’ve come”.

        1. Thomas says:

          Devil May Cry 5 was benefiting from being a ‘return to form’ after everyone hated DmC. If a reboot fails you get to ‘refresh’ the franchise by doing the same thing again.

          1. Christopher says:

            That’s definitely true for many of the fans, but the press mostly enjoyed DmC and gave it great scores.

    4. Thomas says:

      I’m sure the Polygon article was just a clickbait hit piece. If you look elsewhere most games media has been pretty positive.

  2. Asdasd says:

    I was a big fan of Risk of Rain, although I think it had the benefit of me coming fresh to the roguelite meta-unlock system which has felt increasingly fatiguing and manipulative as the craze persists.

    I’m not sure it’s a game that I’d want to play in 3D. The nice thing about 2D games is that when you get swarmed you can at least see where everything is in relation to you. When you introduce an extra dimension and the attendant need for sophisticated camera control into the mix, I feel like you’re introducing an element of chaotic, potentially unfair-death-inducing stress to go along with the manageable/herd-able, Robotron/Bullet Hell style stress.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      It’s a 3rd-person over-the-shoulder camera, so that should help a lot. Plus, they can have stuff like a radar (either built into the UI, or a separate item) to help you out with blind-spots.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I forgot to mention – I haven’t bought the game yet, but it’s also still in Early Access. If players complain about the camera, it can be fixed a lot more easily now, than after release, when most / all of the devs have moved on.

  3. Joe says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic about Borderlands 3, but I’m looking forward to the next reveal. I hope they don’t increase the system requirements too much, because my computer is old and already chugs in some areas in 2 & TPS. I probably won’t get the high res textures until I upgrade. Also, I disagree that TPS is trash. It isn’t as good, sure, but it’s still fun. Ice, double jumping, good Australian jokes*, and the whole space thing. Fun.

    *The only Aussie jokes you normally hear are about how dangerous it is. There’s plenty more to make fun of. Bogans, the revolving door in the PMs office, etc.

    As for a Gollum game, he spent five hundred years in the caves, supplementing fish with goblins he could catch. Good fodder for a stealth game.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      How much story content could you get though, with gollum in caves? He’s basically a hermit, stealing from people, but avoiding all of the main conflicts going on in the world.

      1. Syal says:

        Turns out every single important person in Middle Earth has fallen into Gollum’s pit at some point and had to riddle their way out.

        Smaug’s riddles in particular were a thing to behold.

    2. Boobah says:

      The game is supposed to be set after Gollum gained the One Ring but before he buried himself in a cave in the mountains.

  4. Leipävelho says:

    You got the definition of kitbashing exactly right.
    Source: I play WH40k

  5. Scampi says:

    About Apple: I had to try and get my head around the combination of “lots of exclusives” and “cross platform”.
    While these are, obviously, not mutually exclusive, I still had to wonder for a moment how they work together, as lots of exclusives mean “less” games capable of being played cross platform. Cross platform only makes sense to me if there is a large catalogue of games that are also available on other platforms.

    1. tmtvl says:

      It’s cross-platform Win, Mac, Android?

      1. Geebs says:

        Nope, Mac, iPhone and iPad. Which, speaking as somebody with a house full of Macs and iDevices, means that you have a choice between a given game being unplayable because the touchscreen controls suck *, and being unplayable because it runs like an utter dog **.

        * on iOS
        ** on macOS

  6. silver Harloe says:

    Dear Lars – since the podcast didn’t describe the new change to Patreon, could you?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      It appears as though they’re making tiers of fees (no tools and analytics for basic, some for the middle, and more tools for the top), and changing the fees that people pay per transaction. For payments less than $3, it works out to about 8% in total, and gets worse the smaller your payment is (5% + $0.1), and for larger payments it’s about 13% and gets better the larger your payment is (2.9% + $0.3). That’s better than the cuts that Valve or Apple take on their storefronts, but I don’t think it’s anything to be happy about. :S

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Thanks!

  7. Mephane says:

    Re Borderlands 3, I have several concerns, in descending order of amount of worry:

    * P2W. Now to be fair nothing of the like was even hinted at, but in this day and age the golden chest keys are exactly the thing that almost no game publisher could resist sell for real money instead of handing them out for free. If – big if – they do that, the game will simply not exist for me. This is a low-risk-high-damage concern, so it takes top spot only because it would be a deal breaker.

    * Epic exclusive. Randy Pitchford, among many other things he has done that make him a rather unlikeable character, has expressed some fondness of the Epic Store. It’s a given that the game will release there, and very likely it will be an exclusive to boot; Epic might not even need to bribe them. Just means I will play it a year later when it comes to Steam, and might start with a DLC character right away.

    * On of my biggest gripes with Borderlands 2 and TPS was how enemy levels, gear level and character level play against each other to defeat self-balancing gameplay. For example, if I am having a hard time with a particular boss, I might go out and gain a few levels (especially since bosses tend to have a higher level than the other enemies in that mission). However, those levels are meaningless without the gear to show, but the enemies in the game do not scale, and enemies of an appropriate level may not exist at all, or be inaccessible at the time. So for example I might have a level 20 mission with a level 24 boss and after levelling to 24 yourself, the only way to actually get level 24 equipment is… weapon-of-the-day deals. I still remember my long sessions of grazing the vending machines, out to the main menu, back into the game, repeat, to get a decent quality level instance of a gun I am using at my character level. It was stupid, but often times the only way to get gear at your own level. This issue is not a deal breaker, but really made me wish for enemy auto-scaling or something along the lines.

    * There was some leaked information a few days before the presentation, a lot of which proved fairly accurate once we saw the trailer. Among these bits of info it said that there’d be no laser guns. These were by favourite addition in TPS, and it would imo be a major step backwards if the new game wouldn’t feature these guns any more (and Mr Torgue’s hilarious bickering about them).

  8. tmtvl says:

    “Lots of exclusives,” huh? Isn’t that the primary complaint people have about the Epic store?

    1. Ander says:

      Cheers to people for standing at their line in the sand, but making one more online account seems like an odd place to claim, “This far, and no further!” rather then playing the games they want to play. Why is it that this time, people refuse to make that one more online account? Is it Metro players? I get why they’re sore, but I’m not one of them. Is it security concerns? Fair enough. Exclusives? Well, for the price of, again, just one more online account, their exclusivity stops mattering to most consumers. Why is that so bad this time? Most of us have lots of online accounts we’d rather we didn’t but we do because we got some benefit at the time.
      Again, regardless, more power to people who don’t want to use the Epic Store.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Why is that so many people just outright think that the only problem others have with the Epic Store is that they have to make a new account? Can’t you take 5 minutes to actually listen to people’s complaints?

        1. ZekeCool says:

          *Angrily responds no one listens to the complaints*

          *Proceeds not to provide even a cursory explanation of the complaints*

          Cool…

          All I ever see are people upset about exclusivity and lots of people claiming that it is somehow “anti-consumer”

          1. Chad Miller says:

            All the really loud outrages about exclusivity I’ve seen have included a bait-and-switch component. The latest Metro game had already started Steam preorders and ended up having to tape over the Steam logo on boxed copies. Meanwhile, Phoenix Point’s exclusive deal means they reneged on what they’d already promised their Kickstarter backers to the point that they had to offer refunds in order to keep people from calling it an outright scam.

            Even without that problem, the truth is that Steam offers features Epic doesn’t while the converse isn’t true (and there’s currently no indication that this will change). So even being as favorable as possible to Epic, the best case is that they’re essentially bribing developers into offering players a worse product.

            1. ZekeCool says:

              The Pheonix Point issue is the one that I actually get, for a lot of the same reasons Shamus pointed out in his article last week. The others really aren’t an issue. Metro honored their preorders (even on Steam) and developers don’t really have any reason to leave money on the table just because they advertised something in the past.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                > developers don’t really have any reason to leave money on the table just because they advertised something in the past.

                Not just *advertised*. *Sold*. That having been said, I think this hints at why this argument is blindsiding so many people; I can’t think of anything really comparable to this happening, ever (and my first gaming system was an Atari 2600 so I’ve been around for awhile). I suspect, but can’t prove, that most people would agree accepting preorders for a game to be an implicit statement that you’re going to keep selling that thing for a reasonable amount of time, especially when it comes to downloaded video games which is about as close as you can get to a zero marginal cost product.

                And, speaking of advertising, I understand why most people don’t have a lot of sympathy for Steam given it’s a juggernaut, but there is an argument to be made that just as it’s not cool to take Kickstarter money, use that to become famous, then abandon your backers, that it’s also messed up to advertise your new Steam game until it gets enough attention to say “lol jk Epic just handed us a bag of money”. I’ve seen people agitating for Steam to find some way to make the above implicit statement something explicit, which seems like more hassle for everyone even if it’s possible.

          2. Hector says:

            Nobody owes you a thing, least of all an explanation. But since you seem determined to whine your fanboy entitlement in public, let me clue you in, skippy.

            I, and many other people who pay attention, choose not to do business with some companies. It may be because these companies have unethical business practices, because they are hostile or arrogant in dealing with the public, or because they they have policies that are bad for their customers. If people obsessed with playing the latest over-hyped games do so at any cost, then they will inevitably empower bad actors in the business community, and empower those actors to use the worst, most anti-consumer business practices they can come up with.

            I choose not to do business with Epic. They have responded to the act that not that many people wanted to do business with them (just because their store was grossly inferior) by trying to monopolize the market. This rather failed to improve their profile. In addition, they have a large ownership from TenCent, a company with some highly quesitonable practices of their own, and who may get access to a LOT of data you might not want them to have. Of course, everyone involved claims in public that this would never happen in a million years, etc etc, but there’s is preceisely zero protection against it.

            1. ZekeCool says:

              Well that was rude for no discernable reason. So your only real issue is with Tencent. That’s actually the only reasonable complaint I’ve heard against the Epic store. I think it’s silly in a world where Facebook exists and is used by most adults, but at least it is a point over “I’m angry because Epic store isn’t Steam.”

              1. Boobah says:

                Dude, it’s fine if you don’t find Hector’s reasons for avoiding Epic sufficient. That doesn’t make them ‘unreal’ (if you’ll pardon the pun) or ‘silly.’

                Heck, I avoid Facebook for similar reasons: lots o’ skeevy business practices, so I do my best to avoid giving them any data about me, starting with not having an account (although they almost certainly have an account of me).

                1. Ander says:

                  I think it’s more accurate to say that the only reason Hector gave explicitly related to Epic was TenCent. Hector stated there are many reasons to not want to do business with a company, i.e. not make an account. But he didn’t specify which of those reasons applied to Epic for him (and as he said, he’s not obliged to) except TenCent. That may be reason enough for him.

            2. Shamus says:

              Your tone is awful. Do not treat other people this way. If you can’t disagree without making it personal, then don’t join the discussion.

        2. Ander says:

          I suggested 3 complaints beyond an extra account, sympathized with one of them, made clear one was out of my experience, and questioned the third for clarification (which some have given, thanks y’all):
          Security concerns, Metro, and exclusivity. I like to think I was even respectful, making clear that, whatever an individual’s reasoning, I’m not calling them unjustified.
          Part of making one more account is giving a company your information. That can be a valid reason to not make an account, but people still do it all the time, so I was wondering why Epic in particular is not allowed to be a keeper of the data the way many other companies, such as Valve, are.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        A large problem with places like Epic, Steam, etc, is that if the company goes out of business, or changes hands, or simply decides to stop supporting them, your games can be rendered unplayable instantly, on top of whatever incompatibility might come from newer operating systems. With DRM-free stores like GOG or Itch, there’s only the newer OSs to deal with.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Well, it depends. If they’re games published by themselves I doubt anyone’s going to have any major complaints. Now, if they basically hold hostage third party games, there’s going to be a revolt, particularly if they’re games that had been announced to other stores before.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        This just happened with Phoenix Point – one year of exclusivity before beign released elsewhere. I suspect Epic will push for more deals like this.

  9. Syal says:

    I tried replaying Kingdom Hearts 2 on Proud Mode semi-recently, and it pretty resoundingly kicked my ass. You can’t sleepwalk your way through them anyway.

    1. Jack says:

      Proud Mode generally is pretty hard, but Kingdom Hearts 3 Proud Mode is on par with Standard Mode from the other games, maybe even easier. The main complaint about the game is the lack of difficulty, actually.

  10. Moridin says:

    Apple has high standards for hardware? Since when?

    1. John says:

      Well, I don’t know about that. But Apple was a very different company once upon a time. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder and designer of the Apple and Apple II, the foundation of the company’s fortunes, cared deeply about hardware, albeit in a maximal-performance from the cheapest and fewest possible components kind of way. It’s Steve Jobs, the marketing guy, who prized aesthetics and the user experience–by which I mean the user experience that Steve Jobs thought you should be having–over hardware. Apple didn’t start to become the company it is today until it had made enough money from Wozniak’s engineering skills that Jobs could afford to pursue an exclusively Jobs-ian vision.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      In my experience, they’ve generally got tighter tolerances on the things they manufacture than other laptop companies. There’s less crooked buttons, faulty latches, etc, that you would want to return the thing on warranty for.

  11. John says:

    I don’t think a game reviewer needs to be good at a game in order to do a proper review. Generally, I agree with Paul. As long as the reviewer honestly discloses his or her experience with the franchise or genre in question, it’s fine. But you try telling that to the internet. If you believe the internet, it is not enough to merely be good at a game. You must also, except in certain cases involving new IPs or new developers, be some kind of fan: of the series, of the genre, or of the developer. Anyone else is “biased”. Incidentally, I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for how people who are already fans aren’t biased. I’m not entirely sure that the internet understands either what bias is or that it’s just as possible to be biased in favor of things as it is to be biased against them.

    But the internet’s real failing, I think, is that it doesn’t understand that different reviews can have different intended audiences. There are reviews for hardcore genre enthusiasts, reviews for a general gaming audience, and even reviews for people who don’t consider themselves gamers but play video games sometimes anyway. A review meant for one group may not satisfy or be useful to the members of another. That’s not a failing on the part of either the review or the reviewer. It’s a sign that the disappointed reader or viewer should seek out a different review, one relevant to the audience of which he is a part. Maybe that even happens some of the time. I’d like to believe that it happens most of the time. I don’t know how many people choose to quietly and sensibly seek out a different review. How could I? They aren’t leaving comments. What I see, unfortunately, is all too often “the publication hired the wrong reviewer” or “the reviewer is bad at his job.”

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I just left a novel on this subject below, but want to comment on your statement. I totally agree that “different audiences for reviews” is a real, good thing. Like, you wouldn’t expect the same type of review from a random in your local newspaper as you would from RPGGamer.com or what have you. And the newspaper review might help out a parent choose a game for their kid or something like that. However, I still think it’s possible to be terrible at your review job, even if you’re writing the most casual style of review. Imagine if you were a movie reviewer and claimed that Solo was the 9th episode of Star Wars and was very confusing to you, since it didn’t feature Rey or Kylo Ren like the other movies. For a game example, something like claiming Zelda is too difficult and violent for children might be similar.

      1. John says:

        A reviewer can be bad at his job, sure. I’d never deny that. But I’d say that being a bad reviewer means (a) being a bad writer or an ineffective communicator or else (b) acting in bad faith, being disingenuous about the game, himself, or the effort he put in to evaluating the game. I’d say that your Star Wars example falls into category (b). That person clearly made no effort at all to understand what he was watching. Your Zelda example, on the other hand, could possibly be a good review. Zelda might well be too difficult for some children. Third-person action games with player-controlled 3D cameras really are difficult for people who aren’t used to them, at least initially. Similarly, there are parents (and children) for whom any violence at all is too much violence. So I’d say that, ignoring its other qualities for the moment, that Zelda review could be a good review depending on where it was published and who its intended audience was. It is obviously not a good review for, say, a mainstream gaming website or publication.

    2. Scampi says:

      My favorite review mag (though I don’t read them very often at all-it’s been years since I got an issue) tends to have one review written from the general perspective of multiple reviewers. Usually, they are composed of a) a fan or reviewer dedicated and skilled at the series, one who likes the general genre but is not an enthusiast of the series or specific subgenre (say, likes strategy, is not into space strategy or 3rd person action, but not Souls likes or any such) and occasionally another reviewer who has an interest in the game but no previous experience in the genre (sometimes interns or such). This way they have the perspective of a person adept at the gameplay, one representing the “average genre fan”, and occasionally one knew to the genre.
      Besides the general review text, each writes a box of their own explaining their position and their personal opinion on the game, leaving the reader to decide whom to trust in.
      It might be A says something like: “I love the series and enjoyed the game as it improved on faults and bugs of the previous installments”, B adds that “unlike my colleague A, I don’t follow the series and enjoyed the game despite occasionally obtuse mechanics and heavy difficulty spikes. I can recommend it to people with some experience in comparable games” and C may tell us they “didn’t enjoy the game very much, as it doesn’t teach a new player very good how to interact with the world and leaves them lost in the game, making it mostly for die hards, while players looking for a nice entry into genre X might prefer another title […] instead of this one.”
      I like the style, as it gives multiple classes of player a good idea on whether this game might be a match for their preferences.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Incidentally, I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for how people who are already fans aren’t biased.

      There’s definitely a difference between “fan of the series who is still willing to call a game out on its flaws and recognize what parts of the appeal may not resonate with all audiences” and “fanboy who gives the game 11/10 before they even play it”.

      And, besides, bias is only a bad thing in a reviewer when it’s a bias that the audience doesn’t share. I want my RPG reviewers to have a bias towards complexity and depth over spectacle, because I have a bias toward those things, and it makes their opinion more likely to match mine.

    4. Steve C says:

      I do not agree with Paul on reviewers. Not at all.
      A reviewer can’t give their opinion in a vacuum of other reviews. For example assume Shamus made a review series about Dark Souls. He lays out in fine detail his own preferences ahead of time and narrowly defines the type of audience his review is for. It is wishful thinking by Paul that would somehow be a shield. Shamus would get slammed by the masses. The hate would come out of the woodwork. It wouldn’t be for his review either, it would be for him personally. If he included the best youtube video he ever made to accompany the review, that video would be disliked to obscurity. No algorithm recommendations for you. That hate would spill over into other unrelated content through algorithms and because people are dicks.

      A reviewer is in very dangerous territory if they buck a trend. I’m sure it can be done successfully. It is still risking the reviewer’s reputation and livelihood. It is not a good idea from a self employed standpoint nor is a good idea if a reviewer has to answer to an editor. It’s just not a good idea. An audience won’t hear what the reviewer is saying. They will only hear “the publication hired the wrong reviewer” and “the reviewer is bad at his job.”

      1. John says:

        When I said “it’s fine”, I meant that it would be a perfectly legitimate review. But of course the internet is going to be awful. When is it ever not?

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        By the way, how long have you been listening to the Diecast?

  12. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Regarding reviewers and difficulty, I think there’s like a sign near a roller coaster type of deal going on. “You must be at least this proficient to have valuable commentary.” If that sounds elitist, check out the internet archive of the time when IGN had a FIFA fan review Football Manager. It was so laughable, they unpublished the thing and had someone with sim experience redo the whole review. The prior version was a lot of “the graphics in the matches are bad and it’s frustrating you can’t take direct control of players” and “there’s a LOT of options to control the team, but they let you automate most of it, so it’s still pretty approachable to get to the point of helping your team win.”
    Or check out the review of God Hand still up on IGN, where IGN straight up admitted “we did not have any fans of character action games on staff who wanted to play it, at all.” This is a cult game renowned for its intensely complex combat possibilities, the ability for the player to customize everything to their liking, the intensely tough but achievable difficulty, etc. And the IGN review was like “this game is weird, hard, and ugly looking. 4.5 out of 10.”

    To be clear, a person shouldn’t be required to be a FAN of the franchise or genre in order to review it. And you can get some interesting or amusing takes from a hater or complete novice. The “Girlfriend review” channel on Youtube that started a couple months ago has some really wholesome takes on that style. But if the goal of the review is to discuss how successful it was at accomplishing its design goals and how well it stands out compared to similar works in its own genre, the novice or hater’s review is basically worthless. It’s like doing art critique with someone who knows that… Picasso was a famous painter, right? And the Ninja Turtles were named after painters I’m pretty sure… If they can’t even discuss familiar terms or styles, they’re not going to bring a ton to the discussion.

    Bringing this back to games one more time, imagine the sort of review you’d get from the guy who did that infamous Cuphead video. The one where he COULD NOT mentally process the manual dexterity to jump and then dash to pass the training obstacle in the tutorial. What kind of meaningful sentiment could this guy offer on the game? That it was very hard, too hard because he was expected to dodge attacks AND perform his own attacks at the same time?

    1. tmtvl says:

      *Insert Polygon Doom review meme here*

    2. John says:

      But if the goal of the review is to discuss how successful it was at accomplishing its design goals and how well it stands out compared to similar works in its own genre, the novice or hater’s review is basically worthless.

      I agree with this to an extent. What you’ve described here is a good way–to the extent that there is one–to determine something like a review score. In fact, that’s pretty close the language that Roger Ebert used whenever he had to respond to an angry letter from someone complaining that he’d given one movie too many or too few stars in relation to some other movie in another genre. It’s also exactly the sort of critical thinking that I like to see. But that’s not the only goal of a review. Reviews also exist in order to provide consumer advice. Will I enjoy a game or not? Now, obviously, the reviewer doesn’t know me and can’t answer that question definitively. The thing is that sometimes I am a novice. Sometimes I am a hater. (Probably. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by hater.) So as long as the reviewer is honest about being a novice or a hater and is also an honest and effective communicator, I can potentially make good use of that review.

      I’ve never played Football Manager. An expert’s review, aimed other experts, one that consists of a meticulous analysis of the differences between this year’s version and the last one, would be bascially worthless to me. In the case of something like Football Manager, I very definitely want the novice’s review or at the very least the non-enthusiast’s review. I want a review that’s relevant to my level of experience and engagement with the genre.

  13. tmtvl says:

    Regarding Kingdom Hearts, don’t forget that it’s a combination of jRPG and action game. You have to manage your resources at the same time as you run and jump around and bash enemies over the head with a big key. That said, I’ve only played the first one so I dunno how easy/hard the sequels are.

  14. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I think it’s pretty simple when it comes to the skill level needed for game reviewers: Your job as a game reviewer is to provided consumer advice. If your skill level is too much lower than a game’s intended audience, then you are simply not equipped to evaluate a game on a mechanical level that is relevant to them.

    The idea of a game review being “just someone’s opinion” is heavily flawed. Opinions are cheap. I can have an opinion on a game that I’ve never played before. A game reviewer is only providing a useful service if they can go beyond “having an opinion” into being able to give their readers an accurate idea on whether or not they will like the game, and that requires a more advanced skill set than just knowing whether or not you enjoyed a game yourself. It requires (in addition to a superior ability to deconstruct and articulate your experience with a game) a similar level of familiarity with the genre as the intended audience, and the ability to play at the level that the developers expected of a typical player.

    A reviewer who is intentionally targeting an audience other than a game’s intended one is in the same position: they need to be able to experience the game as that audience would. You wouldn’t want a “casual games reviewer” who is deep into super-complicated grand strategy RTS games telling a mother that they’re a good buy for her 7-year old son.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      The idea of a game review being “just someone’s opinion” is heavily flawed.

      Not really. It’s an informed opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. Just because other people have less valid opinions it doesn’t mean mine isn’t an opinion too.

      being able to give their readers an accurate idea on whether or not they will like the game

      How would this not be an opinion? Unless it’s stating purely facts (technical specs of the game, number of difficulty settings, amount of weapons/enemies, etc,) a review is always going to be an opinion piece. As soon as words like “this is good” or “this isn’t as good as”, “this is better than” or “this is well done” show up, then it becomes an opinion. Now point me to a review that states only quantifiable facts. Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing.

      Plus, it’s not like a reviewer personally knows all of their readers. Hell, even if they did, that’s no guarantee they’ll be accurate in their prediction. I have personal friends that I’ve known for years and they don’t always like something I did even if that something was recommended under the utmost belief that they would based on my personal knowledge of their tastes (and vice-versa).

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Not really. It’s an informed opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. Just because other people have less valid opinions it doesn’t mean mine isn’t an opinion too.

        This is backwards. Nobody’s opinion is less valid. What they are is less informed and less useful to others. My entire point is that your opinion, in and of itself, is not relevant to the job of reviewing a game. Your ability to use your opinion to reasonably judge your reader’s likely opinion is.

        How would this not be an opinion?

        My dad hates mayonnaise. He calls it “The White Death”. If I made a burger with mayonnaise on it, and he asked whether or not he should eat it, then I would be able to factually say “No, it has mayonnaise on it and you hate mayonnaise”. My opinion of mayonnaise wouldn’t even enter into the equation. My understanding of my target audience, however, allows me to look at the technical aspects of the burger and determine which ones are relevant.

        While you can’t take the subjectivity entirely out of a review, since each game is unique and it’s impossible to mathematically calculate whether another person will find it fun, reviewing a game should never be confused with having an opinion. “That game looks stupid” is an opinion. “Shoot Guy 15 features sluggish combat, a wonky difficulty curve, and a tonally inconsistent narrative.” is the start of an actual review. It’s not just an opinion- it’s an evaluation on common accepted metrics of a game’s quality. And in order to know what the genre standard for “sluggish combat” is, the reviewer has to have some level of experience in the genre.

        Plus, it’s not like a reviewer personally knows all of their readers.

        This doesn’t mean that you don’t know anything about a game’s intended audience or what their expectations might be. There’s a lot of room between “exact science” and “completely useless”. The inability to achieve the former does not excuse wallowing in the later.

  15. Chris says:

    When I think about american stereotypes you got 3
    Eastcoast/new england: think they are artisticratic with a history but as european they are just babies really
    texan/midwest: guns, texan part has cowboys and southern drawl
    west coast: california super excited like they are constantly drugged.

  16. Higher Peanut says:

    The only hope I had for Borderlands 3 was that it wasn’t some always online MMO game. Given how Borderlands 2 ended and how the DLC started introducing party raids with lockout timers (even off line) I was never very hopeful. The industry lootbox explosion meant I totally forgot about the series and wrote it off.

    I guess one thing they could improve on is the access to the crazy weapons that are advertised. None of my characters in a play through (normal not new game+) ever got an edrian weapon that wasn’t the scripted tutorial drop. When they did drop they didn’t roll much better than any of the normal weapons so could never overtake the usefulness of having a hit-scan style gun. I don’t know how this was in the PreSequel. I was pretty Borderlands’ed out at the time so just skipped it since I didn’t feel the need for a Jack origin story.

    Round dice are nonsensical but I had a mate who bought a spherical D6 anyway. It had a weight in it so it could land on a “side” and if you rolled it more that the smallest amount you had to go into the other room to check it.

    1. Rick says:

      My wife bought me some of those round dice and I loved them. Very sad that I lost them a while ago.

  17. bigben01985 says:

    Another view regarding Kingdom Heart, as someone that only watched LP’s of it: It seems like the game gets REALLY hard when you try to defeat optional bosses. Like maxed out character-still-try-a-dozen-times hard.

    And in general, if you pay no attention in fights and you’re not vastly overleveled, it looks like you can die rather easily as well even on standard difficulty.

    Another disclaimer, I haven’t seen anything past Birth By Sleep (in order of release)

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Wow, no PAX reports? I suppose I’d still be recovering if I had gone. The only one I attended was PAX Prime 2015, so I’m curious if the show is different across space and time from that data point.

  19. Drew says:

    I was at PAX this past weekend. For background, I’ve been to all ten PAX Easts and one South. And the one time Shamus did attend, I got my copy of the Witch Watch signed, so that was cool.

    The show remains fantastic. I’ll say my experience with the show is a little more on the tabletop side than the video game side, just because I can’t be bothered waiting in line to play a demo that I could probably go home and download, and so the big AAA video game booths don’t generally do it for me. But the show floor was still impressive, lots of VR setups (they take up a lot of space) and now there’s more focus on gaming spectacles as well, meaning there are a few “theaters” where pro gamers are playing Fortnite or whatever and people sit and watch. With the notable exception of Gearbox, it still doesn’t seem to be a show where a lot of announcements are made, but there are lots of opportunities to check out what’s happening around the industry, and impressively, a lot of opportunities to be exposed to indie games you may never hear of or see otherwise, and that’s the big draw of the show floor to me.

    On a board game note: anyone who is looking for a unique board game to check out, especially if you’ve got any history at all with CCGs, take a look at Millennium Blades. It’s a completely bonkers “CCG simulator”, and it’s frantic and intense and it really works.

    There were a few logistics issues this year, which is quite atypical in my experience. I jumped in the line for the Gearbox panel when the app said it was about 75% full, waited an hour, and then they figured out they’d counted wrong and an enormous number of people were turned away because the panel was full. I’ve always spoken highly of the organization at PAX and this was the only one of their events I’ve attended that had this kind of issue. I had a similar issue with the thrown controllers panel, but it was clear earlier that we weren’t going to get in there (again, the communication about the line was off). Add to that some inefficiency from the BCEC security (10 metal detector lines for people with bags, only 2 for people without?) and the fact that BCEC wouldn’t let the cookie brigade bring homemade cookies this year, and there was a little bit of frustration.

    Note that with all of the issues I mentioned above, I had a fabulous time, and compared to most events I’ve attended in my life I’d put it way ahead of the game. PAX has just set a pretty high standard for convention logistics and I felt like they slipped just a little this year on that front.

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