On MMO Reviews – Why I Think They’re ‘Mostly’ PointlessMay 13, 2010
I remember when Assassin’s Creed 2 came out, I was hesitant to give it a shot. The hype surrounding it made me curious, but I had found the original game a little too tedious for my tastes. It was the many glowing reviews I read on gaming sites, saying that the second installment was in many ways better than the first game, that finally led me to pick it up for the Xbox360. And I’m glad I did. It rocked.
But that was a single player game. Everyone who plays it gets to be Ezio Auditore da Firenze (you, sir, win first prize in the sexiest name contest), we’re all taken through the same story where we all essentially make the same decisions, solve the same puzzles, kill the same targets, yadda yadda yadda, get the same ending. I can read any reviewer’s take on AC2 and have a general idea of what to expect, and know right away if it’s a game I’ll like or not.
MMORPGs, on the other hand, are another story. To be honest, I don’t care much for reading MMO reviews on the big game sites, though I’ll still scan them from time to time just to see what IGN or Gamespot etc. thinks. On launch day of the Age of Conan Rise of the Godslayer expansion, I went to check out the Eurogamer review only to see that they had already decided to withdraw it because they were “not completely satisfied that it meets the standards expected of MMO reviews.”
I wasn’t sure what happened exactly, but seeing that message did bring back memories of their Darkfall review scandal last year and of the more recent Global Agenda review snafu by GameSpot. The reviewer for RotGs may or may not have played enough to give a fair review and there were allegedly a few tidbits of misinformation in the article, but the fact that I don’t know what the deal was makes me feel a little conflicted on this. So someone on a game review site has a negative opinion on an MMO, why all the rage in the comments? I would take it with a grain of salt.
First of all, it takes a lot of time to properly explore an MMO. GameSpot for one has a “30 hour policy” but I personally don’t think that’s enough either. I would argue that a true experience takes days or even weeks. But maybe that’s a bit of an unrealistic expectation from a game site, and as such I wouldn’t read too much into any MMO review article.
More importantly though, I think the variety of MMORPGs on the market have given rise to many types of online gamers all seeking ways to satisfy their different play styles. Whether you’re a PVPer, raider, explorer, achiever, collector, solo-er, casual, hardcore, crafter, RPer, or whatever, the fact of the matter is, no one is going to have exactly the same experience in an MMO, nor would they have the same expectations. That’s the beauty of the genre.
And that’s why I personally won’t rely on a game site review to decide whether or not I want to try a particular MMO. Single-player games, fine. But for MMOs, it’s not like I’ll be familiar with some random reviewer’s play style and preferences, or know from which angle they’ll be looking at the game features. For those kinds of insights, I prefer to turn to personal blogs. Generally, I find my fellow bloggers’ personal experiences with their MMOs over time to be more revealing in terms of what to expect.
Still, in the end, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even a Eurogamer reviewer! I could care less if he gave RotGs a negative review, I’d still have liked to see another person’s take on it, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. It would have been a shame if the review was taken down solely due to the backlash in the comments. Rabid fans can just get any bad review retracted if that’s the case, and that’s no good. On the other hand, if it was indeed taken down for legit reasons…say, if they had tried to rush the review by only giving the expansion a go for like, two hours…then I say, boo to him.