By infestedandy 2 Comments
As a member of the gaming press, it's my responsibility to convey information and facts to the general public about the games I play. That means broadcasting everything, including triple-A games people can't wait to play as well as indie titles that people may have never heard of. The latter is especially important, as it exposes the masses to what could be considered the next big thing. Failing to properly deliver this information correctly though, can easily result in a massive loss of interest and sales for the game in question. Unfortunately, Arcen Games recently had this occurrence with their new title, A Valley Without Wind.
Just as I stated above, we, as industry professionals strive to bring all of you unbiased, unadulterated information about every type of game out there. Saying that, it's very disappointing when a small studio like Arcen Games puts out a title that gets drug into the ground with information that's misleading and/or simply untrue. It's even more disappointing when the writers behind the reviews, who also represent prestigious websites that cover the industry, are the ones failing to accurately represent the true facts behind the core of the game. A Valley Without Wind isn't a perfect title by any means, but it's still deserving of a fair chance; especially when the game is being played by professionals who are being paid to talk about it.
The game has plenty of glitches, but perhaps these karate kicking robots are working as intended.
Before I get too deep in the lines that I feel bring about this whole debacle, understand that I'm completely aware that reviews are of that specific writer's opinion. I've wrote a few. However, having an opinion is one thing and spitting erroneous facts is another. For example, IGN stated:
" ...most levels feature music that sounds like it came from discarded drafts for the score to Mega Man 2."
This is an opinion, one that I cannot understand in this situation, but one that I respect. AVWW has some tremendous tracks and if you think this sounds like garbage, I don't know what else I can say. As much as I defend the reviewer here, I can't do the same with this next statement:
" At times, enemies that weren't immune before become immune for the rest of the game. Kill enough bats, for example, and all future bats become flame-immune "fire bats," which means that calling down a meteor shower on them has all the effect of using a feather to stop a freight train."
It's true that you unlock new enemies the more you kill a specific type, but at no point do all the bats in the game become flame immune. As a matter of fact, several more versions including a sonic bat eventually appear and they all come with unique strengths and weaknesses. The reviewer also states that he can no longer effectively use fire to deal with the fire bats, but that's not true either. Bats in AVWW have a very, very low health pool and unless you're rockin' a level one fire spell you can still kill them in two to three shots.
IGN helped to round out their review by these glorious words:
"... it plays sort of like a primitive MMORPG, right down to concerns of "ninja looting" since drops always go to the first person that picked them up."
This information is just dead wrong. AVWW has never, I repeat, never had any concerns with ninja looting in multiplayer games. If you join a game with multiple people, what drops on your screen is exclusive to you, exactly like how Diablo III does it. How does an industry professional miss something like this? To me, it shows that they've already thrown in the towel on the game and they just want the review to be over because no one's going to read it anyway.
Not every ability is useful in the way you play.
Indie games deserve just as much attention as these other triple-A titles do and that should be felt in the reviews. No matter who you are, it hurts if your game doesn't resonate well with the critics but it hurts a lot more when you don't have millions of dollars backing your budget. Cutting corners and relaying bad information is a lethargic way of moving on to the "better game" out there. When a reviewer makes the decision to just toss this stupid indie game aside, it affects passionate people who have poured much more than their own money into the project. It's unfair to them and it's unfair to the people out there who want to know more about the title.
Along with IGN, GameSpot also gave AVWW a 5.5 out of 10. Fluctuations in scores happen, it's just part of the world of video games. It's also one of the reasons reading a review can be so important. Instead of scanning the bottom of the page for an emboldened number or letter, reading the review may divulge specific information that holds the reason to purchase or avoid said game. In AVWW's case, if you were looking at IGN, GameSpot or Eurogamer's reviews, scanning the score would be more than enough for the majority to make a judgment call. However, if you were to read these reviews you'd be appalled at some of the experiences these reviewers went through. You'd be even more disgusted, for completely different reasons, if you actually played AVWW and then read them.
GameSpot's review falls into this category and Tom Mc Shea, the man responsible for the review didn't make it any easier on himself. Upon finishing the review, his descriptive profile said some interesting tidbits:
"Tom Mc Shea loves platformers and weighty moral decisions almost as much as he likes vaseline on toast."
AVWW is a 2D platformer. Why is someone who publicly states his dislike for the genre playing this game? It's equivalent to a situation in which a reviewer who's entranced by sports titles like Madden, FIFA and NHL is tasked to review an RPG. If the dude isn't into the genre, knows hardly anything about it and couldn't care less about it, then why in the world was he assigned to it? If you hated platformers and were forced to play one for an extended period of time, what do you think would be going through your mind? If a situation like this should arise, the writer should take responsibility and tell the person allocating the games about his/her prejudice toward the genre. If there's no change, something should be written in the review itself because this... is just embarrassing.
Saving a pink box? Yes, I think so.
The review itself, while not exactly short, reeks of brevity and by that I mean time spent in the game. This statement assures that as truth:
"Places look so similar that it's easy to get lost, and the poorly designed map adds to this burden. Finding your way out of a cave is no easy task, even using the warp points, so you wander from one similar-looking environment to the next, until you contemplate sacrificing your character's life just so you can leave this stage before your sanity flees."
Satire aside, the reviewer's description tells me he had a hell of a time clicking off of all the tutorial messages at the beginning of the game. While you can definitely get lost in AVWW, the map system is actually incredibly readable and serves as your compass to the world. By just glancing at it for a quick moment, I was able to decipher exactly where I was, where I needed to go and if there was anything even remotely interesting near me. The thing is, you need to take the time to read the tutorials. AVWW isn't like any game you've played before and requires some time to understand it. Take it from me, if you can't get out of a cave by using a warp point that's activated by just walking past it, you've got some serious issues.
One of my favorite lines from this review comes fairly early:
"It doesn't become apparent how shallow this game is until many hours into your journey."
Fast forward a few paragraphs later and you get this:
"...multiplayer is just one more option in a game that's already overflowing with choice."
Even the pros and cons section at the onset of the review states how shallow AVWW is. If that's the case then where does this statement have relevance? Overflowing with choice, but it's extremely shallow? AVWW becomes much more accessible once you understand how spell crafting and material gathering work, but it's definitely not a shallow experience.
You can wander around the randomly generated world for hours.
To wrap up GameSpot's review, they had a very interesting duo of comments that bring up another point:
"Freedom is no substitute for depth, and it's woefully apparent once the training wheels come off just how shallow this valley is."
"Combat commits the transgression of having bountiful options rather than genuine depth."
Why don't more websites and publications say this about The Elder Scrolls? A user who commented on the review brought this up and I completely agree. It's a triple-A franchise, but that doesn't give it immunity from criticism like AVWW is receiving. I'm not saying this is the case for everybody and everything, but no one out there should be afraid of speaking the truth about any kind of triple-A title.
Eurogamer's review of AVWW was a piece of utter satire. The entire time the reviewer tries to be funny and slams the game in practically every department. That could end up being fine, but with lines like this, it's hard to accept what he has to say:
"Speaking of craftsmanship, the game's solution for levels which end up being player-unfriendly is to give you a supply of hundreds of wooden platforms and crates your character can spawn en masse like some frightening psychic carpenter. That this, rather than a grappling hook or jetpack, was the developers' solution should give you a hint about the glassy mentality behind the game."
Jumping. It's cool, man.
Clearly, the reviewer is too concerned with being facetious and snide to understand how whiney he sounds. According to his statement, the game is less because their mechanic of allowing players to place platforms as a means of travel isn't as cool as a grappling hook or jetpack. It's a brainless statement.
What's even more confusing is that after you get done reading a review that consists of almost no positives, you happen upon these words:
"The best thing that can be said about the whole package is that, like health-conscious toast, for all my whining there's nothing actively repulsive about A Valley Without Wind."
As a reviewer, this infuriates me. How can you go about bashing a game and then, at the very tail end of the review, say that it isn't so bad? It's hypocritical and it confuses readers who are already interested in the game, but wanted a professional opinion. The worth of Eurogamer's opinion is pretty low in this review though, especially since they never mentioned anything about co-op play, how exploration affects the world and, though they've changed it now, Civilization Progress and the tier system.
Despite all of this sounding terrible, absolutely none of these well-known and reputable websites mentioned anything about Arcen Game's involvement in the community, daily patches, player input and constant additions to the game. Every single day I fired AVWW up, there was something new set in place. AVWW is a very different game now thanks to Arcen Game's dedication to its fanbase, but apparently that wasn't important enough to mention in any of these reviews.
Ice Pirates don't care where you are. They're going to shoot you. With ice.
I should mention a review that stands out in the face of overwhelming negligence, and that's Destructoid's. Jim Sterling talked about almost every aspect of the game, its strengths, weaknesses and the ambition Arcen Games had when creating AVWW. Despite its positive spin for Sterling, he still gave it a 6.5, .5 higher than our score. This, quite simply, is how you write a review.
The point I'm trying to make should be clear. Indie developers, like Arcen Games, are given the cold shoulder when it comes time to review their games. Awesome as a new triple-A title might be, it shouldn't be treated any differently than a two man indie studio developed game. Regardless of what they all might be, they're video games that are being played and rated by professionals who then pass on their experiences to their readers. Everyone deserves a fair chance and AVWW didn't get one.
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You can view the original article right here via Gamer's Guide to Life.