July 18, 2009

The Real Kieron Gillen Darkfall Review

Unlike my Darkfall, The Lost Review (made possible, unknowingly, by Kieron Gillen), this new review at Eurogamer for Darkfall is real and really written by Kieron Gillen.

The actual 4/10 score aside, I think it's important to look at what Kieron did.

First, he addressed the fundamental problem of the first review and Aventurine's claims the first reviewer barely played the game:
From Eurogamer's perspective, they have a developer claiming that logs show something. Logs which are entirely within their control. I'd be surprised if Eurogamer has a tech guy in-house capable of ascertaining the meaning of the logs. More so, when changing logs is an absolutely trivial task, what the logs say when that tech examines it is ultimately meaningless. If Aventurine was dissembling, Eurogamer wouldn't be able to tell.

As long as the reviewer claimed reasonably that he'd played the game for longer, Tom [Bramwell, editor] had to back him because - really - it was his word against theirs.
Essentially, one side is lieing or the other side is putting too much stock in automated computer functions to keep track of the truth. Scratch that, someone is lieing. From Aventurine's attack on play-time, instead of the merit of the complaints in the first review, I tend to side with Eurogamer's first reviewer.

Forutnately, that can be laid to rest. Kieron played the game and came to the following conclusion after debating what he should do for the review:
1) Engage with the debate around the review directly, and review it in two hours (what Aventurine said was played), 10 hours (roughly what the reviewer said he played) and again, with however many hours I ended up playing in the end. As in, how much can you actually say in such a short period? How valid is it? What changes? What doesn't?

Why I Didn't: Fundamentally not enough changed to make it worthwhile. My experience with the game didn't scale. What I liked and what I disliked about the game were there pretty much from the first moment in one form or another, and it was how they appeared which altered as I progressed. Perhaps the biggest irony about this whole mess: I suspect this is an MMO which you can tell whether you like or not in those first couple of hours.
While there is plenty more to read over at Eurogamer, the above quote sums it up nicely and can be applied to most MMOGs. The play experience within the first few hours ultimately defines the experience for the player and whether they will be sticking around. If that experience sucks, the reviews are going to suck. This isn't 1999, MMOGs don't have the luxury of a patient community willing to stick it out for developers to "patch in the game".

This brings us to the most important part of the review, Kieron's take on how MMOG reviews should be accomplished:
In other words, using a travel-journalism metaphor, a first review of an MMO is whether a destination is a place you'd recommend for a holiday. A second review is a recommendation of whether somewhere is a good place to go and live. I think this provides worthwhile buying advice - the first review says whether it's worth your money, which is the primary aim of a consumer review. I also think this is the best we're going to get.
It's evident now why Aventurine turned down Kieron Gillen's offer to re-review the game. Aventurine knew Kieron would kick them in the balls and show how utterly pointless their argument against the first review was. Aventurine got served.