: Editorial: Do Critics Favor Harder Games?

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Editorial: Do Critics Favor Harder Games?

Everyone's talking about the flaws in the video game review community after The Order: 1886 lit a fire under everyone's ass.

But there's another question to consider: Some harped on Ready at Dawn's game for being too easy (which I don't agree with at all) and it got me thinking: Do critics tend to favor harder games? Do the more challenging products get more praise because they're designed for the "hardcore" or "elite" players?

One could almost make the argument that this is so. The Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games always score exceedingly well and while they are indeed great games, one wonders if they'd score so well if the difficulty wasn't quite so high. More often than not, I see critics docking a game for being too easy, while they actually appear to be giving a game a higher score for being extra tough. It's almost as if high difficulty can't possibly be a negative thing in the eyes of reviewers today, while they're just as quick to point out the easy games as being...well, inferior.

The upcoming Bloodborne is supposed to be brutally hard. It should also be a very high-quality product. I still wonder what might happen if the game was "dumbed-down" for the sake of accessibility, though; wouldn't the fans just freak out? And wouldn't critics basically say it was a mistake? They tend to get all over developers for making games too easy for the purpose of wider appeal, but they don't blink an eye when a team makes a game that's crazy tough. Not every core gamer on earth likes that, but I have a feeling critics really do.

Just wondering what other people thought about this.

2/27/2015 Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (39 posts)


FM23
Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 10:16:11 PM
Reply

I don't know how to feel about this. Dark Souls 2 was considerably easier in my opinion than Demon Souls and Dark Soul 1, but it was a great game in its own right. Though it lost some of its charm due to the easier nature.

I don't think critics rate these games high because of their difficulty, but more or less based on the strategic gameplay, atmosphere, and level design that is unmatched by anything else out currently on the market. This is the "anti-twitch" game. Timing and strategy beat all.

I honestly don't think review scores are affected by difficulty because I have seen stupid A.I. docked just as easily as unfair ridiculous A.I. Didn't Driveclub get docked for aggressive A.I. just like GT got docked for it robotic A.I. I mean all the Souls game don't particularly have smart A.I. themselves.

And then look at a game like Assassin Creed overall. These have to be some of the easiest games ever made, made hard only by its own finicky controls! haha I have never seen critics point that out, but award the game for everything else it does right.

We all know the Order was judged unfairly. I mean Dragon Inquisition on normal difficulty is cake too. Most games are. But I don't think difficulty really affects scores unless your a PS exclusive ;)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:45:53 AM

Thank you for saying AC has finicky controls. You are my soul brother now.

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FM23
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 11:38:00 AM

Haha Dude, jumping back into AC with Unity (after AC3 and it's terrible ending) reminded me off past wounds lol

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 12:53:59 PM

Any game that gives you as much capabilities as a MGS, Splinter Cell, or Assassin's Creed could qualify as having finicky controls. You can totally blow a strategy with a single missed input. This is because most every input has a very important purpose. I'm not saying these control mechanisms could'nt be improved but their detail and finickiness is inherent to the genre. They test the very limits of what a human can be expected to do with their hands.

The day any of these games significantly dumb their interfaces down to make it easier for a person to jump around and do things like Mario or behave like CoD is the day I'd likely stop playing them. Because in so doing they'll have to implement greater automation and remove capability from the user, effectively defeating a major reason to play the genre.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/28/2015 12:57:18 PM

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FM23
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 1:55:17 PM

Whoa you gotta too deep there. I love MGS and AC, but doesn't change the fact that AC has finicky controls. Not saying dumb down controls, but accessing the bombs on the gadget belt is a nuisance, climbing into windows is sometimes near impossible, the cover/break cover mechanic is broken and the stickiness.

This is more pronounced in Unity though then previous games. But this is what I mean, not the button layout or whatever.

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 2:04:49 PM

nothing i said was deep.

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FM23
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 4:00:35 PM

Sorry, it was sarcasm.

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Shams
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 5:11:12 PM

The character of AC has always had the unique quality of moving about as if he's taken a giant dump in his tunic. The stressful bubbling, bell, and ringing sound effects in the background do no help, often reinforcing this experience. It's as if it is a repeating, nightmarish simulation of one running to the bathroom quite often ending in a splattering failure, only to repeat itself...not that i know what would be like, any more than being an actual assassin. Perhaps this is how it really is like. Controls are fine.

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 7:26:05 PM

wow master shams, long time no see. here I thought you joined the list of wise people who realized hanging out on videogame message boards was a waste of time, like highlander eventually did =p

someday I may convince myself of that too.

yea, the weighty movement in AC games adds to it's realism. though, personally I probably wouldn't have phrased it the same way as you had =p

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Jawknee
Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 10:30:49 PM
Reply

I found The Order to be just right on Hard. Would be nice to have another level up after that. Something akin to Grounded mode in The Last of Us.

Can't say if reviewers prefer hard games. After the conniption fits thrown by reviewers over The Order, some to the point of pure disingenuousness, I'm done with reviews from most places. The Order isn't perfect but it's a damn good game that deserved better treatment than it received.

Last edited by Jawknee on 2/27/2015 10:33:04 PM

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xenris
Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 11:05:42 PM

I felt the Order on hard was perfect as well. I died a bunch of times and had to be not an idiot, I liked it.

It is a good game and people went crazy on it for no real good reason.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:44:28 AM

I don't much like challenges as you know I just want stories and experiences so I slapped The Order on easy and I'm still dying so it must be hard enough. I'm not a terrible gamer just a gun-jumper. If it were too easy I'd be able to jump the gun and not be punished.

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 2:06:33 PM

world by starting it on easy you gave yourself 3 reasons to play the game through. Once on easy, normal, and hard.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 3:29:12 PM

It's worth that too

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Nerull
Sunday, March 01, 2015 @ 9:24:57 PM

I haven't tried the Order on hard yet, but, other than a super easy final boss, I thought it was pretty finely tuned on normal.
For most of the game I hardly ever died, but there were a couple fights that I got stuck on for a while until I developed the right strategy.

I'd like to like Bloodborne, but it's that kind of game that makes me realize I don't have THAT much free time to game. I'd rather play something moderately challenging than something downright punishing.

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PC_Max
Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 11:26:17 PM
Reply

For me if a game is hard to the point of frustration and no longer entertaining ... thats a negative for me. Right you there with games that go in to the grind phase of gameplay and there are plenty of those. I try to avoid those unless maybe I have lots of time to waste.

In regards to critics and whether its a factor? I don't pretend to really understand critics and their ways. I see them as gamers who have an audience or following.

They are a fickled bunch. I think maybe there should be critics of game critics. Breaking down what critics missed in their reviews and rate the critic. Of wait... I guess that might be us gamers. :)

Keep playing!

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Rachet_JC_FTW
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 4:26:09 AM
Reply

well making game harder means its takes longer and so the length and possibly the replayability will be higher which is always a plus for the wider community. although i don't mind so much cos i buy a game to play and enjoy and then add to my collection and i know thats everyones thing but i don't really trade in games ever even i don't end up liking them as much as i thought (bf4 and black ops 1 &2 i'm looking at you) mainly cos i don't what to do with them.

but yeah i think that cridics may well be inclined to give better scores to hard games cos people are complaining alot about games getter to easy these days so they may want to please that crowd mind that does include me at times. but as to the specifics idk know for sure

happy gaming

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Bio
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 5:09:59 AM
Reply

I'm glad we're still talking about reviews of The Order

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bigrailer19
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:33:20 AM

One more...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:46:10 AM

Me too, it needs more press.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 11:24:15 AM

Maybe I'll just keep doing it until you find a way to shut up. And this isn't even about The Order but you didn't read it anyway, I'm sure.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 2/28/2015 11:24:41 AM

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Jawknee
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 11:24:49 AM

I hope we talk about it for the rest of the month.

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Bio
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 11:50:19 AM

Oh like hell it's not about The Order.

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Bio
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 12:11:14 PM

Jawknee I hope you're right. It needs more coverage.

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 1:54:46 PM

I could get the Order for $15 new right now if I wanted =)

I had a birthday and I got Best Buy GC from relative ;)

Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/28/2015 1:55:07 PM

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Underdog15
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 6:41:46 PM

I'm confused, Bio. Is The Order criticized for being too easy? I thought it was about cutscene length and gameplay length...

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 7:38:16 PM

there's a number of things it's been hung for Underdog.

length: We have professional reviewers claiming 6 hours to completion, like Gamespot chief editor, Kevin Van Ord, contrasting with Ben of PSXe claiming 8-12. With IGN's editor claiming 7. All claim there's little to come back to upon finish.

pacing: some say it's great. others say it's terrible.

graphics and sound: everyone agrees they're great!

lengthy boring cutscenes and narrative based design that consists of steering Galahad around rooms picking up random objects to inspect that have little to no bearing on gameplay or story.

too many QTE's: ...

iffy AI: ...

iffy stealth: ...

Control: overall handling is great.

(none of these are my opinion. this is the general consensus shared by many critics that I've observed. many of which are the same critics who rated The Last of Us glowingly. A game that is the pinnacle of linear driven game design. Somehow something happened with Order that caused a deep divide in opinion)


Last edited by Temjin001 on 2/28/2015 7:44:35 PM

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Bio
Sunday, March 01, 2015 @ 4:22:58 PM

Underdog I don't even know anymore. It just seems like an inordinate amount of coverage for one game's reviews.

Ben liked it, he wrote his review, the game seems to be selling well enough, why are we still talking about it?

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Axe99
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 6:00:03 AM
Reply

Well, the same critics went and had a go at the Order for an insta-fail stealth mode - so it's bad if it's insta-fail stealth, but insta-fail combat is fine, or something? I just think the Order debacle was the bulk of video game reviewing jumping the shark. It's a sad, sad day when the journalists are actually less reliable than the marketing material (which, in the case of the order, was spot on - we knew there were QTEs, we knew it was the standard length for this kind of thing, we knew it was story-based with cut-scenes - it's not like MGS2 where an hour or so in we suddenly had to play the rest of the game with a blonde kid instead of Snake (note - I love MGS2 :))).

So no, I don't think reviewers like hard games, or easy games (there's a bunch of hard strategy games most reviewers can't cope with - but it's the wrong kind of 'hard' for them), I just think it's a case of the broader video game reviewing fraternity being a bunch of trend-following sheep. When hard games go out of fashion, they'll get treated badly critically as well.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:42:58 AM

I don't get the hate on the stealth, works fine for me.

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Axe99
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 2:49:09 PM

Aye, me neither, I enjoyed it a lot, but the critics struggled with it. That was kinda my point - the critics like 'hard' games as long as it's 'their' hard. Some other kind of hard (strategy, stealth, you-name-it) and they're not interested.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 10:41:16 AM
Reply

I think so, Demon's Souls would've been just like any old school memory based game without the brain smashing difficulty.

See my: Will Bloodborne Be Smeared Like The Order: 1886?

http://www.onlysp.com/will-bloodborne-be-smeared-like-the-order-1886/



Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 2/28/2015 10:41:26 AM

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Axe99
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 2:51:40 PM

Good article and good site as well, btw :).

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Temjin001
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 3:09:01 PM

Cool World. I see both yourself and Lawless are still kicking it over there.
OnlySP is a nice looking site. You guys should convince Ben to get PSXe out of the nineties in appearance ;)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 3:30:26 PM

Thanks peeps. Yup we are in cahoots with Google and Bing now and working on getting on Metacritic. It's rolling forward.

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Underdog15
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 11:02:35 AM
Reply

Games need to have multiple difficulties, I feel. Some people just want to play the game and see the story, while others want to spend lots of time with their purchases. I always prefer the harder difficulties.

What I -DON'T- like is when they block off the hardest setting until after you beat it once. It's by far my biggest beef with Naughty Dog.

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Banky A
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 4:56:52 PM

That grinds my gears, every single time.

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xenris
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 6:32:21 PM

I think difficulty settings are great for most genres but for a game like souls the way it is balanced doesn't really allow for it.

I also think people play a game how they want to play it and ignore what the game is obviously trying to get them to do. Souls games give you all the tools you need for success.

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Underdog15
Saturday, February 28, 2015 @ 6:42:26 PM

Except time. Souls doesn't give me any more spare time.

I liked them. But I didn't "not finish" them because I couldn't get any further. I left because I had other games to play.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 2/28/2015 6:43:16 PM

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