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    Elden Ring

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released Feb 25, 2022

    Elden Ring by FromSoftware is a collaboration between Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin.

    Let More Newcomers Review Elden Ring And Why I'm (Probably) Not Going To Play It

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    ZombiePie

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    Edited By ZombiePie  Staff

    Different People Should Be Allowed To Review Elden Ring

    This isn't exactly one of my
    This isn't exactly one of my "normal" blogs.

    Elden Ring has finally come out for those of you unaware, and it has been met with universal acclaim by most tentpole gaming publications and websites. Nonetheless, I want to provide a disclaimer before I continue. My blog here is not to question the content of these reviews or impune their integrity. I believe that every person who has shared their experiences with the game on a major publication met their editorial standards. However, there's something I noticed when I perused most of the reviews readily available at the time of the game's release: most websites and magazines elected to assign the game to "experts" of From Software. Again, I need to preface that this is not in and of itself a mistake or that I think any individual or publication is suspect. However, as someone who has previously been on record saying, "I don't like Souls games," this has made finding out if Elden Ring is a game for me monumentally harder.

    For those of you who are fans of From Software and have been following their video games, let me shine some light on what I needed to do to create the pastiche of a review of Elden Ring that met my particular needs. First, I had to scour Twitter searching for "Elden Ring+newcomer." Because reading things in order on Twitter is a fucking mess, I had to locate the original posts for two Tweets threads from people claiming to be new to the Souls genre and process their multi-post mini-reviews. Still feeling as if parts of the game were underrepresented, I searched YouTube and found nothing but enthusiast-minded reviews. Luckily, someone from a Discord I am subscribed to sent me a handful of op-eds, NOT formal reviews, written by people like me trying out Elden Ring and sharing the things they enjoyed and disliked about the game. Oh, and while I was researching stuff, I had to process shit like this while finding valuable sources of information.

    This is what we call a
    This is what we call a "dichotomy!" I do want to thank all of the people who replied to Steve Saylor's thread!

    So, yeah, it sounds like Elden Ring has taken strides to address common complaints about earlier From Software games, and the developer has even thrown some bones to people like myself. That said, there's likely going to be fiddly stuff that drives me crazy. The world is enormous, and the exploratory parts of the game are likely to please long-time fans of Souls games while subjecting newcomers to a moderate to steep learning curve. As rote and inane as those previous three sentences might sound, it took me a whole three hours of relentless research before I felt comfortable writing them down, let alone publishing them for the denizens of the internet to see. This is, ultimately, where I start to get frustrated with the state of reviews and the way most significant publications cover games like Elden Ring.

    The people the reviews are being written for (i.e., enthusiasts) decided to buy the game months before publication. At best, most of these readers will scan for a score and then comment if they agree with the associated number. On the other hand, people like myself are left to the wayside. Those that most could have benefited from a structured review that articulated the game's scaffolding strategies and possible pitfalls have NOTHING to read or process. And yet, the former is the lion's share of what you will find on the internet. I think this is why most people are checking out FAQs and "Beginner's Guides" in favor of front-page reviews. These articles do a better job of sharing what the moment-to-moment experiences are likely to be for veterans and novices.

    And I genuinely hope that reviews can turn things around because finding useful information like this via social media SUCKS!
    And I genuinely hope that reviews can turn things around because finding useful information like this via social media SUCKS!

    So, if the reviews that are coming out don't help most people make informed decisions, I have to ask, what's the point? I understand that some are using their reviews to express why the world of Elden Ring means a lot to them and why they have chosen to follow From Software through thick and thin. However, wouldn't an op-ed suffice? This situation furthers the generalized malaise among the gaming community with written-based forms of expression. This scenario is a bummer for me as someone who feels at their best when blogging about games. I want to say that inroads have been made to add some modern relevance to reviews elsewhere. Some have elected to provide alternative voices a platform, and others allow for more than one review of a game to exist. Nonetheless, games like Elden Ring show me that most of these quaint experiments often get paused to make way to SEO.

    I think where this starts to impact all of us is what happens if reviews continue to be written EXCLUSIVELY by "experts" and not newcomers. I fear we will get back to the same normalization issue of review scores that started a few decades ago. Again, none of this criticism applies to any individuals writing the reviews their bosses have assigned them. You get yours and keep putting food on the table. Nonetheless, it feels like reviews are ebbing backward to the early 2000s, where everything scores within the 7 to 10 range. And this is happening when more voices are expressing skepticism over the necessity of at-launch review coverage more than ever. So, honestly, who is reading these reviews and benefits from doing so? If you are someone who at any point enthusiastically shared a 10/10 or 5/5 review of Elden Ring on any social media platform or website, what inspired you to do that? And if you did do that, did you read the whole review?

    So, Why Am I Going To Hold Off On Playing Elden Ring?

    So, why do I think it's crucial for newcomers to review Elden Ring in the first place? Well, it's for the same reason why I think there should have been more reviews and articles written by newcomers to Pokémon when the time came to assess Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In both cases, when you discount the veneer of nostalgia, were there enough voices asking if there is a game at the core of the package that can be enjoyed without caveats? Is there enough to the worlds of Arceus or Elden Ring to appreciate them without having over a decade worth of context? And on top of that, are the mechanics and gameplay approachable if one has not been following either series and have missed out on previous games codifying their irrespective tropes and sub-systems? All of you reading this blog might have different answers to those questions, but my last points remain. I think enthusiasts need to accept that the games they love are not the easy recommendations they believe they are. On top of that, what they have normalized as "trope appropriate" isn't always effortless for others to process. And the only solution, at least in my mind, is if non-experts are given more opportunities to share their struggles and issues with fundamental mechanics without judgment.

    With all that in mind, I'm pretty confident in saying I would not enjoy Elden Ring. That is not to say you, out there reading this blog, are incapable of having a good time with Elden Ring. But while many are writing reams of paragraphs justifying the game's decision to not include a quest log as doing so "encourages organic exploration," I'm going to look at that design decision and reply, "I'm not interested." I understand the game is well-made. Its world is undeniably immense and teeming with excellent worldbuilding opportunities, but as someone who does not like the punishing difficulty of the Souls games or their general jankiness; I think I'll pass. I understand that for some, the jank associated with From Software games is something people have come to appreciate, but I'm not one of them.

    I do respect George R.R. Martin continuing to live his best life.
    I do respect George R.R. Martin continuing to live his best life.

    Likewise, I know that I have to clarify myself whenever I use the word "jank" when discussing a Souls game. When I did so when flippantly asking about Elden Ring on social media, it felt like an army swarmed me almost immediately and wanted to have me guillotined. So, here's what I would say about the matter. Sometimes you get lucky if you tumble down the side of a wall. Other times, you die, and I don't particularly appreciate that weird feeling of uneasiness. Maybe you enjoy the slippery feeling of not knowing if your current drop attack will break your upcoming fall damage, but I sure don't. Sliding down a cliff that I feel I have done countless times prior, but this one time, it decides to halve my health? I understand if you think that's silly, but I fucking hate it!

    And to return to the issue of the game's pseudo-real-time exploration, I cannot help but feel like it is full of busy work that would drive me up the wall. None of this is to suggest that I hate games with rough edges. I am, of course, someone who put Necromunda: Hired Gun on their 2021 GOTY list. Part of me wants to say I can handle pathfinding issues, geometry breaking, general falling through shit, hitbox weirdness, and clipping, but not all at once and while trying to process massive towering bosses in real-time. That ad-hoc combat is part of the reason why many like the Souls games, and I think you can guess that I am not one of them. I get frustrated with how From structures their missions with you needing to talk to NPCs, listening to them opine a riddle, and then you needing to fill in the gaps to figure out where the game wants you to go next. I'm not too fond of that directionless format, and I think that's part of why many people rely on the Dark Souls Wiki whenever they play entries in the mainline franchise.

    And I don't know; there are a lot of games coming out that I want to play before I give Elden Ring a shot? What would be funny is if the scant four paragraphs in which I discuss why I'm passing on the game are all people want to talk about and pick apart. With that in mind, I hazard to say that I don't blame websites and editors for not wanting to break the mold. From what I can tell, the one or two editors that dared to give the game an eight are already dealing with a deluge of bullshit fanboyism. I hesitated in publishing this blog because I felt like my points about the quality of game reviews would get ignored in favor of the second section. Does anyone want to take bets?

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    tontogoldstein

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    It's a great point. A co-worker asked me today if they should get Elden Ring having not played the other games in the series after seeing the glowing reviews. I explained he should try to get into a Dark Souls game first and not pay $60 day one for a game that just may not be for him.

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    Hayt

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    #2  Edited By Hayt

    I've enjoyed the Souls games I've played but I'll come out and say it. I think there's stuff in every Souls game that people ascribe to some very deliberate masochistic design that I honestly think is more likely to be incompetence on the part of From. The wildly inconsistent frame rate. The shitty camera and lock on. The fucky hitboxes. All the shit with traversal you mentioned. Ever since Demon's Souls I have thought "This is amazing. When they fix the rough edges in the sequel it's going to be even better" and they have just shown no interest in doing it.

    Edit: the reason I posted this in relation to the OP is because I feel like the Souls game fan base has this very bizarre "the bad stuff is good actually because it's on purpose" mindset which I think newcomers would rightfully baulk at.

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    ALLTheDinos

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    Good post. As one of those people who preordered the game, I get little value from Souls experts or enthusiasts reviewing the game. How it compares to games I’ve already played is kind of moot; I’m going to find out for myself soon enough. I read a couple reviews simply to allow myself a little hype in the midst of a pretty shit day. However, beyond being well-written, I didn’t gain any information from them that I can digest or turn over for a bit in my mind. Potato chips are good but I can’t live on them.

    For a large enough publication, I have to imagine they do one scored review to feed the Metacritic machine, and other articles may come later. Based on what Tamoor was saying on Twitter, there was an extremely tight review window on Elden Ring. So it was almost outside of review teams’ hands; if your time to review is severely limited, how many places are going to give the task to someone who’s not all-in on FromSoft’s whole thing? Apologies if you addressed this in the op, I’m tired and it’s been a shit day as previously stated.

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    AV_Gamer

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    #4  Edited By AV_Gamer

    Good post. Overall, what other people say shouldn't matter. If you know you're not going to like the game because of how the developers have made similar games in the past, you have nothing to be ashamed of for not jumping on the bandwagon. And it seems you're already in the right place if the Jeff, Jeff, and Jan video is any indication, because unlike other websites that will be talking about how Elden Ring is the greatest game ever... it seems like GB will have a more open minded approach, especially with Jeff G. With that said, I've grown to like the Souls games with DS2 being my favorite next to Bloodborne. So I do plan on playing Elden Ring at some point this year.

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    BaneFireLord

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    #5  Edited By BaneFireLord

    Great post. To butcher a Jeff Gerstmann quote from once-upon-a-time: "Don't let the guy with the game franchise tattoo review that franchise." To an extent, having someone with familiarity and a certain amount of fondness for a franchise or type of game can be a good thing for judging it on the terms it has set for itself and against others in the genre, but having one foot in normie land seems vital to avoid preaching solely to the choir. To pick a random example (and no offense to Tamoor intended, I wish I had that guy's enthusiasm for Souls for anything, let alone games), I dunno if the guy extolling how Bloodborne is the best game on the Playstation at every opportunity with a semi-viral gif of getting emotional at an Elden Ring trailer should also be the guy reviewing Elden Ring. There's every chance Tamoor's a better man than me, but I know I sure as hell wouldn't trust myself to review Starfield for a wide audience because hoo boy have I forgiven some hot bullshit in past Bethesda games because of how much I like their formula that would likely be a dealbreaker for a lot of people.

    I remember back in the day I think the AV Club had a split between their Game of Thrones reviews for people who had read the books and people who hadn't. I would love to see game sites with the resources do something similar, by having "Expert" reviews and "Novice" reviews from different people on big franchise games.

    Also it is kind of batshit wild to me that "there is no questlog in this gigantic open world RPG" didn't come up in any official coverage???? I was reading reviews all morning and the first time I heard about it was in a comment from @efesell on the review roundup thread a few hours ago. There's obtuse design and then there's active malice and I think that's falling firmly in the latter category.

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    goosemunch

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    I'm definitely with you there - all the reviews are basically the same due to them being assigned to the people with similar taste and experience. Once you read one review, you've essentially read them all. Waste of words is what they are. I want variety and different point of views.

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    imunbeatable80

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    @zombiepie: thank you for writing this article. I am in the exact same boat, as someone who thought dark souls was just ok, and doesn't think From is a deity that works as a game designer part-time, I am finding it very hard to figure out if I should give this game a chance. So many 10 out of 10s tell me that this should be one of the greatest games of all time. A game that rivals the best Mario, Zelda, final fantasy, or Clive barkers Jericho, but is this game only a 10 out of 10 for souls fans who have literally had this date circled for years now. Or is this game a 10 for even us normals, who don't tie our whole personality to the franchise?

    I have come to the realization that if I do pick up this game it will be when it's on some sale for 30 or 40 bucks 6 months from now, and then I can decide for myself.

    Least the From fans are so understanding and helpful to those that ask questions, and not at all hostile.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    BaneFireLord

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    @atheistpreacher: Thanks! That was very useful...the reviewer's experience pretty closely matches my own with From's games.

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    ALLTheDinos

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    @banefirelord: Yup, that was the AV Club. I was a regular reader and commenter for the Newbie reviews, and I dared peek at the Expert ones when I was desperate to read more. They may have done it for other series as well, but I stopped reading the site once they adopted Kinja as their comment system.

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    SethMode

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    #14  Edited By SethMode

    From is probably my favorite developer right now but the loud spoken minority of their fans are perhaps the worst, most gate keeper-y pieces of shit in all of gaming, a hobby with which such a title is truly impressive. I will play this game ASAP and probably love it, but you're 100% right: we need reviews from all across the familiarity spectrum and scoffing at such a notion is obnoxious as hell.

    I would venture so far as to say at least a PARTIAL part of why some don't want to play these games, and thus why they would be a newcomer now, is how insufferable these chuds can be.

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    SethMode

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    @hayt: I think you meant "funky hitboxes" but I'm now obsessed with the term "fucky hitbox".

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    AtheistPreacher

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    #24  Edited By AtheistPreacher

    I guess I feel I should say follow-up my previous post and flesh this idea out a bit.

    While it's easy to say that there should be more "newcomers" reviewing games, and while I agree that this is an appealing concept, in practice I think it is actually a hard thing for professional games press to execute.

    The first, core problem is this: the Soulsborne games are (in)famous in games media generally; it has become something of a joke that no one can review a third-person action game without reference to them. Finding a reviewer who has no experience at all with them is thus a problem, in the same way that it's a problem finding impartial jurors for the O.J. Simpson trial. If you're a professional games critic, you almost assuredly already have an opinion.

    So, broadly speaking, if you are a pro games outlet that wants to provide a "newcomer" perspective on a game like Elden Ring, you have two choices: (1) Assign it to someone who has never liked such games in the first place, or (2) Hire a freelancer/newcomer who has genuinely never played any of the preceding games, who is thus of indeterminate skill, both as a critic and as a player.

    The first has certainly been tried. I distinctly remember when Gamespot decided that for Dark Souls 2, it would have both a "veteran" and "newcomer" review it. Kevin VanOrd did the "flagship" Gamespot review, while Justin Haywald provided a newcomer perspective (hell, it even says "newcomer" in the title!). Numbers-wise, VanOrd gave it a 9/10, while Haywald gave it 5/10. Now, was this actually a useful exercise? I mean, maybe?

    But I think about it this way: I don't like RTSes. They're just not games I enjoy. I've been known to play the occasional 4x game and some other adjacent genres, but for whatever reason, I find their whole formula sort of off-putting. Is it actually useful to get someone who's never liked such games in the first place to review a new one in that genre, knowing from the get-go that it's probably a mismatch?

    I'm not so sure that it is. Most people looking at such reviews are smart enough to realize what they do and don't like, and how closely their tastes are aligned with the person reviewing it. This is, in fact, part of the advantage of following a critic over a long career: we know that tastes are subjective, and so it's important to try to find critics who share similar tastes... even more so than any amount of technical or rhetorical skill.

    Which is a convenient transition into why the alternative of finding a brand new person to review a game like this also isn't a great option: readers simply have no background to understand a new critic's quirks. It's harder for a review from such a person to be helpful when you're unsure if the person writing it is just a terrible critic, for whatever reason, or what their level of skill is, which is important for understanding their personal assessments of "difficulty."

    So, yeah, in theory I agree that "newcomer" perspectives on games like this are a good and useful thing. But I think you are very much glossing over that, in practice, this is an impractical ask, because the prospective "newcomer" either has too much experience, or too little.

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    Hayt

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    @sethmode: honestly either works for me. They can be a real fuck.

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    ZombiePie

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    #26 ZombiePie  Staff

    @atheistpreacher: I'm going to push you on this issue ever so slightly. A 5/10 Dark Souls 2 review from a newcomer might not be useful to YOU, but that review was incredibly helpful to me. I used that review to decide against buying the game. And there's no denying that there's an oversupply of certain perspectives and an undersupply of others. And at the end of the day, that different review doesn't hurt your ability to enjoy the game on your own terms. What it does do is help different people with different gaming backgrounds better able to make an informed decision and that's especially important with a game like Elden Ring which outsiders are going to be barraged by positivity non-stop. Look, I'm the same way. Here I am having a ball with Warhammer III, but in no way would I recommend that to anyone who hasn't played the previous two games.

    Likewise, I have to repeat what our own site's founder has repeated time and time again. With the way reviews are written and assigned today, even the biggest publications that are still in the video game reviewing business are reaching a small portion of a target audience. Everyone championing the reviews that are giving Elden Ring 10/10s bought the game MONTHS AGO. These reviews are not moving the needle even slightly. All they do in writing long reams of text from a hyper-specialized expert-level perspective is provide some people who feel like they need at least one review to justify their purchasing decisions. And left behind are people who legitimately want to know if the game is for them and they have to go at greater lengths to find ANY CONTENT that speaks to their background. The issue isn't that every review needs to have alternate perspective, just some of them and with the most important titles in any given year.

    And if these enthusiast reviews were helpful or spoke with a distinct perspective, then I would challenge you to something. If I were to ask you to read five 10/10 or 5/5 reviews for Elden Ring, pulled random sentences from each review and jumbled them up, would you be able to tell me which website or reviewer each one came from? The fact the answer is "no" says a lot about how formulaic and pointless most of these launch-day reviews are.

    I do not claim to have the solutions to everything, but something has to give way to a form or style of reviewing that is more helpful and useful to ANY audience. Otherwise, I have to ask, what is the point?

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    brian_

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    #27  Edited By brian_

    I think this is where stuff like podcasts are going be much more beneficial than a traditional review. Reviews are just so time and resource intensive, and you're just not going to put someone who isn't a fan of those games on crunch for a week, expect them to finish the game, and write about it.

    But it's just way easier to find and promote a review score than it is a part of a podcast discussion, and I don't know how you solve that.

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    Ares42

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    I feel like you're touching on a subject that becomes sorta ridiculous if you just change perspective a little bit.

    Basically, what you're saying here is "as someone who don't like basketball games, I'm trying to figure out if NBA 2k22 is a game for me". The answer is no, no it isn't. There is no need for reviews of NBA 2k22 by people who don't like basketball, because there is no audience for it. You say "The people the reviews are being written for (i.e., enthusiasts) decided to buy the game months before publication.", but this is very much true reversed as well. Of all the people exposed to the marketing of a new game 90+% already decided it's not for them immediately.

    Sure, it gets more muddled with a game like Elden Ring compared to something like a sports game, since it's not as well defined, but that's what the game description part of a normal review is for. Regardless of how much praise the review gives the game, the description of what the game is should clue you into if it's a game for you or not. I don't care if Gamespot gave Animal Crossing a 9/10, because it's just not a game for me.

    As far as "what's the purpose of a review made for enthusiasts", it's basically to serve as a neutral QA for the consumer. It doesn't seem very relevant when everything is good, but it's very very useful when something turns out worse than expected.

    Now, I get that there is an audience of "fence sitters" that's like "I didn't like the last one, but maybe this one?". And while it would be great to have reviews targetting this group it's a tiny audience, it wouldn't serve the large number of people that's looking for that "is it good or bad" judgement, and at the end of the day they all have a different things they'd like to see changed, making it very hard to truly give them a useful review. If a good description of the what the game is just isn't enough to make you decide, at some point it's sorta on you to dig deeper into user reviews etc.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    #29  Edited By AtheistPreacher

    @zombiepie: You say you want to "push me on this issue," but I'm not sure you really have.

    Yes, I question the usefulness of Haywald's review in this case, because I would posit that you didn't really need it to understand that Dark Souls 2 wasn't for you. All you need for that is a reviewer saying, "Yep, it's about the same as the first game, and if you didn't like that one, then you won't like this one." Which you could get from a lot of places. The key is simply to understand the perspective that the critic is coming from, which really isn't that hard to discern most of the time. Again, this is made considerably easier when said critic has been around for a while.

    But there remains the real-world problem in these situations, for major gaming outlets, of which one person to assign a review to, and how best to spend their limited resources. I say "one person" because having a full written review by two different staff members is simply impractical. We all know that it used to be possible to cover every major release, in ye olde bygone days. Now there are just too many games to cover, which makes assigning two people to review one game just seem like madness.

    And if you're the EIC of a big gaming site, and you only get to pick one person, are you really going to say, "Sorry, Scott, I know you love and are good at those From games, but I'm going to assign Sean to review this game, who has no experience with them, because I think a newcomer perspective would be more useful." Well, um, no, you're not. Partly, it must be said, because it's just socially awkward.

    But also, as much as you complain that all reviews these days are preaching-to-the-choir, the other side is that there are gamers who crave more "expert" opinions from critics than the big outlets are typically able to provide, because of the depth of knowledge required on a per-game, per-series basis in today's current gaming scene. E.g., on GB, coverage of Koei's Warriors titles (which I have been known to enjoy from time to time) is woefully inadequate. QLs of these have historically been GB staff rolling their eyes and making jokes at these games' expense. As someone who actually likes these games, for a reviewer, I want someone who has some experience and knowledge of their in-and-outs, and can thus tell me if, say, Warriors Orochi 4 is "a good one of those." The GB guys are no help at all for that: they hate them all.

    Which is fine! Because since I know that GB is shit at critiquing Warriors titles, I can simply ignore their coverage. And when I say "shit," here again I make a distinction between genuine "newcomers" to these games, versus (in this case) pro game critics who have played the previous "one of those" (or many previous installments) and already know going in that they're just going to bash it. You ask: what is the point of all these reviews simply preaching to the choir? And I ask in return: what is the point of having people cover games that we/they already know they're going to hate? There is a balance needed there, and it can be difficult to find, which is what I think you're glossing over far too breezily.

    And of course, to also cite this site's founder, reviews are less and less relevant these daysanyway ("Did that review serve its main purpose? I'm going to go ahead and say that you already knew if you were going to play Halo Infinite or not before you even clicked on this page."). The state of written game reviews today is, well, fraught and complicated. And there is a better format for what you're asking for, regardless: it's called podcasting, which seems to have taken over the world now. Everybody's got one. And it allows for a conversation to go on between people who have played and loved these games and people who haven't, which is just what you probably want.

    This is a lot of text to get back to simply saying: I don't really disagree with you. It would be wonderful to have more and broader perspectives in written game reviews, from people who are both expert and non-expert/newcomers to the game or series in question. But ultimately I think that you are floating a very fine wish that is impractical to implement, for all sorts of reasons.

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    ThePanzini

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    #30  Edited By ThePanzini  Online

    @atheistpreacher:

    The first has certainly been tried. I distinctly remember when Gamespot decided that for Dark Souls 2, it would have both a "veteran" and "newcomer" review it. Kevin VanOrd did the "flagship" Gamespot review, while Justin Haywald provided a newcomer perspective (hell, it even says "newcomer" in the title!). Numbers-wise, VanOrd gave it a 9/10, while Haywald gave it 5/10. Now, was this actually a useful exercise? I mean, maybe?

    But I think about it this way: I don't like RTSes. They're just not games I enjoy. I've been known to play the occasional 4x game and some other adjacent genres, but for whatever reason, I find their whole formula sort of off-putting. Is it actually useful to get someone who's never liked such games in the first place to review a new one in that genre, knowing from the get-go that it's probably a mismatch?

    Absolutely yes, that's the whole point. Both scores are perfectly valid, what's wrong with the 5/10 score? How was it a pointless exercise?

    We'll get better game reviews with people from different skill levels and backgrounds.

    Kevin VanOrd review doesn't really explain anything either instead often using direct comparisons to the previous game, to the lay person or uniformed the review is almost completely useless.

    Folks into From Softwares games are already buying Elden Ring, the game being review by experts is pretty pointless might as well be PR.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    @thepanzini: For the most part, see my post above. But just to repeat in shorter, TLDR terms: there are problems with both the "enthusiast" and "newcomer" approaches to reviews. The former preaches to the choir, the latter seeks a perspective from a person who likely just doesn't like those types of games in the first place (broadly speaking). In either case the value is questionable, which is why Jeff G. and others have in recent years more and more wondered aloud at the point of any of them. The Haywald review for Dark Souls 2 wasn't so much less valuable than VanOrd's, but rather they are both rather superflous.

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    Efesell

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    I just feel like the target for this newcomer perspective seems... pretty small? It's not a meaningless perspective but if I'm assigning reviews it sure seems a little... unimportant?

    Like for instance I am a huge fan of JRPGs. If a new JRPG Is out and I'm interested in checking out reviews I'm going to want the majority of them to have a certain degree of familiarity and enthusiasm to the genre because we kinda need to meet halfway to determine whether or not the review is going to be helpful to me at all.

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    SethMode

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    @ares42: I'm not sure your analogy is valid. This is more like "as a fan of the NBA but having not liked simulation basketball games in the past, is NBA 2K22 a game I could enjoy?" and I think having someone less familiar with every iteration of From games would be as valuable, if not more valuable, than the perspective of someone that would be able to play through a From game if their hair were on fire.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    @ares42: @brian_:

    FWIW I agree with both of you. I had written the bit in my response about the podcast angle before I even read @brian_'s post, but I think we're simpatico there.

    And as for what @ares42 wrote, yeah, very similar to what I was trying to say in my very verbose post, but it also reminded me of another spin on this thought worth mentioning: Roger Ebert's style/philosophy reviews was famously (quoting Wikipedia): "'relative, not absolute'; he reviewed a film for what he thought it would be to its prospective audience." Which is another way of saying what has just been said: that reviewing NBA2K22 for people who hate basketball video games is sort of a nonsensical thing to do. This is different from a genuine newcomer, but let's face it: those are hard to find, and otherwise problematic for reasons I've already stated.

    Newcomer reviews is a good thought, but easy to say and hard to implement.

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    Ares42

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    #38  Edited By Ares42

    @sethmode: To quote OP "However, as someone who has previously been on record saying, "I don't like Souls games," this has made finding out if Elden Ring is a game for me monumentally harder." I wouldn't interpret that as someone who's into the concept, but just didn't enjoy the last few titles. To me it sounds a lot more like someone who has an aversion to the concept, but wonders if this new game that seems different is actually taking steps away from the concept.

    Either way, my broader point was that it doesn't matter if the game is reviewed by someone who likes or hates the game. The purely functional part of the review that's describing the game should serve as a way to determine if it's for you or not regardless of how much the reviewer enjoyed it.

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    SethMode

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    #39  Edited By SethMode

    @ares42: I think Elden Ring sounds like it dips into the open world genre enough that I think it is slightly different than other Souls games, just like Sekiro was different than other Souls games. So I suspect that is why there might be interest despite disliking previous games. Regardless, I don't have a dog in this debate, I just can appreciate the value of someone that either has not liked or is new to Souls/From games to someone that maybe is intrigued by Elden Ring. I already bought the thing so literally no review is useful to me personally.

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    imhungry

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    #40 imhungry  Online

    In a broad sense I agree, a wider variety of perspectives is always useful! I'm not so certain, however, that the newcomer review should be prioritised over the more experienced one, just in terms of market served. In an ideal world gaming outlets would have the resources to assign 2-3 staff members to each review big new games and maybe even have a roundtable discussion about them.

    Unfortunately that's not a practical possibility for most places so the question becomes which type of review can best serve the audience. Both types of reviews absolutely have an audience they would be helpful for but they each have their own problems. I largely agree with @atheistpreacher here on what they said earlier but wanted to highlight one other point:

    One of the most valuable things about the 'expert' review is only visible when the game is bad. You're bang on that reviews from people predisposed to like the game generally don't do much to inform those who were already going to buy the game. But when the game is a bad entry in a beloved series, the expert review suddenly becomes a font of valuable information. If Elden Ring sucked, someone who didn't like previous From games telling me they also don't like Elden Ring would be as useful as a Taylor Swift stan account telling me Folklore is a great album. If many experts come out and say Elden Ring falls far short of previous From games, then suddenly we get a lot of interesting perspectives on why they feel that way; we end up with a lot of very informative, relevant reviews for consumers most likely to be at least considering purchase of a game.

    Again, the problem here is that this is only visible when a game is middling or bad. When a game is good then yeah, I agree that the expert reviews aren't particularly interesting except to say "yeah it's good" to the people who already expect it to be good. But the potential audience served seems, at least to me, intuitively much greater than the niche 'person who didn't like previous entries but still wants to consider the new entry' audience.

    As a final thought, with From games in general I think the expert review is even more useful given how varied their games are within the 'Souls' formula. There's obviously shared DNA running throughout but each of the past 3-4 games have been markedly different from one another and Elden Ring represents yet another departure from previously established formula. With that in mind, even the expert review that says "yeah it's good" can be pretty valuable to have as an assurance that it's still good to series fans even after the evolution in formula.

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    Mittens

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    #41  Edited By Mittens

    Isn't that true of reviews of, well, all franchises? I don't remember seeing a lot of Zelda reviews made by newcomers to the franchise. Same with, say, Civ or GTA. Hell it's probably a part of why reviews of new IPs tend to be more mixed than those of sequels and other iterations.

    Ideally, a good review will have enough info to allow you to make a purchasing decision regardless of whether you actually agree with the reviewer. That said, it's usually not possible to address everything, especially with ambitious, relatively complex games. This post is a good example: those criticisms of From games are perfectly fine and valid, but they're not things I would have ever thought to discuss in a review of those games, either because I didn't experience them, or because I personally found them too minor to affect my experience with those games.

    As much as I love games writing, the idea of reviews existing help consumers make buying decisions is fading for good reason. Nobody knows your taste in games better than you do, and it's generally more useful to pop in on twitch or youtube and see the game in action for yourself, rather than make a decision based on someone else's opinion. I've made my share of purchases based on widespread critical acclaim, and I regretted many of them. Could never play more than a few hours of Divinity OS because of that writing. Persisted through many, many hours of Red Dead thinking there was something wrong with me for not enjoying a game everyone seemed to love. And everytime a new Zelda comes out with glowing praise, I have to remind myself that I find that franchise profoundly dull. I still occasionally read reviews, but mostly because I enjoy reading about games, and not to help me make a decision.

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    Humanity

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    @ares42 said:

    I feel like you're touching on a subject that becomes sorta ridiculous if you just change perspective a little bit.

    ....

    This has basically always been the core issue with this argument and why, in theory it's a good idea, but in reality it serves no one in particular. The one thing that I liked in old PC gaming magazines was a short "Second Opinion" blurb where they had another editor chime in with a slightly different perspective over the course of a single paragraph. It was a nice companion to the main review and sometimes would highlight issues from a perspective that maybe spoke more directly to the fence-sitting crowd.

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    monkeyking1969

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    #43  Edited By monkeyking1969

    I think Elden Rings will have the hardest path to forge being its own thing even if ist does "share DNA with Dark Souls". There are six different set of expection this game carries on it back because of what it is and who made it:

    1. George R.R. Martin
    2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
    3. Bloodborne
    4. Dark Souls (oringal release)
    5. Dark Souls (updated release)
    6. The collective and indiviula fan bases talking incessantly!!!

    What gets me is the people who say, 'To know if you will like this game play _________ that From Soft made before.' Uh, no, to know if you will like this game play it. What rotten advice and how dispriting it must be for the people who made it, "Yeah, dude play another game indead of just playing this one to know if you will like....this one."

    The pleas to hear a newbies-take and not a vetrans-take, happens with From Soft games a lot. People beg for a a review from a new player, but those get drown out by fans giving their view...yet again. Every single From Soft fan boils into the comments giving their take on every game. It exhasiing, it not helping, and yet it still happens years later.

    Uh, let me just squeeze in here....yeah we have been trying to reach you to talk about Bloodborn, Souls games, and Sekiro.
    Uh, let me just squeeze in here....yeah we have been trying to reach you to talk about Bloodborn, Souls games, and Sekiro.

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    LyndBako

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    You know a game is going to be huge when you see people talking about why they're NOT going to play it.

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    isomeri

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    Thank you @zombiepie for articulating a lot of what I've been feeling the last few days. The last FromSoftware game I've played was Chromehounds. I haven't played any of their more recent games partially because the whole fantasy setting doesn't appeal to me that much and mostly because of the seemingly masochistic difficulty curve.

    Apparently Elden Ring is more approachable than their previous games and as such a better place for new players to jump in. However, hearing that Elden Ring is one of the best games released in recent years, but that also I should already know if I'll like it or not doesn't really help me at all.

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    imunbeatable80

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    #46  Edited By imunbeatable80

    @ares42: @sethmode: @humanity: @atheistpreacher:

    @ares42 said:

    Basically, what you're saying here is "as someone who don't like basketball games, I'm trying to figure out if NBA 2k22 is a game for me". The answer is no, no it isn't. There is no need for reviews of NBA 2k22 by people who don't like basketball, because there is no audience for it. You say "The people the reviews are being written for (i.e., enthusiasts) decided to buy the game months before publication.", but this is very much true reversed as well. Of all the people exposed to the marketing of a new game 90+% already decided it's not for them immediately.

    I think we are missing some nuance here though in this comparison. If I editorialize a little bit, I am guessing that the reason @zombiepie is even remotely on the fence about this game is because it changes up the formula a little bit (the amount can be argued later) and that it is being praised as "Greatest game of all time" by reviewers. If there was ever a basketball game that was considered the "Greatest game of all time" then you would have people who are looking to jump into it, even if they might not have liked previous basketball games.

    It's the same with any genre or series for that matter. If multiple outlets are claiming that this game is the future of gaming, and how this game is considered one of the greatest of all time (I may be paraphrasing here), then it is going to catch people's eyes no matter how cynical they may be. We can all claim that we are immune to hype, and how if the shoe was on a different foot (JRPGs, racing, sports, etc) that we could easily decide this game isn't for us and just back off, but I beg to differ. If the next Madden came out, and 9-10 publications gave it a perfect score and said this football game will change your life, you can't tell me that you wouldn't be a little intrigued to see what the fuss was about.

    This is why reviews from both experts and newcomers are important. Even if they "tank" a metacritic and a bunch of internet jerks get angry. If Tamoor gives this a 10 because he loves everything From puts out, and lets say @zombiepie played it, got won over, and gave it an 8, then that 8 speaks much more highly to me then the 10 in this case. However if Elden Ring came out, and got steady 9s and people simply said, this is more From stuff with an open world, and no one threw around the "Greatest of all time" phrase, we aren't even having this discussion. I'm not saying every game gets this double review treatment, it should be used incredibly sparingly, but for Huge games, (<5 games a year) I think it is well deserved. If you already know you love everything From puts out, then it doesn't affect you if a newcomer says "More of the same, pass." Last I checked no developer shutter because of a bad review on the internet, but if the game can win over newcomers or even harsh fans then we are truly talking about the upper echelon of games.

    Now that isn't to say, people can't claim this is that great of a game. Hell give it a 10, if it deserves it, I am just saying that comparing an annual Basketball franchise to Elden Ring is a little unfair, because no one is thinking if they should get 2k22 because it got an 8.5 when 2k21 got an 8 (I didn't look up real scores).

    Now let me tell you why everyone should really check out 2k22.......

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    BaneFireLord

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    #47  Edited By BaneFireLord

    @topcyclist: Yeah, but hitherto now that’s only been done in past Souls games, which from my experience with the first two and Bloodborne tend to be pretty tightly interconnected and naturally channel you back to certain places. When you’re playing in the much, much larger canvas of a nonlinear open world game, one I’ve seen reviews describe as easy to get lost in, and one which will presumably take magnitudes longer to see all of than a usual Souls game, it’s valid to be surprised and slightly baffled that such a standard mechanic for keeping track of progress in games of that scale isn’t included to some degree, especially when plenty of other fundamental changes have been made to the Souls formula to support the demands of the new framework (e.g. jumping, mounts, crafting, checkpoints near bosses, etc.). I don’t think a point for point, Skyrim-esque quest log and marker system would be appropriate at all considering obscurity is an immutable core trait of these games, but, for instance, an item you find that can record a log of NPCs met and their cryptic riddles in exchange for runes would seem to me to be a suitably Soulsian approach to it. More than anything, its absence seems like a missed opportunity to do something weird and unique to fill that purpose.

    @imunbeatable80: This is a great articulation of a point I typed up several times but couldn’t quite make cohere. That positive Arstechnica review from the guy who didn’t like previous Souls games has pretty firmly convinced me to give ER a try down the road in a way the adulating chorus of Known Souls Likers hasn’t. I’d also add that I think “one of the greatest of all time” and “one of the greatest of all time (for committed fans of the subgenre, no one else need apply)” are two very different things and the distinction should always be carefully made. I think, for instance, Arkham Asylum is one of the greatest of all time regardless of what sort of player you are or what background you have; you might not end up liking the game but you don’t need to already be in the tank for beat ‘em ups or metroidvanias or even necessarily Batman to have a great time with it. I also think Europa Universalis IV is one of the greatest of all time, but only if you already have a decently strong basis in complicated strategy games and have a strong bent for micromanagement; I could not confidently recommend it sight unseen to someone who had never played a strategy game before.

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    ThePanzini

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    #48  Edited By ThePanzini  Online

    What rubs me the wrong way is how many of the Elden Ring reviews have come from super fans, who were gonna love it now mater what.

    The reviewer doesn't have to be a complete novice but someone less familiar would have been better.

    Especially after seeing the Digital Foundry analysis, Elden Rings performance is all over the place. I think far too many people can't take a step back.

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    spacemanspiff00

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    #49  Edited By spacemanspiff00

    @monkeyking1969: Normally I would agree that saying "play this game to see if you'll like this one" is probably not the best metric. However with Elden Ring it might be a cheaper way to discover if you would like it. All the sources I've checked with playing the game have said its essentially Dark Souls 3 in an open world, with some tweaks here and there. Now on one hand if you've never had an opinion on From games then perhaps you might just dive into Elden Ring. But if you're talking about a full price game vs. an extremely similar experience in most ways-- that would absolutely inform your decision-- then why not? I can confidently say that if you didn't like what Souls was before you aren't going to like Elden Ring. Besides expanded move sets and slight tweaks to upgrading its DS3 combat all the way down to animations.

    I don't think the minor changes or the open world shake up anything enough to pull anyone who's bounced off previous titles, and if you're very uncertain about how you'll get along with it there are cheaper alternatives that will absolutely help you decide if Elden Ring is something you would enjoy. I actually think DS3 might be a good starting point for a newbie as its a little bit more straight forward without the open world to get lost and confused in. And will introduce to you most of the concepts you'll encounter in ER. And it goes on sale often these days, up to 75% the last few sales I've seen on Steam. Almost 3 years later and Sekiro rarely goes on sale.

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    SethMode

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    #50  Edited By SethMode

    @thepanzini: Conceptually overall I agree with you, but I do also think that a lot is made of the scores and not the words. Tam, for example, was going to love the game but I think he was very fair about warning those that don't care for the From style. He gushed, but did his best to include everyone.

    EDIT: to be clear, didn't mean to imply you were calling out Tam, just it was one perfect score that immediately came to mind when you mentioned that.

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