Critic Review Roundup: Pearls Before Swine

Sorry this is a question about reviewers, what are your thoughts on the criticism where the player cheeses through most of the game with one combo/weapon, then complains that the combat system allows this? This kinda relates to the gggmanlives review, but I see this a lot in other reviews (for example the Previously Recorded Nioh Review) I can kinda see the point in that a game doesn’t teach/challenge enough to provoke experimenting but it also annoys me when interesting features of combat are glossed over because they aren’t strictly necessary to progress.

A long time ago, I used to think, games shouldn’t allow you to cheese them. Games should let you try as hard as you can in any way to win, and should resist being broken. This attitude came to me from competitive games where that’s more legitimately true.

Basically, I got presented with cheese for tons of games I held highly, including God Hand, dark souls, and DMC, and it’s like, okay, nearly everything has cheese, should I still hold this belief?

Games are contracts you agree to, in a single player game, you can just agree not to cheese it. So lets meet it half and half, it’s a fault, but not a significant one unless it’s basically handed to the player on a silver platter like everything in dishonored.

I mean, the critic has to play the game and judge it by the standards that most people will hold in playing the game, otherwise they’re critiquing a version of the game that doesn’t connect to people’s broader experiences. If there’s a better way to play it, then that falls outside straight review territory and more into editorial business. I’m not a reviewer, so I get to comment on whatever I want, and I reign it in when I do more straightforward reviews, but conventional critics are bound more by this restriction.

(at 14 minutes, 10 seconds)

In the Nioh case, that’s really sad, given the skills in the game are a really heavy suggestion on how to play the game properly. You have Flux as a universal skill, suggesting that you should stance change, and you have to unlock the various Ki Pulse: Heaven/Man/Earth skills before you can unlock any skills for the various weapons.

Though Kusarigama really is OP. I’m seeing the speedrunners use it too. However the high stance is definitely not the only useful stance, and there’s an even stronger DPS attack unlockable as a skill.

The truth is, in almost any game, you can find ways to beat the game in a slow boring inefficient fashion, and unless the game is like zelda or something and specifically requires use of other skills, then there’s basically no way to prevent it. These tend to weed themselves out in multiplayer games because a real opponent won’t let you pull the same shit twice. This made me think maybe AI in games should be programmed to pay attention to when you deal damage to it, so if you only punish it on the same attack each time, it’ll stop doing that attack. If you only use one attack, then only do attacks that counter that one, etc. Won’t affect common users much ideally, will affect cheesers adversely.

I guess all you can really say is, pearls before swine. Friend suggested we need a “Game Reviewer” difficulty mode for people like this.

Disclosure: I did testing for DESYNC. I was not paid for my services. I did not work directly with the team. I wrote the following comment independently without any direction from any member of the DESYNC team. My opinions and comments are purely my own. My comments have no relation to the opinions of FOREGONE Syndicate (the DESYNC team).

I generally know after 15 seconds of watching an analysis video whether I’ll like it or not, and after 15 seconds of this video, I had the same sentiment. I do not like this video. This is a bad video.

Please read below and earnestly consider whether what I am saying is true.

In the aberration level with the dual electricity rifle things, you never once use the shock combo. In all the footage here you never use the shock combo. It’s like you’ve never played unreal tournament before. To be honest, I think you never right click in this entire video. Every weapon in the entire game has an alt fire function that directly combos with the primary fire, and you never right click even once. You have two buttons on your mouse and you only press one of them.

You don’t understand the comparison to bulletstorm, remarking that you just shoot at things until they die, but you also never use any of the weapon combinations the game provides you with and don’t seem to understand they’re there. And it’s giving you big hints that they’re there. It stops all the action and slows time down and announces it on the screen when it happens, and you just can’t piece it together somehow. You even show one of these moments in this video, and it lists exactly what triggers it, but you don’t seem to get it, remarking there’s no glory kills or executions. Did you play bulletstorm? The primary thing was launching people into low-g, then kicking them or shooting them.

Here’s a tip, with the majority of weapons in this game, you can launch enemies, and you can damage them with the weapon’s alt fire, or vice-versa. With the rocket launcher, you can pop enemies in the air, then shoot them again. This is why people compared it to bullet storm’s creative kills, because it’s the exact same system. The game is designed very very clearly so that some things are hidden and left for you to figure out for yourself, and it gives you these amazingly large bleeding hints every time you find something to make totally sure you understood that you found something. I mean come on, it lists the name of the weapon sequence and the exact means by which it’s triggered and you don’t think to experiment and try to find more of them?

Have you ever seen someone play Quake or TF2 and pop someone else up in the air, then airshot them? Have you thought about how many weapons in this game have that type of knockback?

In aberration mode, enemies are guaranteed to always drop at least one ammo. You always have enough ammo from a drop to kill one more enemy and a little bit extra, so you will never run out of ammo in aberration mode as long as you never miss, and you’re given a reasonable tolerance limit to missing. Plus you get that ammo on both of your dual wielded weapon, not just one, so you’re getting twice as much ammo each drop effectively. Given the way you complain about ammo, it’s like you’re not reloading. If you don’t reload and just let it auto-reload, then you don’t get as much ammo from each reload.

Aberration mode isn’t broken, you literally aren’t hitting the enemies with enough accuracy. It even has a special dialog telling you you’re out of ammo that lets you reset. Do you think the developer just included this without thinking? If you hit and don’t miss. If you manually reload, you can never fail aberration levels. The whole system is rigged to prevent you from ever losing unfairly and you complain that it’s unfair.

Also, the pistol has a weapon sequence on its alt fire. If you finish off an enemy with the alt fire, it’s guaranteed to drop 2 ammo, but given you never press right click, I guess you couldn’t tell that. Also you can tell how much health an enemy has based on the cursor color when you hover over them. I’m surprised you didn’t complain about health too, because you can also get health back by overkilling enemies (hitting them with significantly more damage than they have health left) which drops healing packs. (which I imagine you just thought was random)

You say all these things like, “a lot of the combat arenas don’t allow for circle strafing or moving while firing.” Did you ever consider that maybe they’re designed that way on purpose to force you to stop running away and instead face the enemy head-on? There’s even a weapon sequence called Aggressor that rewards you for dashing straight into their face and shooting them. The game rewards you with bonus damage and bonus points for dodging enemy shots and shooting them back. It rewards you for getting in their face, and it’s very deliberately and obviously designed to punish you for running away and you complain that you can’t cheese the levels.

“I’ve got no problems with hard games”
Do you watch your own videos? You complained about the difficulty in your Serious Sam video. You complain about difficulty in a LOT of your videos. And you don’t complain about unfairness (either randomness which the player cannot overcome or information they’re required to act on that they cannot realistically discern) or balance (whatever that’s supposed to mean in this context), you complain really regularly that the game is too hard for you, therefore it’s unfair. This is why a number of people don’t take you seriously, because you so readily complain about difficulty for the sake of difficulty. You don’t seem to learn or adjust to the way a particular game works, you complain that because a game won’t let you easily sail through it the way you’re conditioned to play, that it must be too hard. You’re like a child trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

You complain here about things like teleporting enemies, when those enemies have both a sound effect before they teleport, and an animation that you can see. In the very video clip you reference, you have a clear shot of the enemy as it teleports and you start to back away, but then you run back into it. You’re given every chance to succeed and you claim it’s unfair. You can dodge in literally any direction. You’re given an excess of time and signalling to dodge in a way that doesn’t even depend on you having a line of sight to the enemy. Come on.

This is a game with a significant variety of weapons, a significant variety of enemies, that all function differently and all have combos and interactions between each other.

You’re given all the tools necessary to succeed, but you spurn them, and blame the developer. What is your actual problem?

How can you think yourself fit to judge a game when you literally don’t press all of the (very tiny selection) of buttons it gives you? You literally didn’t use half the abilities the weapons give you in this game. We can see it on your steam achievements for the game. You beat the game, but somehow didn’t do 1000 weapon sequences, which is something people typically do LONG before they complete the game. You never unlocked the attack absolute achievement, despite newbies who don’t know how to play the game unlocking it way before you. You are literally and provably not playing the game right.

You literally didn’t understand the core principle of this game and you’re somehow calling it unfair when it practically beat you over the head with it. You even included one of the weapon sequence discovery achievements in this video and somehow you didn’t put it together that you’re supposed to do combos like in bulletstorm. What the hell man?

This game isn’t some worthless dreck carried by a cool art style, it has a complex system for weapons, combos, enemies, and scoring that you provided us with documented video evidence that you did not understand. Please take this into consideration and understand that your review is horrendously off-point.

Thoughts? This guy is doing a Zelda retrospective series.

I think what I’d say primarily about this review is, it accepts the form of a zelda game and frames the whole review in terms of whether it is a good implementation of a zelda game, rather than questioning whether a zelda game is a good form to begin with.

In the beginning of this review, like when he is going over the introductory sequence in the village, he acknowledges that the content itself isn’t the best, but is okay with it because it helps complete the arc of the story. He even suggests there be a sequence where link is forced to survive without a sword. He’s not evaluating the individual gameplay depth of these sequences, he doesn’t seem to care whether these sequences themselves are fun. It’s possible in his mind he sort of glosses over it and sees it as requisite to the story without really considering whether it should be a fun gameplay sequence in of itself or even compares it to gameplay styles that could be considered fun. He does similar for the side-quests and their rewards. Collecting things tends to side-track people on whether it would still be fun without the reward. Secret Missions in DMC are still fun in of themselves for example.

He diverges from this when he gets to combat, going into more detail about the gameplay. I think he misses the mark on why the various new moves don’t work out however. The problem isn’t that the enemies don’t require their use, because they’re optional, the problem is that the new moves aren’t very situational. There isn’t a specific right time to use any of them, they all kind of overlap without forming distinct niches. They don’t have a relationship with each other, they each exist as another iteration of the same thing. His proposed solution that there should be a timing-based parry system is only putting a band-aid on the issue, not fixing the core problem. None of these moves have any depth to them, individually or as a whole system.

There are other action games where you can buy new moves and use them on enemies, like Devil May Cry, and Nioh. These moves are optional, but they have tradeoffs relative to other moves and they are each considered from the perspective of common enemy encounters, so they all have a relationship with one another, and the enemies. Zelda doesn’t have a common basis for enemy encounters. Every enemy is kind of its own thing.

If you think the solution is having enemies requiring you to use the moves and the moves being mandatory, then you’re approaching combat design from the wrong angle in the first place. The more successful paradigm is to give enemies movesets that have a variety of possible counters, with those counters changing based on the situation, like frame advantage, range, position relative to the environment, other enemies, etc. The idea is to stress good decisionmaking, not have the character required to do the move that beats this enemy.

I can definitely affirm that the enemy designs in TP and all other 3d zelda games are lacking, but he did not go into much detail as to how they are lacking.

If the combat in TP were good, then yes, I can agree it would improve significantly as a game, being weighed down only by the puzzles, the collection of assorted useless trinkets, the level design, and the sections with alternate gameplay styles.

When he talks about wolf link, he makes the same mistake again. He says that wolf link has basically the same attacks, except can’t learn the new moves, then he suggests that maybe there should be specific enemies you can ONLY take out with wolf link. Again, this isn’t the right perspective. For one, think of how annoying it is to switch, and for two, there’s the poes, which already can only be taken out with wolf link. Things that would have eased this are a faster switch between the two, and wolf link having unique combat utility that normal link doesn’t have. Wolf link should be a fun twist on normal combat rather than the same thing but less. Wolf link should be situationally advantageous for some encounters, or have some other mechanism mediating the use of wolf and regular link (such as wolf link being a powered up mode that is only available sometimes, or getting a bonus for switching after a certain time or number of actions are completed).

Also he doesn’t mention wolf link’s homing attack or its use in the shadow beast fights.

In the dungeons section he goes back to old patterns, discussing whether they’re good as a zelda dungeon more than whether they actually exhibit good level, puzzle, or encounter design. He comments more on the aesthetic style, and the theming of the progression in each dungeon, rather than whether each of the individual tasks in the dungeon is interesting. He says the iron boots are interesting, but really walking is walking, whether it’s on the walls or not. Also he said the spinner tracks were fun. I mean, they’re kind of really easy one button timing challenges, so I’d disagree.

I have my own commentary on twilight princess bosses, compare and contrast:

His review of the bosses tends to focus more on tone and just be a summary of what you do rather than examining the mechanical dynamism of the interactions.

In the temple in the sky, he gives credit to using the spinner, but honestly, is this necessary? Like, are these interactions themselves fun or engaging? Is it inherently good to give the dungeon items screen-time for the sake of screen-time? It’s accepting the form of a zelda game and measuring appropriate use of its components within that form instead of questioning the presence or value of the components themselves.

I wish he mentioned the double clawshot cage minigame, because that’s where I felt like the double clawshot genuinely felt dynamic. It’s the place where you’re given many possible points to grapple to, and it contextualizes that choice based on the line you draw across the cage. So the difficulty of the cage minigame is in drawing the lines across the cage that will both pick up the maximum number of rupees, and set you up to continue collecting large numbers of rupees in very few shots, in very short trips. This is a superb miniature example of solid game design in Twilight Princess, and it’s kind of a pity that more flexibility and a similar type of challenge wasn’t implemented in the temple in the sky.

The description of the ending of the game doesn’t comment on the gameplay. It just says things are satisfying or rewarding or cool, and comments on the characters a little.

I think his connection to the thematic elements of the game is a reflection of why Twilight Princess is held so highly, and is the best selling game in the franchise. Twilight Princess was very close to the epic zelda that people imagine. It connected to the same type of fantasy adventure across a large world that later captured the mass market with Skyrim. On thematic elements alone I think it connects to a fantasy of many people, but I also think it’s held back by the negatives in its presentation style that skyrim does not have. I think Breath of the Wild removed a lot of those negatives for many people, and it delivered genuinely innovative open world sandboxy gameplay, which is very in right now, it only didn’t deliver on the visual style and thematic elements that carried Twilight Princess so hard. I think Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time are good case studies for building a strong thematic sense across a game, I just don’t think they’re good games in of themselves. They have strong elements of myth associated with them, held back by frequently childish presentation and non-sequitor gameplay sections in my opinion.

This review is kind of par for the course, but it did help spur some thought on what exactly is wrong with zelda itself.

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