I've been playing a lot of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow this week, in a vain attempt to catch up on my Steam backlog, and I was wondering how exactly I would go about reviewing it as a game. I read a lot of reviews and every site seems to have a different style about going about it, some working better than others. I don't really like a numbered system, as that leads to comparing games that have no business being compared with each other, and really what's the point?
I found that a good starting point for a review would be if I could recommend the game to a friend, and whilst there are several parts of the game that I enjoyed, some quite a lot, the game as a whole is a bit lacklustre, a bit straightforward and a bit unpolished. It takes big ideas from games such as God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and the Legend of Zelda, without truly realising what made those ideas great, so the experience is a bit hit and miss. In the previous sentence I almost wrote that the game is a bit of a disappointment, but you see that's the thing – I had no idea what to expect going into this game. I haven't played any of the previous Castlevania's, so I had nothing to compare it to; the sole reason that I bought the game was that I played the demo when it first came out several years ago and I'd filed it away into a "this might be fun at some point" pile.
That boss sure is colossal.
As I was saying, whilst the game had good bits, I definitely couldn't recommend it to a friend. My initial thoughts on it turned out to be accurate – this game was fun "at some point", that point being when the price had dropped low enough. Yes, I picked up Castlevania in a Steam Sale for a fraction of the cost of what it was originally released at, and I don't regret doing that at all. So could I recommend picking up the game in a Steam Sale like I did? The answer is actually yes; by lowering the cost of the game, it becomes a much more attractive proposition, and at this point I can recommend it easily. What did I learn from thinking like this?
Buying a game at the right price is the best way to send a message to its developer.
There are a lot of arguments for and against heavy discounts going around at the moment. The 'For' brigade say that it allows more gamers to play more games, which encourages gamers to show loyalty to these games and be more likely to purchase the sequels, whereas the 'Against' crowd say that sales are ruining gaming forever by lowering the cost of games, meaning that developers are getting less and less money. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle; I do like having lots of games to play for a small cost, but once I complete a game and realise that it was actually an excellent game, I feel guilty for not giving the developers the full amount of money that they deserve.
I'm sorry Guacamelee! It was a Humble Bundle :'-(
However, there are also a lot of shady anti-consumer practices that have sprung up recently as well; season passes, on-disc DLC, micro-transactions, misleading trailers etc. I'm not one of these people that believes a few bad things are going to completely ruin gaming forever, but they are bad practices, they deserve to be punished, and I think the best way to go about that is to still buy what you want to buy, but make sure you buy it at the right price.
Did a game series you like suddenly add in co-op for no reason and complete take it away from its horror roots? Then buy Dead Space 3 / Resident Evil 5 / Resident Evil 6 at a heavy discount, and once you've experienced the game for yourself, you have every right to criticise it honestly and fairly, without coming across as a fanboy.
Don't agree with the opinions of the developers of a certain game? Pick it up at a discount later.
When you finished playing the most recent entry in your favourite franchise, did you realise it was a bit half-baked compared to its predecessors, but you think they might fix it by the next one? Then pickup Mass Effect 4 / Resident Evil 7 / Killzone: Shadow Fall when they're cheap.
Do you just know that they're going to collect a game with all its DLC in a bundle in the future? Just wait until they do that, then you get to experience the game as it was probably intended before they took bits out of it to make the DLC, and you get to keep your money as well.
Maybe it won't make any difference whatsoever to how developers and publishers behave, but we'll be letting them know what we think, and still have plenty of games to play.
So what do you think? How do you go about deciding how much to spend on a game? Have you ever bought a game and realised you paid way too much for it? Or have you played a game and found you'd paid too little for it?