options menu, turn auto save on. retreat when recharging command points. dodge when enemy goes red, barrage/normal attack when enemy green/yellow.
your missing out on a great game.
My thoughts on the subject are kind of a mish mash.
1. I don't think we need scores at all.
2. If we Must have them, I'm all about stars. A 5 star system seems fine to me. If you only have a 4 or 5 star system, aggregate sites become less interesting, which is fine since I think they are a net negative for the industry.
3. The current scoring system REALLY only has 6 possible scores if you think about it.
1-5 is all the same to me. Then we have 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. I generally completely ignore decimals when I read a review. So someone gives a game a 7.8? Really? It's absurd.
Also, keep in mind, the 100 point scale is more or less based on the letter grade system. So averages SHOULD be in the 70s, since that would be a C letter grade. 90s being an A and anything below 60 is simply a (F)ail.
As far as scales of scores, I feel 1up really has the right idea, using letter grades instead of numbers. I don't necessarily know how well this works for international readers, but in the US it's as near unskewed as I've seen.
I don't like the idea of lumping graphics and sound together as style. There are a number of games with a large gap between the two, having technically proficient but uninspired graphics but a fantastic soundtrack, such as Halo. When one is stylistically void but the other is a masterpiece, how can you rate them with a single score?
I also forgot to include a note on longevity. Longevity is not just say, the length of a single-player game or the time it takes to get to an end or finish all the optional dungeons. That means something, but longevity is more the time that the player can stay interested through continual self-improvement or interesting gameplay/story additions (or whatever else the devs can use to keep things fresh). I don't consider a game with a 100 hour 1000 floor near-identical dungeon grind to have very much in terms of longevity.
Yeah the actual score range is difficult and I haven't really thought about that too much. Hard to exactly say since the current inflated system almost requires those decimals near the top to have any separation at all... Right now my current thought is that 0-10 with decimals, 0-10 integer and 1-5 would all be fine. But yes, a 5-point system would be easier to understand but it would also reduce the precision of aggregate and comparative scoring. I think Greg's scoring system makes decent sense as far as adjectives go: http://firsthour.net/scores (although he doesn't have a proper integer midpoint :P)
I agree with most of what you say and I'd be happy with all of the changes you propose, but I've got my own take on improvements and ideals...
Score Inflation: I think that's a tougher nut to crack than you seem to. I agree that having a 7 average is essentially making 6 and below the "no buy zone" for 99.9% of readers, hence making the majority of the scale irrelevant. But I don't think simply moving the average to 5 is the right solution. Even without tenths being thrown into the mix, that's still ten different ratings that can be assigned to a game...and it's hard to come up with even TEN scaled adjectives that you could use to describe the quality of an experience. I like the five-star system that the user-contributed site Backloggery uses (check out my list of games at http://www.backloggery.com/games.php?user=victorvonplugman).
1 = Bad, 2 = Decent, 3 = Good, 4 = Great, 5 = Outstanding
A five point system is easy to understand, offers an obvious average point, and even seems less damning of lower scores: a 2/5 just seems like less of a slap in the face than a 4/10 does to me, especially when the 2/5 means "decent." Because really, how many "Bad" scores do we need? Certainly not six of them like in the current 10 point system.
Text vs. Score: If I had my way, scores would be gone altogether. I try to give an easily-noticed and concrete text verdict at the end of my reviews (i.e. "if you're looking for _________, this is at least worth a rental") and, though I've only written a few full reviews here, I never mention any scores in the text and have only a Verdict at the end of it, where people naturally scroll down to when looking for a score. I still include the score in the info box, though, because if I feel like people would ask questions if I didn't.
Categories: I agree completely. We've come to the point where "graphics," a term that tended to have a technical tone in years past, is essentially irrelevant as almost all games at least look very good. I tend to go overboard in my reviews with Video, Audio, Story, Gameplay, Challenge, Uniqueness, Pacing, Longevity, Value, Fun Factor, Boxart, Instruction Manual Grammar, Disc Shininess, and a final Verdict, but I'd rather include a sentence for each very specific category than simplify things into four or five vague scores. That said, if I had to limit myself to four, I'd go with the ones you proposed.
Aggregate sites: What I'd like to see is a single review site where four or five reviewers of different gaming tastes each give their take on every game. Maybe A loves narrative/style, B loves mainstream action/racing, C is a competitive fighter/shooter, D plays casually, E likes cerebral puzzle/strategy, and each would obviously have their own perspective on the game. Obviously this would require five people to play each game (not necessarily the WHOLE game), but it would also let readers find which reviewer(s) they identify with and weight each opinion accordingly. And if all five reviewers gave the game a thumb's up, then it would obviously be a crowd-pleaser instead of a niche hit.
But yeah, great article and hopefully we get a good discussion out of this.
I must've missed the part where he said the game was hard... and it must written in white as well. He said the game is only hard to tolerate, and I fully agree. His story reflects mine... I played it, was enjoying it somewhat for a bit, gradually got annoyed by its work-like repetitive structure (and terrible damn music), tried to keep pushing trying to find what everyone loves so much about it.... ended up losing my mind before games end (watched ending(s) on youtube, which was good, but still melted game with a lighter), but rather than hating jRPG's, I ended up hating "the internet" (you) for lying to me and I still do to this day. Childish? Maybe, but its worked out for me.
If Obsidian had a better track record of actually finishing their games, I'd be a bit more hopeful. KOTOR 2 was a complete mess of glitches...though admittedly, they actually ended up being pretty fun: I got to massacre an entire cave full of hallucinations before I got stuck in an endless conversation loop in one case. I've heard Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol are similarly full of technical bugs. On the other hand, the games tend to have good stories, and Alpha Protocol's narrative structure regarding choice and consequence is apparently top notch.
I'm not sure how I feel about having Chrono Trigger remade in the age of Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect, though. If there's ever been a succinctly-written RPG, it's Chrono Trigger, and nowadays it seems developers love to bloat stories with tons of excessive text and VA. I'd hate to spend an hour in Lucca's childhood accident scene navigating through dialogue wheels. I think it COULD work, but I can't see the game's tone and charm translating well to the third dimension in the modern RPG climate, and I'd expect more than a few crazy hitches to hamper the fun if Obsidian were in charge.
This particular article makes the game seem like a drag, for the most part. But it's a story - you need to be patient to find out the ending. And you need to be tolerant of the flaws in translation. It may be lacking in action, but it's like a thriller/mystery, and you have to understand the depth of the game's meaning. (Meaning?)
If Chrono Trigger becomes more westernized, I'd love to see it shifted more toward an action RPG. The battle system could be a Kingdom Hearts meets Devil May Cry kind of thing. I would totally play that.
1. My "guide to getting the most out of BL" is based on getting every pennies worth out of the main game.
2. Based on what I love about BL, Zombie Island still doesn't suffer for this tactic.
3. The alternative is mostly for people who DO NOT want to do multiple playthroughs.
My recommendations are based on what works for me and I stand by them. Its a complicated issue, even after having done it multiple times with different characters.
If someone came to me and said, "Hey Mike, I want to get the most I can out of Zombie Island, how can I do that", or "Hey Mike, whats the best way to utilize the DLC, without regard for multiple playthroughs?" I would give different answers.
However, if your goal, (as mine is) is to MAXIMIZE your LVL50 content, then there is only one way to play the game and the DLC in combination. And in that model, yes a perfect zombie island experience takes a backseat to other goals.
BUT, had you played zombie as a goal unto itself, your PT2 and PT2.5 experience would have suffered and due to the massive amount of content (and higher quality of content) in PT2/2.5 I think it's a fair bet that one should choose that over zombie island.
Long story short: Getting the most out of the main game puts you in conflict with getting the most out of zombie. But to be fair, zombie had some problems anyway, the BRAAAAAAAAINS mission was certainly one of the big ones.
BUT, if gearbox listens to Greg, this will all be fixed in BL2, my most anticipated game.
Never thought about the whole leveling up weapons thing, if I had remembered that I probably would have actually enjoyed it a bit more since I would have been making progress on something.
Thanks for the reply! I wouldn't say I regret spending my money on this DLC, because it was very long (especially compared to some of BioWare's DLC), and it was definitely humorous and challenging at times, but something about it dragged on for me.
I guess I kind of look at it this way: If I knew what I knew before going in, would I want to play this? Or would I ever want to play this DLC again? The answer to both for me is no, but I can definitely see why people like it.
I blame Mike in Omaha, who explained to me the perfect way to play Borderlands but somehow Zombie Island doesn't fit with that equation. :p
If you're soured on zombie due to Gregs review, you could work a bit further in the main game PT2 and then jump straight into Knoxx at Level 50 or so. Knoxx is actually a continuation of the story in the main game, rather than a side story like zombie. So if you skip zombie, you don't miss anything story-wise really.
As I recall, the zombie island content scales with you on PT2 as well, but not quite as well as it does on PT1. If you've lost interest in the main game PT2, I would just jump into zombie island on PT2 and see how it goes. You should be able to check the first few missions to check their scale and see how you're sitting. Playing through zombie, you'll likely get close to 50 by the time you're done and then you could just jump into Knoxx and play it on PT2.
My soldier is sitting at level 44, I believe. Last time I played was some co-op with Greg on my second playthrough. Still have a good amount of story missions to get through again. Thanks for the progression suggestion!
If you don't do multiple playthroughs, all the DLC scales correctly. You can play the main game, then zombie, then knoxx and you'll get EXP and levels the entire time.
The problem happens with PT2 and PT2.5. You can either sacrifice your DLC experience, or your PT2.5 experience. In either case, if you do it right, Knoxx will still work out on PT2 and PT2.5.
borderlands is only fun in Multiplayer, with a group. I've adamantly disagreed with that on several occasions. Having played the game mostly in single player and loving it, I totally didn't understand that complaint.However I did come to recognize that in the Zombie Island DLC. I had a few opportunities to play it in a full group and it was more fun that way. I actually did enjoy the DLC solo, but mostly just because I loved the game and I found the zombies to be incredibly challenging when played at max level with a LVL50 character. I enjoyed the quests even though I wasn't getting experience, to see the new areas and listen to all the bizarre voice recordings. To me, zombie island was much like Left 4 Dead, in that it was the survival that made it fun.
You make a good point that there's no good spot to put zombie island in your playthroughs. This is absolutely true (and I hope they find a way to implement the scaling you talk about). Being someone who enjoyed the game most when my encounters were of an appropriate level, I found playing it on LVL50 to be perfect. The zombies would swarm, you'd get nailed by a few spitters and things would get quite hectic. I liked that. Personally, I fell so in love with the game, looting and killing with my various guns that LEVEL EXP actually became an after thought for me. I was focused on leveling up my capabilities with certain weapons, maxing them out, (which I'm still not completely done with btw). Leveling up your weapons is nearly as important as leveling up your characters. But I can totally see what you're saying.
My biggest gripe was in the loot dept. I absolutely loved looting in Borderlands. Even when the guns were not as "good" as what I had, I liked finding quirky features, or bizarre stats. But I found almost none of this in zombie island. It was like they put absolutely zero work into weapons for the DLC. Same thing in Underdome, the weapons seemed like they got totally forgotten. When a games awesomeness is so closely tied to the weaponry, the DLC needs to focus on that as much as it does on new levels, new enemies, or new enviroments. This was a definite failure of zombie and underdome.
Fortunately, they fixed that with General Knoxx.
Great summary! Braaaaaaaaaaaains.
I'm still pretty uncertain about DLC for Borderlands. Like you, I would have a hard time playing if I wasn't...accumulating experience points or getting better weapons. That's where I stopped in Fallout 3 during my first playthrough, once I hit the cap of 30. The only DLC here for Borderlands I'd consider is the one that raises your level cap, but even then, I might be a bit bored by shooting the same things over and over again just to ding 61 or whatever it is.
Wow, I'm amazed. I normally agree with your reviews, but I have to disagree with this one. Zombie Island is the first and only DLC I was glad I paid for. It was long, humorous, challenging, and it had great art and atmosphere.
"Definitely one of my favorite games ever"
For you to say that and give it an 8, that truly shows you're not a biased reviewer. Well done.
With regard to Toad and Boo, yes, absolutely as you're talking about defending with your controllable characters, but I'm talking about when they go up against your goalie, in which case, not much you can do when they jump right over him or phase walk through him. The trick I found is that you've got to get very good at off the ball defense, slide stealing, intercepting, and using your power ups. Amazingly deep gameplay experience, that's for sure.
Yeah that's what I loved about playing online. I was pretty solid with a no-tricks strategy (my go-to guys were Yoshi, two Shy Guys on offense, and Dry Bones on defense) but it always amazed me how good people would get with characters that seemed mostly harmless like Toad or Koopa. Still, once you figured out their tendencies, it was usually a matter of timing and head games trying to get the ball away from them, since the Toad jump or the Boo invisibility was just a split-second advantage: if you delay the tackle just a bit, they'll often use the dodge too early and you can swoop in as they hit the ground/reappear. And once you hit a Toad or Boo with a solid tackle, it's down for a few seconds. Then when they figure YOU out, the process repeats! It's incredible how much the game evolves over the course of a single four-minute match.
Definitely one of my favorite games ever, it has its flaws and foibles (hence the 8) but it certainly raises the bar for Mario spinoffs.
Very nice writing (yet again)
Just kidding, great review, I LOVED this game. It's probably, to this day, the game I've played the most online. Every night for a few hours, for close to a month I believe (my wife was pregnant with our first child and enjoyed watching me destroy and get destroyed). When it first came out, there were TONs of people playing. Too bad they're all gone now as some great matches could be had, with very little lag, if any. My only real complaint of this game was that there are a few moves that, if done correctly, were incredibly difficult to defend against. If you played against a team of toads, and the player has toads jump timing down, they could devastate you pretty quickly. Personally, I would use the Boos "invisible" pretty effectively which was also somewhat "cheap" feeling. Otherwise, the game had pretty amazing balance, and a wide variety of specials to accommodate most any playing style. Playing online was a virtual cornucopia of bizarre strategies and player usage, that would open ones eyes to concepts and plays that you never would have come up with alone. Over time though, these amazingly versatile gameplay techniques were distilled down to the 3 or 4 most effective. That's when I started getting burnt out, when everyone was doing the same things online.
I actually wouldn't mind seeing a roster entirely made of Capcom characters starring in a Vs style game. There's an enormous pool of characters for them to grab, especially among their many fighting games. But as long as I get my team of Wesker, Radd Spencer, and Phoenix Wright, I'll be happy.