Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Find Hidden Gems of Gaming.

One of my pet things is to try and find hidden gaming gems. Game that garnered mediocre reviews on release but are actually excellent none the less.  I wrote a pretty good summary of my method in a long response to a recent post on the Kill Ten Rats blog. For completeness I am reprinting that comment with slight edits here as a post. If you have any suggestions of your own to add to the list I would be delighted to hear from you.

I fully agree that meta critic has become an essential aid to sorting through the overwhelming bounty of games available in bundle sales these days. It has become something of a hobby of mine however to try and find overlooked gems: games that received mediocre reviews but are actually very enjoyable. Tell tale signals that a game may rise above its meta-critic score are

1. A game in a genre that I like with an aggregate score (critics or users) above 60 may be worth considering. An aggregate score below 60 from both groups is likely to be irretrievable.

2. After Meta-critic Steam forums are my second port of call. If a game is on sale there will invariably be someone asking “Is it worth it?” on the relevant steam forum. You will get a bunch of uninformed opinion but often users who have clearly played the game will give honest and helpful reviews. Amazon user reviews can equally be helpful.

3. I look for games with a significant discrepancy between user score and critic score. Sometimes, particularly with less well known games, users have a better appreciation of the full game particularly after it has been patched. On the other hand you need to be very wary of fanboys and political campaigns polluting user scores: ” I am down voting this game because the president of EA said something I don’t like”.

4. Games that have been patched heavily since release. Some games get poor scores on release because they are buggy or unfinished. Sometimes the developer (or even the modding community) fix these issues in later patches.

5. Games from lesser publishers especially Eastern European ones rarely fare well with Western reviewers. However if you can look behind a lack of polish and are prepared to put up with some dodgy translation you can find some superb gaming experiences.

6. On the other hand some AAA releases suffer from comparison with their better known rivals or precursors. Reviewers can be particularly harsh on sequels that don’t live up to the high expectations set by earlier games even when the sequel is a perfectly enjoyable game in its own right.

7. It is always worth checking whether or not a game has a supportive following on the web. A game with a following of users has to be good for something and even a single wiki can greatly improve the playing experience of a poorly documented game.

 These methods don’t always work and I have certainly acquired my share of awful games but more often than not I have found some gems. Over the last few months I have greatly enjoyed the following games despite their mediocre scores: 

Viking Battle for Asgard (Metacritic 65)
Warlock Master of the Arcane (71)
XIII Century (62)
The Lord of The Rings War in the North (66)
Expeditions Conquistador (77)
FEAR 3 (74)
Crysis 3 (76)
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (72)

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